LinkedIn is one of the most powerful social media platforms for business owners and marketers. But, like all social media networks, LinkedIn has algorithms that determine how much reach your posts have. Don’t let those algorithms discourage you! There are a few “hacks” you can use to maximize your LinkedIn reach. Check out these tips from LinkedIn expert Andy Foote to maximize your results.
Rich: My guest today is a LinkedIn marketing and professional branding coach. His focus is on helping individuals to present powerfully via LinkedIn platform, leveraging content, visibility, and presence. He has developed highly effective advanced networking and content-based strategies which maximize results and allow busy senior professionals to fully capitalize on the LinkedIn ecosystem.
A lawyer by training, his multi-skilled experience includes recruitment, HR consulting, career transition coaching, teaching, and business lobbying. And today we’re going to be diving into how to maximize your own LinkedIn reach and presence with Andy Foote. Andy, welcome to the program.
Andy: Hello, Rich. Thanks very much for having me.
Rich: All right. So first off, you have quite possibly the best LinkedIn headline I’ve ever seen. And if people don’t know you it is, “Reassuringly expensive LinkedIn content strategist.” It cuts right to the chase. I’m curious, did you find that you had to do that based on people reaching out to you who didn’t understand the value you were providing, or was this a preemptive strike?
Andy: I think the latter, because the headline is the thing that really has to do something for you. And it’s one of the three things that really you have the most control over when you are traveling in the LinkedIn commons, as I call it. So those three things are your headshot, your name and your headline. Those three things are very powerful. It’s your calling card. And so the more creative you can be with your headline, up until a point, it needs to be short and snappy.
The biggest mistake I see people make with their headline is, oh, they realize they’ve got 220 characters or so to play with and they try and stuff everything in. And that’s a big mistake because it gets truncated. Only a certain amount of characters actually get shown in various parts of the LinkedIn system. So yeah, I wanted short and in particular snappy, and I thought that was tongue in cheek. I am expensive and hopefully reassuringly so.
But I’d love to claim it all as my own, Rich. The fact is that I thought it was cool and really didn’t steal it. But back in I think the mid-nineties, Stella Artois had a campaign, and it was “reassuringly expensive beer”, and someone reminded me of that. I thought, oh yeah, I’m not as smart as I apparently thought I was.
Rich: A long time ago. I learned you never Google your favorite jokes that you’ve come up with, because someone always came up with them before. I remember saying, oh, I’m an indoor enthusiast. And I thought I was brilliant. And then it turns out there was an entire line of t-shirts that also was as brilliant as I was.
Andy: There was someone more brilliant than you.
Rich: Or at least earlier to it. I see a lot of people, five years ago a lot of times the headline was something like their job title. I still see that for people who are casual LinkedIn users, which is drive by LinkedIn users. These days, it seems to be, I do X for Y to achieve Z results. I’m almost wondering if you feel that might be getting a little tired.
And the other thing I’m curious to hear your thoughts on is, I see a lot of people using emojis in their headline. What are your thoughts about those approaches?
Andy: Yeah. So, on the emojis, I don’t think it helps on a business platform, frankly, that straight up you’re showing cartoons, which I equate with kids. Don’t get me wrong, emojis are fantastic for setting the tone when you’re in conversation and perhaps in comments of a post. But I would definitely advise against them in your headline, because that to me sets the wrong kind of tone. Not professional right there.
I also would advise against putting emojis in your “About” section. As a wordsmith, as a purist, I just want to see text there. And I think if the text is strong, the messaging is strong enough. You certainly don’t need emojis in your “About” section.
And you may have noticed this yourself, Rich, I’ve noticed that people who use emojis tend not to have any kind of sense of how much is too much. Normally it’s like emoji on everything, it’s like bullet emojis and emojis in every paragraph. No, it’s distracting. Just write as we would normally. LinkedIn doesn’t change these things. We don’t use emojis in our letters, on our letterhead, on our business cards, so why on earth would we. LinkedIn is social. It is not social in that sense.
But as for emojis elsewhere, emojis in your name are actually a no no. LinkedIn says no, it’s just your name, nothing else, thank you very much. And I asked LinkedIn about this some time ago, and it does actually prevent you from showing up in search results if you have emojis or any other weirdness other than text in your name. So be aware of that.
Rich: Interesting. Okay.
Andy: But yeah, just quickly to answer your initial part of the question, Rich, they are boring. Most headlines suffer from boring meh. And it’s a recognition that I think that being creative is hard. In a short space it’s harder. So not all of us are creative in that way. Not all of us can ideate and come up with a spectacularly memorable headline. That’s what it has to be. Not only memorable. In other words, that you’re top of mind when someone decides to do something with you, but also that it causes them to take action. If your headline is not the hook over to your landing page, then it’s failed.
Rich: All right. Excellent. So you’re thinking about it when people do a search or just your name pops up, they see your headline in most places on LinkedIn. And that should be like an incentive to go check out your whole profile. And if your headline doesn’t do that, you’ve come up short.
Andy: That’s the entire game plan right there. It must force people at least one, to take attention. And two, action. If it’s not doing either of those, ideally both, then it’s a waste. It’s not doing you any good at all. It’s just like it’s a label and it’s meh, whatever.
Rich: All right. Now when people who obviously like reassuringly expensive content strategists on LinkedIn hire you, what are their objectives? Is it visibility, thought leadership, leads? Are they looking to get hired? And do different objectives require different approaches within LinkedIn?
Andy: Yeah, all of the above, actually. Every single one of those scenarios is something I’ve helped my clients with. And yeah, the fine-tuning part of it, in terms of what exactly is the client objective, the fine tuning is in the “About” section. So that’s your clearest signal possible about not only what you do, what makes you tick, but most importantly, what you can do for the reader. So it has to cover all of those areas.
Another facet to a great “About” section is if it shares something personal. So you get empathy and understanding about the what makes you tick part. And that increasingly is what a lot of people have understood with the content as well, that they’re putting out that, oh, it’s got to be about of empathy. It’s got to be about building affinity. If I’m not doing that, if I’m just pushing out value upon value. Sure. That’s telling people what I do and what I’m good at. But what does it say about me as a human? And increasingly, people call it the ‘Facebookization’ of LinkedIn. That’s definitely happened over the last two years, and arguably it ramped up before COVID when people suddenly were indoors, online a lot, and trying to build new relationships without catching a life threatening disease.
Rich: When you are thinking about this, because I’ve seen you have posts where you talk about that you don’t share a lot personally, but then you’ve also commented on another posts where people are showing that they’re getting great results by showing a more personal side. Are there places within LinkedIn, like is the “About” section where you would recommend you show a little bit more of your personality or a little bit more of your backstory, and then maybe in the post you’re a little bit more on point?
Andy: Yeah. So definitely I think in the “About” section the personal aspect would be about telling your story very well. So you don’t have a lot of room, a lot of runway in the “About” section. But you do have enough to tell your story, and as I say, lay out what you can do for the reader. But as for content on LinkedIn that is increasingly personal, some people would say oversharing it’s definitely a thing that’s here to stay. As I’ve said, you can’t squeeze the toothpaste back in that tube. Everyone who’s complaining about LinkedIn used to be just a professional site, they need to get with the program. And the program is definitely, here’s what I did today, here’s where I went on vacation. And you may have noticed this yourself Rich, but people are trying hybrid now. So they’re talking about their vacation or something personal that happened to them. And then at the end, they’re trying to tie in some kind of lesson. Some kind, I call it “feelosophy”, F E E L, feelosophy. And it is definitely a thing on LinkedIn. So people are trying to basically get the best of both worlds here. Get to know about me as a human but… oh, by the way, I also do this. So bear that in mind, if you and I are going to do some kind of business or achieve something together. So there’s that hybrid, but there’s also this straight up. “Hey, here I’m on vacation. Here are pictures of me and my family.” And people apparently are living their life by proxy when they see this kind of stuff. They’ve either been there on vacation at the same place and they’re going to talk to you about it, or they’re just silently soaking it up and say, “Hey, great.” They may not even say great. They may just silently observe and just absorb that and then go on with their business. But it’s part of their routine to check in with that particular content producer.
There’s a very interesting rule on the interwebs. It’s the 1/9/90. So 1% – and I’ll apply this to LinkedIn – 1% of people will actually produce content on LinkedIn. 9% will engage with it. And 90% will just be silent observers, never touch it in their lives. And what I find fascinating about that 1/9/90 is that the vast majority of my clients have come from the 90.
And so I’ll give you an example. Typically what I get is, “Andy, I’ve been a fan of your stuff for years, and I’d love you to help me with my LinkedIn profile and content strategy.” And I’m thinking, I’ve never heard of you. You’re a complete stranger. So they’ve never actually engaged. So you’ve got this vast majority of your audience who will never ever engage, never give you any kind of algo juice via comments and reactions and re-shares, but you know, actually in terms of getting your bills paid crucial.
Rich: Yeah. If you’re playing the long game, at least.
Rich: You focus a lot on the details of LinkedIn, the algorithm, the feed, hashtags, and more. And I want to dive into each one of those, but I’m wondering where you think people should start to focus their attention if they’re looking to build their brand or improve their LinkedIn authority and experience?
Andy: They’ve undoubtedly got to get that landing page right. So certainly no silly little errors, any self-inflicted mistakes. It’s got to be absolutely correct, number one. Number two, it does have to be engaging. It has to, like I say that “About” section in particular, spend a lot of time on that and then utilize all of the sections. Make sure that the ‘experience’ section is looking good.
Make sure that you’ve got recent recommendations. Recommendations from 2010, 2015 are not that impressive. It seems like you’ve let your profile page go fallow. Up to date recommendations are important. Recommendations from the big cheeses. So a C-suite recommendation is going to be a lot more powerful than someone who’s nothing as project managers. But you know, people that have clout for sure. So make sure all of those sections are looking fantastic. Focus on the about section, make sure you have that that unforgettable headline.
Your picture, and I learned this some time ago, but I met with a client for coffee, and she had difficulty recognizing me when I came into the place, because I had fallen in love with a younger, thinner version of me. And that was the headshot that was still on my profile page. So it’s got to be current. It’s got to be authentically you now, at least six months up to date, if not earlier. But that’s the profile page. The profile page is something that people land on due to activity usually, right? Whether it’s you commenting and engaging on other people’s content, or whether you’re in the 1% as opposed to the 9%, and you’re actually pushing out content of your own. All of that, in theory, should get people checking your profile page out, which is where you have that call to action. So that’s generally the dynamic of it.
So I help my clients get their profile page looking fantastic, as strong as it possibly can be. And then I help them also with the content strategy piece, which is what kind of content makes sense for you? What’s the purpose? What’s the mix? And here’s what’s worked for me. And then there are so many different content vehicles that LinkedIn gives you these days in which to leverage. Perhaps you’re better at infographics than polls, and we have that kind of conversation.
Rich: So many great points, and a lot of questions then, as I’m sitting here taking notes. I want to go back to what you said about recommendations. So I will occasionally, if somebody says something nice about me or my company, I will ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation. I wonder if you suggest that we ask for specific types of recommendations or are there keywords? And the other thing is, are we getting more up to date recommendations because of the algorithm, or because you think that people are going to scroll all the way down the page and see that C-suite recommendation?
Andy: Yeah. So recommendations are an interesting animal on LinkedIn. They used to be orderable, so you could move them up and down. But now they’re date stamped, so they appear on your profile on the date order that you add them. So you’ve got to be strategic. You should, in theory, let’s say you’re job seeking you want to have your most powerful recommendations added last because they are going to be in the top two before people click on to see more. So you have to be strategic about that, you can’t move them around. Think very carefully about when you add them, particularly for job search, and they’re more powerful than endorsements are. Yeah, I think you’ve got this skill.
I’m not sure about it, but you know, I’m never going to be, I never really asked about this endorsement for that skill. So I think for recruiters, endorsements are important as part of the overall research they do. Because let’s say an accountant who has 500 endorsements for forensic accountant versus is going against someone who only has 10 or 50, then that’s going to be part of the decision-making process for the recruiter. But yeah, they are important recommendations, but they’re for someone who’s doing a deeper dive. Because they’re so far down on the profile page that someone is really researching their count of view when they come to that section.
Rich: I’ve always likened the endorsements to likes, and the recommendations more to somebody leaving comments or even sharing. So I don’t know enough about the algorithm, but it takes a lot more effort to write a recommendation. As opposed to you might be rolling over somebody’s endorsement, sneeze on it, and suddenly you endorsed them for a skill you didn’t know they had.
Andy: Exactly. And the thing about recommendations is that they do have text attached to them now, whether or not that text can be searched, I don’t know. But that’s certainly the thing about skills, is skills can be searched on by recruiters who if they have a recruited package, then they can definitely zero in on those skills, those endorsements, and they can certainly do that dedicated search.
What I tell my clients is, if you’ve got a recommendation you think is coming or will be offered if asked, then make it really easy for the person who’s going to give you the recommendation by putting together a draft text and saying, “Hey, Nick. I would love for you to recommend me. And to make it easier for you, I’ve put this draft together or couple of paragraphs together, feel free to use it or not. Thanks very much.” And I think Nick will probably appreciate that because Andy’s making it really easy for him. And what you’ve done there is not only make it easier for him, but you’ve shaped the story you want to tell via your recommendation section. So you’ve got Nick to say something about you, Sally to either say the same or something similar or perhaps completely different, depending on your strategy.
Rich: Kate Paine was the person who introduced me to your work, saying that you were the foremost expert on hashtags on LinkedIn. What strategies are you currently recommending for hashtags?
Andy: Kate’s very kind and she’s a friend, and she’s also phenomenally good at what she does. So Kate Paine, P A I N E, lovely human and lovely, fantastic professional. Yeah. So hashtag strategy is fairly simple and unusually, I think it was back in 2019, someone from LinkedIn actually came out and said it’s three. It’s no more than three hashtags. And that’s it. And the message to me was loud and clear. Okay, I’m going to stick with three. And then a LinkedIn trainer who has some strong research found that maybe it’s three to five. So maybe five is the max, but I’ve stuck with three. I’ll do four occasionally.
And there is this strong thread throughout LinkedIn of don’t be greedy. And it applies to a lot of things. If you’re posting too much, if you’re posting three or four times a day, LinkedIn may only give that first post some primacy and some algo love, the other, the second, third, fourth less. So don’t be greedy, I think, is a good concept to keep in your head whenever you’re doing stuff on LinkedIn. And I apply that to hashtags as well. More than five, nah. Fifteen, certainly not. And who has time anyway, to pay attention to 15 hashtags? I list three so they’re really easy to see. And if you want to click on them, great. I put stuff sometimes in parenthesis, some kind of call to action against my own personal hashtag, #AndyDoesLinkedIn. And that undoubtedly works. People will click on that and will follow. Because when I don’t put that CTA in, it doesn’t grow. So I know that works.
But yeah, hashtags is an interesting animal. On the one hand, LinkedIn certainly wants you to use them. On the other hand, they’re not giving us yet any kind of backend information on the usage of these hashtags. How wonderful would it be to a know who your custom hashtag followers are? How often they’re clicking on that particular hashtag what time of day? From what region? Essentially what Bitly does for custom URLs, what Google Analytics does for content. We should have some of that data. And I don’t understand why LinkedIn is not sharing that with their users. They must have hoards, they must have tons of mountains of data on hashtag usage, because hashtags have been around now for at least three years. So maybe that’s coming in what I refer to as ‘Hashtag 2.0’.
And LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy in terms of getting the information that they give so far in terms, which is essentially number of followers. That’s it. And so what I’ve done, and I guess this is why I’ve got the label of the LinkedIn hashtag whatever. I hesitate to use the word ‘influencer’, but yeah what I do is I occasionally will put out the top 100 via hashtag usage. And I’ve actually got a tracker tool which I call the ‘Swiss Army Knife LinkedIn Hashtags’, which I sell for $150 bucks. And that has a thousand hashtags which have the most followers from top, which is India – I think it was something like 60 million or something ridiculous – all the way down. And my threshold is 10,000 followers. And above that, that’s what it takes to make the list.
Is it a comprehensive list, Rich? No, because of the way LinkedIn puts this information out there, it’s incredibly labor intensive to try and find out what hashtag there is, and which are the most followed. Very labor intensive, but I keep building on that and adding to it. And it’s essentially a spreadsheet with live links, so people can actually go straight to the hashtag they’re interested in, and it I think it saves a lot of time.
Rich: Interesting. But you still don’t have perfect data because LinkedIn’s not sharing all of that with you. And I noticed all your posts use the hashtag #AndyDoesLinkedIn on your posts. And then the other ones are more relevant to the post itself. Do you have an actual mental system that you use to decide what goes in there? For example, I noticed sometimes you say #algo, other times you say #algorithm. Is it like a gut check thing, or is it a little bit more methodical than that?
Andy: It’s the latter. I used to, and it’s really just laziness that I don’t do right now, but I used to actually put the current number of followers next to the hashtag in parenthesis, which helps the reader somewhat. But do I go and compare algo to algorithm. No, I don’t. I’ll hope that it’s relatively well followed. And then that’s the perverse thing about algorithms and followers is that maybe, let’s say #algo has 12,000, people are lazy and can’t type out the whole thing. And #algorithm has 1,200. It may make sense to do the smaller follow count because maybe that’s a niche audience, maybe they’re more interested, more active than the bigger following. So you really don’t know. And so follow count, in and of itself, is not that interesting or noteworthy or useful.
Until of course, LinkedIn provides that backend data then we’ll know for sure. If LinkedIn were to reveal how often #algo was clicked and it turns out it’s clicked 10 times more often from people in my region or in Chicago, then #algo. Then of course I’m going to be using #algorithm, but I really need that information. You’re an SEO guy yourself, you need that data to then come up with a strategy.
Rich: Right. You’ve got one measurement point, but that can easily be taken out of context, like you said. Now you mentioned earlier content suggestions in a content mix. I notice that you, at least lately, have been creating a lot of document posts, the ones that allow people to scroll through the pages. I’m curious, I’ve never used them. How exactly are you creating those? And do you feel that they’re powerful, or is it just that you find that they’re the best way to share your type of content?
Andy: Yeah, so I discovered Canva about two and a half, three years ago. And what a fantastic tool that is for people who think visually and want to message visually and just want to have sets of stuff that is easily utilized. And it’s so intuitive as well. You do a search on ‘circle’ and then you got all these circles to choose from. It could be live circles, it can be whatever, and you can manipulate, you can change the color of that circle, wide it, et cetera. And it’s just so easy. It’s so efficient for me to put everything together via Canva.
Then when you’re done you download it as a PDF, and then you put it into your LinkedIn post. Now, what I like about document posts in particular, is that it’s an article in a post wrapper. So the preference on LinkedIn is for short form. People have decided, hey, I’m on mobile, I don’t really want to log through a lot of heavy, dense text. I might prefer to do the short, snappy post, and I’ll engage with it if I like it. But what I do is I sneak the article, I sneak the long form into that short form wrapper via a document post. And what I like about it is that it tends to please or send a very strong signal to the algo bot that people are interested in that piece of content via something called ‘dwell time’.
LinkedIn data scientists were very clever when they decided, yeah, look, we see all these people scrolling up and down the feed and we have no idea what they’re interested in. Let’s try and measure what they’re actually doing. So what are they doing with their mouse? Oh, they’re clicking on this piece. That’s interesting. They’re dwelling. So it’s everything after the click. And they’re measuring that time that person, that user is spending on that piece of content. Well, I’m getting maximum dwell time with the document post, especially if I have umpteen pages. So they’re on page one, they’re absorbing that. And then they slide through to the next, and so on. So I’m maximizing dwell time. I’m introducing my short form within my long form within the short form wrapper, and it’s visual as well. And it is as visual as you want. And bear in mind, whenever you put content out there, 58% of users are using LinkedIn via the app. So it really has to be easily digestible and easy to see on the small screen, too.
Rich: I’m glad you brought up dwell time, because it was actually going to be my next question. That’s really interesting. And yeah, the idea of having it in bite size pieces, people’s attention are short. But I know that sometimes I’ll ignore long posts when I see that ‘read more’ sort of stuff. But when I see a document like that, especially if it’s visually arresting, I stop, I pause. Thus, I’m signaling to the algorithm that this must be valuable content. So, very good point. And I definitely am going to try more of that out.
Before I let you go, is there anything else we should know about the algorithm – either new or just things that people don’t pay enough attention to – that would help increase our reach and our power on LinkedIn.
Andy: Yeah, so that is a small question with a potentially huge answer. I’ll keep it short. So don’t focus on the algorithm per se. If people on LinkedIn are talking about the algorithm, it immediately gets attention. And that’s understandable, right? But if they’re saying stuff which is let’s say it’s a secret, or they can’t prove it, they can’t back it up. Because anyone can say, “Well, if you’re not messaging people before you publish something, you’ve got to send 15 DMs and that’ll give you X percent more reach”, that’s no. You’ve got to have proof of that before you even start thinking about doing that.
I think you can drive yourself nuts by worrying about the algorithm. The main thing is that you look at other people’s content. And if it’s getting high engagement – and I mean comments, not so much reactions – but you know, that’s part of the analysis. If it’s getting a lot of comments, figure out why. And then if it works for you and what you are trying to achieve, replicate the content in a way that works for you. And then in theory, you should get more engagement.
Now if you’re not getting more engagement than your baseline, then perhaps it’s something else. Perhaps it’s about building up that supportive community that will come to your stuff often, and not be the 90% but be in the 9% of engages.
So don’t worry about the algorithm. Be a very good student of LinkedIn and a very good analyst, and then execute on that basis. But don’t always look for proof for anything that’s algo related is what I’d say.
Rich: I guess I do have one more question now that you brought that up. So I’m curious to know the breakdown of how much time you spend creating new content that you are posting yourself, versus you are engaging and commenting on other people’s posts?
Andy: Yeah, that’s a great question. So it’s probably 70/30.
Rich: 70% you’re creating content?
Andy: Yeah. I’m a content machine. So if I don’t have three ideas for posts ready to go, then I have seven that are bubbling up somehow. And I jot ideas down and then I go with the strongest, and I start in Canva. And I can do a post in three hours and I’m quite happy with it.
So yeah, it’s 70% and then 30% is engaging on other content. But it’s an interesting question, Rich, because content is content, right? So whether it’s not your own content or other people’s content, you should make sure that whenever you’re adding and creating a comment, think of that as its own post. So you’ve got to be thinking about, is what I’m about to say relevant? Is it engaging? Will it make people remember me, and will it make people follow me? And it’s like a beauty parade because the best comments in a thread get up voted. You can get multiple reactions, which is a darn good signal that what you’ve written is has value, has humor, and all of that good stuff.
So content is content, and the mix really isn’t that important. Because if you think about it, I’m creating content via my own post, but I’m also creating content as via comments.
Rich: Awesome. Andy, this has been great. If people want to find out more about you online and possibly engage with you for your services, where can we send them?
Andy: Yeah. My profile page on LinkedIn is the best place, Rich.
Rich: All right. And we’ll link to that in the show notes, but it’s Andy F O O T E when you’re looking on LinkedIn. Andy, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Andy: Thanks very much, Rich. It’s been a pleasure.
Andy Foote is a LinkedIn expert who coaches brands and business professionals on how to maximize their exposure for the most reach on the platform by optimizing their profile and content strategy.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing