5 Tips for Delivering Compelling Stories on LinkedIn

The network's executive editor reveals what works best...

“It’s hard to be heard in noisy times, so you need to take messages and make them your own.”

That advice from Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s executive editor, is for professionals who want to cut through the clutter of the platform’s 100,000 weekly posts. He presented at the Ad Age Digital conference in New York on Tuesday and offered different examples of great content.

“When Richard Branson writes, LinkedIn explodes,” and he’s one of the most popular LinkedIn contributors, Roth said. Yet while not everyone is as newsworthy or as active on various social networks as the Virgin CEO, with the right formula Roth said others can — and do — break through.

Roth explained how LinkedIn identifies “buzzworthy” stories.

The network’s algorithm contains machine-generated signals, and its team of editors (including former AP Wire Services pros) and data scientists analyze what drives readers. They see if a post leaves a writer’s network, then decide whether that post merits extra amplification. They mark certain posts as “high quality” and use sentiment analysis tools to review comment sections and other engagement measures to determine the overall value of each story.

Based on LinkedIn’s continual feedback loop, these are the five winning types of content that Roth and his team have identified. (Note: these are numbered, but not intended to be rank-ordered).

  1. Start the conversation:
    When he began writing about typical corporate themes, the posts from Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, fared “OK,” Roth said. But when Tyson started sharing personal issues, such as what it’s like to be a black CEO, his posts took off. Many readers and commenters shared their own experiences.
  2. Change the conversation:
    “After Target’s data breach, the brand went from being perceived as cool to toxic,” said Roth. Jeff Jones, Target‘s EVP and CMO, then wrote a post, “The Truth Hurts“, about the company’s troubled culture. He poured out his soul, and the post received 400,000 views. Comments were mixed: while many were harsh, others thanked him for acknowledging and “owning” the problem. Subsequent Target articles were more about his post than the breach itself, Roth added.
  3. Create a halo effect:
    If you write interesting posts about timely topics, they may also lead readers to check out your company. Melanie Curtin, senior director of marketing and communications at e-commerce site OpiaTalk, used to work at Uber. Roth said she writes about subjects like sexual harassment and white privilege, leading her readers to explore what OpiaTalk has to offer.
  4. Share your passions:
    Posts on personal passions can encompass light or heavy topics. One Dell employee, for example, wrote about his father’s death from Parkinson’s disease, and the story gained widespread traction. Roth said that Dell’s HR department is on board since such posts humanize the brand and help with recruitment.
  5. Boutique approach:
    While seeking a narrower target audience may seem counterintuitive, Roth said this is an effective way to reach and influence a group of similar professionals. He cited the case of a writer who described the state of modern butlery, noting “It’s not like Downton Abbey.”

Our overall takeaways: don’t be boring or write in “corporate speak.”

While these 5 tips may appear to contain some elements of risk (as the executives and employees cited here have discovered), the “safer” approach often just doesn’t cut it.

In other words, if you want to get attention on LinkedIn, get ready to take a few risks.