With all the fanfare you can muster in a frigid February, LinkedIn announced the rollout of its publishing program to all members. The tech media took the bait, needlessly stoking the expectations of members who would not have access to the blogging functionality for months (most still don’t).
A typical offender was this piece February 19, 2014 Business Insider piece, Now Anyone Can Publish Long Form Posts On LinkedIn. The end of the article notes, almost as an afterthought, ‘LinkedIn will be rolling out this new posting capability to users over the next several months.’
Months later, comments are still popping up on these February blogs with a delayed gratification vibe, as in: ‘It’s March 22nd now. Still no pencil. The roll out isn’t staggered; it’s staggering.’
An even better question might be: ‘Does blogging on LinkedIn matter?’ But first – what’s up with the rollout?
I put the question to LinkedIn directly.
Step one: pester LinkedIn support, who escalated my question, confirming that the publishing platform was still in a ‘pilot’ phase.
I then went the PR route, emailing the following to LinkedIn’s media handlers:
Hello – I am writing a blog post criticizing LinkedIn (and members of the tech press), for a slew of very excited posts back in February that LinkedIn’s publishing features were ‘open to all members,’ when in fact even months later, it is still a pilot program with about 25-30,000 members. I would welcome any clarification.
I assume you are aware that many experts on LinkedIn have been advising folks to start blogging, and folks are searching for these features, not finding them, and experiencing unnecessary frustration and disappointment that could have been avoided. (Editor: email edited for brevity)
Thanks for reaching out. Have you seen our launch blog post? It has some further background on our overall plans with this experience. A couple clarifications for you: We have been adding/giving new members access to the publishing tool every day. So it is indeed ramping beyond the initial 25k members we launched with. While we do offer early access to tools to premium members from time to time and on select features, this is not one of them. Anyone interested in this tool can go to this form to request early access.
We are taking a thoughtful approach to ensure we’re providing the best member experience for both our members that are publishing (and consuming) the content, and will continue to expand the access to this experience to all members in the coming months. (Editor: slightly edited for brevity).
Bonus: I received access to the blogging feature for my peskiness – a classy move that now puts me on the spot to give the blogging tool a spin.
Overall: a legit response. Given the volume of users on LinkedIn, I don’t have a problem they didn’t commit to an exact timeframe. But something was still bothering me. I replied:
This rollout strategy makes sense. But – do you have any regrets about how the launch was initially announced and promoted?
The reason I ask is that there are a lot of folks who think they can blog on LinkedIn who are frustrated. I went to a local conference recently, and a content marketing expert told a large group that anyone could publish on LinkedIn and she recommended everyone do it. A bunch of folks asked questions about it.
That was two weeks ago. I don’t get the feeling I’ll be hearing from those folks again. So I’ll answer my own question: yes, if I were LinkedIn, I’d definitely be reflecting on the how the PR for this rollout was communicated. If there’s one PR lesson to be derived from cloud software, it’s that announcing features works best when those features are generally available.
We’re getting to the point where announcing ramp-ups and beta phases is as anti-climactic as the summer music calendar at a two bit casino. Phased rollouts need a different kind of PR, one with vigorous expectation management, given that the tech media is known to take a morsel of credibility and package it as a Happy Meal.
Setting the PR debate aside, the question remains: when LinkedIn’s blogging features are rolled out to you, will it be worth using?
The answer is yes – with some notable disclaimers.
LinkedIn blogging FAQ
When will I know I have access to LinkedIn’s blogging features? When you get access, you should see a prominent invitation on your home page. After you set up, you’ll click a ‘pencil’ icon in your status update to add longer-form posts.
Can I expedite blogging access? You can apply for early consideration to the LinkedIn Publishing Platform here. (Note that LinkedIn calls this feature ‘long-form’ publishing).
Is this different than LinkedIn’s Influencer program? Yes. LinkedIn continues to run a select program for blogging Influencers whose 500 or so members receive heightened levels of exposure.
How is this different than status updates, or sharing a blog link outside of LinkedIn? When you publish long-form posts on LinkedIn, they will be shared with your network and also those who ‘follow’ you who are not connected to you personally. They’ll be able to read and share the entire article.
What kind of exposure can you get? Depends on many factors, including your own promotional push, the size of your LinkedIn network, Google search prominence, and LinkedIn’s own algorithm which prioritizes certain posts. LinkedIn may also include your long-form content in the ‘Pulse’ content curated for members based on their preferences.
Any success stories? Yes, I’ve heard from several folks who have told me their LinkedIn posts are reaching broader audiences than their corporate blogs.
Can you repost from existing blogs? Yes, but as always I caution against that. Syndicating blogs can be annoying to readers and you run the risk of earning a Google duplicate content penalty for your own site – a risk that’s increased after Google’s May 20 ‘Panda 4.0′ update. I’ve never understood the compulsive repost tendency – not when it’s so easy to take some fodder from one post, add additional content, and reframe it for another.
Should LinkedIn become your blogging home base? Only in rare cases. I never advocate posting the bulk of your content on a social network you don’t own and control (according to LinkedIn’s publisher rights and responsibilities, you do own your content, but you certainly don’t control what LinkedIn might do with the platform in the future). Your corporate blog should be your home base, but LinkedIn could be a very valuable content outpost (Hubspot calls this the hub-and-spoke strategy).
Need more info? Here’s a helpful article and podcast from Social Media Examiner, which includes tips on embedding YouTube and Slideshare content, as well as engaging with comments and evaluating stats.
PR bugaboos aside, LinkedIn’s decision to roll out its publishing platform to all members is the right one. In the enterprise space, there are probably more decision makers active on LinkedIn than any other platform, with the possible exception of Facebook where they may be less accessible.
This is another tricky example where those who have developed bigger networks on LinkedIn have a built-in publishing advantage. LinkedIn is trying to get around that contradiction by encouraging ‘following’ those you do not know personally, rather than attempting to add them to your own network. That seems to be working for the likes of Dave Kerpen, whose 115 LinkedIn posts have earned him more than 400,000 followers.
Blogging success on LinkedIn will have the same obstacles as anywhere else, namely consistency and a relevant point of view. But: those who only have a personal blog may derive bigger benefits from LinkedIn’s built-in distribution. Whatever LinkedIn blogging amounts to, it has vastly more potential than one word endorsements that carry the weight of tissues.
As for me – yes, I will give LinkedIn blogs a spin, but mostly for half-baked ideas that are not up to snuff for diginomica. I’m sure my connections are looking forward to that prospect with great eagerness.
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