How to Attract Followers on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is in the process of allowing all 300 million members to post articles. This is the third post in my series of tips on how to use articles to enhance your career and/or grow your business.

Two years ago, I had hundreds of LinkedIn followers... today, more than 130,000. The difference is that I've written over 200 articles during that time, as part of the LinkedIn Influencers program.

Being an Influencer gave me an unfair advantage; for a long time, only Influencers could publish articles. But now LinkedIn has democratized the process, and as soon as the rollout is complete, everyone will be able to publish articles.

Once you acquire this capability, you have to make a critical decision: 

Do you want to be famous or successful?

In my experience, there is a constant tension between total views and actual engagement. Everyone wants to have an article that goes viral, and reaches hundreds of thousands of readers. But here's the rub: the more readers you get, the fewer readers actually care about what you wrote.

LinkedIn values engagement. They argue that the important metrics are how many readers liked, shared, or commented on your article. In my experience, this is true. Casual readers won't call you up and offer your opportunities; engaged readers will.

The site recognized my piece, The Best Talent Is Bringing Out Talent in Others, as LinkedIn's "most engaging article of 2013". By a long shot, it didn't have the most readers; many other Influencers blew me away in that regard. But apparently it had very high engagement levels. Let's take a look at the stats:

The Best Talent stats

If you add up all the Shares (18,000), Likes (2,163) and other engagement metrics, about 23,000 people out of 127,000 - or roughly one in five - did something positive after reading this article. That's what you want: double-digit engagement.

Here are the stats from my most-read article, A Highly Effective Way to Avoid Wasting Your Time: 

This piece had three times as many readers, but fewer overall shares; that's lower engagement. I would much rather produce another "Talent" than a "Time" piece. Don't get me wrong, I recognize that these numbers are still very high, but I have two goals on LinkedIn:

1.) Help other people.

2.) Get hired by other people.

Number one always comes first. If you don't help others, people will have nothing good to say about you. Plus, I get a great deal of satisfaction from going to sleep at night knowing that I made even a small difference in the lives of other people.

But number two pays the bills. If 50 million people read one of my articles, but no one cares, it will be a dismal failure.

To be successful, pick a narrow audience rather than a broad one.

In the coming months, 300 million LinkedIn members will have the ability to publish their articles on LinkedIn. I guarantee that 280 million of them will dream of going viral. Don't make that rookie mistake.

Instead, focus on building a core following of loyal readers. Pick a narrow topic that you know well and produce a steady stream of useful articles based on that topic. Don't be repetitive, but go into depth. Provide readers with actionable insights.

Above all else, don't be confusing. Confusing equals zero readers and zero engagement. I try to limit my articles to one topic, even if they may include two to five tips revolving around that topic.

An example of this was my recent piece, How to Get Out from Under a Horrible Boss. I used the entire article to share one anecdote about how I did what the title suggests.

Before you find a large audience, you have to build a small and loyal following. Make that your goal.

Other articles in this series:

Bruce Kasanoff is a ghostwriter for entrepreneurs, executives and social innovators. Learn more at Kasanoff.comHe is the author of How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk.