Main content

Digital media disruptions #24 - LinkedIn changes its content algo, thought leadership gets demystified, and email wins

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed August 9, 2019
Why do buyers value thought leadership content - and marketers fail to create it? Will LinkedIn's algorithm tweak favor your efforts? And can AI help with engaging B2B readers, without alienating them? Here's my rundown.


man tempted by TV

Yes, it's time for another gut-check of digital media disruptions - the enterprisey review. Here's the rules: I pick the impactful stories from my media disruptions channel, give them a hard look from the enterprise side, and recommend a course of action. Note: this series is NOT geared for the media industry, but for enterprises looking to win opt-in audiences.

Lead story - Thought Leadership Strategy: How to Crush It in B2B Marketing
by: Wendy Marx
key excerpt: "The study uncovered a large disconnect between how buyers and sellers view thought leadership. While 87% of business decision makers say thought leadership increases an organization's trust factor, only 49% of sellers agreed. Similarly, 89% of buyers say thought leadership enhances a brand's reputation while only 55% of sellers concur."

enterprise relevance: high

myPOV: Let's face it, "thought leadership" is one of the most bloated, pretentious, and least welcome buzzwords in our entire industry. So why should we care about it? What if we defined "thought leadership" as:

  • Content that broadens your thinking and helps you understand how work is changing.
  • Content that isn't bogged down in blatant promotions and "how great my brand is" peacock feathering.

By that definition, thought leadership content doesn't sound so bad, eh? It's the type of content that tends to build trust because it's about sharing hard-won info, not jockeying in for the sale. 

And yet, as Wendy Marx notes, there is a disconnect: buyers value this type of content significantly more than marketers (Marx's stats are from a notable thought leadership content study from Edelman and LinkedIn). So why is that? I'll tell you my reasons:

This kind of content is hard to produce. It requires subject matter experts, data/research, and an ability to get out of your own way into the concerns of your audience.
Marketers are still too tied to lead-gen obsessions - this type of content isn't about lead gen primarily (though in some cases you can use it for sign ups).

Marx provides some useful tips for getting started on thought leadership content. One of her best? Weed out lousy thought leadership content:

92% of those surveyed in the Edelman-LinkedIn study said that their respect for an organization increased because of thought leadership material, 46% of respondents said it had decreased.

best course of action:

  • Evaluate how well your content does at reaching people who aren't part of your data funnel or drinking your Koolaid.
  • Consider how so-called "thought leadership" content could fit into your overall content marketing approach and budget.
  • Look at how you might get the experts in your organization more involved in producing this type of content. You aren't getting anywhere until topical experts embrace this as part of their role.

How Piano built a propensity paywall for publishers — and what it’s learned so far
by: Nieman Journalism Lab
key excerpt: "Paywall tech company Piano has now introduced a propensity paywall — taking what The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Schibsted, and others are doing internally to nudge the errant site visitor or intrigued newsletter subscriber to pony up and pay up. It's got the fancy moniker of LT[X], pronounced without the brackets and intended to be thought of as "likelihood to (action)."

enterprise relevance: Medium - most enterprises don't have paywalls, but they might have a fenced-in sign up area for prospects or customers.

It's high time a company started to figure out how to intelligently nurture people along towards opting in - without blasting every person who hops on the site with pop-ups. That said, it's clear this technology is still nascent and not easy to implement. In fact, Nieman, the authors of the piece, use an exceedingly annoying pop-up themselves. Exactly the opposite of what the article is describing.

And when are companies going to get it through their freaking heads that "exit pop-ups" based on when they think you are closing the page are wildly inaccurate?

best course of action:

  • Yes, we need figure out how to give visitors who derive value from our content - or need more info - an appealing way to do that. Sometimes that means reaching out to them - though a "nudge" doesn't sound terribly appealing.
  • So far, the tactics used for this are desperation-or-blast at best.
  • It's worth exploring more nuanced approaches for engaged visitors, including what "AI" or perhaps even chatbots can offer - as long as they are a pleasure to interact with, and listen when you ask them to leave you alone.

LinkedIn Tweaks Its Algorithms to Skew Feeds to User Interests
by: Richard Adhikari
key excerpt: "LinkedIn on Tuesday disclosed algorithm changes designed to favor conversations catering to niche professional interests. Axios first reported the shift."

enterprise relevance: high - given the impact of successful networking and interaction on Linked for B2B.

This LinkedIn algo tweak is a reminder: we invest our energy into platforms with content algorithms beyond our control. That's a caution as we nurture communities on sites we don't own. LinkedIn basically admitted their standard newsfeed smells of egg is like a high school cafeteria:

The top 1 percent of power users grabbed much of the attention on its platform, LinkedIn found through internal research in 2018.

So much for all the 1:1 networking BS. To be fair, the proposed changes, if they work, should make feeds more relevant:

The criteria for posts showing up in members' feeds can be summed up as "people you know, talking about things you care about."

best course of action:

  • LinkedIn is obviously a crucial platform for most B2B companies. It should still be evaluated carefully in terms of how it fits in with an overall hub and spoke model. LinkedIn should never be your hub.
  • There are many ways to participate in LinkedIn, most of which are obnoxious failures. Find ways of engaging that spark comments and earn trust.
  • Be prepared for LinkedIn to switch policies again - hedge your platform investment bets.

Bonus content - a few more for the road.

These pieces were picked from my curated channel, enterprise media disruptions. You can also view the entire digital media disruptions series.

A grey colored placeholder image