LinkedIn is the easiest social network to go viral on, says AJ Wilcox of B2Linked. And that means it has tremendous potential to expand your business’s organic reach. But to make this free marketing method work, you have to take a very specific approach, adds AJ.  

In part 1 of this interview, AJ highlighted the advantages of LinkedIn over Facebook and Google, the best ad formats, and why this business-oriented social network isn’t a good advertising fit for every business.

Here in part 2, we expand on the organic side, including how to expand your influence using your personal and company profiles.

  • The main reason most company LinkedIn profiles don’t much attention or traffic
  • How the latest LinkedIn update leveled the playing field
  • The most effective content to post on LinkedIn – and when to post it
  • What you need to know about how LinkedIn’s algorithm “judges” your new content
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast where we talk with marketing and agency executives and how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about LinkedIn advertising. Here to speak with me about the topic is AJ Wilcox who is the founder of B2 Linked, an agency that specializes in account management and consulting with LinkedIn ads. To date, they have managed hundreds of LinkedIn ads accounts spent a good amount of plus hundred million on the platform, and they actually managed five of LinkedIn’s top 10 customers. Today we’re continuing our conversation about LinkedIn. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the first episode, where we talk about LinkedIn advertising, make sure to check it out. I’m happy to welcome back AJ Wilcox.

AJ Wilcox: Thanks, Steffan, super excited to be here.

Steffen: Last time, we talked about what industries do best on LinkedIn, what ad formats perform best and more. Today we’re going to talk about how to grow an organic presence for companies and individuals. AJ, businesses evolve over time. For example, in the early days of Facebook companies spend a lot of money to grow the number of page followers they had in order to reach them organically over time, and with the introduction of different advertising formats, your organic reach for Facebook pages decline, resting. How is LinkedIn evolved over the years when it comes to using the platform to reach people organically?

The Evolution of LinkedIn

AJ: Well, it’s so nuanced. I mean, right now LinkedIn is the easiest network in the world to go viral on. It’s so easy, it seems to get this real free, wide organic reach, but it’s so nuanced because that’s the experience you’ll have sharing as your personal profile. But then as soon as you share from your company page, you’ll hear crickets and maybe get a like or two. So it’s, it’s, it’s very much a split kind of platform. And it takes a lot of thought and strategy to figure out how you can share your influence between the two. You have

Steffen: You have any thoughts on why that is what you just said that when I post content updates, blog posts or podcasts on LinkedIn, from my personal page, I get good reactions. When I do that, for our company page, the Symphonic Digital one, as you said, crickets. Not much going on there.

AJ: Yeah, I think it might be a combination of things. It’s pretty natural to blame the algorithm and say, Oh, the algorithm doesn’t, doesn’t play to company page posts as well. But I think there might be a couple of other factors at play here. Like when we interact with a company page on LinkedIn, the moderation of those comments is not very good. And so we’re used to commenting on a company post, and then never getting a response or hearing anything back. So we’ve kind of trained ourselves or LinkedIn has trained us to say, I don’t need to interact with that company page post, because chances are, there’s it, there’s no one on the other side, who’s going to notice that I even did it. So it’s kind of this faceless organization. Whereas a person when I post something, as a person, and someone comments, I get a notification immediately, I’m probably going to go back and respond to that person. And so I think people have been trained to know, when I go and interact with a person, they will probably respond and it was worth my effort.

Steffen: So I use saying the fact that companies don’t maintain and monitor their company pages could be one of the main reasons why LinkedIn does not push company updates so much.

AJ: Yeah, I think that’s a real potential reason for it. Because, I mean, if you are a company page admin, your comment or something on one of your posts will show up as one of your many notifications. And if you’re like me who has a notification bar I’m looking at with, you know, 49 notifications going on, chances are you’re going to miss it. And you know, the same problem we have as advertisers, when we’re advertising if someone leaves a comment or likes our ads, you have to go and really dig you want to you have to go and try to find those social interactions to respond to them. So I think just the poor management and I guess lack of tools to moderate and have a conversation has probably shot LinkedIn company pages in the foot a little bit.

Steffen: From your perspective, how has LinkedIn help to level the playing field so for example, someone who is a huge influence that has thousands, millions of followers for that person, it’s quite easy to collect a lot of likes or comments. For a company that has a limited number of followers or even an individual as limited number of followers. It’s much harder to collect feedback and to reach more people. How has LinkedIn leveled the playing field to help the smaller guys to have a chance to, as you said, go viral and to reach more people?

AJ: Yeah, this is a great question, because this was one of those updates that you talked about that was earlier in the year. One of the changes LinkedIn made they realized that when Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins come through and share something, naturally, everyone follows them. Everyone wants to interact with them, and they would just get this insane like millions of views kind of reach. And of course, they are people who, even though they have full teams to manage their social media, they can’t go and respond to everyone. They don’t need that much exposure. Like it’s just it’s wasted on them, versus people like you and I were if I share something, I would be happy to get some of the views that Gary Vaynerchuk wouldn’t have done anything with on my stuff. So that was kind of that update that happened earlier this year, where I think we as LinkedIn experts, we call it the Robin Hood update where they stole from the rich and gave to the poor. And they’ve we’ve seen a few updates like that, which is really interesting from a network, whereas I said, the organic reaches are so plentiful that they are trying to share it around.

Steffen: Okay, so when LinkedIn looks at content, and determines, you know, how often that to show what are specific ranking signals that the algorithm looks at in order to decide whether a content piece has value to a specific group or to your followers in the first place. 

AJ: When you very first create a piece of content, a new post on LinkedIn, it goes to a test audience, so Imagine this is something like, you know, the next 5% of your followers who come online, they’ll put it in their feed, and just test to see what kind of reaction it gets. And what they’re looking for is the average number of likes and comments to, to just be above average, so that they know that it’s high quality enough type of post to keep sharing it to your network. So you know, if you post something and it gets, you know, one or two likes and only 50 views of, you know what happened, you didn’t make it past that first review the 5% sample of your audience, and it’s not really 5% it’s just kind of the number I throw out, but it didn’t make it past it didn’t make the cut. But if it does make the cut, then LinkedIn looks at it and goes, Okay, cool. What kind of post is this? If it’s text only, it’s taking up very little room in the newsfeed it probably feels very authentic, very non-marketing a and so we’re going to let that fly and maybe if it’s a video Or an image, maybe it takes up a little bit more room in the newsfeed. So there’s a little bit more opportunity cost in it edging out other things and ads. So maybe we’ll give it a little bit. Or if they see Oh, there’s a link in it that’s trying to take people off our site. Maybe they just totally chopped the legs off of it, and don’t let it go viral. And the ranking signals that they’re looking for are social interactions. Comments are by far the most powerful thing you can get. that would be like, every comment, you can think of it like getting 10 points towards virality. a share might be four points and alike might be one. So the goal if you want your posts to go viral, try to incentivize the comment.

Steffen: Okay, that’s that’s good advice. You know, everyone wants to create a content piece that goes viral, and you just mentioned, you know, make people engage with the content, are there any other significant things that the company and individuals can do? To help push a content piece of data gets more noticed or does get noticed by their followers more?

AJ: Yeah, I think the comment is the most powerful thing you can get. So if you can elicit a comment, whether the post is like a humblebrag or a Hey, I learned something or let me tell you a story or you know any of those types of pieces of content, you want to ask for a comment or give people a reason to want to engage in discussion. And you want as many of those people as soon after the post is published possible. Because if you can tell LinkedIn during that kind of sandbox time that this is a post that is really valuable, they will launch it, they will just get it in front of a lot of people very quickly. So a lot of people are doing things that they call pods, they’ll get on a messaging group where they’ll message out to everyone and say, Hey, here’s a link to this post I just put out there if you would all you know go And like and comment as fast as you can, and right now, the pod mentality works really well, you’re kind of seeding the social interaction for that post, kind of tricking LinkedIn into showing it to more people. So that’s working right now. But certainly, a really good quality post doesn’t need a boost. It just needs people to interact with it so that it will keep being shown.

Steffen: That sounds like gaming the system. Yes. And I’m sure LinkedIn will catch up on that one relatively quickly and start to shut that down, as these kinds of systems always do.

AJ: Yeah, totally. And I’m not sure how they’d figure it out. If it’s, if you’re running your pod through like a LinkedIn message, maybe that’d be pretty easy for them to spot. It’s the same. All the people who keep liking and commenting on this personal stuff. They’re all in one, like, group message together. But I think the obvious answer to that is people are just going to start taking their conversations over to slack Or over to Facebook. So I’m not generally a fan of gaming the system kinds of thought processes. But certainly, there’s a lot of conversation around it right now, just because it is so easy to get so much free engagement from LinkedIn.

Steffen: Yeah, a few minutes ago, you said you kind of give three examples of post types. Instead, if you have a link in your post, you might get completely can’t because of the likes of LinkedIn, they want to keep people on their platform. You know, that’s where the real estate is. That’s where the ads are people pay for what can people do to still get people to the content that is outside of LinkedIn?

AJ: Yeah, this is this the money question right here because like you mentioned, if you put a link in your post, it’s just not going to be seen by very many people. There are a few things that people are doing that they will either write it as an all-text post and then submit it, let it go into LinkedIn. them, and then go back after editing the post and insert the link. So that’s one way you could do it. You could also say, you know, down below, the very first comment has the link if you’re interested. And you kind of trick LinkedIn a little bit that way. But I think for me, reach on LinkedIn doesn’t mean much. It’s kind of a badge of honor to say you have a post that was seen by, you know, 100,000 people or a million people. But when I’ve had posts go really viral, I don’t get very many leads from them. And I can’t say that I particularly get super high quality leads from them when I do versus if I share a link to something like, here’s a podcast I was on or here’s a webinar I’m putting on. Those are really valuable clicks. So I think I’ve kind of taken the tact of I realized that LinkedIn is not going to let something with a link go super-viral, but I’m okay with that. It’s not going to change the way I share things because I’m already Working with the algorithm on that one. And just knowing that if I keep submitting a variety of types of posts, I will get more and more attention more and more people will want to follow me for my content. And chances are that some of those people will see the offers that I have that actually do bring real leads and business to me. And so that’s okay, I’m willing to play that game.

Steffen: I think it’s kind of looking at it from a business outcome perspective, right. If you don’t have a link in there, if you use hashtags so people can discover your, I don’t know, infographics or your imagery that has some meaning or something. It can help to increase your brand awareness. And brand awareness, which is an upper-funnel activity might not drive immediate action and form of leads or whatever it is you’re looking for as a company when you are trying to be active on the organic side, LinkedIn but as you just said, when you put out thought pieces or your input karst or your latest blog post, you might only get one or two leads and maybe one has actual value, then you look at that outcome at that moment and the mass reach you might have without the link has a completely different target. That’s what I want to say at the end of today.

AJ Wilcox: Yep, I agree. 100%.

Steffen: What content does well, on LinkedIn? Are there specific content pieces, whether it’s video, I mentioned infographics, I see a lot of people these days share kind of an anecdote out of their life or, and then they kind of invite people to comment on their experience or on their opinion. Is there something that stands out that does really well and things that don’t do so well?

AJ: Yeah, you can kind of think about it this way that anything that makes people want to comment and respond is going to do you know, I’m holding up air quotes here. It’s going to do very well with the algorithm. But you can imagine if you share something political or religious, or you know, something like that, and all of the comments are this doesn’t belong on LinkedIn, please shut up. That is going to do very well. It’s going to be seen by a lot of people, but it’s also going to make you look like, you know, an uber moron. So maybe that isn’t the best thing for you. But think of it like this. Some of the best posts I’ve ever done for reach have been things like, hey, help me out with something. I’ve got a question. I’m wondering what your opinion is. And of course, everyone has an opinion. Or even recently, I’m starting a podcast here in the next couple of months. And I put up a vote that was like, Here are four potential cover art that my designer gave me, you know, what would you guys think? What’s the best version here and then let people vote. And every time someone votes, you know, a BCD. That counts as a comment. It tells LinkedIn that it should be seen by more people, and that does really well. So voting to ask for opinions, sharing heartwarming stories or inspiring stories people always want to like cheer you on. Being a little bit vulnerable works really well. If you say like, Hey, I’m being a little bit vulnerable here. I feel like a moron. But I just learned a really important lesson a client fired me. And this is why and here’s what I learned from that. You’ll have all of your friends coming out of the woodwork to come and like, pat you on the back and say, like, thanks for being so transparent. Yeah, we support you. Glad you learned it. So those are the types of posts that do really well. If you just kind of shout something out like, like, you know, here’s the tip, chances are no one’s gonna feel like they need to comment on that, and it won’t go anywhere.

Steffen: So on other social networks, it’s quite important to pick specific times when you want to publish your content. How is that on LinkedIn? Are there specific days during the week and even specific times during the day that are better for pushing out content than others?

AJ: Yeah, where do you want to get it is where the majority of If your followers are online at that time, so what that usually is, is it’s in the morning. So if you get like a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday morning, those are generally the best times. Chances are LinkedIn will show your post to enough people and actually get a statistically significant sample of that social proof. If you launch in the middle of the night, it’s possible that they would show it to a few people and then kind of make the call too early. Like, I guess this post isn’t engaging, but it’s just because your followers weren’t online and looking. And there are certain types of content that work well on weekends. I have seen weekend posts work well when someone’s just like sitting on the toilet or something on Sunday morning, or Saturday morning kind of scrolling through. posts can go do well there. When a post does exceptionally well on LinkedIn, it will usually live for two or three days, sometimes even a week. But a post that just doesn’t Okay is usually like you get notifications of people commenting today. And then tomorrow it kind of disappears. So, you know, play around with it, try launching at different times, try launching different types of posts. And, you know, just see what tends to work better with your audience.

Steffen: Probably one question that just popped into my mind that we should have probably discussed in the beginning is what should be the goal of a company when they’re thinking about increasing their organic activity or trying to get organic reach on LinkedIn? What are realistic goals? I mean, a second ago, we talked about, you know, I said, brand awareness is probably one area you mentioned, you know, the leads I get from organic, more lower quality or depends on the content pieces I share. Is it more the awareness side that people should look at? Or is it a mixture of organic and awareness and, and the lead generation?

AJ: Yeah, I think this can be a little bit different for every company, but What I would caution you against is assuming that social interactions and, and those likes, comments, other types of social proof, trying to connect that to your bottom line. I’ve worked at companies in the past who said, okay, your goals are getting company page followers up by 20%. And that should lead to 20% more revenue. And you can look at it and go well, there’s a little bit longer of a tail there. It’s better to divorce your social proof from the bottom line and realize that social media people are interacting there to start a relationship. And you want as many of the right people following you and kind of in that group who’s going to see your content, but it’s divorced from leads from lead quality. I don’t feel like I’m saying this super well, but that would be my recommendation is realize that any sort of social media is very, very top of funnel and look to other media to kind of play that bottom of the funnel, maybe like your search campaigns, SEO, that kind of thing.

Steffen: What you just said the last couple of minutes probably also is important when it comes to how do you grow your network on LinkedIn. Right? If for example, and I’m just picking number you mentioned if LinkedIn uses the 5% of your followers to display that content piece or an update that you just posted, to determine whether it gets more reach, you want to make sure that the people that you’re connected with that content is actually valuable to So, you know, I think we all got a ton of LinkedIn connection requests from people that are closer to what we do and people are so far away. Does that make sense to really keep the network close to what you are doing rather than keeping it getting too wide network?

Keeping A Small Network

AJ: Yeah, I really like that concept here. Because it is if you’re after social media, of getting all the followers and getting as many as company page followers, as many connections as you can get, it’s really easy to get that stuff, you just go to low-quality audiences who will like it engage with anything. Certainly, you send out connection requests to anyone with a lion or LinkedIn open networker in their job title. And you’ll certainly find all kinds of ways to get your follower count higher. But be aware that when you post something out that 5% group that LinkedIn shows your post to determine whether or not it should be seen by more people, it’s going to be seen by a random amount. So if you’ve filled your audience with people who don’t care about you, they don’t know like and trust you, they just hit Connect because it was fun. Those are not the people who are going to hit those social comments, the social actions, the likes, comments and shares, and you’re, you’re kind of making sure that your posts don’t go viral in the future. So I would say be a little bit more careful about making sure that you are curating your audience and thoughtfully building it. So we talked about

Steffen Horst: Obviously, that you able to just post your updates. What other ways are companies and individuals able to share content on the LinkedIn platform?

AJ: Well, there are LinkedIn articles. And back in 2014, when these came out, it was like this ability to write a blog post and have it live on LinkedIn rather than your, your company blog where maybe eventually you leave that company. And now you no longer own that content. So now an article can always be attached to you, your thought leadership kind of carries with you your whole career. Back in 2014, they would do really well when I would publish an article, it would do a push notification to all of my audience that I wrote an article and it would push a ton of traffic. After that, they got pretty wide adoption, LinkedIn stopped actively pushing people to them. So now when you create an article, if you want it to get a lot of traffic, you have to really actively promote it. Probably from other channels, probably from LinkedIn posts anyway. But they live forever, they’re evergreen. So I would recommend, make sure that you do post some things as articles. So that you’re you have these evergreens thought leadership pieces attached to you, but realize they’re not going to get a ton of love. And then when you do these posts that that will go viral. They’ll live for, you know, one to three days and realize that those are very short term types of boosts.

Steffen: So what’s your thought on professional groups when it comes to sharing content?

AJ: Groups are really interesting on LinkedIn, because they were a really awesome thing. You know, 10 years ago, people would join groups, there’s a lot of LinkedIn would actively promote, like, you should go and join groups. So everyone who created an account did and they were really tightly themed around certain things. But over time, the groups haven’t really done much they haven’t improved, they’re still a little bit clunky So people don’t love spending time there. And as soon as Facebook groups came around, that was just really, really good technology. I think a lot of people just abandon the LinkedIn groups. And at some point, LinkedIn groups really just became a spam dumping ground, like, let me log into this group, dump a link to my latest blog post and then leave and it’s just a list of links. And there’s no conversation going on. So I’m a member of like, 15 groups I have to wear real conversation goes on. And I do go back there and spend time, but the rest are just kind of garbage.

Steffen: LinkedIn recently changed something for four groups. And the reason I’m asking you this is I’ve noticed getting notifications that say, oh, that that person highlighted a specific article, which I don’t think I’ve seen before, or recommended a specific article.

New Types of Notifications

AJ: Yeah, I don’t even know if I’ve seen that. That update. I know. Last year, LinkedIn pushed an Update two groups, trying to give group owners a little bit more, more control, trying to make notifications better, basically just trying to improve the group’s experience. But they didn’t do a great job and not that they did a bad job. It was just like they didn’t make improve enough. And it wasn’t enough to make people want to come back. But there may be more changes coming that you’re talking about, and I’m really excited to see him.

Steffen: We’ll see. So in our last episode, we talked about what not to do from a LinkedIn advertising perspective. One of the things someone shouldn’t do and should avoid when it comes to posting updates, and trying to achieve organic reach. I think

AJ: If your goal is simply to go viral, it’s possible you can learn all the tricks and make sure that every post gets seen 10s or hundreds of thousands of times, but you will give yourself a full-time job of having to reply to comments all day and chances You’re not going to be rewarded with leads. So although it’s fun to go viral, I would recommend maybe don’t make that your goal, don’t make the reality of the goal. And then I wouldn’t go the other way, which is, Hey, I’m just going to post six times a day until something catches on. And I learned something. Because people don’t log into LinkedIn all the time. They don’t spend a ton of time as they do on Facebook. So if you post six times during the day, and your audience only logs in, you know, once a day, or once every few days, they’re only going to see one of those, you know, 10 or 810 posts, you did. And you’re going to end up with very little interaction, very few likes, comments, and very little opportunity to be seen by a lot of people. So I wouldn’t go to either extreme, I would probably stay in the middle, set a rule for yourself that you want to post maybe once or twice a week, and you’re going to be really thoughtful about what it is you post and it’s going to be engaging and ask for real feedback. I think that’s probably the best thing to do. And don’t just post from your company, because we know that your company post isn’t going to be seen by a lot of people. So find ways of from yourself and from your employees or coworkers to reshare or make mention of the LinkedIn company page to get people’s attention towards it, because probably not going to get it on its own.

Steffen: So probably a good practice there will be for companies that someone takes the lead on sharing the piece whether to see CEO or the marketing lead or whoever. And then people in the company start commenting or sharing the article in order to get that initial push that we talked about a few minutes ago.

AJ: Yeah, LinkedIn has a product called elevate. That’s all about that. It’s all about how can we give employees content so that they will share it. And LinkedIn actually just released something on this morning, so we’re recording On October 15, this morning, they came out with a new update where the page admin on your company page can now send messages to employees. So as an employee, you can get a notification that says, hey, your company just shared this, maybe you want to share it too, or maybe you want to reference it or and now you have this ability for companies really to take advantage of the fact that their employees have this massive network that when their shares all kind of happened together, can really move the needle, and will probably give a lot more credence to the company page and help grow its following in the process.

Steffen: Great. AJ, thank you for joining me again, on the performance of our podcast and sharing knowledge on LinkedIn. I really liked the conversation. And you know, as I said earlier, maybe we should jump on again and have a little bit of a nerdy session and dive deep into targeting on LinkedIn, how to do it and how to get the most out of LinkedIn advertising. Until that point, if people want to find out more about you how you help companies with their LinkedIn advertising, how can they get in touch with you?

AJ: This one’s really easy. You just go to our website, that’s the letter B, the number two and then the word linked .com. If you fill out the form on any of the pages, it doesn’t go to a sales rep and it doesn’t go to it doesn’t put you on our newsletter or anything. It just goes directly to my inbox, and I am not a sales guy. So feel free to reach out ask anything you want. I respond to everything.

Steffen Horst: Great. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked this performance podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about supporting digital you can visit us at symphonic or follow us on Twitter at symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.