For authors on LinkedIn, listicles - articles in the form of a list - are like crack: done right, they go viral and give you an incredible jolt of adrenaline.
Kate Reilly recently published a nice piece, 6 Tips from LinkedIn’s Top Posts of All Time, that makes the case for writing your article in the form of a list. She points out that nine of the ten top LinkedIn articles are lists, starting with Dave Kerpen's 11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader, which has been viewed 2.6 million times.
Some people, including me, can come up with listicle ideas all day:
- 10 Ways to Get Your Kid into an Ivy League School
- 7 Reasons to Get More Sleep
- 12 Strategies for Selling Your House in a Week
These are all imaginary, but I bet you want to click on one, right?
Truth is, I've done well with some listicles. My Five Writing Tips that Can Double Your Salary brought in a quarter-million readers and led to my Slideshare piece that brought in a quarter-million more. (These are real... feel free to click on them.)
"Houston, we have a problem."
Careful readers will note that in my opening sentence, I wrote: done right.
Most listicles are not done right. Most listicles have a catchy headline that attracts readers who read two or three of your bullet points and then abandon your article, because it bores them or makes them think you have the intelligence level of a toaster.
How do I know this? Simple. The "engagement" metrics of many listicles are horrible. Instead of 20% of people sharing or liking the article, 1% do. Instead of generating hundreds or thousands of comments, the piece generates 12.
It's incredibly easy to come up with a catchy listicle headline, but immensely difficult to pay it off in the form of a useful article. Case in point: I have no idea how to get your kid into an Ivy League school.
Listicle formats encourage authors to spew a random collection of superficial ideas into a single article. If you fall into this trap, you won't become rich and famous. The best you can hope for is to convince a large group of people that you are a superficial dolt.
Still want to write a listicle?
The hard reality is that there will be thousands of listicles published on LinkedIn over the coming months. Some will go viral, and some - a smaller number, to be sure - will even achieve high levels of engagement.
If you want to take the plunge, write about what you know. Only include proven ideas on your list. Whenever you can, cite facts to back up your suggestions. Don't toss in fluff items just to get to a nice round numbers. Keep the headline short and sweet. And, as always, proof your listicle three times.