Gathering of the Ghosts – January 22, 2024

Don’t Fall Into This LinkedIn Trap 

October 4, 2023

LinkedIn turned 20 years old this year. Yet while decades in the social media game have led to the decline of other networks (we’re looking at you, Facebook and “X”), LinkedIn is now rising in popularity. And as this once taken-for-granted platform becomes increasingly relevant, questions about how to emerge as a thought leader on the platform have been on our clients’ (and millions of other users’) minds. 

Predictably, plenty of people across the internet have plenty of opinions about how we are (and how we should be) presenting ourselves there these days. 

“Everyone — and I mean everyone — is simply crushing it on LinkedIn,” Gene Marks wrote in The Guardian this summer. “They’re getting promotions. Their products are saving humanity.”

But, Marks continues, LinkedIn’s culture of humblebragging is more or less a collective performance to obscure the truth: That we’re all struggling.

“LinkedIn is not a place to be honest,” Marks concluded. “It’s a place to sell your products, your services and most of all yourself.”

Marks is far from alone in expressing his annoyance at this trend. But his generalization fails to account for plenty of LinkedIn users who are rebelling against the humblebragging norm, though. As Insider reporter Rob Price recently wrote, some users — users with thousands of followers, no less — are posting about their struggles in detail, including everything from their divorces to their struggle peeing in public. The Washington Post’s Danielle Abril also documented this trend toward the personal in August.

Here’s the thing: Whether or not to authentically share your life (personal or professional) on LinkedIn isn’t even the question our clients should be asking themselves. 

In fact, it’s a trap.

LinkedIn shares little data about its most successful posts, but from the data it does share, one thing is clear: You don’t actually have to focus on yourself at all to break through to your audience. In fact, the site’s algorithm has reportedly been tweaked over the past year to prioritize “knowledge” content rather than self-promotional posts.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for thought leaders on value-adding things to share instead of supposedly authentic insights into their own struggles or thinly veiled boasts of their triumphs.

  1. Don’t focus on yourself. It turns out your audience doesn’t want to think about you much at all. They want to think about themselves. So, turn the focus on them: Ask a question and encourage your audience to use a reaction to indicate their response. Or give them something original to consume; one study found that posts featuring uploaded native documents (such as PDFs uploaded directly to LinkedIn) generate three times more clicks than other types of content.
  2. Share an opinion. One of the most-shared articles on LinkedIn in 2022 was not only about a particularly opinionated public figure, but specifically focused on one of his more inflammatory opinions: Fortune Magazine’s article entitled “Elon Musk says remote workers are just pretending work. Turns out he’s (sort of) right” was shared 677,694 times on LinkedIn last year. People are more interested in, again, themselves — specifically, their opinions and whether or not they agree or disagree with you. Give them the opportunity to engage, and you’ll leave a more lasting impression than sharing an endless list of thank you’s to a committee that recently bestowed an honor on you.
  3. Focus on substance. Look to the most-followed people on LinkedIn: Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, Richard Branson, and more. They’re sharing substantive updates about their work, using their platforms to celebrate others’ successes and highlight the causes they care about. And so should you.

Of course, these strategies take more time and require more research than hastily slapping together a word salad of buzzwords and humble brags. That’s where Gotham Ghostwriters comes in. Follow us for more advice on how to take your thought leadership to the next level.


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