Careers & Personal Development: How to Crush it as a LinkedIn Writer

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Ask Mr. Long Island posts fall into one of seven ports, or categories: Spiritual, Physical (health & well-being), Career / Personal Development, Community / Civic, Financial, Family and Entertainment / Recreation. This guest post, from Daniel Roth, Executive Editor at LinkedIn, comes under Career / Personal Development.

Click here to see the post on LinkedIn.

Careers & Personal Development: How to Crush it as a LinkedIn Writer

In the spring of 2014, we rolled out the ability for any to publish long-form content on LinkedIn. Our goal was simple: to allow anyone, anywhere to share their unique expertise with the professional world. Nearly 2 million professionals have now published a piece, generating over 150,000 posts a week.

Those big numbers make it sound like writing is easy for everyone. It’s not. Below, I’ve pulled together seven tips generated from watching reader patterns over the years that I hope will help newcomers and regular posters. (I also recorded a companion course on Lynda.com; check it out!). If you’re looking for examples of writers who are regularly connecting with their audiences, read — and follow — the Top Voices of 2015, a ranked look at the top 10 writers on LinkedIn in industries like education, marketing, venture capital, etc.

Just want to get started? Click here! Want the 7 tips? Read on:

1. Write What You Know

Plumb your professional world to come up with topics. What tricks do you employ every day that make your work life easier? What failures have had along the way that helped turn you into a success? What inspired you to do what you do? Use the details from your life to help others be better in theirs.

You can also use LinkedIn as a sounding board: Share your big ideas about how to reshape the economy or about what disruption is coming next (and why everyone is missing it). Explain why you think one firm is doing well and another dying. Then use the wisdom of the professional crowd to refine, reshape or just debate.

Here are three examples from professionals who relied on “write what you know” to create content that performed phenomenally well on LinkedIn:

I’m a Mom. (Sorry, I’m Not Sorry)
Why you and this man should be worried about Patent Trolls
Software is Eating the Digital Advertising Business

2. Write often

Shorter and frequent beats the reverse. Get your thoughts out there and let your commenters help you craft your next big idea. Find something that works and keep iterating on it. Don’t wait for perfect.

Our data finds that 800-2,000 words is the sweet spot for encouraging engagement, but it’s more important to write to what the content demands vs what the data suggests.

3. Remember your audience

LinkedIn is comprised of more than 400 million executives, entrepreneurs, entry-level and exiting workers — basically the working world in one place. Be conversational, but keep the conversation focused on the professional sphere. And remember that your readers are busy; an email, IM, phone call or conversation is always about to lure them away. Employ photos, bold headings, lists and infographics whenever you can. And, above all, always be interesting.

4. Pay attention to the headline

A great headline carries a lot of weight: It can draw in readers who might otherwise skim and move on; it can help keep you focused while you’re writing (some writers will come up with the headline first before writing a word of the post — I did here); it can give search engines valuable information. One rule to remember: Clear beats clever; use puns or jokes sparingly. And don’t try to trick people by offering a headline that doesn’t pay off in the text; there’s no better way to anger your readers and stop them from coming back.

The tip I recommend to everyone is to write 5-10 headlines and then send those to a group of friends or colleagues. Ask them, “Which headline would you click on, assuming you didn’t know the author of the post?” [Note: If one headline isn’t working, test others. This post, for example, used to be called the 7 Secrets to Writing Great Content on LinkedIn, but we find that listicles are bad for engagement — though fine for raw clicks — so I changed it.]

5. When Facing the Blank Page, Consider Law & Order

Dick Wolf had the right idea. When Law & Order needed material, it turned to the news. Do the same: Find an acquisition that is generating headlines and explain why it’s good or bad. Or talk about your own experience buying or selling companies. Some big name recently get promoted/hired/arrested? Offer tips on what he or she has to do next. Use the news as a conversation starter.

Three examples:

Marc Andreessen is wrong. The IPO isn’t dying
Thoughts on the Call Heard Around the World
Want to Be the Next Chipotle? Here’s the key

6. Always attribute

Give credit wherever and whenever you can: whether quoting, citing or using images. When in doubt, attribute. Use links and source lines liberally (and, of course, make sure you have the rights to the images you’re using).

7. Share!

When you’ve published, tell your network, send to friends, post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, let your colleagues and employees know. Get the word out to build a strong following. The more you share, the bigger your audience and the more impact you’ll have.

Finally, if you want to get deeper into the weeds about how your post attracts an audience, check out my article: “What Happens After You Hit Publish.”