By Susan Moeller published March 13, 2017

LinkedIn Publishing Trends Every Marketer Must Know

linkedin-publishing-sharing-trends

If you want to get your content noticed, you need to pay more attention to one social network, and I’m not talking about Facebook.

LinkedIn has seen explosive growth in the number of articles published on the platform. It also plays an increasingly significant role in content distribution for articles published on other domains. For some topics, LinkedIn is the most important network for social shares.

The number of LinkedIn users also is growing, reaching over 430 million in 2016, as Business Insider reports.

linkedingrowth

LinkedIn has led the way among social networks offering the option to post blog-length content. According to data provided by BuzzSumo, at the beginning of 2014, users published approximately 1,000 articles each month. One year later, users published more than 80,000 articles monthly, and a year ago that number hit 130,000.

Our analysis of 228,000 articles published on LinkedIn and another 136,000 shared articles from other sites between 2012 through January 2017 shows:

  • LinkedIn’s volume of growth may not have reached content shock.
  • LinkedIn was the primary content distribution network for some topics.
  • Long-form content is shared more than short posts are.
  • Official influencer recognition isn’t necessary to earn a high-share volume (but it helps!).
  • Original content on LinkedIn earns few referral links.
  • Successful LinkedIn posts are:
    • Personal
    • Professional
    • Practical
    • Portray a path for change
    • Point toward peak experiences

No signs of content shock

The network isn’t sending signals that users have more content than they want to interact with. Data from 2015 and 2016 shows that the total shares of content published on the platform has more than doubled, from 31 million to almost 73 million. And, the average number of shares per post has increased by 43%.

Average number of shares per #LinkedIn post increased 43% in 1 year via @BuzzSumo. @SusanCMoeller Click To Tweet

It’s logical that LinkedIn will become saturated and shares will drop at some point. But, the relatively narrow focus of the network could work to accelerate or decelerate the process. Will the need for niche content less available elsewhere sustain growth? Or will the demand for a narrow set of articles be quickly met and rapidly curtail growth?

I’m not sure, and the data doesn’t answer the question. But, in 2017, I plan to publish more on LinkedIn. After all, the key to marketing well is to see a wave and ride it, not pass on good opportunities because they won’t last more than a year or two.

More social shares for B2B content

LinkedIn surpasses Facebook and Twitter for social shares in many B2B areas even when the shared content is not published on LinkedIn.

.@LinkedIn surpasses Facebook & Twitter for social shares in many B2B areas. @SusanCMoeller @BuzzSumo Click To Tweet

The data on B2B content sharing surprised me. There appears to be a substantial shift from B2B content primarily shared on Twitter to B2B content primarily shared on LinkedIn. Content on the topic of “content marketing” exemplifies the trend.

Average Shares of content about content marketing

When we analyzed content on four B2B topics — artificial intelligence, SEO marketing, leadership, and cybercrime — here’s what we found between November 2015 and 2016.

Average Shares Twitter Vs. linkedin 2015-2016

Fewer links for original content

One caveat in the string of good news about LinkedIn is this: Content published on LinkedIn gets few referral or back links. And those low numbers have decreased since LinkedIn allowed all members to publish original content.

Content published on @LinkedIn gets few referral or backlinks, says @SusanCMoeller. Click To Tweet

In 2013, when publishing was limited to LinkedIn-selected influencers, the average number of links earned per post was three, with a median of zero. In 2015 and 2016, when publishing was available to all, the average earned link was less than one — between 0.3 and 0.5 on average — and the median was zero.

In this area, LinkedIn mirrors most sites. Our 2015 analysis of 1 million blog posts from many domains showed 75% didn’t earn any referring domain links.

Long form works

Across the years we researched, short content — 1,000 words or less — dominated posts published on LinkedIn. But, longer posts — 1,000 to 3,000 words — were much more likely to be shared.

most shared by length 2012 2017

Longer posts (1,000-3,000 words) were more likely to be shared on @LinkedIn. @SusanCMoeller @BuzzSumo Click To Tweet

The length-vs.-share trend held steady each year as well.

shares by length 2015

Shares by length 2016

Words rule

LinkedIn may be the last great word-nerd refuge from the pressure to add images and videos to perfectly good prose.

I sampled successful long-form posts from 2016, filtering out those with authors designated as LinkedIn Influencers. None of the posts had images beyond the initial banner. Some had text-based graphic elements like bullet points or non-traditional spacing, but none were rich in images, charts, or graphs.

One possible explanation is that LinkedIn sharing is based more on the perceived importance of the author, with impressive job titles grabbing attention as effectively as visual content. Another reason could be LinkedIn’s structure and promotion as a professional network, which minimizes any expectation for entertaining content.

It will be interesting to see if the success of text-heavy posts will be replaced by more image-rich content in the months to come.

Personal, practical, professional

To determine the topics appealing to people who share content on LinkedIn, I looked at the headlines for content in the top 25% of social shares in 2015 and 2016, as well as for the cumulative content from 2012-2017.

In 2016, the phrase, “What I Learned,” was in eight of the top headlines. Two of the posts were from LinkedIn Influencers, but the other six were from individuals who followed a simple formula – “I did X; I learned Y.” These writers reflected on surprising topics: “I delivered pizza,” “I lived with a Navy Seal,” “I gave up social media,” “I worked for billionaires.”

linkedin example

How-to posts dominated the headlines for the most-shared content between 2012 and 2017. They focused on practical advice and many addressed work- and job-related issues. The most frequently used bigrams are noted in the chart. I was surprised at the use of personal pronouns, given that LinkedIn is a professional network.

How-to posts dominated the headlines for the most-shared content on @LinkedIn. @SusanCMoeller @BuzzSumo Click To Tweet

LinkedIn Bigrams

The effective headlines revealed a sense of collegiality in the heavily shared content. The personal elements helped the articles read more like advice from a mentor than a textbook.

In addition to advice topics, the most-shared posts were often explicitly about the world of work. Frequently used headline words included “success” and “business,” “career” and “job,” “boss” and “employee.”

The most-shared articles also emphasize change and growth. They also rely heavily on superlative terms such as “most,” “big,” “every,” “must,” “all,” and “never.”

Lists, especially short lists, perform well on LinkedIn. The 500 most-shared articles in 2016 included 30 posts listing five or 10 items. Lists of longer than 20 items were less frequent.

Given our research, I recommend that you use the five Ps of publishing on LinkedIn. Write posts that are:

  • Practical
  • Professional
  • Personal
  • Portray a path for change
  • Point toward peak experiences

Influencer effect

influencer example linkedin

To determine how much official LinkedIn Influencer status affected social shares, I looked at a list from BuzzSumo of the 30 most-shared authors publishing on LinkedIn during 2015 and 2016.

Only 12 (2015) and 13 (2016) were designated as LinkedIn Influencers. Users on the platform are a bit more democratic in their sharing preferences than I expected. The top-shared authors designated by BuzzSumo also didn’t uniformly publish a lot. In some cases, they published only one or two articles on the platform. Others were more prolific.

Most shared authors on LinkedIn 2016

Of the 10,000 most-shared content pieces in the last five years, only 6% (669) were written by those identified by LinkedIn as its most influential writers.

top 10 influencers example

While it certainly helps to be officially designated as an influencer by LinkedIn, it’s also possible to succeed on the platform without any special status. It’s also not necessary to publish frequently or in English to have great success.

Given that shares from LinkedIn are growing, and the platform is accessible to everyone, now is the time to consider making it part of or expanding its role in your B2B content marketing strategy.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
60+ LinkedIn Profile Tips for Marketers

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Susan Moeller

Susan Moeller, business development manager at BuzzSumo, helps people discover ways to use content marketing data. An experienced communicator, Susan loves great messages and helping people create them. She firmly believes in the value of social media – to enrich lives, to sell products, and to make people laugh. Find her on Twitter @susancmoeller or connect on LinkedIn.

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  • Erin Scullion

    Excellent research and information. Thank you.

    • Susan Moeller

      Thanks Erin! Do you publish on LinkedIn often?

      • Erin Scullion

        No, but I’m trying to get there a bit more often….I am a professional writer, but caught up by working and being sandwiched between my 91-year-old failing mother, a 70-year-old husband with Parkinson’s and a beautiful 19-year-old son. Thankfully we’re down to one cat and one dog. (We didn’t replace the other cat, two parrots, the gecko and the rat once they died! At least I have a sense of humor!)

        My writing tends to be more personal in nature: http://www.erinscullion.com. But I love analysing trends.

        Thanks for asking!

        • Susan Moeller

          You’re welcome! I feel for you with those pulls on your time! And, yes–sense of humor is key. Thanks for sharing your site, I’ll give it a look.

  • Ross Quintana

    I great piece here Susan. I have grown to respect Linkedin more and more and my social shares are also showing it. I think of a person stays in the lanes you described they can see some real growth from that platform and it goes to show that each platform is its own thing and needs to be catered to with its own strategy.

    • Susan Moeller

      Thanks Ross! I agree–I was surprised and pleased with what the research seemed to indicate. What’s your best performing post on the platform? Any secrets to its success to share?

      • Ross Quintana

        For me I just installed a new sharing widget on my blog and I noticed Linkedin numbers were one of my best on a recent post. I have also been writing more long form content which for me is over 1000 words. I am planning more in my posts and really working on designing them instead of just shooting from the hip.

        I have also been reading longer content and sourcing it like this one. I think it is easy to write short pieces and the demand for content drives that result. I also think that your audience determines content length.

        • Susan Moeller

          That sounds really good! I agree about audience driving length. When I analyze different sites with BuzzSumo, the length preferences come through clearly.

  • Susan Moeller

    Hi Bruno! That’s great. 🙂 Thanks for the example. Can you send the link? I think it matches some of the other types like I did X, and I learned Y. Would love read your piece.

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  • https://be.linkedin.com/in/fannymarcoux Fanny Marcoux

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for sharing. I love LinkedIn and have been using for some time now. I’m happy to get some numbers on this.

    Was just curious. Was there any recent changes in how LI is used? They changed their design and some functionnalities, some regular users do not like it that much (not the design.)

    Cheers,

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  • http://www.tenfold.com Brooke Harper

    Great article, Susan! Thanks for sharing this, I’m really glad to have found your blog. This a great topic that our team can discuss and use to help us improve in this field. I love the part about “words rule”, this is so true on LinkedIn right now. Keep it up, cheers!

    Brooke Harper

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  • http://inspiretothrive.com/ Lisa Sicard

    Thank you Susan, I’ve been thinking of adding LinkedIn for writing my content, to extend outside of my blog. There was some great research and tips here. It appears 1000 words is key to success.

  • Jacob Baadsgaard

    Thanks, Susan! Great concise article with data to back it up. We need more content like this. My takeaways–“what I learned” content in a longer form is the way to go (or at least test) when it comes to posting on LinkedIn.

  • http://buyerspsychologist.com Silki Guha

    This post is unbelievably informative. Thank a ton! It almost addressed all of my questions. I was not getting any solid insights for major LinkedIn facts covered here. My marketing decisions are based on hardcore facts, case studies and examples. Loved to read it. Thanks again.

  • vinaydeep reddy

    Hi Susan,
    You had said that ‘LinkedIn was the primary content distribution network for some topics’. What are the some topics?