Our apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but in today’s social media landscape, it often feels like, “Content, content everywhere and not an engagement to be found!” That certainly seems true on a wide range of social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
We’ve all been there, posting on social media for our clients’ B2B brands and expecting the improbable – an engagement from a high-quality, ready-to-buy lead. Yet, as traffic on the major platforms continues to evolve, it seems like those quality leads have become more scarce. Digital Media Buying is proliferating as competition for customers heats up. But this growing competition to winning the audience’s attention is making the engagement challenge more difficult.
But thankfully, LinkedIn has figured out how to get that elusive engagement with the right targets, by literally making the improbable possible. Even better, it does so in a rather natural, organic manner.
That finally gives marketers, especially those of us who work primarily in the B2B space, something to smile about. Recent modifications to the algorithm that governs LinkedIn’s feed are boosting impressions and engagement for users with smaller audiences and connection bases while minimizing the extensive outreach of LinkedIn’s “power users.” (We see you Gary V and Richard Branson).
The market is sensing this new opportunity. There is an endless supply of professional content on LinkedIn, generating over nine billion Impressions each week. Most of this content, of course, isn’t useful, and users will soon catch on. But the demand from the public is there — waiting for the right company, thought-leader or piece of content to come along. I believe B2B Marketers have a rare opportunity to really grow with LinkedIn, and should strongly consider doubling down on their efforts.
Understanding LinkedIn’s Algorithm. If we want to build engagement, then we need to know a little about the algorithm responsible for serving content. The lofty goal of the algorithm created by LinkedIn’s engineering team is to ultimately deliver more value for the company by keeping users on the platform as long as possible. The strategy for doing that is simple: Make users feel like their time on LinkedIn is well-spent by serving up a feed of relevant, personalized content to every single one of its 610 million users.
LinkedIn’s home feed is the starting point of every user’s journey. To keep users engaged, the feed must understand the quality of every piece of content, and understand which content is relevant to whom. Failure to do so will destroy the quality of a user’s experience and turn “time well spent” into “time wasted.”
To understand how to do this, let’s first take a look at some of LinkedIn’s tactics.
LinkedIn Activity Graph. One of the core elements of the LinkedIn algorithm is the Activity Graph – a system designed to understand deep relationships between members’ content.
What’s A LinkedIn Activity? LinkedIn considers an activity to be any piece of user-generated content capable of having a subset of connected activities, which can include “likes,” comments, and shares – the common responses that demonstrate an interest in the content. And in turn, these actions become content as well.
Content Priorities. LinkedIn has a number of content types that it evaluates in order to rate them in terms of feed priority. Handpicked articles and paid ad campaigns have a much higher probability of showing up than user-generated content. Within user-generated content, LinkedIn has shifted towards a stronger balance between the various types, but with a slight priority given to video and text-only posts.
Some other types of content include:
- User-generated content by the people and pages you follow, relevant LinkedIn #hashtags and predicted interests, such as
Pulse Articles and Posts (Text, Photos, Videos, Documents, Links)
- User Activities & Events (Liking, commenting, sharing, connecting, new job)
- Promoted/Sponsored Content, both internal (LinkedIn Learning Courses, LinkedIn Premium) and external (Paid ad campaigns)
- Curated Content
- Dynamic Content
How it works. The ability to keep a user’s feed relevant is critical to LinkedIn’s success and requires the ability to programmatically identify the quality and relevance of the content. Here are the steps that LinkedIn’s algorithm takes to make these determinations.
Step 1: Quality Filter Scoring: Immediately after a user posts a piece of content to their page, and before it ends up in anyone’s feed, LinkedIn’s algorithm reviews the content and marks it as Spam, Low Quality or Clear. Only the Clear survive.
For everyone’s sanity, I’ll refrain from diving into what makes a post spammy. But I do think it’s important to focus on what is deemed low-quality, which according to LinkedIn are posts that are flagged for one or more of the following:
- Having fewer than 500 words
- Having software generated responses
- Having highly promotional content.
Once that post is marked as “Clear,” it gets allocated into other users feed based on the initial priority of the content. Here’s where the real fun begins. LinkedIn begins immediately monitoring the engagement that each post generates. These include, for example:
- The number of likes, comments, and shares for the post
- The types and quality of comments
- The time spent writing the summary and post
- The engagement rate compared to the baseline rate of the person who is posting
- The action that the reader takes when they see the post. For example, do users click the post and spend time reading the article or do they immediately go somewhere else.
Step 2: Engagement Test: As noted above, the post is now being analyzed for the amount of engagement it gets within the first hour. The more likes, shares, and comments the post receives, the greater the chance of moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Relevancy Assessment. During the third step, LinkedIn will assess the profile of the person posting the content to determine the relevancy of the post to their network. The lower the relevancy, the higher the probability the post will fizzle out.
Step 4: Taking it Up a Notch. LinkedIn has decided that machines can’t have all the fun and has introduced a human element into the mix. If your post is fortunate to reach this phase, it will be passed onto a human for review to determine if it’s worth pushing to the masses.
In my next post, I’ll take this a step further and outline strategies you can begin to incorporate into your ongoing LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy. If you have questions, topics you want to be explored, or any feedback please let me know!