How I Became a Thought Leader On LinkedIn (& You Can Too)

I’ve always been a fan of LinkedIn but 16 months ago I was like most people on the platform with just over 500 connections, no posts, and only a trickle of engagement.

After a few LinkedIn pros took me under their wing and showed me the ropes, I discovered how simple it could be if you wanted to put in the time.

So I did.

Here’s where I’m at 16 months later.

The screenshot is from shieldapp.ai

Three million views and 20 million followers have changed the game for my career and generated a ton of revenue for my employer.

I’ve also been working hard on becoming known and trusted on LinkedIn for my expertise around podcasting, audience growth, and thought leadership marketing.

With that in mind, I’d like to give one quick disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER:
I cringed while writing the headline for this post. I don’t think of myself as a thought leader and don’t ever recommend calling yourself one (even if you are). At the same time, I knew people were searching for this exact topic and that I had a better answer than what people were posting about it out there, so I decided to go against my own advice and title the post so that the right people would find it.

The first rule of thought leadership: Never call yourself a thought leader. #fail

Now that that is out of the way.

This post is mostly about growing your audience on LinkedIn. I have another exhaustive post about how to become a thought leader that is the perfect companion to this one. Put them together and you will have the perfect guide to becoming a thought leader on LinkedIn.

Also, if you’re on LinkedIn and we aren’t connected, let’s fix that. Take a break, go to my LinkedIn profile, and become a friend by smashing that connect button. ๐Ÿ˜

Now, let’s dive into the three parts of growing your influence (and thought leadership) on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Content Strategy

One of the trending ideas on LinkedIn lately is that you need to post quality content, and you have to post it consistently.

Well…I kind of disagree with that strategy.

To say that success on Linked in is based on quality consistent content is an oversimplification of the process. Let me show you what I mean.

Write For LinkedIn Consistently To Win

Consistency is not about the algorithm. It’s not about your followers expecting your content. In fact, I’ve found that I can go a few days without posting content, then post three times in one day and the hit is negligible.

Consistency is important because it helps you.

One of the best pieces of advice I received on consistency was to post once a day, seven days a week, for 90 days.

Seem like a lot?

At first, it is. But what this does is it begins to work your LinkedIn content creating muscle. Posting every day gets you into a sustainable rhythm that will help you to keep creating content. Then, once you develop that muscle, you can take a few days off without losing all your progress.

It’s also easier to commit to something 100%. Avoid skip days, or cheat days. They break up your rhythm. Stay focused, push for consistency, and watch as you, and your connections, grow.

How to Write Quality LinkedIn Posts

Quality is important. You want to provide good, helpful content. But there is something more important than quality.

Quantity.

In the beginning, your posts won’t be that good. You could spend fifteen minutes or three hours on a post and it wouldn’t make a difference. But what will make a difference?

Instead of trying to perfect each post and pushing for quality, post often and push for volume. As you post you will get more practice and over time your writing will improve.

One post, every day, for 90 days.

And, while we’re at it, let’s talk about how to construct a great post so that you can practice well.

Anatomy of a Great LinkedIn Post

While learning to create great posts takes time, there are some strategies that can put you a few steps ahead. The main one? The anatomy of a great LinkedIn Post.

One of the most effective formats you can use to generate comments and create connections is the long-form text post, which can break down into three parts.

  1. An attention capturing intro.
  2. Actionable content.
  3. Easy to answer question.

LinkedIn Post Intro – How To Hook People

Each element of your post is important, but no one will get to read it without a great hook. The hook is that little bit of text that you can see without clicking “see more…” which is the next goal. You want people invested enough in hearing what you have to say to click that button and read the rest of your post.

There are a few types of hooks that you’ll want to master as you write.

  • Tease the First: If you are writing a post that involves a list, making the first item on your list visible without clicking “see more…” is a great way capture their attention.
  • Click to read: Another great way to capture your audience’s attention is the promise of more good content on an intriguing topic. Things like this can feel a little clickbaity but remember, it’s only clickbait if you don’t follow up with good content.
  • Questions: Questions by themselves can even make good hooks. More on that in a minute.
  • Mistakes: People love the idea of avoiding mistakes, so writing about some of your own is a great way to reel in your reader.
  • Inspiration: Watch what other people are doing and try out their method.

Ultimately, the idea behind hooks, and the rest of your post, is this:

The slippery slope.

Your first sentence should make them want to read your second sentence. Your second sentence should make them want to read your third and so on and so forth.

Here are some examples:

LinkedIn Post Content

We’ve already talked about this quite a bit so I’ll be brief.

At this end of the conversation, quality is important. You want to provide helpful content that people can act on, and to write it in such a way that people want to keep reading. Without that, you won’t get to what I would say is arguably the most important part of your post: the question.

Finishing a Post With a Question

Not just a cheap question, a good easy to answer question that will prompt people to engage with you in the comments. This engagement is crucial to building connections and ultimately hitting your goal of being a thought leader. We’ll talk more about why interacting through comments is so important in a bit.

Some Examples:

Multimedia Posts

Now, long-form text posts are great, but they aren’t the only type of post out there. Actually, having a variety of posts and taking advantage of multimedia is a great way to show your personality and allow people to see another side of you.

Graphics, pictures of you, and slide decks (although more time-consuming) are all great ways to add variety to your content, work with different hooks, and be more memorable to your audience.

Examples:

How to Save Time

You may be looking at all this and thinking, where on earth do you find the time?

Well, it’s not easy. I spend hours each day posting and interacting on LinkedIn.

That being said, here are some strategies I’ve found to help me to save time.

  • Inspiration List: Keep a running list of topics that you are inspired by. You can find them in books, at your job, through your own projects, from home, or even from engaging with other people on LinkedIn. You may see something someone else has posted that you want to put your own spin on, or have an alternate thought or strategy to share. This also keeps you from sitting down to write content and staring at the wall the whole time.
  • Batch Create: Every Monday morning I spend two-and-a-half hours writing content for the week. This is extremely helpful when it comes to saving time, and I can always save something for later if inspiration strikes or I find a more relevant topic to post about instead.
  • Outsourcing: Outsourcing is another great way to save time when it comes to content creation. I outsource one-quarter to one-third of my content through a coworker at Sweet Fish Media. All the base content should come from you. When I outsource, I provide the original content, and she develops it into a great post.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to steal my methods.

Try it out.

Steal other people’s methods.

Try them out too.

Keep posting and experimenting and see how fast you find your way to 10K followers.

LinkedIn Engagement Strategy

Good content and a stand-out profile are valuable assets to you as you grow your presence on LinkedIn. But by themselves…you’ll still come up short of where you want to be. This is where engagement comes in.

Be social!

I know, being social on social media. What a novel idea.

As obvious as it sounds, engaging with people is essential as you work to grow your connections. Here I want to show you some strategies that will help you succeed.

3 Engagement Strategies to Grow Your Following (Besides Good Content)

Good content is a great place to begin, but you want to go beyond just creating content. Interact with people, show your humanity, be memorable. Try starting with these:

1. Write Helpul Comments

Now, when I say comment, I don’t mean “good job,” or “great post.” Comments are useful for more than your overall reaction. Use them to share more great relevant content. There are a couple of ways to do this.

  • Add your own two cents.
  • Talk about your personal experience with the topic.
  • Add on to what’s already been said.
  • Politely (this is is professional after all) critique their post with your own opinions on the subject.

These are all great ways to interact with people, but where do you find people to interact with?

  • Feed: This is the first place I would look. These are people you have likely already established some sort of connection with.
  • Hashtags: Find some hashtags to follow that apply to you. For me, hashtags like #marketing are valuable and help me get connected with people who are posting content in the areas that are applicable to me.
  • Engagement Groups: This one can be a bit controversial as some find it unethical. I do not find that to be the case and think it can be a great way to engage with other people who are also committed to consuming and engaging with good content. To create a good engagement group, reach out to people you know, or would like to know better who are consistently posting good content and see if they are interested. Then message them all in a group and commit together to share one post among each other daily and comment on as many of each other’s posts as you can each day. This is a great way to help some of your posts get some early traction, and to generate stronger connections.

Comments are the foundation of engagement on LinkedIn, and the more you interact, the more connections you will build.

Here are some examples:

2. Engage with Influencers

Another great way to grow your connections is to engage well with influencers.

When it comes to commenting on influencers, you not only want to comment with great content, but you want to be the first to do it.

When people are reading through comments later in the day you want to be the first one they see, and you want what they see to be full of great content. If you show up at the top consistently, people are more inclined to read your content and make a connection with you.

I get up early every morning to try and be the first to interact with the influencers that are relevant to me and spend about an hour-and-a-half making comments.

This process has significantly helped me as I grow my connections.

3. Seek Out Connections With People That Make Sense

Lastly, don’t waste your time on connections that don’t make sense.

You want to make connections with people who are active on LinkedIn and posting their own great content that you can interact with.

You want to make connections with people who geographically make sense.

You want to make connections with people who share the right kind of content. The things that you care about and apply to you.

Focus on what connections make the most sense for you.

LinkedIn Profile Optimization Strategy

You can post great content and engage with everyone but if they get to your profile and it’s not interesting, people won’t want to connect with you.

You could say that LinkedIn profile optimization is really this:

Be more likable!

Be someone people want to connect with.

Also, keep in mind. People come to your profile for you. Not for your company. Your goal here is to sell yourself, not to make a sales pitch. Make those connections first, and the sales can come later.

Let’s take this one piece at a time starting with the header.

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile Header

The header is made up of three items.

  1. Profile picture
  2. Header photo
  3. Title

Each one should be carefully selected to sell you.

Your profile picture should look professional, and honestly, it’s worth the money getting a professional one. If you are doing it yourself though, pay attention to lighting. Watch to see that there are no shadows over your eyes (I find it makes you look ominous).

Your header photo should be custom to you and illustrate why people should connect with you. What do you have to offer? Then give a call to action that encourages people to follow through. Also, be careful that it’s not “too busy” and be aware of what things look like when viewed on a mobile screen.

Lastly, your title should take advantage of the opportunity to show people your position in your company which will be displayed every time you comment. Note that this is not your job title. People care more about what you offer them than what your actual job is. Do you have any media property? A podcast? YouTube channel? Blog? Talk about that instead.

Get Personal In Your About Section

Lots of people use this section to display value-driven information. I haven’t found this to be the most effective use of your space.

Again, people want to know you, so talk about yourself! Be personable!

What do you love?

Talk about a few broad things that lots of people can relate to, and a few things that are more unique to you.

Finish off with a brief description of why it would be valuable to connect and leave a call to action to wrap things up.

What to Highlight In Your Feature Section

My thoughts on this section have been evolving a bit lately but what I’ve found to be most effective is to leave some of your best content here.

What are you most proud of? What have people engaged with the most?

You can leave all kinds of content here: videos, blog posts, LinkedIn posts, or some kind of actionable steps like getting put on an email list or a sales pitch. If you are going to do it somewhere, do it here.

How to Organize Your Resume “Experience” Section on LinkedIn

Again, like everything else here, your experience page is about selling yourself and showing others what you have to offer them. It is usually instinct to lead with whatever job you spend the most time doing. However, I would challenge that habit.

Instead of leading with your main source of income, lead with what provides the most benefit to the person seeking a connection. For me, I don’t lead with my marketing job with Sweet Fish, I lead with my role as a co-host of a B2B podcast. The podcast lends more value to the person reading my profile, so I lead with what is helpful to them.

Dan Sanchez, MBA

Dan Sanchez is a marketing director, co-host of the B2B Growth show, and blogger. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and BS in Marketing Management from Western Governors University. Learn more about Dan ยป

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