It always comes as a delightful surprise when a status update goes viral. My definition of viral is when you share something that goes far beyond your existing network by repeated shares, likes and/or comments. When my recent LinkedIn status update eclipsed 10,000 and then 20,000 views I realized that I have had a couple of posts go viral in the past month and thought it might be useful to share the formula that seems most likely to lead to viral success. Disclaimer: I can't promise reading this will automatically make your posts go viral, but hopefully it gives you a few practical ways to dramatically improve traction.
Here is the updated screen grab:
1. A picture tells a thousand words
Posts with pictures and posts with just plain text get more likes than shared links. Why is this? Very simple, people are lazy. Not lazy at work, just too lazy on average to click through, read an article, click back to LinkedIn and like it. An image or text only doesn't require much work, just like it or comment on it and move along. Any time you can incorporate images that tell a story, you will get better engagement on your posts.
2. Share something relatable
It is actually way more common to see people posting about blockchain or artificial intelligence than about thoughtfulness and kindness. People relate to acts of kindness or individuals in a corporate setting taking steps to be more human. This particular post performed well in part because of a large number of marketers in my network run the marketing departments for law firms and accounting firms. I believe they related to this because it was something they could either imagine themselves doing or hope they would have thought of themselves.
3. Reply to every comment.
The LinkedIn algorithm looks at every interaction on an update as an upvote. Like something, and you "upvote" it, comment on it and you may be giving it 5x the "upvotes," re-sharing it will give it 10x the upvotes. LinkedIn hides updates that nobody interacts with, and promotes posts that get big interaction numbers. This is somewhat of a chicken-or-the-egg deal though. Since you need likes to get likes, you need comments to get the visibility to get more comments. This means you also need to have a substantial network that you are actively engaged with. Even with a large engaged network, something still has to trigger enough visibility to get views, and that leads us to the most powerful tool of all: tagging posts.
4. Tag companies and people with large networks
Simply put, tagging people and companies supercharge your posts. When I post an update without tags, LinkedIn limits the visibility of my post to a subset of my network. Not even all my LinkedIn connections will see the post unless they have their updates set to "all" instead of "top." LinkedIn picks and chooses which subset of my network will see any given post. When I tag someone or some company, however, people that follow the company I tag or are connected to the person I tag, are also likely to see the post. Tag a couple of people, and you will have in effect tripled the potential audience that will see your post. I would estimate that the majority of the success of this post was due to tagging my friend Barbar Malin, a very well respected Chief Marketing Officer of a great law firm and then by tagging that firm, Jackson Walker LLP.
5. (BONUS) Using LinkedIn Stickers
To be honest, as an afterthought I added a sticker when LinkedIn prompted me to do so. Anytime you add pictures to LinkedIn via the mobile app now, you have the option to also add a sticker. I sorted through the stickers and just selected the "Nailed It" sticker that included a picture of a hammer and a nail. Clever, right? Not so much. Anyway, I have a theory that LinkedIn loves this idea of promoting stickers on posts and so it is possible that they gave my post a bump just because I used their sticker feature, and ironically they are hoping the sticker feature will catch on. It's been around for a while, but their reception in the media has been dismal- see LinkedIn's Chat Stickers and Gifs are Absolutely Terrible and more recently they added stickers and filters for video- LinkedIn's Video Filters are Even More Boring Than You Would Expect. The stickers have gotten a little better, so give them a try- it adds some personality to your post and that is always helpful.
My thinking on posting to LinkedIn and Twitter has really evolved over the past ten years. I used to feel strongly that sharing great content and great information was the only effective sharing strategy, but I've started to realize that posting images, text updates, and articles that also expose your humanity and your personality can also be a powerful weapon in your social media arsenal. Authentic insights resonate with users on LinkedIn, and frankly with most people anywhere in the world.
Adrian Dayton is the Founder of Clearview Social, an internationally recognized speaker on social media for business development and author of multiple books and white papers including most recently the strategy guide, “10X Your Website Traffic.”