LinkedIn Analytics (part 1)
Welcome to this weeks Linkedinformed and this episode is a special one!
I have been using Shield analytics* for a couple of years now and I find it a really useful tool when assessing the performance of my LinkedIn posts. Andreas however, gets to see LinkedIn post data across all of their users – this means that he has access to highly useful information about what techniques have the most impact on the performance of posts.
So I thought it was about time to get him on the show…
This is a summary of what we discussed, I would strongly recommend listening to the full interview on the podcast to fully take on board all that we discussed.
To begin Andreas gave me a brief backstory of Shield, he described himself as a ‘Product service design guy’ who has always been building online platforms and all sorts of digital things when he and his co-founder Alexander were working at an agency together, people were asking them about LinkedIn and data – this led them to discover that LinkedIn provided very little data to its users and so they spotted a gap in the market!
What can we expect to see from Shield in the future?
We are currently updating from a legacy architecture to a new one which make the platform, run much faster being able to process data, better, which in turn will enable us to build all the great stuff that we want to build. Once this is completed we will be able to implement new features such as;
- Engagement and network analysis. Who engages with your posts and when so it’s easier to understand how people stumble upon your content.
- Adding predictive data so providing information on what you can actually start doing to to change the trajectory of your forecast to be better at posting.
One of the concerns people might have about using Shield is how safe it is. LinkedIn usually discourages the use of 3rd party tools so might they get into trouble with LinkedIn? I have never heard of this happening but can you explain why that is?
I think a lot of it comes down to ethics and logic, right. So, as you said, What’s wrong with working with your own data? And that’s basically our take on the whole thing – your data is your data, and we as a company help you get it.
We don’t do any of the things that LinkedIn or any other company would not want third-party companies’ products to do so we don’t scrape, we don’t automate user behavior. We don’t do all of those things that the LinkedIn terms are saying you cannot do and what we do with our software is that we make people more active and more contributing members of the LinkedIn community.
We’ve never had any issues in fact we have people from LinkedIn using Shield. We have people from LinkedIn being vocal about the use of Shield. And we have a good relationship with them. We’re still a third party tool. There’s no denying that we own the company, but but there’s nothing here really.
So if I was looking at this from a business perspective if I was a potential investor in your company. One of the concerns I might have would be this – What’s to stop LinkedIn, preventing you from accessing this data, and just providing it themselves?
We don’t see any likelihood of LinkedIn being interested in preventing us from accessing this data. We have some of the most active and prolific members of the global LinkedIn community using Shield, so shutting us down would make a lot of people very sad. These people use the service every day to create and improve their content, so from their perspective that would actually harm LinkedIn as a business more than it would benefit them.
As for the second part of your question whether they could build something themselves. Sure they could, they are a big company and they have a lot of engineers, but they also have a lot of bureaucracy and processes and approval stages and gatekeepers and agendas and politics that we do not have as a small company. So let’s say that they bring about some premium stats or something for the personal profiles – then we start building on top of that and take it to the next level. We have the ability to actually build that fast, so we will always be able to do something they do not do, and then they would have to catch up, even though they have the muscle. And that’s always the David versus Goliath story where we are the small nimble creator, and they are the mothership the big one that cannot turn as fast as we can.
Tell me about your own content journey. When we first talked a couple of years ago, you were hardly posting and when you did, you attracted very little engagement.
Fast forward to today and you are averaging 112 comments per post (10 post rolling ave) and your posts are 90% text only format with 2-3 hashtags (not often popular ones). You ask questions and provide advice and mostly post about content, engagement, and personal branding. Finally, I’ve noticed that you always use at least a couple of coloured emojis.
I’m assuming many of these techniques have been adopted based on what you see from successful posts from Shield users?
Yeah, Absolutely. So you’re totally right when we started talking a couple of years back, I wasn’t really posting much and anything I focused on I wasn’t personal branding. But I saw people doing stuff I observed and I immersed myself, and I figured out that other people doing things and I did that just through LinkedIn because we were still building out shield as a platform then. But I observed and I looked at what others were doing and I try to mimic that with my own content, of course my own core content but the formatting, and all of that I tried to mimic and see what fared well with me and my audience. And, and I started to pick up on things that worked.
Now, in 2020, we’ve good amount of data and that’s also where I picked up my habit of posting consistently. Starting 2020 approximately. And what I do is always look at outliers, that are performing really well, so I go in on the back end look into the data look into the posts that are super viral, like millions of views and again, 10s of 1000s of comments and reactions and shares, and I try to identify patterns, stuff that is working. Then of course, try to do some of that myself again with my own content.
One of the things I adopted was the broetry style of writing – you know where you leave space lines in text posts. This seemed to be working for others and I adopted it and found it really suited my style of writing so I have kept it. So for me it all comes down to, to the content market fit more than what is actually working in terms of tactics and formatting, if that makes sense.
Yes That ‘Broetry’ style was first made popular by Josh Fechter who achieved great success with it but since got banned from LinkedIn for using automation tools (he had 80,000 followers!). I’ve also talked before about a guy called Jonathan Pollard who used to get some great results through text-only posts that were in a big block of text whilst the preview of text-only post was three lines. Then LinkedIn changed it to five lines, he didn’t change his style and his numbers went right down. For some reason our brains equate 5 lines as ‘too much, I don’t have time’ whereas 3 lines is fine. The broetry style fixes this in that 5 lines becomes 3 lines of text and 2 space lines.
Yes I’ve also noticed people who are really good at the first one, two lines, because they know that that’s where you need to grab attention to drive people into the post into your profile into your network and so forth. So it’s really key to think about the first line or two and that’s also one of the things that I’ve picked up.
I think there are two stages to this – firstly you stop the scroll with 3 lines inc broetry style space lines, then you pull the viewer in with an interesting and well-written first few lines. I think you need both the right words and the correct spacing for maximum impact.
When I work with clients I try to focus them on achieving comments on their posts and my key measurement in a rolling average of comments over their last 10 posts. Your average is 112 which is really good so these techniques are clearly working for you.
I think your observations are right so it was super interesting to hear that perspective coming from you. So, the emojis. Let’s, let’s start there. I like to spice it up with emojis that catch attention so my most recent post has three snakes, right in line number two. And this snake emoji is not an emoji you’ll see very often but it fits great into what I’m writing so why not use it? Just because I don’t see it often if it fits, there’s always an opportunity to fit an emoji to a line of text, and that’s just something I do to make it easy on the eye to grab some attention, but also to support what’s being said, so not just for the sake of having emojis but actually using them as visuals to support the argument or the statement. Yeah, I think that’s how emojis should be used, not just thrown in there randomly.
Do you post from mobile when using emojis?
Not especially, I use both mobile and desktop although I tend to use mobile most for replying to comments. Tip: You can use a tool called Rocket that makes typing Emojis super easy on desktop.
Let me explore the text only a thing. text-only posts do seem to perform very well, this is an interesting fact for you I don’t know if you’ve heard this from me before but when, when we do post of the week and analyze posts of the week over the year for the last two years the top performing post has been an image post interestingly, but it seems to me that image posts sometimes do amazingly well but don’t consistently do well, whereas text posts seem to do consistently well So what was your theory as to why that is.
I would be speculating trying to, to say why that is. I think it very much comes down to how people consume in the feed. I think people consume on the move, not so much right now I must admit, but people consume on the go between A and B, whether that’s the living room and the toilet you just have your phone at all times. So I think consumption in the feed is impacting the type of content that is performing well, on average, and I think text is something that will hardly ever allow you to miss anything when you’re consuming a text post because if you look away because you get distracted, then you’re not missing certain parts of the content if it was a video or audio piece, you would miss out on what’s being shown but the text post will just be there exactly where you left it off when you look back at your device.
Also interesting I think that the double line spacing on mobile makes it much easier to skim read. And we know that people don’t read everything but they start skimming and if what they skim is interesting, then they may read. I think the double line spacing on text is sort of embracing the fact that that’s how we consume.
I’ve got a theory to answer that as well which is that I think any other type of post is distracting, in the sense that you’re looking at the document, you’re watching the video you’re looking at an image or images, and that’s the focus, that’s where your eye goes, and therefore, to get someone engaged, to stimulate something that makes them want to comment you often need them to read something, and with a text-only post there is no distraction, there is just the text so you’re consuming exactly the right thing and you’re reading it and as long as it’s written in the right way and it leads you to click on the ‘see more’ and open the whole thing out and then it ends with a question perhaps. It is far more likely to attract comments I think and because of that, they tend to perform better.
That’s a good theory, I think i think you’re right. And I think that’s why clubhouse is also super interesting because that gets even closer, you hear it immediately so it’s it’s real time that you get the most important thing that someone has to say so you get even closer to real time communication here and I think thats similar with with text posts.
If you’re good at crafting the first couple of lines, then you can, you can be thought-provoking in one line with no more than 10 words. And if that’s good enough for people to read that, then they can’t stop thinking about that if it provoked them in some way and then they take part in the discussion or clicl ‘see more’ and then read the rest before commenting. So I think there’s definitely some truth to that.
Now let’s tackle the ‘See more’ as we’re on that because this is fascinating to me. Most of your posts do create a ‘see more’, partly because of the spacing partly because you just tend to write more than five lines anyway, but not all. There’s one particular post that I’ve got here;
That attracted 447 reactions and 209 comments which is good, that’s above your average with your 10-post rolling average for comments, so when you look at that in isolation you go oh so the ‘see more’ isn’t important that or is it?
Yes, it’s interesting. I don’t use line spacing on the first couple of lines and that was an experiment as well. If we look at the concept of this post what I’m trying to communicate here is somewhat controversial compared to the popular opinions of a lot of experts that you should post often you should post daily etc. People have opinions about how often you should post and what I’m saying here is that, throw all of that out the window, and then start posting at a frequency you can sustain because otherwise you’re not going to be able to sustain it. If it’s too much for you to post once a day, it is for me I don’t post every day. It’s too much I can’t sustain it without compromising quality right so I’m throwing something out here that will appeal to a lot of people who think I’m writing this, and a lot of people who would have a opposing opinions so I don’t think that post specifically needs a ‘see more’. It will get the dwell time from people hanging in the comment field trying to figure out what that document or statement or opinion is that they want to post and and that’s also a way to have people dwell on a post So that’s how we think about it.
I guess the question that we don’t have the answer to is, if you had, let’s say, dropped a line between line two and line three, which would have triggered a ‘see more’ – Would that have performed better?
It’s a good question, We just don’t know.
I think there’s also some when there’s no ‘see more’ and people know that this is all there is, they’re not being baited into a post because I want people to click and, yeah, you know, it’s just all there! If it’s appealing to you you engage, if it’s not you just carry on.
They scroll down straight down to the comments, and then that’s the dwell time like you say.
Exactly right and I think there’s something I’ve noticed that some of my posts with the most reactions are like that such as this one;
Over 500 reactions because I know I can’t be the only one staring into a white interface at night and hurting my eyes. So naturally, it’s going to perform well, and it did.
Yeah, what we’re really saying here of course is that the content is far more important than all of these things around the fringes such as the style, the spacing etc. They are important and they’re interesting to note, but at the end of the day, if you type the right thing that gets a reaction from people in some way, then that is always going to be by far the most important thing.
Absolutely and that is how I look at it as well so here we are talking about these line spacing emojis and so forth and it’s all good fun right and maybe you draw some inspiration from that and try something I know I certainly do with with the feedback and your observations. So that’s interesting from an experimental point of view, like, Can I do something that will improve my content towards my audience right but there’s no one size fits all.
It’s not about emojis and second-line or using snake emojis every other day or something like that. There’s no silver bullet because as you said, it’s all about the quality of the content, saying the right thing coming from you to your audience and that’s going to be subjective and contextual for all of us, which is why Shield exists right? So people can actually go and check out so what are my top-performing pieces are and then start looking for patterns, start to identify, is it even the right type of audience that’s engaging with my most popular posts? If yes, great refresh reuse repurpose. If it’s not the ideal audience, then look for your ideal audience further down in your less popular posts and see what resonates with them and so forth.
So no one has the answer to what is the formula, of course the laws of copywriting and all the principles of great copy and how to attract attention matter, but it’s not going to make or break your personal brand and your growth on LinkedIn because you have to have something to say, at the end of the day.
Here’s a question I often get from my clients – “How do I know if I’m succeeding with my posts. How many views is a good number? My standard line used to be; “Look at whatever your average is at the moment and you want better than that on every post” As long as you go in the right direction you are getting somewhere. But you know what, it just wasn’t enough for people. They really need some sort of benchmark to aim for.
So in the end I came up with this number, and it was just based on my data in Shield, that’s all. But let me run it past you and see what you think and see whether you’ve got an angle on this. So, this only really worked for people that have more than 1000 followers;
Number of followers x 30% = number of views
Now I’m not saying that, that those views will be from your followers because of course if they engage with the post there’ll be beyond your followers, but that if you want a number then aim for views equal to 30% of your followers as a sort of benchmark to reach.
What do you think?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m looking at some of the data that we’re working with right now, we’re building this report from a huge data sample. The idea behind this report before I get back to the numbers is that we want to provide people some numbers to benchmark against, so looking at where they at right now, and how they then compare to other people who are at the same stage. And when I say stage we’ve chosen to divide people into follower brackets, as the baseline metric, and this goes hand in hand with what you’re saying as well like network size, and then a percentage of that. So the idea is that people instead of just knowing their own averages, they can actually see if they’re performing well compared to other people with the same amount of followers.
So, when we’re looking at these averages,
0-5000 followers = just shy of 1400 views
which is not dissimilar to your 30%. At the top end, the numbers are very different;
50,000-100,000 followers = 25-26,000 views per post.
(the exact numbers will be coming out in a report from Shield soon)
Of course, there will be outliers. And when you look at your own data you would realize whether you’re above average in your bracket or not, which would be interesting of course to everyone to know where they at.
One of the issues with LinkedIn data as you know is the difference between a video view and other views and so what would skew that of course if you’ve got a video creator who I don’t know 70% of their content is video, that’s going to completely mess those results up because obviously, video view is considerably less I mean, I don’t know.
Have you got any data on, if you were producing video 100% of the time for instance and you were trying to benchmark your views against somebody else’s, on average, what would you do would you do times it by three? Are there any guidelines on that for people if they’re trying to measure a video view in comparison to other types of content views.
It’s a good question Mark and I think that, of course, we have to include more metrics, or more weighted scores for something into the comparison because as you as you said, video views are counted, when the video has been watched three seconds/ It is not the same as a text post view. So you could say that the view is worth more. Perhaps because you know people have spent time on the piece of content. So you get fewer views on video than on text, let’s say, but you also get higher engagement, which is worth something, because the views are lower and the engagement, even if that’s the same, then the percentage would be higher, and also video conveys more trust towards the person on video from their audience. So there’s some variables like that that has to be taken into consideration as well. I would say it’s difficult to have some benchmark guideline that you can just use for that. What’s your take on that?
Well, that’s why I focus on comments, because I take the view that that’s more equal, you know, the end of the day, and you would expect that if you’re getting more comments than you are getting more views, even though that might not show through in the numbers on video.
People do get very obsessed with views and I think that’s wrong but at the same time, the people that say views don’t matter that’s not right either because it does matter. That number is giving you a feel for reach. When we post on LinkedIn, it would be wrong to think that this is all about the people that actually engage with our post. We have no idea beyond that. And the impact that we’re having with all those lurkers that just look at the feed and that’s the vast majority of people on LinkedIn they never like or share or comments on anything but they do see it, and you know I’ve had many clients come to me who have never engaged with any content but they have been influenced by it.
So that’s why views are interesting because you know there’s an audience out there and you have no idea who they are, unless they contact you because there’s no other way of seeing it but at least comments give you some consistent way of measuring one post against another, that’s the way I look at it.
That’s all for this week. Our conversation carried on some more and you can hear that by tuning into next weeks episode.
In the meantime, have a great week.
*Full disclosure: the Shield link provided in this article is an affiliate link