Like any social platform out there, LinkedIn is always changing and evolving, as is its algorithm. So you’ve got to stay in the loop and keep your profile and content fresh to make sure you’re connecting with not just a lot of people, but with the right people.
We gathered some of your top LinkedIn questions – and ours – and went to the LinkedIn Expert, Viveka von Rosen-Martin, to get her answers, thoughts and advice, on everything from how many followers you should have, if hashtags make a difference in LinkedIn, ‘connect’ button versus ‘follow’ button, and so much more….(including a ninja trick to make your headline longer.)
Rich: My guest today is co-founder of Vengreso, the largest provider of full spectrum digital sales transformational solutions. Known as the “LinkedIn Expert”, she’s author of the bestselling, LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and LinkedIn 101: Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand.
She’s a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, Selling Power, and The Social Media Examiner. She’s also a really cool person and a friend of mine, and she even got her hair all coiffed today even though it’s an audio only podcast. So it is always exciting to be chatting with Viveka von Rosen-Martin. Viveka, welcome back to the podcast.
Viveka: Thank you so much. It’s great to be back. Yes, my beautiful hair and no one can see it. It’s very sad.
Rich: We’ll just have to take your word for it that you’re having the world’s greatest hair day.
Viveka: Absolutely. I mean, I can’t even imagine it being any better than this.
Rich: Viveka, as I mentioned, I had actually kind of reached out to my connections on LinkedIn and I said I was speaking to a LinkedIn expert and do they have any questions. I did get back a bunch of questions, a couple that I thought were really appropriate for this podcast. So I figured I’m just going to start with those. Somebody asked, “If I want to be well established in my industry on LinkedIn, what is currently the best strategy for engagement and content sharing”?
Viveka: Excellent question. Well, the first strategy is actually do it. A lot of people just forget that LinkedIn has a timeline. But the great thing about sharing content on LinkedIn is it truly not only helps to position you as an expert and someone knowledgeable in your industry, but it allows people to start engaging with you. And as long as you’re following up with that engagement, it can help you to start creating conversations, connections, et cetera. So good. Do it.
The second thing is you want to be thoughtful in your content that you’re sharing. Like a lot of people will just grab some posts from, say Feedly and knock them out there, schedule them out and say, okay, I’m good. But they’re not very thoughtful in the content that goes out. You can do that sometimes just to kind of keep that energy moving forward. But I would say if you really want to position yourself as an expert and start those conversations with your connections and with your network, then you need to be a little bit more thoughtful.
You need to post natively. I think two to five times a week is great. Like if you can do it daily, awesome. If not, a few times a week at least to give that platform for people to engage with you. And when you share content, right now updates seem to be getting the most engagement unless you happen to have LinkedIn live, and that’s, that’s awesome. We can talk about that later. But for folks who don’t have that tool, just regular updates, but you want to utilize all the features. So if you can upload an infographic, a PDF, a PowerPoint under 10 MHz as compared to sharing a link. If you can actually upload that native content or if you can upload a video, um, that is going to get you more visibility just because the, the algorithm likes them more.
So, if you can upload that native content, number one. Number two, if you can use the 1,300 characters or up to 1,300 characters to describe what the content is, especially if it’s a video, because a lot of people might not want to sit through the PowerPoint or sit through the video unless they know it’s worth their time. So address your audience, let them know kind of their time investment in clicking through or reading or watching your video or your article or your image.
And then let them know what’s in it, use some relevant hashtags. Hashtags are a thing again on LinkedIn. So I say two or three popular ones and then when unique one, you know unique to you so that way it’s easier to find later on. We use one that’s #vengresovids or #vengresopics.
And then that way if we search on that hashtag, it’s really easy to find our content.
And then of course @ mention anyone who’s relevant to the article. And finally you probably want a CTA in there. And if you’ve got a link to drive them to it, it really is okay to put the link inside the main post. You don’t have to pop it down into comments. There was a while when you did because it affected the algorithm, but Agorapulse did a little research and it didn’t really affect, it minorly affected the visibility of your post. But the cost was that people weren’t clicking through cause people weren’t going down into comments to get to the link so they weren’t clicking through. So it’s okay to put the link in your post if you’ve got a call to action, maybe something else for them to look at a download.
But as I mentioned, if you can upload native content first, write your description, and then if you have a link to add drive somewhere some someone somewhere else, you can certainly do that too. But taking the time to fully create these, we call them long form posts, they’re not articles, but to create these long form posts will get you significantly more visibility on your LinkedIn content.
Rich: Alright, that was just a great ton of valuable content. I want to talk about a few of those things in smaller bites. One thing is that I just want to add that I love about LinkedIn compared to Facebook and especially compared to Twitter, is just that the content in the newsfeed – at least for me – seems to have a much longer shelf life. So I will often go into my notifications, and I posted something about girlfriend’s daughter had been in the news about she was putting on a plumbing class for women specifically, girls and women, to kind of get them used to that sort of stuff and get them realizing that this is something they could do. And admittedly it was great content that was a video, but it was also a like a week later and I’m still getting comments, shares and likes on that. So that would never happen on Twitter and very unlikely to happen on Facebook.
So just you know, as you are creating that content, spend more time on it because it’s probably going to last a lot longer too. And I also just want to make sure that people understand when you’re saying natively, you’re saying that if you’ve got a video, better to post it and uploaded directly into LinkedIn rather than uploaded to YouTube and then embed that video back into LinkedIn from YouTube. Correct?
Viveka: Exactly. Because LinkedIn wants to obviously keep you on its own platform. It doesn’t want you jumping off to YouTube, jumping off to your blog. So it wants to keep you on there. So it really likes that native content that you upload. Even including SlideShare, because LinkedIn actually owns SlideShare, but they would rather you upload your PowerPoint presentation as native content then share a SlideShare link, go figure.
Rich: And honestly, if there’s something that I’m going to share to both LinkedIn and Facebook, spending the extra 30 seconds to create a unique craft for both platforms is really not that much extra work, compared to the return you’re going to get on that investment. Plus you may have a slightly different take on why you’re sharing it on Facebook versus why you’re sharing it on LinkedIn. And so you want to kind of tailor the conversation.
Viveka: Yeah, absolutely.
Rich: Here’s another question that I got from my motley crew on LinkedIn. How do you think the new features like stories will help businesses differently than just good videos? How do you think businesses or personal brands who could benefit most from them, the type of content we’re talking about?
Viveka: Yeah, no, I love the idea of stories. And you know, we’ve seen it already on Instagram and Facebook because you can’t, at least I don’t think you can, schedule stories. I guess if you were really crafty you can figure out a way to schedule stories, but really because they’re immediate, they are more authentic. It gives people a real sense of who you are. You know it’s just that live, authentic engagement I think can be really powerful.
Now marketers get it. Salespeople, business owners, pretty much anyone other than marketers and might not understand; a) the power of things like stories or LinkedIn Live, and b) they might not understand how to do them correctly and in the right way. So you just want to make sure that you’re professional, that you are friendly, that you’re open, that you’re engaging. That word ‘authentic’ again. And that can really help to build your business and your brand.
Rich: So until this person asked about stories on LinkedIn, I didn’t even know there were stories on LinkedIn. And stories had never been my favorite part of social media, because I just can’t keep up with them. And I don’t think I have anything worth saying. So are LinkedIn stories basically the same thing as Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat stories, except maybe with a slightly more B2B vibe?
Viveka: Yeah. So to answer your question, I’m not 100% sure because of course I don’t have access to them yet. From what I know about stories, they are available right now, it’s in beta mode. Only a few people have them and it’s tied to universities. So students have them, some students have them. Which is actually, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. We’ll see.
Rich: It’s clever on LinkedIn’s point because students are more likely to use it.
Viveka: Right, and understand what they are because they’re using stories on other platforms. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily B2B focused because of course right now students have them. I haven’t heard of individuals who have it yet, but I might not have the latest and greatest information. We’ll see.
You know, it reminds me a little bit of when native video first came out, only the influencers got it. Or when articles came out on the only the influencers got it. And eventually of course they did open those up to everybody. And even LinkedIn Live right now is only available to certain people. And so I hope stories becomes available to everyone. We’ll see. We’ll see what LinkedIn thinks about it.
Rich: Yeah, I mean, I’m sure from LinkedIn’s standpoint they’re looking to get people to visit the site more often than they do. And this is probably why things have a longer shelf life is because many people, even power users, may only check in a couple of times a week. Where Facebook, you’re on there multiple times a day.
Viveka: Exactly. And that’s, I mean, I think we, I can’t remember if I was having this conversation with you or with someone else at Social Media Marketing World where I talked about it, but I think with LinkedIn they’re more concerned about growing the audience. Like they really want to get it in the 2 billion mark, 2.3 billion I think is what they’re aiming for. So they’re more concerned about that than monetizing every little thing. Which is probably why ads are significantly less sophisticated than they are on Facebook. But you know, things like stories will grow the audience and will make more people come to LinkedIn. And I think they’re after that more than they are monetization of each and every little feature. So we’ll see.
Rich: Interesting. All right. So you talked a lot about your network during your presentation. Is there a right number of connections for people to have on LinkedIn? Can you have too many?
Viveka: You can certainly have too many, and I think you could have too few. Yeah, the right number is the number of connections that’ll engage with you. So if you’re like a super influencer, like a Gary V or someone like that, who’s got millions and millions and millions of followers, then of course he’s probably – well, he’s probably very discerning – so my guess is his actual connections are pretty low. But there’s no limit to the number of followers you can have if you’ve got a really engaged following.
And if you’re just starting out on LinkedIn, one of the things you’ll notice is until you grow your network to a decent size, let’s say at least between three and 500 people, LinkedIn kind of inhibits you from doing anything. You know, you can’t really ask for introductions, a lot of people are hidden unless they’re friends of friends. So you definitely want to have at least enough connections so that you’re able to make full use of LinkedIn’s functionality for your paid.
I’ve got 30,000 connections. It’s way too many. But I’ve been at this for a long for a long, long time, but it’s really, really hard to manage. So one of the reasons I pay for Sales Navigator is I can manage my network that way. And LinkedIn really frowns on third party tools because I was using Nimble before to help me manage my network and Duck Soup and some of the other tools out there. But LinkedIn is like, you can’t use third party apps anymore. So yeah, so Sales Navigator it is.
So you definitely can have too many connections, too. It really is who is going to engage on your content because the new algorithm rewards people whose content gets engaged on. So just because I’ve got 30,000 connections doesn’t necessarily mean that my stuff is going to get seen more than someone who has 300 or 3,000. If the person who’s got 300 or 3,000 connections has a network that loves their stuff and then engages on their stuff.
Rich: So if I have a larger than I should have network – I have about 8k right now – and to be honest, that was because for a long time I just would accept everybody. And then more recently I’ve become more discerning. But, so if I’m hearing you correctly, it might even make sense for me maybe while I’m watching the Celtics play or something like that to just start going through my network and for people who are either not engaging with me or just I realized that I accepted this invitation and there was no value that could be exchanged there, that I should really be culling my list down.
Viveka: Yeah, that’s 100% accurate. My assistant goes through, she deleted my husband one time, but she goes through there. There are certain people that she’s supposed to delete and some that she’s supposed to leave on like my husband and our buyer personas. But anyway, my assistant goes through and probably deletes about a thousand people a month from my network, and I still can’t keep up with the invitations. And I certainly don’t accept every invitation that I get.
Now mind you, I will most times, unless it’s obviously a spammer, I will send a “thank you for inviting me to connect” message, but I still am only going to connect with my real prospects.
Rich: Interesting. So let’s talk a little bit because at the event, Andy Crestodina took my phone, logged into my LinkedIn – with my permission, it wasn’t like he was stealing it – and changed my button on my profile from ‘connect’ to ‘follow’. So talk to me a little bit about when is it good to have your button say connect and when is it best to have your button?
Viveka: And he did that because I shared an article on it recently, which he engaged with. Go, Andy! So’ follow’ is if you’re kind of happy with your connections on LinkedIn, you don’t need to grow them for any particular reason but you still want followers to see your content and potentially engage on your content. Then switch it over to ‘follow’. So I have done the same thing. I’ve switched mine over to follow.
If you’re in sales, you probably don’t want to do that. If you are new to LinkedIn and trying to build your network, you probably don’t want to do that. But if you’re at the point where you’re seriously considering deleting people from your network, then yeah, the ‘follow’ button instead of the ‘connect’ button will keep you from getting those hundreds of invitations, many of them spam, while still building the people who can see what you’re sharing.
So that’s, you know, it’s really a personal choice and it really depends on what you do for a living and how you’re using LinkedIn and your main purpose. And understand, even if you have ‘follow’, people can still connect with you, but they have to know to click on the three dots. Just like when you’re inviting someone to connect on.
Rich: Right. It’s like two extra steps. If I see a ‘connect’ button and I want to, or if I see a ‘follow’ button and I know that I want to connect with that person.
Viveka: Exactly. And the nice thing is, on mobile, you know, you have to click on those three dots any way to personalize the invitation. And I won’t, unless it’s someone I actually know, I won’t accept an invitation from someone who hasn’t personalized the message to me. I’m not going to accept them anyway, so I might as well have the ‘follow’ button up there.
Rich: Interesting. Interesting. Yeah, it’s just fascinating how you accept or don’t accept different people. And my own feeling on this has evolved over the years, so it probably will continue to evolve.
Viveka: Yeah. Right now it’s peaceful not getting hundreds of invitations a week.
Rich: Right. You know, it’s funny, I just realized I used to be getting 10 to 20 a day and then lately I haven’t been getting many at all and I’m feeling like totally lonesome. And now I realize it’s because he messed around with my connect button. So there you go.
At the same time, what’s interesting is I have noticed my last three posts – maybe because they’re so fascinating – have gotten a lot more engagement. And I deleted like maybe 300 of my followers that were totally not relevant with the plan of doing a little bit each day or each week anyway.
Rich: Anyway I was going to say, at your session at Social Media Marketing World, you said ‘address specific audiences in posts’. I want to know how we do that, because aren’t our posts always just public, like they just go out there and hopefully LinkedIn finds an audience for them? How do we address specific audiences?
Viveka: Yeah, thanks for that question. I should have clarified that. I mean literally when you’re writing the post, a lot of times you’ll see my post say, “Hey, sales leaders”, “Hey marketers”, “Hey, sales professionals”, because I don’t care if an accountant reads my posts because accountants are my aren’t my buyer persona. I don’t care if an executive assistant reads my post because an executive assistant isn’t my buyer persona. So if you address your buyer persona in the post, as those individuals see that content they’ll self-select and they’re more likely to engage upon it. And of course the more engagement you get quickly, the more likely LinkedIn is to promote it to a bigger audience of more of your buyer personas.
And the thing is, if I’ve got more than one buyer persona, like I might share the exact same video, but on Monday I’ll say, “Hey marketers, are you wondering how to create the follow button to create more followers”, or whatever. And then on that day I might be like, “Hey influencers, have you ever wondered about getting more followers but less annoying invitations to connect? Great. You should watch this video on how to change your connect to the follow button”. And then on Friday I might say, “Hey, sales leaders, you should change your profile to follow, but your sales people should all have connect. And here’s how to do it”.
So same video, three different messages, three different audiences. And it’s more likely that I’ll get engagement by the right people if I do that.
Rich: And just out of curiosity, you’ve then uploaded the same video natively three separate times to LinkedIn. Okay.
So you mentioned already that on our post to build our following, we should be using as much of the 1,300 characters that LinkedIn allows us. I’m just wondering there was a time when LinkedIn was pushing us to write articles on the platform. Are we just not doing that anymore, or is that kind of like, it’s a nice if you do it, but really you should be focusing on individual posts instead?
Viveka: Yeah. You know, LinkedIn loves its new toys, and when Articles was new, they were pushing it on everyone. And if you remember Articles when you first publish them, not only would they go out as an update, but you would get notified in your notifications just like they’re doing with LinkedIn Live now the second they pulled those notifications. You know, people’s views went from 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 views per article and some people in the millions, to like eight. So it really killed the visibility.
Now what’s interesting, and I think you have to apply for it, but you can get what’s known as a ‘subscription’. And so LinkedIn will actually not only put your article in notifications, it will send an email out to the LinkedIn audience to let them know that you’ve got an article. But again, it’s something you have to apply for, it’s only being meted out to very few people. And I think part of the selection process is if they see you’re sharing articles regularly. So that’s the long answer.
The short answer is, if you’re creating blog posts anyway, and especially if you’ve got an assistant, it’s only going to take five, well say five to ten minutes to copy and paste that article or that blog post into the article, do a little tiny bit of formatting and publish it. And there is the possibility if LinkedIn sees that content getting shared and engaged upon, they might elevate it to subscription status. So you might as well do it if you then an extra 5 or 10 minutes every time you write a post.
Rich: And from an SEO standpoint I would just add to this, make sure that blog post or that podcast transcript goes live on your website at least a few days before you put it to LinkedIn because you want Google to recognize you – your home base – as the originator of that content rather than LinkedIn.
Rich: So the short takeaway from this is, if you don’t have an assistant or you don’t have the time, is really focus on creating long form content within your posts rather than in separate articles. You did mention that LinkedIn is now paying attention to hashtags again. What is your quick takeaway for how we should be crafting hashtags? Do we put them within the 1,300 characters? Within the body of it? Do we add them down at the bottom?
Viveka: Yes. So I actually do both, and that’s probably overkill. If you put it in the body, the LinkedIn algorithm basically starts at the top and works its way down. So if anything’s going to get amplified, it’s the first three hashtags, whether you put in the body or down below. But sometimes I’ll just put them in the body because when you use the hashtag and then ‘sales leaders’, it pops more. And so it’s visually more engaging and it might possibly help with getting that found.
The Ninja trick is – now you can only do it for one – you can use all your hashtags, but you can only do this for one hashtag at a time. But like, let’s just say #salesleaders was the hashtag that I wanted to get more visibility on. I would go into my search up top and I just put #salesleaders, and then hit enter and it will actually take me to the hashtag. They used to be called ‘communities’, now they’re just timelines. But would take me to that hashtag timeline/community, where I can follow that hashtag. But also you’ll see you can write a post right from inside there.
And so then I usually write it first in a word document or a notes document, but I’ll write it and/or copy and paste it in there. And again, there’s a much more higher likelihood that my post will be seen by that #salesleaders community and get more visibility and get more engagement. Because that’s my audience and that’s whose going to be looking at this hashtag and that’s who I’m speaking to.
But of course if I also have #modernselling and #socialselling and #vengresovids, those other three will still be seen by LinkedIn and LinkedIn’s algorithm, but those other three are less likely to be engaged upon then #salesleaders.
Rich: For it to trend there, yeah. So just to make sure I understand. So if there is one specific hashtag we’re going after rather than just include that hashtag in the post, we should literally do a search on the hashtag, go to that “community” and create our post from there. And it sounds like the LinkedIn algorithm will give us a little boost as far as that one hashtag goes.
Viveka: Exactly, exactly. And once in a while you might have seen this in your notifications, LinkedIn will even notify you of a particular hashtag that’s been amplified or a particular post that’s been amplified because of the hashtag. You know, again, it’s kind of few and far between and there’s no real science behind it, but it’s certainly not going to happen if you don’t use hashtags.
Rich: Understood. All right, so, emojis on LinkedIn…yay or nay, smiley face or sad face?
Viveka: Yay, smiley face depending on your audience. So it was kinda funny. One of the things that we also do is we write profiles for clients. And so one of my profile writers, oh my God, he did such great research on all the different emojis out there, and he wrote this beautiful profile that was full of fantastic emojis, which was completely inappropriate for the client the audience. So we made him take all those emojis down, which is to say absolutely emojis can attract the eye. They’re fun, they might make you smile, and know your audience. So when I talk to my B2B traditionally focused audience, I’ll use emojis, but I’ll use numbers.
Rich: Yeah, I saw that in your 2020.
Viveka: I don’t use rainbow emojis or unicorn emojis for that particular audience. But there are a lot of people like our friend Mikayla Alexis another LinkedIn expert. She’s known for loving coffee and being phenomenal on video and being a millennial. And so she uses far more emojis because that’s her audience and they love her for it.
Rich: And I find I use a lot of emojis and my girlfriend is always giving me a hard time. She’s like, it’s like dating a 14 year old teenager. But I find that even on LinkedIn, like even if I’ve got a more formal post, even something like using the checkboxes rather than typical like you know, that just makes it pop. So you can use more reserved emojis if there’s such a thing, and still kind of have your post pop. There’s definitely overkill.
So I don’t know if this is a real question or not, but I was looking at your profile today and your headline seems hella long. Did you somehow like squeeze in extra characters there or something? Because I know that I basically am bumping my head on the ceiling or at least I used to. Do they ban the number of characters or does Viveka just get special treatment over there?
Viveka: Yes, it’s because LinkedIn absolutely loves me that’s why I have LinkedIn Live, and why have Subscription. No, LinkedIn hates me. In fact, pretty much anyone on this call is going to have a feature before I do. The Ninja secret Ninja magic trick to that is, just build your headline on your iPhone app.
Rich: Wow, that’s great. That’s great information. All right. Wow. If you have one takeaway from today people, it’s that right there. Okay, so quick one last question. Free version, premium version, or sales navigator? When should we upgrade or when should we choose one of them?
Viveka: Sales Navigator. I used to love the premium but they got rid of some of the benefits, which to me was the additional search fields. So now it’s like, well if you don’t have search fields what’s the whole freaking point.
Rich: When should people use the free LinkedIn version, and when should peopel use the premium?
Viveka: So I’m a huge fan of Sales Navigator now. I use it for, like I said, managing my network because my network’s too big so they have lists and tagging. So that helps me to manage my network. It helps me to keep an eye on my prospects, which allows me to engage with their content. It gives me InMails, which quite honestly I never use. But if you’re first starting out on LinkedIn, you might find that that you’re using them more often. But really I use Sales Navigator mostly for the management and the observation of my network.
What I tell people is don’t do the free version unless you know you’re going to use it. Or don’t use the 30 day free trial, unless you are really going to use it because otherwise it’s just going to be a waste of money. And a good time to start using Sales Navigator is when you’re stuck. Like you’re doing regular searches on LinkedIn and LinkedIn says you can’t see any more results unless you pay for it. Or you’re really needing to reach out to someone, you can’t do an introduction or you can’t get introduced to them, there’s really no other way than an InMail, then it’s time to upgrade. Or you have way too many connections on LinkedIn, no way of managing them, then it’s time to upgrade. So that’s really what I recommend.
Rich: Awesome. Viveka, this has been fantastic. If people want to connect with you online or perhaps just follow you, where can we send them?
Viveka: So if you just Google “LinkedIn expert”, my profile shows up, you know, first, second, third- ish on Google. Or you would just go to https://www.linkedin.com/in/linkedinexpert/ and just customize the invitation. You’ll have to click on the three dots, but customize the invitation, let me know that you heard me on this podcast and I would be more than happy to connect with you even if you’re not my buyer persona.
Rich: That’s so sweet of you. Alright, Viveka this has been great. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing all the latest on LinkedIn.
Viveka: Absolutely, it’s been my pleasure.
Viveka von Rosen-Martin is a bestselling author, speaker and LinkedIn expert. If you’d like to dive deeper into LinkedIn, check out the many books she’s written on the topic, or connect with her on, where else, LinkedIn.
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.