[ 68 / 250 ] Testing LinkedIn's Validity as a content distribution platform

And opting out.

G’day again

Today I’m presenting to you an experiment I ran on LinkedIn earlier this year, which ran for a number of months.

But before we get into it, it will help you to have some context for understanding my wariness with social media.

The background and context

You’ll be aware, if you have followed me and my business for any length of time, that I’m not a fan of social media. Five or more years ago, I shut down the business’s presence on Facebook, and then my own. Then Instagram.

In what is now an old story out of this horse’s mouth, leaving Facebook exodus was a result of the company’s secret emotional contagion tests. You’d be surprised how many people applauded the move, but wouldn’t do it themselves… and then bitched every time there was a new data leak, or a new ethical problem.

Many are still on the platform, despite its apparently undesirable nature.

I find it strange. You might not.

Then, in 2019, I took both the business and myself off Twitter after having been an early adopter and persisting on the platform for about 10 years.

In exiting from both channels, I consciously cut off two dominant content-sharing channels. To be clear, neither of them was particularly successful for driving traffic or interest. Twitter did, however, enable me to connect with a bunch of similar professionals worldwide. In 10 years, I got a single work-related lead (i.e. one with money attached), and a few requests for me to speak for free.

The LinkedIn curiosity

This week I began a slow disengagement from LinkedIn.

Why, though?

LinkedIn is possibly one of the best places for professional networking, right?

Well, yes. And no.

Like many platforms of its kind, LinkedIn has changed over the years. It used to be easy to have content discovered by others; then Microsoft acquired the platform and that all changed. In order to search for people (connected to you or otherwise), you have to pay through the nose for it.

And, like all social medias, LinkedIn has—albeit more slowly—fallen down the negativity rabbit hole. Because they’re human, and because humans seek both inclusion and external validation, those who post on LinkedIn tend to publish political posts, virtue signalling posts, or humble brags.

Or job vacancies.

Nearly all of which is, frankly, a waste of time.

The experiment

Throughout much of this year, I ran an experiment to see what publishing on the LinkedIn platform could do for my email list and my visibility. This experiment was designed to test the validity of using LinkedIn as a distribution platform, using only its Pulse feature and its built-in ‘share in a post’. If successful, then visibility ought to increase, opt-ins ought to increase, and followers ought to increase.

The experiment involved posting at least one article a day, every day, for a minimum of three months.

The only link from each article pushed the reader back into my email list. (Because the intention, remember, was to grow the list.)

Every article was published one or twice in a post, and shared with others.

This is the type of methodology advocated by Spinfluencers who claim to know how to become an influencer on the platform. And, of course, “teach” others how to do it.

The results; or, what I learned

Very quickly, I learned that pushing posts out to my existing network wasn’t particularly valuable. Most people didn’t engage with them, for a start; but, secondarily, it restricted visibility to people I already knew.

I didn’t want that. I wanted people whom I didn’t know to find and interact with them.

Thus, I began sharing the content with ‘anyone’.

The trouble with LinkedIn is that you can only see data for a maximum of 90 days’ past. Not knowing this, I didn’t track it on a spreadsheet, which is ideal… er, necessary (it transpires).

In doing this activity, my visibility went up, and it went down.

I gained maybe 20 followers in six months. They are followers rather than connections: Which means they’re interested in the content.

Of the followers (both connections and non-connections), I gained maybe 10 opt-ins to my email list.

The conclusion?

There are a few conclusions to draw from this experiment:

  • Writing and posting daily on LinkedIn is a waste of time; OR

  • The content that *I* was posting on LinkedIn wasn’t what people wanted to read; OR

  • The calls to actions on the content weren’t strong enough or appropriate enough; OR

  • I didn’t post on LinkedIn enough; OR

  • Something else.

Someone suggested to me that it’s a waste of time unless you purchase advertising. But, if the platform is valuable as a content distribution platform, then clearly you’d get good visibility and results without paying for advertising. That was one of the critical tests.

I found that visibility went up and down like a yo-yo, determined by profile views and search appearances. Posting on some days caused it to go up; posting on other days caused it to dive.

One thing that did meaningfully shift views was using photographs on articles that were of an apparently sexual nature. Using sex to sell something totally different was the one thing that pushed visibility through the roof.

All of the people who liked and commented on that particular post were men. Perhaps they were all sex-starved men?

Nevertheless, nothing else happened. No new clients; few new connections; no requests for speaking or guesting anywhere.

It was by-and-large a waste of time.

This experiment proved to me what I long suspected

That is:

Your own platform is vastly superior.

You want to keep your content on your own assets wherever possible. Giving it to LinkedIn isn’t really going to help you meaningfully, unless you are active in groups, in sharing with direct messages to specific people…

In short, your entire life has to be lived on the platform.

You are far better off building a profile in a different way, and using your content for the people who matter most:

  1. Those on your direct email list

  2. Those who read your print materials

  3. Those whom you want to engage.

Don’t use it to entice people in general. It’s the biggest lie of social media that it will get you access to the exact people you want, because it’s ‘targeted’. It can be, with a lot of work and/or a lot of money. Just don’t expect to publish on any platform and be promoted as an influencer… cos honey, it won’t work.