For the Product Hunt Community
We reverse-engineered becoming a LinkedIn influencer.
What you get out of this
This playbook explains how to acquire customers through LinkedIn.
This material comes from conversations with LinkedIn employees and top audience builders who know how the underlying algorithm works.
Specifically, we'll learn to acquire customers by posting to your personal LinkedIn account—not a brand account. That's because people follow people, not brands.
We'll build an organic audience that we'll later convert into customers. Much like we'd do on Twitter or YouTube.
Why would we want to use LinkedIn for this?
Because LinkedIn generates nearly 300% more B2B leads than Facebook:
- The platform has 660m active users.
- 63m of them are in decision-making roles.
If you're a B2B startup, you should have a presence on LinkedIn. It has much of the same virality potential as Facebook or YouTube, but with remarkably better B2B performance.
A snapshot of the LinkedIn organic funnel
Why LinkedIn organic instead of LinkedIn ads?
LinkedIn ads generally perform terribly.
They work best for education, recruiting, and other career-related advertisers who generate $15k+ in revenue per customer.
Other verticals often see unsustainable customer acquisition costs: LinkedIn ad clicks are expensive and the subsequent on-site conversion is poor.
LinkedIn organic, however, has a surprisingly high ROI. Many marketers don’t realize that LinkedIn posts attract enough engagement to single-handedly drive top of funnel strategies.
Today, LinkedIn remains a content deficient platform: there is more content demand than supply. Of all the major social channels, it remains easiest to become a top influencer on LinkedIn.
The time that businesses spend investing in Twitter should likely be invested in LinkedIn instead.
A bold statement, but the facts bear it out.
What makes LinkedIn so special?
The main advantage of LinkedIn is its "firmographic" data: business and employee information you can target by. No other social network has this level of specificity and consumption context.
Further, LinkedIn is the primary platform people use to advance their careers. B2B companies that help with career development and recruiting see outsized success because they're getting in front of people who actually want to see their products.
What this playbook covers
The LinkedIn strategy looks like this:
- Contribute meaningfully to LinkedIn's content pool.
- Acquire LinkedIn followers from posting that good content.
- Build trust with those followers.
- Get their email addresses.
- Email them to get off-platform conversion.
Regardless of whether you're running a LinkedIn organic or paid strategy, your on-platform KPI is usually the same: capture email addresses.
Why? In B2B marketing, it's hard to get an immediate purchase for high-consideration products. Especially those requiring the approval of multiple stakeholders.
So, the strategy is to warm up leads, get their trust, incept them with the need for your product, then take things to a deeper conversation.
The backbone of this approach is getting your audience to engage your LinkedIn posts. This distributes your content outside of your existing audience. Then, when new LinkedIn users see your content, some will follow you—and your audience growth flywheel begins.
Accordingly, here's how this playbook is structured:
- Create a steady flow of leads
- Writing posts that drive views, engagement, and conversion
- Conversion systems to take leads off-platform
- How to design a profile that increases your follow conversion rate
1. Create a steady flow of leads
Let's cover how to connect with LinkedIn users. These folks will ideally share your LinkedIn posts so they reach new audiences who in turn follow you.
Insight: Connect in clusters for greater virality
Although the key modality for securing audience engagement is being followed, connecting remains valuable because it's an action that you take.
Whitelist the accounts that are most valuable to your business, and systematically connect to them. You'll be pairing this strategy with the inbound follower strategy.
LinkedIn limits you to 30,000 connections, so be methodical about who you connect with. If you turn on a connections bot and let it rip, you'll reach that limit within the year.
When deciding who to connect with, break down your audience into sub-audiences, which are clusters of people sharing the same job function within the same city. Then connect with one sub-audience at a time.
For example, if you're selling your product to web developers, first connect to everyone who’s a Director of Engineering in San Francisco. Then move on to every Mobile Developer in San Francisco. When you're done with SF, move onto the next city.
When the LinkedIn algorithm detects post engagement concentrated from a cluster of similar people, it's likely to promote your post to more people just like them. (We've confirmed this strategy with LinkedIn team members.)
If, instead, you have engagement all over the map and job spectrum, LinkedIn won't know who the ideal persona is to promote your content to.
Insight: Avoid connection messages for greater acceptance rates
You'll find guides all over the Internet suggesting you include a bespoke message when sending connection requests on LinkedIn.
Consider avoiding that.
Our data found that when everyone is loading connection requests with templated messages, requests without messages seem more real—and get accepted more.
Automating connections—will you be banned?
To handle these connection requests, many marketers use bots.
As a rule of thumb, it's best to only engage in natural behavior on LinkedIn. That minimizes the risk of being penalized by the algorithm.
But our investigative research confirms that—at the time of this posting—LinkedIn's team isn't planning to ban accounts who use connection automation. Nor does it penalize an account's content visibility for the use of connection bots. (This could change in the future.)
Why don't they punish this behavior? Ultimately, the broader each account's reach, the more engagement content gets—and that helps LinkedIn.
Just don’t be egregious by over-using automation and behaving spammily. Connect with people most likely to want to connect with you.
Third-party tool: Dux-Soup
Dux-Soup is a popular Chrome plugin that automates LinkedIn connecting. Alternatives we've heard good things about include Phantom Buster and We-connect.
Here's how to use Dux-Soup:
- Don’t exceed Dux-Soup’s default number of auto-connections per day. In fact, go 20% under (80 contacts a day instead of 100) to play it safe. This prevents LinkedIn from flagging aggressive automated activity and possibly sending you an account warning.
- Enter a search query for your target sub-audience into LinkedIn’s default search bar. Narrow your search using the prioritization framework we discussed earlier (by job title, location, etc).
- Click on Dux-Soup’s "Visit & Connect" button while viewing that page. It’ll crawl through the search results list and send connection requests one at a time—up to your daily limit.
Again, for optimal performance, start by not including a Connection message. A/B test one later if you'd like.
Our take: you can leverage automation to double down on a channel where you already have an arbitrage opportunity—content deficient platform (more reach) x automation = high ROI.
Get an initial burst of connections
To complement your sub-audience outreach, we recommend bootstrapping your initial connections by importing all the people you already know.
The goal with jumpstarting connections is to unlock access to other LinkedIn members who are not yet in your network.
LinkedIn blocks you from connecting with people who are multiple degrees removed from your personal network. The more connections you have to start, the larger your breadth of potential connections for automatic outreach.
- Export your company mailing list and your contacts out of Gmail. Put them in a spreadsheet.
- Bulk import them into LinkedIn.
- Click on the "My network" tab.
- Click "Connections" on the left rail.
- Click "More options" on the right rail.
- You'll have option to upload your spreadsheet file.
- Say “yes” to inviting non-matches.
All those people will now get sent an email by LinkedIn suggesting they add you.
2. Post content that people engage with
As you're acquiring followers and connections, you should regularly post quality content.
LinkedIn posts get a lot of exposure
LinkedIn is a high-commitment channel that requires persistence. The most influential LinkedIn creators each dedicate 30+ minutes per day to it. This isn’t a second-tier consideration; your team needs to treat this like running a second blog.
Since LinkedIn is a content deficient platform—more demand than supply—you get more reach than you do on other platforms.
As a result, LinkedIn posts:
- Stay on feeds longer: The post visibility algorithm has a slow decay, meaning your content will linger in feeds for days. Top audience builders on LinkedIn report that posts build steam 48-96 hours after they're posted. And they can sustain continuous engagement for up to a month.
- Reach people far outside your immediate network—even if they don't go viral. When a person in your network comments on your post, it shows the post in their own audience's news feed.
As a result, LinkedIn posts routinely get more views than they would on other platforms—assuming the same follower/connection count.
For example, Neal's LinkedIn post below was viewed by almost 550,000 people. He only had 7,000 followers at the time. That's a massive advantage over other social media platforms that limit impressions to a portion of users who follow you.
We'll walk through engineer posts to get reach like this.
The optimal posting strategy
LinkedIn's news feed algorithm promotes people who:
- Frequently post high-engagement content.
- Spark conversations in the comments section and reply to people asking questions.
Specifically, you want to build an audience that admires your insights and perspective, and also feels compelled to chime in.
Your goal, therefore, is to have a steady stream of relevant insights injected into your posts.
Ideas become insights when they hit the following criteria:
- Novel—is this idea new or is it at least a fresh take on an existing idea?
- Actionable—can my audience immediately act on the idea?
- High-leverage—when my audience acts on the idea, can it meaningfully change their work or their lives?
Insights are rarely brand new, but they're recycled and repurposed from others. We suggest sourcing insights by:
- Consuming content from thought leaders in your area of expertise: sign up for newsletters, curate your social media feeds, and listen to valuable podcasts.
- Connect with the brightest minds in your field and consistently work through cutting-edge techniques and solutions to the largest problems impacting the field—for example, we chat with other top growth agency founders to trade learnings at least once a month.
How to structure viral posts
This is the most important section of this playbook.
We'll show you the types of posts that get you the most reach on LinkedIn. And then give you examples so you can replicate these for yourself.
We identified these themes by interviewing top LinkedIn influencers, reverse engineering viral posts, and experimenting on our own LinkedIn accounts.
Viral posts fall into two themes
There are two post themes that get traction on LinkedIn: industry-focused and human-focused.
Industry-focused posts are insight-driven pieces of content that cement your position as a thought leader in your industry. This theme should be your priority.
Compare that to human-focused posts, which are posts that do not relate to your industry. The goal of human-focused posts is to connect with your audience on an emotional level. This is achieved through storytelling and vulnerability.
We see top influencers use human-focused posts for about one-third of their total post volume.
The combination of these two post themes is what builds a high-affinity audience: your posts provide industry insight and a relatable human touch.
There are three post structures that pair with the two post themes:
- Pure text
We'll break down each then we'll dive into examples.
Pure text posts include only text.
We've found that it's best to stick to one or two-sentence paragraphs in your posts. Avoid long paragraphs at all costs.
That's because about 60% of LinkedIn traffic comes through mobile, and short, punchy copy reads much better on mobile due to the small screen size. It also breaks up the copy and makes it more inviting to read.
Here's how to make text posts work:
- Lead with a hook: LinkedIn truncates posts so that only your first two sentences show on the feed. After that, people need to click to read more. So it's critical to include a hook in your first two sentences that motivates readers to click.
- Add context
- End with a zinger
Hooks generally follow the format of asking a tantalizing question or implying something controversial that isn’t fully revealed until they click "see more." Here are a few examples of hooks that work well:
- An unbelievable statistic or quote
- A startling failure you experienced
- Stating that the status quo is wrong
- A self-evident description of a useful resource, e.g. "My favorite tools for creating landing pages are..."
After the hook comes the context. This sounds obvious, but many LinkedIn posts fail to catch on because they lack the context that properly sets up the zinger.
Then finish the post with a zinger—an insight bomb.
The best zingers are elegant statements that leave the reader with something to think about. This is what gets people to hit the like and share buttons.
Resource posts follow the exact same structure as pure text, with one small difference. Instead of ending with a zinger, you attach a media asset to your post.
It looks like this:
Two examples include thematic image galleries (multiple images that show examples of a topic) and infographics/spreadsheets with useful data.
The image asset is the insight—it's what provides a dopamine hit for your audience.
Top LinkedIn users recommend using a thematic gallery when you're trying to show your audience useful examples—things that they can replicate. Think infographics and spreadsheets.
Story posts—a human-focused approach
Adding stories to you content mix is critical for virality.
They're human. It makes people build affinity toward you—to see you as more than a corporate stooge.
Story posts also do something special: they build trust. When you tell vulnerable stories, you let people empathize with you. And believe in your authenticity.
So how do you write a good story post? Try:
- A lesson you learned the hard way
- A funny encounter you had
- Poke fun at an ironic way people do things
- Stories about challenging yourself
Final touches on your posts
Insight: Connect with people who like your post
When you make it a priority to continuously post quality content, you'll have LinkedIn users outside of your immediate network like and comment on your posts.
Tip: send connection requests to all of these people. They're likely to accept your request since it's top of mind for them. They'll also feel valued since you took the time to notice their engagement and follow up by connecting.
Ask for comments
Always prompt readers to leave comments. Comments are the number one signal LinkedIn measures to boost your post’s public exposure beyond your existing audience. LinkedIn prioritizes content where conversations are happening.
And, as a reminder, when a commenter comments, their followers will often see their comment. Through our research, we've found that getting comments can 4x your post's view count.
Here are a few ways to ask followers for comments:
- “Leave a comment below if you recommend another resource.”
- “How often does this happen to you? Respond here and let me know.”
- “Do you have any stories like this of your own?”
- “What hacks do you use for accomplishing X?”
When people comment, respond to further encourage conversation. Also tag popular people in your network to chime in, answer in-depth, and ask even more questions. The more conversations you have in the comments, the more reach you can see.
Insight: Should you include links in your post?
We used to recommend that people avoid including links in your posts.
LinkedIn’s algorithm used to penalize you for sending people off of LinkedIn.
But it has been reported (and widely discussed) that, in May 2020, LinkedIn made a change to the algorithm, and linking away from LinkedIn is no longer penalized.
But it's important to remember that the algorithm favors content that gets lots of likes, comments, and shares. If you link off-platform, you run the risk of people clicking your link and not engaging with your content on LinkedIn. Their engagement modality shifts.
While it's helpful to drive people to your own site, if your post fails to get likes, comments, and shares, it will reach fewer people.
So link as you wish—so long as your posts are still designed to get strong engagement on the platform.
Insight: When to post
The algorithm works against you if you don't post often.
If you go 28 days without posting, you'll get so heavily demoted in the feed that your next post will only be seen by a small percentage of your connections.
Further, posting at the right versus wrong time of day easily triples your reach.
You want to post at times where most of your LinkedIn followers are active. This typically means around 8:30am in the time zone of the majority of your audience. We've tested this heavily.
Complementary strategy: Commenting
The LinkedIn experts we interviewed recommend commenting on other influencers' posts. If their posts get millions of views and you have the top comment, you get many of those views too—which equates to more exposure and followers for you.
Try to comment on 2-3 posts per day. That way people see your insightful comments all over the place—plus those LinkedIn influencers will be more likely to comment back on your posts, which shows your content in their audiences' feeds and drives up your views.
Commenting is also a way to test what to post: if one of your comments receives a lot of engagement, turn it into a full-fledged post of your own. Repurpose your work.
3. Getting email addresses
Ok, let's take a step back.
So far, we've covered:
- Connecting with sub-audiences
- Posting content to get engagement and new followers
Our goal on LinkedIn is getting a soft conversion—typically an email address. We add that email address to a drip campaign to eventually generate revenue.
But it's not easy to take people off LinkedIn. This is where most LinkedIn funnels break.
And that's by design—LinkedIn wants people to stay on-platform.
When we spoke to LinkedIn audience builders, one shared that only 5% of his 100k+ followers are signed up for his newsletter.
Methods of collecting emails
We've identified two ways to capture emails from your LinkedIn audience.
- Send direct messages (DMs) to your audience members with a valuable free resource that requires their email address to see it.
- Build a system around capturing email addresses through your content.
- Gate your best insights so that readers need to provide an email address to see them.
- Occasionally link to landing pages to capture emails in exchange for resources like newsletters or one-pagers.
1. DM strategy
If you already have valuable, free resources to entice connections with, sending direct messages offering that resource is an effective strategy. Require them to provide their email address in order to get the resource.
They'll trust you if you've been posting insightful and human posts for a while. That's how this LinkedIn strategy ties together.
In fact, the best way to get DM responses is to have first commented on your recipients' posts. This surfaces you on their radar and builds the expectation of reciprocity.
Here are some examples of valuable free products to offer:
- Truly useful email newsletters—insightful, actionable newsletters that get people excited.
- Databases such as lists of recruiters, VC funds, and job opportunities.
- In-depth guides—long form educational content.
If you don’t have an existing asset such as these, head to the "Capturing emails through your content" section.
How to DM your connections
The DM conversation isn't where the end conversion happens. Users don't trust you enough to make a purchase just yet.
So instead of following the scripted sales approach, provide genuine value.
The goal is twofold:
- Get email addresses you can send drip emails to.
- Get them to trust your brand by seeing how valuable your resources are.
Two examples of DM templates you can use:
- “Btw I put together a spreadsheet of the best VCs with their contact information. Since we went through YC we thought this would be helpful to founders looking for funding. We keep it gated and only share it with top founders. If you want to take a look just shoot me your work email and I'll get it to you."
- "Heads up that my team and I wrote a thorough playbook on landing page optimization. Happy to share with you if you think it'd be helpful. We keep it gated and only share it with top founders and marketers. If you want to take a look just shoot me your work email and I'll get it to you."
Connections that receive this message get a relevant free resource and there are no strings attached. Why wouldn't they join?
And just like that, we've got an email address.
Is this a lot of work? Yes. But, on LinkedIn, you know you’re targeting all the firmographically-appropriate leads. You’re not spraying and praying. Everyone is worth something to you.
Insight: Don't DM right away
Try waiting at least a month after connecting with folks so your audience has had time to digest your insightful posts before you reach out.
2. Capturing emails within LinkedIn content
Here's the best approach we've identified for capturing emails directly from your posts:
- Regularly post insightful content without asking for anything—including emails.
- One out of every 5 posts, provide half of your content then require that they click a link and enter their email to get the other half.
In other words, first build trust that your content is good. Then tease them with something that requires a small transaction.
Build up from there.
LinkedIn also offers onsite newsletters where you can embed CTAs to capture emails:
Getting the purchase
Now that you have a steady flow of new leads’ email addresses, we’re officially moving beyond LinkedIn—the platform has done its job.
This is the start of the final stage of your funnel—purchase conversion—where you’ll leverage email drips to sell to your leads.
Drip campaigns are important enough to cover in an entire playbook, but here’s how we view final conversion in the context of your LinkedIn funnel:
Since you’ve done the hard work of building affinity through your LinkedIn content, your leads should be excited to consume everything you create. A portion of your leads will be willing to pay for your products or services now that they know who you are, trust you, and view you as a thought leader.
Well-done drip campaigns get those leads across the finish line.
4. Optimizing your profile for follows
The best LinkedIn influencers are methodical about their profiles—it's not something to gloss over.
It's the equivalent of the landing page on your website. You wouldn't ignore optimizing your page, would you?
Change your CTA
Here's the most critical change you can make on your profile:
Change your "Connect" button to a "Follow" button.
In our research, we learned that connections is an outdated feature. LinkedIn is prioritizing the follower model of engagement in their future roadmap. Their engineering team is actively building features for "audience builders"—the LinkedIn equivalent of influencers.
There's still value in connecting with people as a source of lead generation—we already covered this—but connections require a lot of steps:
- Someone views your profile.
- They hit connect and add a note.
- You're required to go in, see the request, and accept it. Until all that happens, the user doesn't start seeing your posts.
In comparison, when a user hits the "Follow" button, your content is immediately introduced to their news feed.
Additionally, we know that LinkedIn limits you to 30,000 connections, but you can have an unlimited amount of followers.
Here's how to change your profile action button:
Go to your privacy settings (see the dropdown under "Me" then "Settings & Privacy"), click "Visibility" on the left panel, then "Visibility of your LinkedIn activity." Then click "Followers." You'll see the "Make follow primary" button. Switch it on.
The framework for optimizing the rest of your LinkedIn profile is simple: appear maximally useful to the persona you want to buy from you. That means:
- Write a bio header that highlights your social proof in your space. This is critical. This header is displayed on your outgoing connection requests to LinkedIn members. It's the description others use to judge whether they should accept.
- Include a concise "about" description that explains why you're worth following.
Example: Julian Shapiro
Julian founded Demand Curve, so his target audience includes entrepreneurs and marketers who are looking to advance their growth strategies.
In Julian's bio header, he features:
- YC S19 as social proof (he went through Y Combinator).
- TechCrunch Columnist signals transactional value.
- Investor signals that he's relevant to the entrepreneurs and marketers that come across his profile.
- A concise description summarizes how he's valuable to his target audience: he grows and invests in startups.
- The Twitter link acts as social proof: anyone who checks out his Twitter sees that he has over 25,000 engaged followers.
Example: Taylor Offer
Taylor creates online courses and owns an apparel brand. His audience includes people who want to grow on social media and consumers of apparel.
- "Best account to follow on LinkedIn" indicates that people will get value in following him: learn how to use LinkedIn better. (Note: It also encourages people to follow him instead of connecting with him.)
- "Forbes 30 under 30" and his media features add social proof.
- Taylor's about description summarizes his value: he'll help you grow your LinkedIn audience through his academy.
- The rest of the description serves as social proof.
That's all you need: a clear statement of value and effective social proof. If you get much wordier than that, people start skimming—and they overlook the URL you want them to visit.
LinkedIn's new feature: stories
LinkedIn added a new feature on September 24th, 2020 called Stories. They're photos and videos that vanish 24 hours after posting. Sound familiar? It's a rip on Snap and Facebook (including Instagram).
But here's why LinkedIn stories are worth testing:
- LinkedIn already struggles to get users to post to the feed. There's a chance that not enough users post to stories, either. This is another opportunity to take advantage of the fact that there is more demand for content than there is supply—more reach.
- Since stories just launched, LinkedIn will promote them heavily—its goal is to get users to engage with new features. If you consistently use stories early, you give yourself the opportunity to ride the wave of rising popularity. Some users will get a disproportionate share of story views.
- Stories give audiences a glimpse into the BTS of the professional world. Content creators can show audiences their day-to-day. It's relatable and can quickly build affinity.
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