Just when you think you’ve cracked it, the LinkedIn algorithm is updated. Here’s what you need to know about the update (and a few tips on how to work the system - so that quality post you’ve lovingly created gets seen).
On Facebook, you’ve probably stumbled across a friend of a friend who shares your weird and wonderful passion - one that your friend-in-real-life isn’t quite so enthusiastic about. The kind if you met them at a party, you’d probably hit if off instantly with. And you’ve probably got ‘friends’ who you share nothing in common with apart from your school. Similar issues arise on LinkedIn, just with a professional slant.
LinkedIn wants to bring these people together. Its saying is that it’s a platform of, “People You Know, Talking About Things You Care About.” and the new algorithm update certainly puts this front and centre. All of which comes as a relief for those creating content.
The LinkedIn algorithm: Which People Do You Know?
The LinkedIn algorithm prioritises personal connections first: the ‘people you know’. Yet some of us have connections that we don’t really connect with, so LinkedIn looks at various explicit and implicit factors to determine who you ‘really know’ on the platform, including:
- Your connections
- Your extended network
- Who you follow
- Where you’ve worked
- Whose posts or comments you’ve liked, commented on or shared
...and which ‘strangers’ will they bring together?
An example from a content writer’s newsfeed, who regularly likes and comments on Katherine Wildman’s posts. This was third in the news feed. (First was a first connections’ job update and second was a sponsored post.)
Whilst posts from the connections you engage with regularly will rank highly, a post from a “stranger” may trump one from your connections if they are “talking about things you care about”.
After all, your connections on LinkedIn probably resemble your professional connections in real life - they may follow, say, #Legal but they may not follow #LegalMarketing - their passion may be #LegalAdvice.
So how does LinkedIn determine this? They look for signs that you may share similar interests, such as:
- If you follow the same people/organisations
- If you follow the same hashtags
- Membership of the same groups
- Shared skills-sets
- What you’ve liked and shared in the past
LinkedIn’s algorithm also looks at who may really benefit from you engaging with their post, as they want to help what they call the “Kim Averages” of this world - those with 500 connections who get few responses and need our help.
Source: LinkedIn: Spreading the Love in the LinkedIn Feed with Creator-Side Optimization
Quality Control From Three Sources
After LinkedIn’s algorithm has assessed how likely it is that you will engage with a post, it’s then time to assess whether your post is engaging and good quality.
“The role of the LinkedIn feed is to provide timely, professional content. What may pass as acceptable content on a general social network may not be a pleasing experience for a professional social network like LinkedIn.”
LinkedIn uses three sources to determine if your content is relevant and engaging enough to feature:
- AI to determine a Content Quality Score
- User engagement factors
- Human editors
At the first stage, their AI determines a Content Quality Score and if it clears, you’re through to the next stage. If not, human editors will determine if the content is, indeed, low quality/spam.
If your content “passes go”, LinkedIn then shares it with a small audience and monitors engagement signals such as likes, views and shares (or negative ones such as hiding or flagging posts).
The virality of content is also important: LinkedIn looks for “timely feedback to content creators” to assess this. In other words, the quicker your content starts gaining positive engagement, the higher it will rank.
This post had been liked by a connection whose posts the content writer doesn’t normally engage with. However, it’s got 2,577 likes and 342 comments on a post just a day old.
If so, it will keep getting displayed. If the content looks suspicious, it will get demoted.
The process is continual, which is why some of the ‘top posts’ in your news feed can be weeks old - and why sudden viral engagement can resurrect old posts.
From ‘Beating’ To ‘Working With’ The LinkedIn Algorithm
The update to LinkedIn’s algorithm means that ‘tricks’ to signal engagement are much less likely to work. LinkedIn is getting smart, so those making the effort to post engaging and relevant content should fare much better. Meanwhile, smaller content creators now have a chance to make an impact. All of which is a good thing.
So what steps can you take to help your content stand out?
1. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is optimised for relevant skills, experiences and keywords (check out our previous blog on how to do this..)
2. Post content that encourages a response or debate. Don’t simply reshare articles - add your own take on a subject and ensure you write a couple of sentences so that LI recognises it as a ‘comment of value’.
3. Use the most engaging content format and length for your audience.. You’ll only learn this through trying different things and checking results.
4. Post at the best time of day for your audience, to increase its ‘viral’ factor.
5. Use relevant hashtags (ideally no more than three as currently the research suggest it decreases engagement).
6. Use @mentions to tag people that you know and are likely to add to the conversation (so if you’ve featured them, by all means tag them!).