How to make sense of the LinkedIn algorithm

“What’s up with the LinkedIn algorithm?”

Good question!

And definitely something we’ve been asked a lot lately.

Because according to recent social media statistics, LinkedIn is booming right now in terms of user growth and new features for marketers.

But as the platform grows, so does the competition for your target audience’s attention.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the LinkedIn algorithm and how to maximize your reach.

The good news? Doing so is probably easier than you might think.

Whether you’re building your business’ LinkedIn presence or are just trying to establish your personal brand, our guide to the LinkedIn algorithm has you covered.

What is the LinkedIn algorithm and how does it work?

The LinkedIn algorithm ultimately determines what content is prioritized in your LinkedIn feed, as well as the amount of reach your content receives in the feeds of others.

By default, your LinkedIn feed is sorted by “Top Updates.” These posts are populated based on your activity (think: accounts you regularly interact with via “Likes,” shares and comments).

LinkedIn top posts

However, LinkedIn does allow you to sort updates chronologically if you choose.

As is the case with most social media algorithms, reach is rewarded to accounts that score frequent interactions and engagement.

Recently, LinkedIn themselves clued marketers in on the platform’s best practices and how to thrive in the wake of the latest LinkedIn algorithm. Here are some of the main takeaways:

  • Users should encourage genuine, meaningful conversations versus self-promotion and jargon
  • The algorithm (allegedly) does not favor a particular post format (think: text, images, video and so on)
  • People should “post things that encourage a response” rather than simply drop links and expect engagement

It’s refreshing to have a network tell us directly what they want to see, isn’t it?

That said, these tips most likely don’t tell the whole story of the LinkedIn algorithm. Pointers such as “encourage conversations” and “post things that encourage a response” are standard principles of social media at large.

And so figuring out the types of posts that boost your organic reach requires us to read between the lines.

Which types of posts does the LinkedIn algorithm want to see?

For starters, let’s break down the basics of an effective LinkedIn content strategy.

Even if the LinkedIn algorithm itself doesn’t prioritize a particular type of content, these are the types of posts that typically receive engagement and go hand-in-hand with the platform’s best practices.

Question-based posts

Posts that pose a question should be the bread and butter of anyone looking to grow on LinkedIn.

After all, questions serve as a call-and-response to encourage conversations among your audience. When your posts are posed as a question, others are naturally encouraged to answer rather than simply pass you by.

Heck, questions are a cornerstone of Sprout’s content strategy on LinkedIn. We regularly pick the brains of our social-savvy community as highlighted below.

Sprout Social poses frequent community questions to encourage engagement

Oftentimes, questions are used as a hook to pique the interest of followers and encouraging them to read through a longer-form post.

Questions on LinkedIn represent a sort of call-and-response that drives engagement.

Listen: questions are natural conversation-starters. Like, literally.

If the LinkedIn algorithm wants us to “encourage conversations,” we should be asking (and answering!) questions constantly. Coming up with questions doesn’t have to be rocket science, either.

“What new marketing tools can you recommend?”

“What marketing trends do you think are totally overhyped right now?”

“In your opinion, what makes the “perfect” client or customer?”

The beauty of LinkedIn is that most people are chomping at the bit to get in front of others in their industries. Asking questions is a simple way to get those conversations started.

Breaking news and industry happenings

Posting about topical, time-sensitive news proves to followers that you have a pulse on your industry.

And LinkedIn makes it easier than ever to piggyback on fresh stories thanks to the “Today’s news and views” feed.

Trending Stories can help clue you in on topics the LinkedIn algorithm is currently favoring

Additionally, new studies, factoids and statistics can also spark conversations among your audience. This post from The Economist is a prime example, featuring a fascinating study coupled with a visual representation of data to catch the eyes of users.

 

Graphs like this one from The Economist tend to score "likes" and comments on LinkedIn

And speaking of visual…

Image-based posts

Visual content performs well across all social channels and LinkedIn is no different.

There’s a reason why the most active accounts on LinkedIn are consistently coupling their posts with visuals.

For example, infographics are a time-tested way to score engagement and shares as people can digest your data at a glance.

Infographics are among the most popular types of content shared across social media and LinkedIn is no exception

Meanwhile, professional quotes like this one from Forbes are popular, too. (hint: you can whip up images like this in no time with free tools such as Canva).

Forbes publishes a daily quote which always scores high engagement

Note that LinkedIn isn’t quite as “suit and tie” as it once was. Although professional content is still the platform’s focus, we’re seeing a rise of memes and humorous content similar to those that usually perform well on any social platform. Here’s a good example from Wix.

Humorous content is becoming ore common on LinkedIn

Employee-centric content

Businesses and solo accounts alike should strive to show off their human side on LinkedIn.

From employee showcases to office photos and team-building sessions, employee-centric content is a welcome break from purely promotional pieces.

Recognizing your employees on LinkedIn is an awesome way to boost morale and score engagement from your audience at the same time.

 

Showcasing your employees is a smart move for maximizing your content's reach via tagging

Event coverage

If your business is out “in the wild” at an event or conference, make sure to let your followers know.

Event coverage represents an opportunity to both educate and entertain your audience, reeling in those ever-so-important “Likes” in the process.

And again, behind-the-scenes conference coverage is a welcome break from promos and links. This is especially true if your event has notable speakers or lots to see.

Event coverage on LinkedIn

Video content

It’s no secret that LinkedIn loves video content, releasing their own native video format back in 2017.

As a result, marketers should make a point to upload to LinkedIn’s platform when possible rather than simply dropping a YouTube link.

Bear in mind that video marketing on LinkedIn doesn’t have to represent a big-budget production. Sure, some brands will publish full-blown commercials. That said, we also see plenty of off-the-cuff vlogs and short looping videos like this one from Slack.Slack native video

As noted earlier, LinkedIn continues to roll at new features as the platform continues to evolve. Among those is LinkedIn Live, which is similar to Facebook Live in terms of its format.

Broadcasters receive reactions and comments from viewers in real-time, opening up new possibilities for businesses looking to cover events and conduct Q&As. Conventional wisdom tells us that fresh features will be favored by the LinkedIn algorithm, so expect to see more and more brands experimenting with it in the near future. Plus, these live Q&As are a great prompt for engagement just like question-centric posts are.

Workday LinkedIn Live

Awards and accomplishments

Building an audience on LinkedIn means flexing your influence and showing off your accomplishments.

Did you score a mention from a major publication? Make a best-of list? Don’t be shy about letting the world know.

Accomplishment-based posts are “Like” magnets as fellow users give you a virtual pat on the back for a job well done.

 

Copper award post on LinkedIn

Bite-sized advice

A growing trend on LinkedIn over the past couple of years is the use of punchy, text-based posts.

text-based LinkedIn post

No links. Nothing salesy. Just a bit of advice or a quick story and that’s that.

These sorts of “words of wisdom” posts get shared like crazy and seem to point to the idea that LinkedIn favors native content over external links. Regularly sharing meaningful tips with your audience can help cement yourself as an influencer without hammering your followers with promo after promo.

Of course, figuring out the best types of posts for the LinkedIn algorithm really boils down to looking at your analytics. With the help of Sprout’s LinkedIn integration, you can see directly which types of posts score the most engagement and spot trends among your top-performing content.

Sprout Linkedin integration

The importance of employee advocacy and the LinkedIn algorithm

As a side note, businesses on LinkedIn can’t afford to ignore the role that employees play in winning reach from the algorithm.

Food for thought:  the average employee has 10x as many connections on social media as a standard brand.

Getting your company and its content in front of as many people as possible means encouraging your employees to re-publish post and engage with your brand’s page.

Companies like G2 do an awesome job of not only promoting company content as employees…

employee sharing content on LinkedIn

…but also promoting each other in the process.

employee sharing content on LinkedIn

The takeaway here is that your employee’s activity on LinkedIn has a direct impact on your brand’s reach. The point here isn’t to micromanage your team, but rather empower them to promote your business effectively. Employee advocacy tools like Bambu can actually streamline the process to do exactly that.

Additional tips for maximizing your reach on LinkedIn

To wrap things up, let’s talk about some quick strategies that gel with the best practices of the current LinkedIn algorithm.

Don’t just publish external links!

Again, LinkedIn shouldn’t be somewhere to just dump links and walk away.

We’ve seen this same logic apply to Facebook and its fickle algorithm. Social platforms would prefer you keep users on-site rather than bounce.

Makes sense, right?

While you should absolutely promote your blog posts or case studies, also consider how posting bite-sized advice or LinkedIn exclusive content makes your page more compelling to follow.

The LinkedIn algorithm prioritizes native content versus external links

Tag companies and colleagues in your posts

Much like tagging on Twitter or Instagram, tagging fellow companies or employees is a smart way to give a post additional reach and send notifications to the users who are tagged.

According to LinkedIn’s best practices, @mentions should only be done to “people who are likely to respond.” LinkedIn also recommends limiting @mentions to five per post.

LinkedIn company tagging

Tack on some hashtags (hint: three per post)

Hashtags on LinkedIn make your content discoverable and help define your business’ audience.

Hashtags represent a simple way to help your content standout to the LinkedIn algorithm

As noted by our guide hashtag analytics and LinkedIn themselves, stick to three hashtags per post. LinkedIn recommends using specific, niche hashtags (#businesswriting) versus solely general ones (#business).

Serially “Like” and comment on industry content

The more proactive you are about “liking” and commenting on content, the better.

Note that activity on your personal account can help boost someone else’s content (and vice-versa).

LinkedIn likes

Remember: LinkedIn wants its users to have conversations. Given that LinkedIn requires less of a commitment in terms of content creation and distribution, having those conversations should be a top priority.

Fine-tune your publishing frequency and timing

Finally, don’t neglect the importance of timing when it comes to maximizing your engagement rate.

Based on the best times to post on social media, weekdays during the morning and early afternoon are optimal. This makes sense considering the platform’s professional audience who are likely browsing during their breaks.

best times to post on LinkedIn

There is no “right” answer to how often you should post on LinkedIn. Some major brands publish daily, others just a couple of times per week. For personal accounts, publishing daily (or more often) isn’t uncommon.

We recommend experimenting with frequency while keeping track of your engagement over time. With Sprout’s publishing suite, you can keep an eye on your analytics and publish to LinkedIn all in one platform.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

What are you doing to rise in the new LinkedIn Algorithm?

As LinkedIn continues to grow and roll out new features, it’s crucial to understand the platform’s algorithm.

Thankfully, LinkedIn is transparent about what they want to see. Rather than worry about optimizing to be “perfect,” marketers should focus on how they can drive more conversations.

And with more and more users flocking to the platform, you need to make sure your conversations stand out from the crowd.

The tips and tactics above can help you do just that sooner rather than later.

We want to hear from you, though. How do you feel about the new algorithm for LinkedIn? Any major changes you’re anticipating in the future? Let us know in the comments below!

This post How to make sense of the LinkedIn algorithm originally appeared on Sprout Social.