There are now more than 1 million users publishing long-form content on LinkedIn. The social network made the announcement on their official blog, trumpeting the success of their blogging functionality, which they launched around 17 months ago. And while the LinkedIn blogging platform has been a big success, there have been some issues and queries over LinkedIn published content - in particular, over changes to how content is shared and distributed throughout the extended LinkedIn network. As user adoption has increased, reach has, understandably, also taken a hit, but has it been reduced too much, limiting the publishing platform's viability as a result?
A Roaring Success
There's no doubt that LinkedIn's long-form content option has been a big hit with users. The ability to post to LinkedIn comes with huge potential benefits, the biggest being that your posts can be seen by a huge, professional network, helping you boost your standing as an expert in your field. That content is also forever attached to your LinkedIn profile, which could prove the differentiating factor for job seekers - if you're able to enhance your profile with some definitive examples of your industry expertise, that might put you above other potential candidates - and really, anything you can do to make your profile stand out is a bonus in such application.
In LinkedIn's announcement, their Executive Editor, Daniel Roth outlined the overall vision for the blogging platform and the purpose for such content:
"Since our earliest prototype, our goal was always to find a way to unlock the incredible insights stuck in the brains and cubicles of professionals like you. We wanted to make it easy for your ideas or lessons - or even just the start of one - to quickly spark a conversation that leaps silos, companies, industries, even countries. We wanted insight to turn into conversations that make an impact."
Definitely, the platform has delivered on much of this potential, giving everyday employees the opportunity to expand their influence and showcase their expertise in an easy way, and to a wide range of related professionals.
But the main benefit of publishing on LinkedIn has always been the massive reach potential - LinkedIn Publisher posts can, potentially, be seen by any number of the 364 million LinkedIn members worldwide. And at first, the reach of LinkedIn posts was major, and proved to be a differentiating factor for many bloggers, leading to more looking to post on LinkedIn to expand their presence. But since December last year, that reach has dried up quite a bit, an element that has not gone unnoticed.
I know, from my own personal experience in publishing long form content on LinkedIn, that reach has been reduced. When I first started publishing on LinkedIn, my posts were getting good reach - one even hit over 18.6k views, fuelling me to keep posting as much as I could on the platform. But in the latter part of 2014, that reach dropped off a cliff. Of course, more people started posting, which inevitably means more competition for attention, making it harder to get significant distribution. But the numbers for my posts suggest the reach reduction was more than just increased competition alone.
As you can see, the average page view count for my first 30 or so LinkedIn Publisher posts was 2,882. That 18.6k one was something of an anomaly, but even with that figure taken out, I was still getting a respectable 2,356 views per post. But from December 2014, something changed. My average view count dropped to 274 - a reduction of 861%. Now, there are many factors at play - increased competition, the quality of each individual post, etc. There's no way to definitively say why that reach would have declined so rapidly, and no way to pin it solely to a change in the sharing algorithm. But that's a fairly big drop - I'd be pretty disheartened if the quality of my content had declined so far as to justify such a drastic dip.
The other factor to consider is LinkedIn Pulse, the blogging showcase platform LinkedIn uses to highlight the best content posted by users. If your content is selected for LinkedIn Pulse, it gets much wider exposure, reaching a larger audience through the Pulse distribution channels. As a LinkedIn blogger, you wanna' get on The Pulse, the expanded reach potential is huge. Or at least, it was.
In my first 40 LinkedIn Publishing Platform posts, the content that I was lucky enough to have featured on The Pulse saw a 200% increase in overall views, a 300% increase in Likes and a 230% increase in comments against those that weren't selected for the featured channel. So, maybe my later posts weren't getting picked up for The Pulse as much, right? Nope - of the 18 posts I've published on LinkedIn after December 2014, 13 of them were picked up by The Pulse. Despite this, the view count has remained at that 274 average, well down on previous.
Over time, those reach reductions have lead to me looking elsewhere, other platforms where I can post and get significantly more reach. While reach isn't the only factor bloggers need to take into consideration when seeking the best locations to post, it is a significant one - in my case, it's important for me to showcase my writing ability and subject matter knowledge to the widest possible audience. While I can reach a very targeted, professional group on LinkedIn - and I definitely plan to continue using the platform for this purpose - the reach reductions have meant I'm publishing less there as a result. And in speaking to other bloggers, I know their experience has been much the same.
An Evolving Alternative
Overall, LinkedIn's Publishing Platform is a great opportunity for individuals to showcase their knowledge and ability, and one that should definitely not be ignored - as noted, to have posts attached to your professional profile can be a major benefit, and you need to do all you can to stand out among every other candidate on the network. But the reduction in reach has reduced my overall enthusiasm for LinkedIn's blogging option. I do think, at some stage - and particularly given that now one million users are publishing - that LinkedIn will use your Publisher content as an algorithm factor. When people go searching for professionals using your keywords and location, you'll be more likely to show up high on the list if you're active and have a good following on your long-form content. At present, I don't think this plays a part, but the more data LinkedIn has as context, the more they can use it to enhance their search capabilities and produce better, more relevant results. Given that, there are significant benefits, aside from reach, to publishing on LinkedIn. But the once irresistible lure of massive readership has become increasingly more difficult to achieve. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, overall, but it may reduce the overall use of the option over time.