In January 2019, I posted an update on my LinkedIn profile, something I do every other day.
Within seven days, that post had been seen by 281,000 people, had 971 likes, 144 comments and had been shared 54 times (the numbers are probably higher since I’ve written this even though I’ve updated them three times since I started the post). It had spread so far and wide that one contact of mine received a phone call from his boss in Europe about it. People in Saudi Arabia have shared it. It was all entirely organic. Not a single dollar spent.
There are posts by other people on LinkedIn that get better reach than this one (Gary Vaynerchuck gets this sort of reach in the first hour), but this was a relatively low effort post so it’s interesting to note what happened.
So here is a breakdown of how and why I think it went viral. Bear in mind I have no proof of the metrics behind this, but these are my thoughts.
The post itself:
It was a post in which I was trying to help someone
I think this is important as many of the comments are complimentary about my effort to find a role for someone who is no longer going to work for me. It was perceived as a selfless act, and for the most part, it was. We did like Hannah and we want to see her succeed. She’s smart, well-presented and absolutely willing to help.
The copy is succinct and to the point…
It wasn’t one of those ‘sentence per line’ posts that force you to read hundreds of lines of copy to get to the actual point (who doesn’t hate those?). I wasn’t trying to create any form of clickbait so everything I wrote, I wrote in five lines. It could have easily been more, but at the time I posted, I didn’t think to add more details about how Hannah had performed whilst working for me or anything like that. If anyone was interested, I figured they would ask me.
…but the copy is also quite vague
There isn’t a lot there. She used to work for me, now she isn’t going to. I don’t go into the whys and wheres about this and I don’t specifically talk any more about Hannah, her experiences, her University career or the type of role she’s looking for. So it’s really down to the reader to find out more if they want to.
It touched on a role and a resource that a lot of people need
Smart, experienced social media assistants are needed in many, many industries, especially one that is looking for a part-time role. This makes Hannah an option for both bigger companies looking for an additional resource and smaller companies who can only afford someone part-time.
It had a photo
Okay, so this is going to be a controversial one. And something that was actually was pointed out by one of the commenters on the post itself. They congratulated me for helping Hannah out but suggested – without offering a reason – that I shouldn’t have added her photo to the post.
Now, why would they say that?
The insinuation here is that the addition of a photo of a young attractive female has either added to the appeal of the post or has skewed the demographics of LinkedIn (56% male) to be more likely to look at the photo or comment on it.
This is somewhat controversial: the idea that an image of a young female in a LinkedIn post has gone some way to boosting the success of that post. And whilst you might find that unpalatable, the question remains as to whether the post would have reached the same heights if I had done exactly the same with a photo of a young male? Or indeed a photo of an older male or female?
Interestingly a post a few days later about a podcast episode with another female photo in it – Cheryl Mack, the CEO of StartCon – got nowhere near the coverage. So perhaps the photo had nothing to do with it? Or perhaps it’s a combination of all of these things.
Sadly, the opportunity to split test this now and measure any perceived LinkedIn bias has gone. But I’m going to reserve judgement on this last point unless anyone else can shed some light on it.
How can you repeat this success?
Everyone would like something to go viral. Preferably something useful and relevant that might help grow their business. This was a good post for me as it garnered me another 200+ connections which hopefully may come in useful.
My outtakes of this episode include a number of key options to think about when you’re trying to make a splash with your LinkedIn content:
- Be useful and help someone
- Focus on something relevant and in the moment
- Use engaging imagery or video
- Deliver enough ambiguity in the copy to generate discussion…
- …but ensure a clear, simple message.