How I Went Viral by Ignoring One of the “Rules” of LinkedIn

How I Got 1.6 Million Views by Following My Instincts 📈

Resharing my post after Mubs and I updated our Zoom-branding tool, Branded Background!

Accidental Virality & a Little Experiment

In spring of this year, I was scrolling back through some of my LinkedIn posts and was floored to see that one of my posts had gone viral. Without me even realizing!

It was something I’d put up about a month prior just to get my daily quota filled (I try to post every day for consistency) and I hadn’t thought much about it afterwards.

It ended up doing more than 50K views. 😱⚡

I read and reread that post over the course of the week, trying to figure out what in the hell it was that had caused it to go so crazy. Was it the content? The formatting? The emojis (don’t laugh, those things matter!) or the hashtags?

🤔 Working over the next week, I tried a variety of things to understand what had keyed into the LinkedIn algorithm so acutely. After a few days, I began to wonder if it was something else—something which LinkedIn power-users cautioned against. So I figured why not try that and see.

I went viral again. 📈

And again. 📈📈

And again. 📈📈📈

20K, 40K, 80K, 190K views started popping up in my feed. At one point, I even did half a million views on one post!

This actually wasn’t my first time going viral on LinkedIn. But it was the first time I was doing so consistently. This time it was serious.

My first time going very viral happened just before I started running my experiment.

I racked up well over a million views over a spread of just 10-15 posts. 😯

I started to track my thesis in a spreadsheet.

Over the few months that I consistently ran the experiment, I went viral about a third of the time—I was going viral at least 2-3 times a week over a ten-week span.

It got to the point where if I didn’t  go viral, it was a little uncommon and I felt that tomorrow I’d just make it up by going viral then. 

So what was the secret to all this insane virality?

Hold your breath, because LinkedIn power-users are about to lose their shit here…

☝️ Sharing.


The LinkedIn “Rule” I Ignored to Go Viral (Again and Again)

I ignored one of the “rules” of the LinkedIn algorithm and just went with my natural instincts.

During the time I ran my little experiment, I started sharing…a lot.

A lot more than I already had been.

The spreadsheet I kept for my experiment.

Here’s why this is such a drastic statement:

Because lots of LinkedIn power-users often share tips for how to do better on LinkedIn; a lot of which have become gospel because of how the algorithm reacts—how it changes, and how it doesn’t change…

Core tactics like:

  • Text content is king.
  • Write up to the content limit.
  • Canoe-tagging is okay, even encouraged.
  • Answer every damn comment.

And towards the bottom of the pecking-order?

Share. 📈📉

Or rather, don’t share, because the algorithm (supposedly) dings you for it. 

A tip from a LinkedIn power-user I follow.

I always saw sharing listed at the very bottom, the thinking being that the algorithm smacks you for not creating your own content and suppresses your reach. (Probably a reasonable theory, but as I said, algorithms get tweaked sometimes).

And yet, that post that racked up 50K views? The one I’d just pushed out without thinking about it?

It was a share.

I just went through it, found a few points I connected with, tried to articulate how I thought about them, and shared her post into my network.

Then it spread like wildfire. 🔥

The post that racked up 55K views without me even realizing it!

Why Sharing Works So Well

🙌 Sharing is one of my favorite strategies because it’s a great way to simultaneously learn and build great relationships with the people who are creating the material you connect with.

Here’s why sharing doesn’t work for a lot of people: they’re not patient and they don’t give credit!

It’s not just sharing though; it’s sharing the right way, a key factor which I see trip people up all the time.

This is such an avoidable pitfall that it just baffles me why I continue to see this. I always give credit at the top of the post. This is key; never take credit for what isn’t yours. That kills a reputation and potential relationship before they even start.

But there is a way to successfully “piggyback” on someone else’s content without looking like a tool. In fact, I wrote all about it here. The key is, as always, humility, authenticity, & due credit.

This is precisely what I teach people how to do as the #ZeroToOneNetworker. 😉🚀

Resharing a post and trying to add some value to the original message while giving due credit.

So when it took off, it made me wonder why anyone would ever recommend against sharing on LinkedIn. Perhaps the algorithm did penalize you a little bit, but here’s my thinking:

1) We never know for sure

2) Sharing is a great way of pushing out new, high-quality content, &

3) It’s probably the best way I’ve found to build an amazing network.

Breaking 1.6 Million Views (Fairly Effortlessly)

In fact, it’s pretty much precisely how I built my tech network on Twitter, and how I built my network in the music business before that. People who follow me know that 75-80% of everything I tweet or put out is in support of someone else. Either a company I dig, a mission I believe in, or someone who I absolutely wanna see grow and succeed.

So I just started to adapt my Twitter strategy to LinkedIn and see if emulating it yielded any different results.

Now I’ll stop here and say that I don’t know if this is a “surefire” way to still go viral on LinkedIn.

In fact, I don’t think there is a “surefire” way. 

Some of my posts did 100K views. Others didn’t even break 100. There was never a guarantee. 

But it did make me reexamine the question that so many people ask (and now, amazingly, ask me) of: How do I go viral?

That’s not the right question.

The right question is: How do I build a magnetic reputation and a deep bench of allies in a concrete network?

Answer: You do it through sharing and supporting others in the right way. 👏💫 This is what I love teaching other people how to do because once you start doing it, your network takes off like a rocket. 🚀

Resharing a post and explaining how I find inspiration and value in someone else’s content.

That’s why the share tactic worked for me. Because it was something I could easily emulate from my Twitter strategy (which had also worked for me), something which people associated with my brand, and something that I could easily tweak if need be. 

Perhaps, though, the most important part of the strategy (for me, anyway) is that it allowed me to sidle close to the people whom I want(ed) to learn from in a way that was neither fanboy-ish nor self-centered. It was a way to indicate that I appreciated someone else’s mission, accomplishments, company, or character without actually having to say so. Sometimes the subtle signals are the most effective. 

In the end, my “share” posts went viral about one third of the time. Not bad at all. 

But the really amazing thing is that I ended up doing well over 1.6 MILLION post views from when I started the experiment. 

Even more intriguing to me, though, is that I still continue to see many of my LinkedIn friends continue to suggest not sharing because the algorithm dings you on it. And I absolutely understand this; their suggestions come from a place of not wanting their followers’ content to be stifled by the algorithm. So the advice does come from a good place.

But for me, that’s the exact opposite of what I found that really started to work for me. And perhaps most importantly, it’s antithetical to what worked for me elsewhere and what ultimately defines my brand as the 🚀 #ZeroToOneNetworker. Because when people 😎#LookForTheOrangeSunglasses, they know that the content won’t only be my own thoughts, but tips, experiences, & stories from other people in my network whom I also learn from.

Maybe that’s the reason that my sharing worked in the first place; because so many people are not doing it consistently. Daring to do something different—even by accident—is a great way to set yourself apart and make your content more unique.

Maybe it makes me a little different than the other LinkedIn power-users out there, but I’ll double-down and say it:

If you wanna grow your network and content, then share.

And if you really wanna grow your network, then message me and book some time with me so we can figure out how to supercharge your networking chops! ⚡💸

Share positively and consistently; always try to add something valuable and always, always give credit.

After all, I didn’t have anything to lose—do you? 😉

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn at @adammarx13 and @Zero2OneNetwork.

And continue to 😎 #LookForTheorangeSunglasses!

If You’re Not Doing These 3 Simple Things on LinkedIn, You’re Missing Out

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Underutilized Tools! 😱

Everyone knows that LinkedIn is a highly underutilized platform and that it’s got the power to expand your network exponentially.

…Or at least that’s what we LinkedIn power-users may think sometimes.

The truth is that we who use LinkedIn daily—hourly—can sometimes develop a skewed view of how other users are utilizing the platform. We often assume that the value we see (and experience!) in LinkedIn is inherent, and as such, that it’s apparent to others in the same way.

A trend that I’ve seen lately, however, and that I’m thrilled to engage in is helping newer users “crack” LinkedIn so that they can experience the same sort of value that I and so many others do.

So, in the spirit of “sharing is caring,” here are 3 (three) dead simple things that you can and should be doing on LinkedIn.

Otherwise, you’re missing out!

 

Video 📽️

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way first. If you’re not producing video, you’re missing out.

There’s no nicer way to put it because it’s becoming a mainstay of LinkedIn content.

I’ve heard from some people that they’re nervous about using video because it may not seem “professional” enough (as compared to other LinkedIn power-users) or that they may not be comfortable in front of a camera.

To this I say: I get it and I know where you’re coming from!

I sometimes feel a little intimidated too, but the key thing to remember is that people will ultimately show up for your content because you are (hopefully) creating value for them. This is what should be driving any part of your content production strategy.

Takeaway: produce video! Even a weekly video with the right amount of passion and value is a fantastic time investment. I’d suggest trying to keep it under 1:30—I’ve found that to be about the mental timeout.

(Bonus: If you have access to LinkedIn LIVE, use it! I’m still waiting for access (hint, hint to my friends working at LinkedIn 😉), but I think it’s a great tool to really drive home your message in an authentic way when you find your rhythm.)

 

Voice Messages 🎙️

I’m still shocked that this one is so highly (criminally!) underutilized. It’s really one of LinkedIn’s best-kept secrets.

The voice message feature is only available to send through the mobile app (though you can still listen on desktop).

And It. Is. Brilliant! 🚀

Sending someone a short voice message (you have up to 60 seconds total record time) virtually guarantees that someone will open your message and listen to it. It’s basically changed how I approach new people (especially power-users I wanna connect with, hint, hint!) and communicate with new followers.

Wanna know why it’s so powerful?

Because people respond to the conversational aspect.

In my experience, I’ve found that a few key opening lines virtually guarantee that not only will that power-user listen to my message, but will often respond with a voice message of their own.

Boom! There’s the opening of a conversation that can then grow in interesting directions.

 

Comment Responses ✍️

Lastly, there is the strategy of comment responses.

Now, this strategy requires that you actually produce content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly, etc.), which, if you’re not doing…well, you need to be doing.

But this is certainly one of the easiest (if somewhat time-consuming) strategies to really up your engagement.

If you’re producing that right kind of content that engages people, you’ll hopefully be getting comments on your posts. Even a few comments is a good place to start.

So I’ll say this slowly:

Respond. To. All Of. Them.

Or as many as your poor little fingers can handle before giving out and completely falling off haha.

Responding to my comment on your post tells me that you value my input and recognize the time I took to write something. Me seeing your response makes me want to continue to engage with your other posts with more comments.

Dead simple strategy—HUGELY effective.

Oh, and something like “Thanks Adam” is a copout of a response.

Unless you’re a power-user getting thousands of comments (and if you’re reading this, you may not be there yet), you have no reason not to take 15 minutes (total, not apiece) to respond to each of the 5 comments on your post thoughtfully.

If those 5 thoughtful responses create value, then you’ve succeeded.

Don’t get hung up on the numbers; if you’re building bridges the right way, all those vanity metrics will work themselves out.

 

Bottom Line 📈

So remember, the bottom line is that these are 3 dead simple ways to increase your LinkedIn footprint precisely because they are so simple. You don’t need a large production team or thousands of followers—you just need some great ideas for content and a desire to build relationships patiently and positively.

You get to those “thousands of followers” by doubling-down on the simple things:

  1. Video
  2. Voice Messages
  3. Comment Responses

The other details will iron out in time.

Be well my friends!

Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter at @adammarx13.

And continue to #LookForTheOrangeSunglasses! 😎

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I’m a Writer—Here’s Why I’ve Taken a Six-Month Break From Writing

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The Writer’s Rub

It’s been about half a year since my last real essay or post. I took almost the entire summer and autumn off from writing full-length essays, response posts, and even shorter thought pieces. It feels—and maybe seems—that the only things I’ve been writing this summer have been tweets and LinkedIn posts.

This might seem odd for a writer—after all, writers are supposed to write consistently and be able to produce high-level content with each topic they cover. But here’s the rub; writers are also human. We hit walls, experience burnout, and need breaks like everyone else—especially those who are motivated to produce content at break-neck speed.

And damn was I burned out.

Where Startups and Writing Diverge

In startups and tech development, there’s the notion of “ship early and often.” It doesn’t matter if the first version has bugs (it will always have bugs) or if it’s a little unfocused; there’s time to fix all that junk later. The important thing is shipping, and your perfectionism is holding you back.

The same cannot (and in my opinion, should not) be said of writing. Yes, if you’re a writer or content producer you should employ every tool at your disposal to produce content at a consistent pace. But the “bugs” that exist in writing are a different breed than those of the “ship early, ship often” startup world; pieces aren’t supposed to go out sloppily written, half-focused, and “all over the place” as my mom would say. They’re supposed to be tight and bullet-proof, however you define that. In some ways, Alexis Ohanian addressed this issue in tech recently with his statements on “hustle porn.

Don’t Be Forgettable; Be Magnetic

To maintain this self-defined standard, sometimes the answer is that you simply can’t consistently produce at break-neck speed; sometimes you need a break to recharge and find new ideas and motivation. This is the frustrating, unsexy aspect of writing. It’s what happens behind your closed mental doors, and perhaps the thing that has the potential to make you feel like you’re “not a real writer.”

Stave off this thought and instead focus your energy on recharging. Come back to the writing when you have something real to say. People can always tell when you’re writing just for the sake of filling a quota.

Spoiler alert: that kind of writing is boring and ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable; be magnetic.

All of this is to say that it feels damn good to be back. 😎👍

How to Write Like an Editor

How thinking like an editor can bullet-proof your writing.

Originally published on my Medium on December 2, 2016.

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I come from a family of writers. My parents are both attorneys, and I spent my formative years in school learning how to write bullet-proof essays. It wasn’t until long after college, though, that I really began to see writing in more lights than simply as “a writer.” In fact, it was only recently that I’ve been able to think and write like an editor.

If you look around the blogosphere, and on Medium in particular, you see a lot of the same stuff. Not the same topics per se, but the same issues with the writing. A lot of it’s choppy, half-baked, passionate but not convincing, and many times riddled with grammatical mistakes. A lot of this can be avoided though.

A lot of time people see writing as a number of things — none of them good. They see it as tedious, superfluous, nonchalant, boring, or easy.

Writing is not easy, and writing on a higher level than “just writing” is a skill which takes constant practice and dedication. But for time-sake, here’s a crash-course to make your writing tighter, stronger, and all around better.

(Note: This won’t cover non-writing aesthetic choices, like pictures, gifs, videos, etc. This is focused solely on the art of writing and editing.)

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Grammar
  2. Spelling
  3. Tenses
  4. Formatting
  5. Thesis
  6. Argument
  7. Length
  8. Style

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Grammar

Let’s get this one out of the way early. Poor spelling and grammar will kill any piece you write. Every time. Without fail. Don’t think you’re fooling anyone — we can all tell when you’re too lazy to proofread your article for mistakes. Learn to love multiple drafts.

So Rule #1 in writing like an editor: edit your damn article.

Caveat: I’ll cover this more in Style, but keep in mind that sometimes the most readable pieces aren’t necessarily the ones that follow 100% of grammar rules. This took me a long time to learn and become comfortable with. Be at ease using contractions, beginning sentences with “and” and “but,” and using slang terms like “gonna,” “bullshit,” and “fuck.” This gives your writing personality and makes it much less stilted. Just remember not to go overboard with things. If it doesn’t serve your argument, don’t fuck around with it.

Rule #1: Edit your damn article.

Spelling

We live in the era of spell-check. There’s literally no reason for spelling mistakes. If you don’t care enough to use spell-check, I don’t care enough to read it, end of story.

Tenses

This usually falls under grammar, but it’s important to break it out here. A lot of people seem to have problems with tensing, even some of the smartest, most insightful writers I enjoy reading (including hyper-successful founders, investors, marketers, etc.). It’s something people stumble over when it doesn’t make sense, and a lot of times it’s hard to pinpoint.

The best advice for keeping proper tensing is to read the wonky sentence out loud and see if it flows. If you’re having trouble with it, your readers will too. It should flow easily off the tongue, and if not, reexamine your tenses.

Formatting

Like grammar and tenses, formatting is one of those things you’ll need to take a step back on and read through an editor’s eyes. It’s one of the most tedious parts of editing, but one of the things that sets good pieces apart from complete crap.

Look and Feel: First, does it look good? If it’s blocky and hard to read, chances are people will never read it (unless you’re maybe already famous). Break things up — the “new paragraph” is your friend.

Italics, bold, and underline are essential to making something interesting to the eye, but don’t overdo it. Too much bold and you’re shouting at me; too many italics and you’re making me read a French pastry recipe.

ALL CAPS: Like bold, all caps is akin to yelling at me. Try to stay away from this. However, if you’re going to yell at me, make it count. Do it only if you really need to.

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Bullet-points: Learn to love bullet-points, but don’t go overboard. Unless it’s an article that’s meant to be mostly in list-form, don’t overdo it. Not everything has to be bulleted — I’m reading your article, not your grocery list.

Punctuation: Vary your punctuation (more on this in Style). Learn the difference between a hyphen (-) and a dash ( — ), and when to use them to break up your text.

Rule: Hyphens are for combining words (like punk-rock) while dashes are used to break sentences (see 3rd paragraph of introduction).

Quotes: Ok, say it with me now: Double quotes (“ ”) are for the beginning/end of any quotation, while single quotes (‘ ’) are for a quotation within a quotation. That means if you’re quoting an article in which the article is quoting something or someone else, you need both. Also learn when to use block-quoting as opposed to singular, smaller quotes (Medium has thankfully made this much easier for people to understand and use).

Colons and Semi-colons: For fuck-sake, do not use colons or semi-colons if you’re not 100% clear on how to do it. Your writing won’t suffer much — if at all — if you leave them out. It will suffer A LOT if you put them in and don’t know how to use them. Stick to what you know and don’t try to over-impress your reader.

For the record though: Colons usually break a sentence right before you list something, or move to a clause or phrase which is meant to clarify the previous clause or phrase.

Semi-colons break a sentence and separate two independent clauses which tackle the same thought.

[Brackets]: Last thing, but very important. Brackets are used to tell your reader that you’re changing something from the original quote, but more for formatting, aesthetic, or clarification reasons. For example, if you’re simply changing the tenses of a word from singular to multiple, just put the “s” in brackets so I know you’re making a minor edit.

Like this: “Kurt Cobain drew influence[s] from his favorite album[s] when writing the follow-up to Nirvana’s second album.”

Remember: [Brackets] are not the same as (parentheses)!!

Thesis

This is the “idea” we all learned about in 3rd grade that “goes at the end of your first paragraph.” Except that’s bullshit, and much too simple.

Your thesis is your main concept, but isn’t necessarily your “argument” (see next point) and doesn’t necessarily need to come at the end of your first paragraph. It goes wherever it fits best, though this is usually towards the top of your article.

The thing to remember about your thesis is that it’s your broad topical concept, which means it’s flexible. Flexibility is good. Don’t feel shackled to a boring, hyper-specific point. If broad works better for the sake of your piece, then go broad, and get more specific in your argument.

This is how you write like an editor: accept that flexibility is a good thing, and that there is no 1, 2, 3-step process for plugging in pieces to make a good essay. Experiment, beginning with your thesis.

Argument

I see this a lot as an editor. People confuse their thesis with their argument. They are not the same thing. Your thesis is the concept or topic you’re going to tackle; you’re argument is how you hammer your points home.

Do not, for the love of God, use the 5-paragraph essay format unless it fits your topic and article. This is meant to be a learning tool, not something you do when you actually start writing complex pieces. It’s too constraining, and makes people put in (or leave out) points depending on how many spots they have left between their intro and conclusion. Again, writing is about flexibility, not rigidity.

Here’s the big secret: make your argument fucking bullet-proof. Take a side, and pound your theory home. You don’t need to be a jerk about it, but hedging your bets and sitting on the fence is a very tough thing to do right, and takes a ton of practice. And even then, it’s really only good in certain situations.

If I can drive a truck through holes in your argument, reexamine it. Leave some flexibility for yourself so you don’t back yourself into a corner, but make your argument solid. (Hint: this is where you use all those wonderful quotes, links, and examples we’re all so fond of).

Length

This is something that’s become somewhat taboo in our bite-sized, bloggish culture. The concept of writing anything long is considered “old” and “ramble-y.” Posts that appear “too long” are labeled “tl;dr” and relegated to the bottom of the pile.

But the reality is that some pieces should be longer. Or not. It all depends on the article and what you’re writing about.

If you’re just giving me a list of things (ideas, tips, etc.), then let me know at the beginning that it’s a listicle. If it’s just a fleeting thought to consider, don’t gear me up at the beginning for a long thought-piece, otherwise when you end abruptly, it feels like the bottom has just dropped out.

But if it’s a topic and argument that demands a long-form length, then be damn sure you give the piece what it requires. Trying to squeeze too much into a bite-sized article is a sure-fire way to tell your readers you have no idea how to articulate what you want to say. There’s a reason that publications like The New Yorker specialize in long-form content: they know how to flesh out an argument, and how to do it well.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Be willing to cut. Sometimes less is more. Be honest with yourself: if those extra two paragraphs don’t serve your argument or style, kick ’em to the curb. Learn to love deleting extra junk. There’s nothing as paralyzing as “blank-page” syndrome, but there’s nothing more unsightly than flabby content that serves no purpose. If you write 3 pages and delete everything except for the 1 paragraph that’s exceptional, it’s a good day.

Understanding length and how to use it to your advantage is equally as important as understanding how to format to your advantage.

Style

Now we’ve finally come to the most important thing no one tells you about and everyone forgets about: your style is everything. It took working as an editor for me to understand that everyone has a unique style, and that’s what makes someone’s writing compelling — or boring.

Writing like an editor means understanding what style works for you, and really flexing your creative muscles with it. It means exploring the types of slang that make your writing your own, what types of structure you totally own, and what topics are in your wheelhouse. If you’re an expert in something, write like you are. If you know you’re not, then proceed more gingerly and don’t try to pretend you’re something that you’re not.

Use punctuation that you’re a master at; there’s no “learning on the job” when it comes to punctuation. Poorly chosen punctuation can absolutely kill a piece with potential.

The reader can always tell.

The irony is, the more you write about something, the more you know about it, and the more you begin to develop original thoughts on it.

Your voice is your own, and is the one thing you have complete control over. Understand that voices change and evolve over time — your early writing will look a lot different from your more mature pieces. This is a good thing. Learn to isolate what makes your writing voice special without getting bogged down in the past. Once you have it, run with it.

And that’s about it, for the moment.

And that’s about it, for the moment. I could tackle tons of other topics like introductions, conclusions, transitions, titles, citations, or writing a series of pieces, but I think I’ll save those for another day. The important thing to remember is that writing is a process. One and done isn’t how to play the game.

If you’re going to write something, get in the trenches and get dirty. Don’t make me read some half-hearted piece of crap if you don’t have anything real to say. The hard part is knowing what’s real enough to write about, so I’ll leave that up to you.

Find me on Twitter and let’s talk tech, writing, and music!