It’s one of the most difficult things for a marketer: to use social media and achieve actual results.
Anyone can go out and buy tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads, but not all businesses have that kind of budget.
The good news is that you can do it for much cheaper, even zero dollars (minus your time)—it’s just harder.
What I’m going to show you today are four specific ways to use LinkedIn to drive traffic and qualified leads to your website.
Other than Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is the largest social network in the United States. But more importantly, because of the way it’s designed (we’ll get into it soon), LinkedIn is an even better marketing tool for your business than those other social networks.
LinkedIn’s edge over other social platforms
Organic reach is a marketer’s best weapon.
It refers to the number of followers or connections you can reach on a social network with a status update (without paying).
Most networks are moving to a “pay to play” system, where you need to pay to reach all of your followers. This is generally because too much content is being generated. If the site didn’t limit the reach of everyone, feeds would move too quickly and would become much less useful for users.
The fact remains, however, that the average Facebook reach in 2015 is estimated to be only around 2.6%.
And it’s not likely to stay there. For years now, the organic reach of Facebook has been steadily declining:
Meanwhile, on the second largest network, Twitter, you can reach about 10% of followers with a tweet. Some claim only to reach as few as 3.61%. In addition, those tweets typically have very poor engagement rates.
But there are two networks that are different.
The first is Instagram, which has an organic reach of about 20%. Considering that it’s an image-based network and people process images faster than text, that seems expected.
The second network is LinkedIn. Even though it’s content-based—similarly to Facebook—your status updates and posts should still reach about 20% of your network.
I’m going to show you how to take full advantage of this current opportunity.
But first, there are a few more things you need to know about LinkedIn, starting with the quality of LinkedIn traffic.
People are not using LinkedIn to entertain themselves or to kill time like they do on other social networks. They are actively looking to build their brand, learn about their industry, or improve their career. They are looking for opportunities to engage with people and companies on the network.
This is why the amount of referral traffic to business websites dwarfs all other networks, even Facebook. LinkedIn accounts for 64% of referral traffic to businesses from social media sites, with Facebook in second place with only 17%.
In a study of over 5,000 businesses, Hubspot found that LinkedIn traffic converts at 2.74%. That’s an average rate, which is amazing. Compare that to Facebook and Twitter, which convert at 0.77% and 0.69% respectively.
Whether you sell products or services to businesses or professionals or not, LinkedIn can be a great channel for your marketing efforts.
Finally, I have to mention this because I know some of you’re wondering: it may help your search rankings. If you publish content on LinkedIn Pulse (I’ll show you how to do it shortly), some links will be dofollow and will have a small positive effect on your rankings.
Some of your links will also be nofollow, and I’ve yet to come across a good explanation for it. From some simple analysis, it appears that links in the body of your articles are much more likely to be dofollow, so just keep that in mind for now.
If you’re ready to learn some traffic driving LinkedIn tactics, let’s get started…
1. LinkedIn Pulse is alive and well: Get more traffic with little effort
Pulse was acquired by LinkedIn in 2013 for $90 million.
Originally, it was a content publishing platform that people could only post on if they were invited. This included big name CEOs like Mark Cuban.
Since its acquisition, Pulse has remained a content publishing platform, but now it features articles from anyone who posts on LinkedIn. This is your opportunity to get your content in front of a large audience.
One warning: just because you publish a post on LinkedIn doesn’t mean that it will get picked up by the Pulse channel. Pulse only features articles that appear to be gaining traction. I’ll cover how you can maximize your chances in just a bit.
First, you need to understand why all this effort is worth it. Getting picked up on Pulse is a lot like guest-posting on the biggest blog in your niche. How many subscribers could you get from a typical guest post? Probably 100 or so, assuming you guest-post the right way.
On LinkedIn Pulse? How about 200 subscribers from a single article?
You won’t hit that every time, but that potential is there if you create the right type of content.
In a case study of 20 posts on LinkedIn, Andrew Hutchinson was able to learn more about which posts were and weren’t featured on Pulse. He was also able to convert visitors at a 2% conversion rate (that’s 89 subscribers from 4,500 views) on one of his first successful articles.
How posting on LinkedIn works
When you first publish a post, all of your followers get notified.
By default, your followers consist of your first degree connections plus anyone who follows you after reading a post of yours.
Not all of your followers are probably very active on LinkedIn or will want to read your article, but a decent percentage of your followers will see the notification shortly after you publish your article.
You will need some connections to get started on LinkedIn, but that doesn’t take long. If you have absolutely no connections in your field, you can find some in groups (which is a different tactic I’ll show you).
Back to your post. Based on those initial impressions, your content will be rated. LinkedIn uses a combination of likes, comments, shares, and views to determine the quality of your content.
If your score is high enough, it can get picked up and shared on the Pulse channel. Getting featured fairly regularly is essential for success when publishing on LinkedIn. It makes a huge difference with about 10x more views and 30x more comments on average.
That first Pulse feature is really important because that’s how you really start to increase your follower count. Once you build up a decent number of followers that are interested in your niche, it will be a lot easier to hit the quality score threshold in the future and get picked up by Pulse.
Remember Hutchinson? The writer I mentioned earlier was able to grow his follower count by 50% with his first featured article. The next featured article got even more views, and his follower count again increased by 50%.
As with all successful social media strategies, this tactic needs to be repeated over the long term to see the best results even though the short-term results aren’t too shabby as I’ve shown you so far.
How to maximize your chances of being featured on the Pulse channel
We’ll start with the content. As with other marketing channels, you need to create content that these specific users want to see and share.
Since we’re on LinkedIn, that mainly means content that is educational, practical, or thought-provoking from a professional point of view (e.g., career choices or business strategy).
It starts with an interesting topic and a powerful headline. If you’re not sure what to write about, don’t just guess. Instead, search a relevant keyword in BuzzSumo’s content explorer, and then sort it by LinkedIn shares. This will bring up the most popular articles on LinkedIn for that keyword:
Copy down the first 5-10 results (that’s all you get with a free account) into a spreadsheet. Then, repeat the search for 5-10 different important keywords for your business. In the end, you should have 25-50 proven topic ideas that work.
At this point, start to brainstorm how you could improve upon the ideas or give them a different angle. Your article could be:
- more data-driven
- more comprehensive (longer)
- more practical (step-by-step instructions)
- updated (if the topic changes over time)
For example, the 4th most shared article on LinkedIn right now is Announcing the 2015 10 Most Influential Brands on LinkedIn. Although that’s not very useful right this second, I would make a note to make a 2016 edition as soon as I could obtain credible data next year.
Alternatively, you could write an article on the 20 or 30 most influential brands on LinkedIn in 2015.
Never copy. Mimic, then improve.
At this point, you have to write the post. There are tons of resources on Quick Sprout and the NeilPatel.com blog that can help you write better if you struggle with this part:
- Learn to Write Content Like a Pro
- The Definitive Guide to Copywriting
- How To Create Better Content For Your Customers
- 12 Content-Writing Secrets of Professional Writers
- How to Write Like a Pro in a New Content Niche
Aside from general good writing, there are some specific things to keep in mind when publishing on LinkedIn.
Paul Shapiro conducted an in-depth analysis of publishing on LinkedIn late in 2014 in order to understand why some posts were successful and others were not. He found a few key guidelines that you should follow:
- write educational “how to” posts
- include 5,7, or 9 subheadings throughout the post
- include lots of images (8 appears optimal)
Furthermore, he also found that your posts should be on the long side, around 1,900-2,000 words.
Some people will tell you to write short articles (under 1,000 words). The problem with this is that it’s based on old, irrelevant advice. I haven’t seen a more comprehensive or up-to-date analysis than Shapiro’s yet.
The logic for the short articles was that you shouldn’t invest time in them just in case they don’t get picked up by Pulse. But I will never recommend planning to fail. Instead, give yourself the best opportunity to succeed by writing top-notch lengthy articles (if they need to be).
The next factor for success when it comes to your post is the featured image, which is the main image you choose to be at the top of your article. Along with your headline, it’s what other Pulse readers see when they decide whether or not to read your article.
Pick a picture that features a face if possible. Our attention is directed to people in pictures. In addition, darker colors will stand out best on Pulse’s white background.
Finally, you need to make sure you maximize the results from your views. To do so, include a clear CTA at the end of the article. You may want to ask your readers to comment, share, follow you, or click through to your website.
Pick one or maximum two CTAs to include at the end of the article. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with choices, or they won’t take any action.
If you do ask them to click through to your website, offer a content upgrade and link them to a landing page for it. You can get around a 40% conversion rate from those who click through.
How to show your article to the world
Now that you have a LinkedIn-optimized post, it’s time to publish it on LinkedIn.
Start by clicking on Publish a new post. You can always find a link to this at the top of your personal LinkedIn feed:
Paste your post, and format it just like you would in WordPress—it’s pretty simple.
You can click “save” if you want to come back to it later or “publish” if it’s ready to go.
One reason that you might want to save it, rather than publishing it right away, is to time it better.
When posts are published during typical work hours, they have a better chance of being picked up by Pulse, according to LinkedIn itself:
I would suggest that you try a few different times over the course of your first few dozen posts to see which times seem to give you the most views and engagement.
All that’s left at this point is for you to actually start posting articles on LinkedIn. Don’t get discouraged if your posts don’t get featured by Pulse right away; it’s difficult at first. Even if it takes a dozen or so high quality posts to get going at the start, your results will increase exponentially from there.
As a final note, your posts do not have to be original. You are free to copy and paste parts of or entire articles you have written elsewhere. Although this can be useful, don’t get lazy. If an article on your blog doesn’t fit LinkedIn very well, don’t use it. Stick to content that you know will maximize your chances of getting featured.
2. How to zoom in on your target audience with groups
All marketing bloggers tell you to go where your target audience hangs out so that you can interact with them and get them to visit your website.
Well, guess what? Almost every target audience hangs out in groups on LinkedIn unless you’re in some really obscure niche.
This is great for marketers like us.
Step #1: Find relevant, high-quality groups
There are millions of groups on LinkedIn. Some are worthless, but others are perfect targets for you.
The bad groups look like this:
Unfortunately, this is fairly common. Everyone who joins the group only wants to promote their own content. There’s no discussion or engagement, which drives away all the initial serious members.
Luckily, the moderators of some groups take a more active role. If they see anything that resembles spam, they delete it and can remove spammers from the group.
That’s how you end up with awesome groups like this:
Every post gets read by at least several dozen members. Many will like, share, or comment as well. Obviously the key here is to not be identified as a spammer, and I’ll tell you how to do that in a second.
First, let’s find the groups. Search your niche in the top search bar. Make sure you picked the “groups” filter from the drop-down menu beside it. You can be pretty specific with your niche and still find a few good options.
Go into each group individually, and look at the most recent posts. You’re looking for groups that not only frequently post and share content but also engage with it.
I’ve found the easiest way to keep track of groups is to make a list in a spreadsheet or create a folder with bookmarks.
You will have to request to join many of the high quality groups. As long as your profile looks relevant and legitimate (you’ve filled it out and have a picture), you should get accepted to almost all groups.
Step #2: Be a real member
There’s no trick to not being labeled as a spammer—you simply need to not be one.
What do spammers do? They only post links to their own content and never interact with the group.
If you don’t want to be a spammer, behave as a normal member would. Start by spending at least a few days liking, sharing, and commenting on posts that other members share. Don’t go overboard and do this on every single post, or it will be obvious that you’re just trying to build up some credit.
Next, start by sharing someone else’s content. Not just any content, but really useful and interesting content to the members of the group. Remember those popular articles we copied down before? You can always share a few of those if you have nothing else.
After you appear to be a real member, then yes, you can post a link to your own content. It could be to a post you published on LinkedIn (a good way to get early traction) or a post on your blog.
The key is to post the right way. Don’t just post a link and disappear. Craft a custom description, and try to start a discussion:
Also respond to and “like” any other comments you get on your post in the group.
Finally, there’s one last step.
Step #3: Don’t post your content too much
There’s no exact ratio of promotional to non-promotional content, but the 4-1-1 rule is a good place to start.
For every piece of your own content, post at least 4 pieces of other people’s content, and re-share at least one other post in the group. Having a higher ratio—to be on the safe side—is always a good idea, especially when you’re new to a group.
3. Grow your network in overdrive
The main purpose of LinkedIn is to grow your personal network.
As I mentioned in Tactic 1, having a responsive personal network that cares about either you or your niche is crucial to getting early traction with a new post and helping it get featured on Pulse.
Growing a large network can also help you with outreach when you’re promoting your business, and it will also help you use Tactic 4 more effectively, which I’ll come back to.
If you have to start from the beginning, it’s not a big deal. Connect with anyone that you’ve worked with in the past or that you currently work with. In addition, connect with friends and family but only if you think they will read and share your content and status updates. Otherwise, LinkedIn could lower your content’s quality scores and limit its visibility.
Hopefully, you can get at least 20-50 connections with that, maybe more. From there, you can build up your connections in two main ways.
First, connect with people in groups
You just learned how to join groups and use them effectively, but here’s one more way to take full advantage of them.
You know that people in those groups are interested in your niche and are part of your target audience. If you connect with them, they will automatically get a notification whenever you publish a post on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Even just 50 or so active connections could make a big difference in getting your posts featured.
It’s important that they are active though, or they won’t see your notifications often. If someone is commenting or liking content in a group, they are most likely active on the rest of LinkedIn too.
When you see someone post a new comment or share content in the group, hover over their name and click “Connect”:
You’ll have to select either “friend” or “I don’t know [name]”. Then, send a short message like this:
I saw your comment on the [topic] article in the [group name] group. I’ll be honest—I’m currently trying to grow my [niche] network.
I’m a [niche] professional that [describe what you do/offer]. If you ever need any help with [particular relevant need], just let me know.
Here’s what it will look like on the network:
While most people will be happy to connect, some will decline. Some will go even further and select “I don’t know this person.” If this happens too often, you may have your connecting options restricted.
Furthermore, if you send a ton of invites, there is some possibility of having your account suspended temporarily.
This is a useful tactic but one that comes with a risk. Just be aware of this before you use it.
Once you connect, provide some value
While you could just simply share your content and hope that your new connections care enough to read it when they get a notification, you can practically guarantee it if you help them.
Like with any relationship you want to build, you need to give before you can take.
So when you make a new connection, you need to provide something of value to build trust.
There are many things you can do, but I’ll give you a few easy options.
First, you can simply like and share their content. Not everyone posts on a regular basis, but those who do will appreciate this.
Second, read through their profile thoroughly. You might be able to spot something to help them with (like recommending a book). Alternatively, you can always endorse someone for skills to make them look better to potential employers:
Just scroll to the bottom, and click on 4-5 of their top skills.
Overall, this isn’t really a scalable strategy, but you’re just looking to build that highly engaged network of 100-200 people to kickstart your process.
4. Share the right content
Just like on Facebook, every LinkedIn user has a feed. The difference is that unlike on Facebook, the feed on LinkedIn is a secondary feature.
Anyone that you’re connected with has the potential to see something you share. It could be a link to your own post or to someone else’s. It’s just like an open group.
Again, you’ll have something like a 20% organic reach, so a good number of your connections will see your updates. This is mainly because there is much less content shared on LinkedIn compared to Facebook. This is a good thing for you!
To share an update, click on Home in the top menu bar. Then, click on “Share an update”:
From there, you will open up a standard text form to enter text, images, or a link.
The whole point of sharing content here is to (a) be seen as an expert in your field and (b) share useful content that will train connections to pay attention to your posts.
The first part is important if you offer consulting services. Your connections may not need your services right this second, but when you share relevant content on an ongoing basis, you’ll become their “go-to guy” when they need help.
The second benefit can also help you drive traffic to any post you want. If you’re constantly posting links to really useful content, people will eventually notice that you only link to things they are interested in. When you link to your own articles, they will view those as well.
You can post links back to your blog, to an offer, or to your LinkedIn articles that you’re trying to get featured.
Again, you don’t want to be labeled as a spammer. If you are, your connections will simply hide your posts.
LinkedIn published a massive guide to marketing on the site, saying that 20 posts per month is optimal (or one per weekday). This will allow you to reach about 60% of your unique audience.
As before, I recommend using something like the 4-1-1 rule, where you post links to 4 other resources for every 1 self-promotional status update. Considering personal feeds are less busy than group feeds, and it’s not like you can get banned, you can be a little more aggressive here if you’d like.
LinkedIn is a massive site and is only going to grow in the future. It currently has over 300 million users, and the company has set 3 billion users as their next goal.
So while you won’t be one of the first to start marketing on LinkedIn, the network is still far from saturated. If you position yourself well in the next year or two, LinkedIn could drive a massive amount of traffic to your site in the future.
The four tactics I’ve shown you in this article should be used as part of a complete LinkedIn strategy. I recommend using them all if possible as each one has the potential to increase the effectiveness of the others.
Leave me a comment below letting me know if you’ve tried using LinkedIn to market your business. If so, how’d it go?