After reporting that it's been seeing 'record levels of engagement' over the past year, LinkedIn has this week outlined some of the specific changes that it's made to its feed distribution algorithm in order to maximize member response, and boost activity among users.
LinkedIn was motivated to change its algorithm after finding that its engagement metrics were largely weighted towards the top users on the platform, and disproportionately saw those with fewer followers get, for the most part, ignored.
As explained by LinkedIn last October:
"More and more people are using the feed and giving feedback to their network’s posts: our members generate tens of millions of viral actions (likes, comments, and reshares), and the number is increasing more than 50% YoY. However, we found that these increases weren’t equally distributed. In fact, at the beginning of 2018, we were in danger of creating an economy where all the gains in viral actions accrued to the top 1% power users, while the majority of creators who don’t receive much feedback were receiving less than ever."
That's obviously not ideal for improving user engagement and retention, so LinkedIn sought to re-work its algorithm, and better promote posts from more users, in order to encourage discussion among a broader set of people.
Specifically, LinkedIn notes that:
"To facilitate professional conversations in LinkedIn’s feed, we have introduced “contribution” as an additional objective in the candidate selection model. Probability of contribution captures members’ intent to share, comment, or react to a particular feed update. The model also takes into account timely feedback to content creators, which is a clear signal for cultivating and retaining audience builders on LinkedIn."
In other words, LinkedIn has built in an element which rewards content creators ('audience builders') on the platform, as opposed to merely showing users the most engaging content to maximize response.
The idea of this is to encourage more activity from across the board, and make LinkedIn, in general, a more engaging and active place of discussion. That, ideally, will keep members coming back more often - more users seeing more response equates to them posting more often, essentially re-distributing all that top-level engagement that was going to the top 1% and spreading it more evenly to foster broader participation.
And it's clearly working, as demonstrated in the aforementioned engagement stats.
So what does that mean for content creators on the platform?
First, if you're looking to post on LinkedIn, and build your on-platform presence, it's worth noting the changes to its algorithm to maximize your performance.
As explained by LinkedIn:
"We have rebuilt our machine learning model for candidate selection from scratch, with new objectives and different algorithms. As part of this, we introduced the prediction of professional conversation contribution into our model to capture the community-building aspect of each feed update."
So LinkedIn's system is now not only working to amplify the most engaging posts from the most prominent creators, but it's also looking to build its on-platform sub-communities and groups. So if you want to maximize your appeal, and performance, consider your specific audience niche, use relevant hashtags, and raise questions which can help drive discussion.
"The goal of feed ranking at LinkedIn is to help members discover the most relevant conversations that will aid them in becoming more productive and successful. Relevance is determined by our objective function which optimizes for three main components: The value to the member, the value to the member’s network (downstream effects), and value to the creator of the post."
There's no magic formula to apply here, but these are the specific elements that LinkedIn highlights as its objectives.
In addition to this, LinkedIn's Pete Davies has also posted a list of tips on how you can maximize your reach and engagement on the platform:
- Post things that encourage a response - For example, if you’re posting a link, express an opinion with it.
- Think about using the best type of post for the topic - Despite the rumors, the algorithm doesn’t favor any particular format. We have video, images, multi-images, text and long-form articles. More are on the way.
- Use @mentions to pull other people you know into a conversation - When you think you know someone who’ll have something valuable to add to the discussion, @mention them. Be thoughtful: only mention people that you think are likely to respond, max five is a good rule of thumb.
- Engage in the conversation - Respond to commenters and encourage back and forth.
Davies also suggests that users 'go niche' and focus on a specific aspect or subject, and add hashtags to their post - though no more than three per update.
Of course, these are fairly broad guidelines, but focusing on these elements will help you improve your LinkedIn performance, and maximize the response to your updates and posts.
You can read more specific detail about LinkedIn's algorithm updates on the LinkedIn Engineering Blog.