By Rob Barratt
Table of Contents
How To Use LinkedIn Like a Pro
There's no doubt: social media is one of the best friends a small business owner can have.
Done right, your content reaches thousands - maybe millions - of people, driving some of them to look at your website and giving you an opportunity to convert them into customers.
But it's also a huge time-suck and, let's be honest, often not a great place to hang around with all the:
LinkedIn is FULL of this kind of stuff.
I used to hate it.
The thought of posting on LinkedIn literally filled my stomach with ice and gave me a serious case of the ick.
But then I thought 'there are 800 million users on here - there's got to be a way to make LinkedIn work for me'. So I looked into how LinkedIn’s algorithm works and discovered there are a few hacks known by only a handful of creators, that can have you using LinkedIn like a pro.
I spent HOURS researching these hacks but it was worth it, because I found the kind of stuff that can take you from a serial lurker with a few hundred people in your network, to SMASHING your personal and professional goals and gaining tens of thousands of followers who bring you opportunities for better jobs or bigger profits.
The key is knowing how LinkedIn’s algorithm works.
The LinkedIn Algorithm: What Is It and How Does It Work?
‘Algorithm’ is the kind of work you hear all the time but do you actually know what it refers to, or even what that means when it comes to the content you see online?
In short, an algorithm is defined as:
A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.
Great. So now you know that, building a huge network of contacts that can take your career or your business to incredible heights should be easy. Right?
Obviously not. There are some other things you need to know that will help you fill in the gaps and really use LinkedIn like a pro. Things like, who or what does LinkedIn’s algorithm favor?
Who and What Does LinkedIn’s Algorithm Favor?
The point of LinkedIn’s algorithm is to help users find each other based on their:
Sounds reasonable right? After all, say you run your own business, you’re probably going to want to see content from people you share common interests with so you can grow a sustainable and useful network around those interests.
And there’s a clue as to how much LinkedIn values this kind of common ground within its algorithm. Because, think about it, how often do you see content from the same people on your feed? Even if that content is a week old?
That’s because LinkedIn uses the following equation when it comes to the content you’re served:
Relevancy > Recency
Two Factors That The Algorithm Takes Into Account
There are two factors that LinkedIn’s algorithm takes into account when deciding what appears on your feed AND when people see your content on theirs. They are:
Your Social Selling Index, and
The amount of ‘dwell time’ spent on a post.
Your Social Selling Index
If you’re not actively spending all of your time on LinkedIn selling something, this can seem like an odd term. But, in reality, whenever you spend time on Linkedin you’re doing one of two things: promoting something (either yourself or your business) or consuming content.
To account for this LinkedIn’s algorithm has a hidden scoring system for determining how effective you are at establishing a personal brand, finding the right people, and building relationships. Think of it as a report card for your activity on LinkedIn.
The better your score, the more authoritative you are on the platform and, as a result, you’re more likely to appear at the top of someone else’s feed whenever they’re connected to or following you.
It’s called the Social Selling Index and it looks like this:
It’s updated weekly and, as you can see from mine (above), I actually dropped in terms of ranking last week - probably because I took a day off from the platform on Friday and didn’t engage with or post any content.
Think of the SSI as like a report card for your activity on LinkedIn.
You can check your own score here: https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi
The other factor that determines what appears on your feed and where you land on someone else’s is dwell time.
What’s dwell time?
Well, it’s literally as it sounds: how much time a user spends ‘dwelling’ on a post. Kind of an old-english way of saying: ‘how much time someone spends hovering around a post’.
Think of it like a guy on valentine's day, hovering outside the florist before he goes in; looking through the window, checking reviews on his phone, generally hanging around and setting himself before he goes in.
In LinkedIn terms that’s the equivalent of someone:
Glancing at a post
Scrolling past it
Then scrolling back up
Maybe hitting ‘Read more’
Then thinking about Liking it,
Then liking it (or not) before moving on.
LinkedIn’s algorithm detects all of this activity and - regardless of whether or not the post is Liked - determines if the post is relevant and interesting to the user. If it answers 'Yes' to both of those criteria, it then does three things:
Puts more of this kind of content on the user’s feed in future
Puts more content from the creator onto the user’s feed in the future
Gives the post that was dwelt-upon (such a weird term) a higher value and therefore shows it to more people.
Ok, so you now know how social selling index and dwell time affects what appears in your feed. But how does the algorithm determine what appears at the top of your LinkedIn newsfeed?
Who LinkedIn Puts On Your Feed And Why Your Post Appears On Someone Else’s
LinkedIn Has 3 Ranking Signals to Determine What You See In Your Feed:
#1 Personal Connections
This boils down to simply who have you worked with in the past and who have you interacted with recently?
Sure, you might be following Tony Robbins but did you ever work for him, or have you been messaging each other recently? If, like 99.9% of LinkedIn, the answer is ‘No’, it’s likely that T-bone’s posts aren’t going to appear at the top of your feed and *HARD TRUTH INCOMING* you probably won’t get anywhere near to being on his.
#2 Interest Relevance
The second factor surrounds what the algorithm sees as being interesting and relevant to you. It does this by evaluating the:
People you’re connected with or follow
Pages you’ve registered an interest in
Hashtags you follow
Groups you’re in
As well as these factors, it also takes into account the language your profile is set to, as well as any mentions of people, pages, and businesses by someone else in your network.
#3 Engagement Probability
This one is maybe the most interesting of the three ranking signals, because it’s where LinkedIn’s algorithm really does the maths; using what it knows about you from signals 1 and 2, to guess:
The likelihood that you’ll share, comment, or react to a post
How interested you’ll be in a certain post based on how quickly other people are reacting to it.
What Happens When You Hit ‘Post’ On LinkedIn *High-Value Section*
Whenever you hit ‘Post’ on LinkedIn you’re setting in motion a chain of events that is completely outside of your control. Everything after that happens is in the lap of the LinkedIn Gods and the peculiar methods of their algorithm.
But you can absolutely tilt the scales in your favor by posting content that the algorithm likes and - as a result - shows to millions of other users. So take note because, of all the stuff that’s gone before, this is probably the highest value section.
Here’s What Happens When You Post Something on LinkedIn
The algorithm will immediately send your post to a small sample of people (based on the criteria we spoke about in the previous sections) and then waits to see if they engage with it. Depending on how much engagement your post gets from this sample, the algorithm decides how big of an audience should see the post next.
You can absolutely tilt the scales in your favor by posting content that the algorithm likes
Seems pretty much out of your control right? Like you’re a proud parent waving off your child at the school gates, knowing there’s not much you can do that will make their day good or bad.
There are a few things that you can do to give your post the best chance of being seen in a favorable light by LinkedIn. Consider the following...
Which Bucket Is Your Post Going In?
Every post on LinkedIn falls into one of three buckets:
It’s pretty clear that the first two are parties nobody wants an invite to. But the third? That’s where you’re going to find the kind of people who can bring new opportunities right to your inbox while simultaneously helping you to make interesting new connections.
To avoid your post being seen as spammy or low quality, make sure you:
Use great grammar (although IMHO I think this might be the least important of the criteria that follow)
Don’t post links in the body of the post
Definitely don’t post multiple links
Don’t tag people unless you’re absolutely certain they’ll engage with the post
NEVER use hashtags like ‘Follow’, ‘Comment’, or ‘Like’
To be categorized as high quality and get your post a ticket to the LinkedIn VIP area, make sure you:
Go niche versus broad on topics
Format it so it’s easy to read (Isobel Cowell is a master of this)
Only tag people you know will engage with your post
Use a maximum of three hashtags:
One broad (e.g. ‘Marketing’)
One a little more niche (e.g. ‘Smallbusinessmarketing’)
One very niche (e.g. ‘marketingforlifecoaches’)
Only post links in the comments section, though aim for just the most relevant one rather than multiple.
Awesome, so you’ve got a post that the algorithm sees as high quality and is serving to much more people. What now?
Be Strategic In Your LinkedIn Activity: Have A Power Hour
If you’ve taken all the steps above and then post and run, you’re losing out on the juiciest part of the fruit. That’s because the first 60-minutes in the life of a LinkedIn post is crucial.
How you follow up after posting something can hugely impact how far through the LinkedIn galaxy your post will travel. That’s why I always recommend to people that, if you want to get better job opportunities, more customers, or grow a following, you should be strategic in the way you use LinkedIn.
It's what I call a Power Hour and it includes the following high-value activities...
Post When Your Followers Are Online
First and foremost, you need to be posting when your followers are online.
Because they’re likely to be the ones that LinkedIn serves your post to when determining whether it should be shown to more people. It makes sense then that, in order to get more engagement on your post from the get-go, you want it to be shown to people who are, um, more likely to engage with it!
So post when your most loyal and devoted followers are likely to be online. Think about:
What time of day are they likely to be commuting?
When have you seen them commenting on other people’s posts?
Is there an unwritten rule for when people in your industry head out for coffee or zone out completely
According to data from Hootsuite, the best times to post are 7.45am, 10.45am, 12.45pm, and 5.45pm (all EST). The best days are Wednesday for B2B businesses and Monday and Wednesday for B2C businesses.
It’s much better to comment on a post from an influencer in your industry who has 20k followers than it is to comment on a post from an influencer with 200k followers who has nothing to do with your industry
Hubspot reckons that Tuesday and Thursday are the best days to post on LinkedIn, preferably between 8am and 2pm, and recommends against posting outside usual working hours or on weekends (though the jury’s out on that one for me - the best performing post I ever wrote was on a Saturday).
Industry-wise, Hubspot recommends the following specific posting times for a couple of industries in particular:
Software and Media: Morning, like a newspaper would, Monday to Friday
Healthcare and Higher Education: Generally mid-morning - 2pm but definitely during commute or lunchtime.
Once you’ve chosen a day(s) and time to post, it’s important to stick to it when it comes to posting all of your content. This will give your followers a chance to subconsciously realize that on X day at X time they’re going to see your content.
Me? I post at 1pm GMT Monday to Friday (just look for Rob Barratt on LinkedIn if you like my content).
Engage Back With People
If someone’s taken the time to comment on your post, it’s common decency to take the time to either thank them or - better yet - keep the conversation going by asking them a related question.
LinkedIn’s algorithm likes this kind of engagement and will reward your post with greater reach.
I’ve done this with some really influential people on LinkedIn which has led to great opportunities like interviewing actual Silicon Valley CEOs like Nancy Duarte and even having free books sent to me from people like Dean Karrel.
While You’re Waiting For Engagement, Go Engage With Other Posts
But not just any post: leave thoughtful, interesting comments on posts from clients, people you want as clients, or influencers. The latter are probably the most valuable form of engagement you can have if you’re looking to build your own following.
That’s because being the first to engage with a post that’s likely to be seen by hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people, means that your comment will be seen by a very large number of people - far larger than a post from your own account.
It’s a very effective tactic for getting your knowledge in front of people and building a following via the back door.
If someone’s taken the time to comment on your post, it’s common decency to take the time to either thank them or - better yet - keep the conversation going
A word of advice here though: it’s much better to comment on a post from an influencer in your industry who has 20k followers than it is to comment on a post from an influencer with 200k followers who has nothing to do with your industry.
Because you want your comment to be seen by people who are likely to be interested in your business or your skills. So commenting on a post that’s totally unrelated to your field might gain you some new followers but in the long run, they’re not going to open the door to new or interesting opportunities.
Therefore think carefully about who you engage with.
When you break it down, you really can use LinkedIn like a pro without much work. All you need to do is remember:
What the algorithm values
How to make sure your posts are seen as high-quality
To be strategic about your use of time on LinkedIn.
Ps, I also produced this infographic for you.
It lays out how to spend just one hour PER MONTH on LinkedIn.
That's it. Because getting big opportunities from linkedin doesn’t mean spending lots of time on the platform.
I mean sure, you'll get even greater results by spending an hour a week or even an hour a day following the same steps. But I'm laying this out for time-starved entrepreneurs as THE BEST way to spend your time on LinkedIn in just one hour per month.
No more doom scrolling or feeling inadequate as a rival business owner posts about their latest 'success'.
No more wondering where the time went.
Make sure every minute you spend on LinkedIn counts by doing this (get a downloadable PDF version here):
Rob Barratt is the Co-Founder of The Industry Leaders and is passionate about helping small business owners get the attention their business needs without spending a fortune on ads.
After creating and selling his first business (a restaurant), Rob found out just how hard it is for entrepreneurs to get the word out about their businesses without having $000's of dollars a month to spend on ads.
This realization lead Rob to create The Industry Leaders and offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to get published alongside industry leaders and appear on podcasts in their niche. You can find out more about publishing and podcast opportunities here.