On 7 February, LinkedIn made a change – small, significant, and oddly short-lived. Shared posts were shown in the newsfeed in bold.
Re-shares have always performed below-average, and perhaps this was LinkedIn’s testing of breathing new life into the share function. Or maybe the change was designed to encourage more people to post regularly – a very measly 1 percent of LinkedIn’s almost 740 million users publish content weekly.
‘Look how easy it is,’ LinkedIn shouts. ‘You can hijack other people’s original content with little more than a click of a button.’
So, should you follow LinkedIn’s not-so-subtle nudge and share more?
No. I urge you to resist the temptation. Sharing others’ posts is quick and demands little effort, that I can agree on. But, as the story always goes, little effort means little reward.
Posts, articles, shares, oh my!
Navigating the language of LinkedIn isn’t intuitive to all of us, especially those that are new to the platform. Before we move ahead, let’s get the basics out of the way.
LinkedIn posts refer to short-form content published on the platform. Posts can be up to 1,300 characters in length and can include links, images, videos, documents, and other rich media.
LinkedIn articles refer to long-form content published on the platform. Articles are similar to what the rest of the world calls a blog, and you are, in fact, reading an article right now!
Sharing on LinkedIn means re-publishing another user’s post. You have an opportunity to add your own text above their original post. In the feed, it looks like this:
What really happens when you share a post?
At face value, sharing can seem like the best, quickest way to contribute to your LinkedIn network – someone else has posted something intelligent and insightful, you amplify their voice (for which, you assume, they are grateful for), and your connections and followers are given access to that excellent piece of content that caught your eye. It’s a win-win-win.
But in reality, it doesn’t work that way.
The first kicker is reach. Re-shares typically get about 10 to 15 percent fewer views than other forms of engagement. Sharing doesn’t even boost you to the post’s author – they receive only one, easy-to-miss, notification.
The second: people are less likely to comment on a re-share. As I mentioned here, people tend to comment on posts that others have already commented on. It’s the same social quirk that makes us feel awkward to be the first to arrive at a party.
The third, and possibly most devastating, is that frequent re-shares may cause people to believe you lack original thought. Of course, this is nonsense as sharing often comes from a place of wanting to gift attention to others, but remember: judgment happens very quickly on LinkedIn. If a potential client, employer, or business partner is scrolling through your activity and sees nothing but re-shares, you can understand how they might pigeon-hole you as a bit of a sheep.
Here’s an example I always use in my LinkedIn training. Arianna Huffington’s post had something like two million views. A week after someone had shared her post, not a single person had responded.
LinkedIn is your no-cost digital reputation manager that you can leverage to own your voice, build your credibility, and show thought-leadership. Instead of contributing to these goals, sharing stifles reach, discourages engagement, and weakens your authority.
What about sharing company posts?
Marketers that use company pages often encourage staff to share company posts. Trying to do the right thing and be excellent brand ambassadors, employees do as directed. This strategy is so widespread that 30 percent of all engagement on all company pages across LinkedIn comes from the respective organisation’s employees.
Brand advocacy on LinkedIn is not a bad thing, but there are better ways to go about it than mindlessly sharing post after post.
A branded background banner, for example, is highly effective. Your background banner is extremely prominent on your profile. Providing employees with a sleek image featuring the company logo is what all the best and brightest organisations do.
You can also craft a few words for employees to publish to their Experience sections. This ensures your company’s messaging is consistent across various staff profiles. Elizabeth Tregoning did just this for her boutique consultants – for an extra $200, I included this in my profile writing service. You can see the effect here:
Do this instead
Forget sharing. Instead, focus on these three things:
1. Showcase your own expertise authentically
I know putting yourself out there can feel scary. It took me a long time to find my authentic voice. And, I know sharing others’ posts can feel like a baby step toward publishing your own content. But I really, really believe in jumping right into the deep end and showing the world why you should be the go-to expert in your field.
Every person has something worthwhile to contribute to their LinkedIn network, something unique, clever, humorous, innovative, imaginative, or helpful. One considered post that delivers value to your target audience each week is enough – although three posts per week is ideal.
Your marketing department may be able to help you craft original content, but you can also find lots of tips on writing posts here and here.
2. Comment on other people’s posts
Next time you see a post that’s worthy of a share, post a comment instead. It’s called social media for a reason – at its heart, LinkedIn is about building relationships, something you can’t do if you keep quiet.
If numbers are your thing, check out Richard van der Blom’s research with Sprout Social, which shows definitively that comments are better than shares.
3. Share articles that add value
Sharing posts isn’t great. Sharing articles from external sites, on the other hand, can boost your credibility. About 18 months ago, links to external sites didn’t perform well, but that’s no longer the case. So, go ahead, but do it the right way:
Make sure the article is relevant to your audience, that it showcases expertise your network would find helpful or interesting.
You must add your spin or opinion to the post, which means writing more than one or two sentences. You want to trigger that all-important ‘See more’ button. Chris Walton does this very well:
If you are trying to build a relationship with the person that wrote the article, be sure to @tag the author in your post. You don’t need to add attribution – LinkedIn does that for you.
Don’t bite your tongue
LinkedIn’s sharing update is purely superficial, and shared posts still under-perform and send the wrong message to your target audience. So, don’t bite your tongue any longer. Get comfy in the public eye and let your voice shine.