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Let me tell you the story of how I went viral on Linkedin and got 1,040,454 views (and counting) on a post.
Here’s the proof that it happened:
I promise to show you my post that went viral (click to download the viral post template), but first I want to say that I did not figure this all out on my own.
At first glance, I thought their tactics (and the results) were pure magic. But upon closer inspection, as I broke down the components, I realized that many of these “tricks” are just elements of strong writing.
At which point, I gained a lot of respect for Linkedin’s algorithm for being able to so accurately identify excellent writing.
However, if you want to replicate these results for yourself, there are a number of inputs that need to happen simultaneously in order to achieve the desired result- a viral Linkedin post.
A few words of warning for when you go viral:
- It’s fun. It can be addicting to keep checking hourly how many more views, likes and comments your post is getting.
- It’s scary. It can be intimidating to press send. Putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way is something most of us are not used to doing.
- You’ll be surprised. People are incredibly encouraging. You’ll be met with warmth. Words of kindness, words of thanks and people will often share their heartfelt stories in return.
- You’ll be hurt. There will always be haters. Every. Single. Time. Someone will say something obnoxious. Even if it’s completely irrelevant, and you know they sound dumb and cruel for saying it, it will still sting. Just shake it off. You’ll get used to it. Their comment may get a like or two. That will pale in comparison to your beautiful post that just went viral, touching millions of lives with thousands of likes, shares and comments.
- Doors will open. Strangers will reach out to connect. You’ll meet new people and have conversations that will lead to opportunities you couldn’t possibly have predicted.
It’s important to note that you do not need millions of followers on Linkedin to have your post seen by millions of people. In fact, the number of followers or connections you have has nothing to do with how many people see your Linkedin post. The Linkedin Gods are far more mysterious and fickle.
However, this is what makes this platform so exciting. Equal access for all to get your post seen by hundreds of thousands, or even millions. All you have to do is write well. Create extremely engaging content, follow a few simple rules and the results will follow.
You may have started seeing a number of Linkedin posts in your news feed with each sentence spaced out rather than large chunks of paragraphs. There is a reason for this.
Given that I spent 2 years as an 8th grade English teacher, I can tell you that I taught my students that the appropriate way to write an essay is by constructing paragraphs with 4-6 sentences per paragraph. However, that rule was clearly invented in a non-digital word and non-mobile world.
These days we’re constantly reading on the go. That means we’re often reading on screens no wider than 3 inches across. By spacing out your sentences, you’re ensuring that any given sentence is 2-3 “lines” long.
This breaks the post up into bite-size chunks which are easily consumed on mobile.
You’ll notice that I even use this strategy in my WordPress blog posts where I’ll try to keep any given paragraph to only 2-3 sentences. It’s a new way of writing that’s easier to digest given our shrinking attention spans.
2- Line length
In all forms of writing, it’s more engaging when you vary the length of your sentences. Some sentences are short. Some sentences are long. This creates a more engaging flow- and that holds true for Linkedin posts.
On Linkedin, ideally you’d begin with a short sentence or two to start and then get gradually longer and then gradually shorter again, like a wave (thanks for the analogy Josh Fechter). And repeat this wave-like pattern until the completion of your post.
I don’t think the wave pattern is the only thing that works, as long as you vary the sentence length throughout, it should improve virality.
3- An engaging hook
This is rule #1 in any Writing 101 course. This is common knowledge. If you ever applied to college and wrote an essay before, then you KNOW you need to start with a good hook.
This especially applies to Linkedin and social media in general. We’re scrolling past hundreds or posts every day. Our attention spans are shorter than ever. In order to get someone to actually stop scrolling and read your post- you have to draw them in with a powerful first sentence or two. Some messaging to reel them in so that they absolutely have to click to read more.
On Linkedin, only the first 1-3 lines of your post will be seen before someone needs to click “…see more”.
Since you’re spacing out each sentence, and your first two sentences should be short in length, you’ll likely have only two short sentences visible before the “…see more” link. That means, you’ll have to make those two short sentences extremely powerful ones since that’s going to be your hook. Your one opportunity to get someone to engage with your post.
If no one cares enough to read your post that they click “…see more”, then no one will read your post. And if no one reads your post, no one will like, comment or share your post. And if no one engages with your post, then that will tell Linkedin that your post is shit. Why would Linkedin show people a post that’s shit?
Here’s what the hook looked like on my post that got over 1,000,000 views (download the entire post & template here):
4- Don’t include a link in the main body of your post
Linkedin wants you to stay on Linkedin. Therefore, if you post a link to an article you wrote on Medium or a piece you read on Forbes, Linkedin will not boost your post to their community. In fact, they’d rather that people don’t see your post.
Because if people see your post and click on your link, it means they will likely leave Linkedin to go read it- and remember, the Linkedin Gods do not want people leaving Linkedin.
This also applies to linking people’s names or companies in blue text. When you type someone’s name on Linkedin, you can use the @ symbol before typing their name to link that mention to their profile. That then turns their name blue. You can use the same strategy when mentioning a company or group or page.
You don’t want blue text within your post. Now, I don’t have statistically significant evidence on any experiments with controlled variables, however, qualitatively I can tell you that including blue text in your post limits reach.
My hypothesis is that Linkedin’s algorithm will identify that your post is about a specific person or a specific company and will limit the reach to audiences that are related to either that person or that company. While that audience may be large, it is small relative to the reach you could have access to with a more general post appealing to Linkedin’s wider audience of 500 Million people.
5- Instead, post a link in the first comment
This is the secret weapon that I first learned about when Guy Kawasaki posted about it on Linkedin in June 2017. He actually ran an A/B test with two posts that had the exact same copy- but one had the link in the post and the other one had the link in the first comment. The results were astounding.
The post with the link in the comments section got 3x as many views.
Why is this happening? When people click on the comments section of a post, this signals to Linkedin that there is strong engagement with this content. Linkedin then wants to share this highly engaging content with more of the Linkedin community and therefore boosts it to appear on more people’s news feeds.
The best part: the more views the post gets, the more comments it gets. Once a post gets more than 12 comments, you actually have to click on the “show previous comments” to get back to the original link that was left in the first comment. Linkedin only shows 12 comments per page, so the more comments that get left, the more clicks it will take you on the “show previous comments” link in order to get back to the original link in the first comment.
This is a win for you in terms of virality. The more clicks in the comment section, the more engagement that Linkedin is acknowledging and therefore the more viral your post goes.
6- Don’t include pictures in your post
Again, I haven’t A/B tested this with controlled variables, but I can tell you from experience that posts with pictures do not get as much reach as plain text posts.
I don’t even have a strong hypothesis around why Linkedin hates pictures. But my guess is that their algorithms are not intelligent enough to determine what exactly is in the picture, and therefore boosting that picture to its broader audience is pretty risky.
7- Don’t mention cities
You don’t want Linkedin to limit the reach of your post. If Linkedin’s algorithm sees that you mentioned “New York” within the text of your post, it’s going to assume that this post is more relevant to people in New York.
While this isn’t always enormously damaging (New York is a big place with millions of people on Linkedin), it is still limiting relative to the wider reach of Linkedin’s general audience. If your goal is to go viral and get as many views as humanly possible– avoid mentioning cities in the post.
8- Tell a story
This is the part that Josh Fechter really nailed. He creates more content than I can keep up with between his Facebook group of 15,000+ Badass Marketers and Founders (BAMF), his Linkedin presence and his messenger bot.
If you live in the Bay Area, join the San Francisco’s BAMF Facebook group of which I am President and constantly sharing tactics, local events, and job opportunities.
But the important thing to note, is that Josh’s secret sauce is telling stories.
What is the Linkedin Social Selling Index and Does it Matter?
The Linkedin Social Selling Index is supposedly a calculation of how influential you and your posts are on Linkedin. According to their site: http://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi, it appears to be a score based on 4 different factors:
- How effective you are at establishing your professional brand (the level of engagement you get on posts?)
- How effective you are at finding the right people (making connections in your industry?)
- How effective you are at engaging with insights (whether you have a premium account that allows you views into more detailed insights?)
- How effective you are at building relationships. (how often you are engaging via direct messages and comments?)
I wasn’t sure if it meant anything, but after my post went viral, my Linkedin follower count went from 2,000 to 4,900 and my social selling index went up by 2 points from 82 to 84 and stayed at 1%.
The site says that the score is calculated daily, and that change in score does seem to reflect that the score is dynamic. However, given the fact that the word “/sales/” is in the slug URL, I’m inclined to think the purpose behind this metric is to drive sales for Linkedin’s premium accounts, so do take it with a grain of salt.
What’s your score? Leave it in the comments section below alone with your thoughts on the topic 🙂
7- Be vulnerable
I think my viral Linkedin post said it best: we’re all human. This concept applies, not only on Linkedin, not only in writing, but in the way we interact with one another every day.
Be humble. Be real. Be relatable.
If people can see the human in you and in your story, they will feel compelled to engage. Compelled from the heart to give a like, or to comment and share their reaction and their story.
Here are some of my favorite reactions that were commented on my viral story:
Although I had a LinkedIn page for sometime, I only just started really engaging the community. Why? Because I yearned to connect authentically and other social media platforms didn’t confirm that for me. But I launched out into the deep anyway and to my delightful surprise ppl began to connect with me and appreciated my transparency. Thanks Hailey! It’s nice to know this community can be a platform for such authentic relationships.
Absolutely; resumes, profiles, articles we read and where we went to school, tells a small, and honestly uninteresting story. Like eating bland meal alone, no spices to make the dish and no companion to share stories with… just boring.
But by sharing our stories, where are passions took us, the triumphs & heartaches along the way and uphill fights that make the story more interesting, and hopefully inciting similar passions of those who read it.
71 and top 1% , great share Hailey, really interesting. I’ve had 43 happy birthdays already today (9am) from folk whom I’ve only ever ‘met’ virtually , so I agree with your post. I feel both connected and part of a professional community.
I have made amazing connections here that translate into clients and opps, as well as colleagues and more. Love this share and way to measure it. It’s so very much about people and communicating.
I fully agree: Stories are much more effective in conveying a message than citing one’s experience because it gives the listener the opportunity to draw their own meaning from it. As a writer of stories, I have seen this work well for every type of business.
8- Linkedin engagement pods
First off, what’s an engagement pod? An engagement pod is a group of people who agree to like and comment on eachother’s posts to help boost engagement.
There are some theories that if a post receives many likes and comments very quickly after it was posted, that the Linkedin (or Facebook or Instagram) algorithm will identify this as strong content and boost the post in front of more eyes.
If you believe this to be true, you can enhance the likelihood of going viral on Linkedin by getting a bunch of friends and influencers, even Linkedin editors, to like and comment on your post right after you post it.
I first learned about this concept from growth hacker Alex Rangevik and have witnessed the impact first hand.
Does this all really work?
Yes. It does.
I recently helped 3 friends write posts using this strategy and they also got extremely strong engagement on Linkedin:
Like I said, you don’t need millions of followers to get millions of views on Linkedin. All you need to do is write engaging content.
Now go get started!
And have fun 🙂
P.S. – If you’re looking for more Linkedin growth hacks, stay tuned and get my weekly updates here.