A few months ago I was on a LinkedIn hot-streak (or so I thought). I was posting 2-3 times a week from both my personal and company pages and it seemed like everything I put out was outperforming the previous one. As a somewhat superstitious marketer, I paid close attention to every detail of the post, trying to replicate the format each time and produce similar or better results.

A couple weeks and about six posts later my luck finally ran out. The formula that I thought was ironclad turned to soft aluminum and the posts I put up were receiving less than a quarter of the impressions that they were the previous week. So what gives? To be honest, I still don’t know. Nor does anyone outside of the growing social platform’s 33 offices around the globe. However, after binging on article after article (including those in the LinkedIn knowledge base) I have a few really good guesses as to why these flops occur and how to avoid them in the future.

Low Engagement

There is one thing that I know for certain and that is that engagement in the first hour after posting is critical. After passing through it’s automated content filters to check your post for SPAM, LinkedIn will then “test” your post with a small group of connections that are currently active on the platform. This is important, because getting little or no engagement in the first 1-2 hours will almost guarantee that your post is dead-on-arrival.

The best way to measure this activity is by “engagement rate.” This KPI takes in account all of the impressions that the post has generated and how many of those produced a click, like, comment, share or other social action. While LinkedIn offers this statistic for company posts, it is not apparent on posts from a personal profile. Nevertheless, if you can calculate your engagement rate to be over 5% in the first hour, I have found that those posts typically perform well. Anything less than that benchmark is a dice roll.

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Wrong Time

One reason an otherwise great post may stumble out of the gates is because of the time that it is posted. Posting at the time when your connections are most active (and likely to engage) will give you the greatest chance of passing that initial test. While a lot of marketing software providers have posted research on the best time to post, it really boils down to your unique audience and the way that they behave.

While it may be helpful to follow usage trends overall (such as not posting late at night) I would try to zero-in on some of the connections that happen to engage with your content the most and find out when they are often on the platform. You can do this with a LinkedIn poll, or flat out ask them via a direct message. You may find that your most engaged contacts are actually on the platform during a time that conflicts with the overall trends, in which case I would consider posting based on your own data first and foremost.

Too Frequent

The gift and the curse of LinkedIn is that some posts have a tendency to carry impressions over a long period of time. If you have ever gotten a comment or reaction notification an entire week after posting something then you know this to be true. The reason that this can be a bit of a challenge is because of “recency bias”. In some cases it seems like posting more often decreases impressions on otherwise high performing posts, which may be to favor a lower performing post instead.

Posting too often may also yield an increase in negative reactions to your content such as “hide in feed”, “unfollow” or “report.” Getting too many of these reactions will not only kill any impressions on the post that prompted these actions but it may also put you in the dreaded LinkedIn “penalty-box” which may restrict future posts from being seen as well. I have found that 2-3 posts per week are frequent enough to stay relevant to an audience and infrequent enough to avoid becoming an annoyance.

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Unfavorable Format

If there is one thing that LinkedIn appears to be very picky about, it’s the format in which a post is constructed. As a blogger, I tend to write articles on our site and then post them as links to our audience, but this is essentially the opposite of what they want me to do. It’s no secret that LinkedIn wants to keep users from leaving the platform, which is why they would prefer you do not link out within a post if necessary. This is why more savvy users have resorted to posting links in the comments, which decreases the overall click-through on a post, but helps them to gain more impressions.

Some experts claim that video performs best, others say text-only is the way to go. Ultimately, I think that until LinkedIn offers more transparency into the way they prefer we format our content, we will just have keep testing and adapting to whatever trends we see along the way. One thing that everyone agrees with is that LinkedIn favors new formats and features whenever they release them. This is likely to accelerate their accumulation of data on these features, which is why using these will often yield positive initial results.

Irrelevant Topic

When starting this site I actually did a complete audit of my LinkedIn connections and removed connections that I thought were obviously not a fit for the content I would be sharing. As new connection requests come in, I treat each the same way and ask myself “will this person care about what I post?” Most inbound connections just want to sell me a widget and have never read our site, primarily because it is not relevant to their line of business.

This is why I rarely accept connections from people outside the IT Channel. I want to make sure that every time my post shows in someone else’s feed that there is a greater chance that it is relevant to what they do. This equates to a smaller network, but higher engagement overall in relation to size. Keep this mind as you are creating content to post and make sure that the audience you have accumulated is actually a fit for what you are posting.