Few publishing platforms are both as accessible and as powerful in expanding reach as LinkedIn Pulse. Anyone responsible for business development, sales, customer service, or simply managing their own personal brand can benefit from the platform’s powerful features:

  • LinkedIn automatically notifies your network when you publish.
  • Every like, comment, and share on your post exposes your work to everyone in the responder’s network.
  • Native analytics allow you to see who engages with your content, and to connect with them.

Of course, your success on the platform is limited by the quality of the work you publish: Make the writing crisp and catchy, address issues of interest for your audience, use bullet points and graphs, include a high resolution photo, make it scannable, etc. etc. You can read that advice elsewhere, and it’s all true, but it’s also true that quality isn’t the only thing that matters.

I write extensively both for myself and for clients. I produce content for company blogs, Pulse, media distribution, article placement, and guest blogs. In any given week, I produce between five and ten pieces of substantial content (and lots of smaller items). I’ve been doing this since before LinkedIn was even a thing, so I’ve had a little experience seeing what works best where.  Here’s what you need to know:

One: Make it Timely

One of the most successful articles I ever wrote was published on a Monday after a weekend’s firestorm of publicity around the (badly conceived) Peeple app. I followed the unfolding of the media disaster closely over the weekend, and then tapped into the outrage surrounding it for the article on Monday. Though it wasn’t initially published on the LinkedIn platform, the piece is a poster child for the power of timeliness. It was re-shared hundreds of times, and became the highest trafficked item of content (ever) on the site where it was published.

People like to read and talk about whatever’s hot that day or week. This is particularly true on social media (including LinkedIn), where the content feed is inundated constantly with sales messages and tired old “five top reasons” and “four keys to” (←See what I did there?) articles. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of content, but if you tie your topic to something that is trending, you will attract more attention and conversation.

It takes a little more thought to do this, especially if you’re not currently following any trending topics, but it’s often worth it for the increased engagement. Try using a topic you already have in mind, and tweak it slightly to tie it in. For instance:

  • If you’re writing about branding, think about how it relates to a celebrity that’s in the news, and write “Five Reasons X Celebrity Rocks at Branding.”
  • If you’re writing about analytics, maybe there’s a whimsical connection you can make to a high-profile incident that could have been prevented if only the data had been tracked with predictive technology.
  • Major sports events provide plentiful opportunity to talk about “playbooks” and connect them with operational issues faced by your audience.

Be creative, and use current events to spice up even typically “dull” topics. You can also use current events to inspire your topics. I had not planned to write about branding the week that Ms. Cordray staged her epic flaming disaster, but that is what happened, and it was beautiful.

A word of caution: Exercise your common sense and human empathy. The death of a loved icon, a tragedy that’s in the news—these are not good topics to choose unless your piece is sensitive, compassionate, and contains zero whiffs of self-serving-ness. Upbeat topics are safer. Exercise good judgment and think through how your audience will feel about your treatment of the topic before you hit “publish.”

Two: Make it Thought Provoking

One of the most successful brands on LinkedIn, in my network, is the one grown by Liz Ryan, founder of the Human Workplace. Recent titles include “Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions,” “The Interview Question Job-Seekers Hate Most,” and “If You’re Stuck in a Toxic Workplace, Read This.”

Be honest. You clicked through on one of those, didn’t you? And it was worth it.

What makes Ryan’s work so magical (besides its quality and adorable illustrations) is that they refuse to accept the standard view of the world. They provide something new, intriguing, and thought-provoking.

While there is a place for listicles and how-tos on LinkedIn, the material that gets the most attention is usually something that takes a new point of view, challenges the status quo, or introduces new ideas that the readers haven’t previously encountered.

Three: Make it Relevant

Okay, time to let my cranky-pants flag fly. Is there anything on earth more irritating than scanning LinkedIn for updates and finding half the feed clogged with headlines like “Three Ways to Get Him to Pop the Question” (←GAG, I mean I can’t even) and “Six Reality Shows You Don’t Want to Miss This Season” (←Double gag)? No. The answer is no. There is nothing more irritating.

So, obviously, keeping it relevant means not talking about your pet poodle (unless you can figure out how to make that REALLY connected to a work topic) or who the latest pop icon is (unless you’re in the business of pop culture) or whether women can attract more attention with a particular shade of lipstick (please shoot me now or shall we talk gender politics? No, probably not).

But it also means knowing your audience, targeting the piece specifically for them in the mindset they’re in when using the LinkedIn platform, and connecting it with your company and/or professional brand

Pro tip: Topics that are directly relevant to Linkedin (like: “How to build your brand on LinkedIn,” “How not to connect on LinkedIn,” “How to improve your LinkedIn profile,” etc.) tend to do very well on the platform. I not-so-secretly suspect that LinkedIn’s algorithm gives these a little boost in how and where it displays them.

Beyond that, take the time to join groups and look at the types of topics people in your target audience like to discuss. What are they engaging with? What are they posting about? Use these topics to inspire your own content.

Four: Make it Personal

Here’s the most successful article I’ve written under my own byline on the LinkedIn Pulse platform so far. Notice anything? (Besides the actual numbers, which I know you’re looking at because naturally you’re curious how successful “most successful” is for me personally—not so much as some, not too shabby either). Here’s what you may notice:

It’s all about me.

I know that sounds counter to a lot of advice. “Make it about your customer,” “make it about your audience,” “It’s all about the buyer’s journey!” I’ve said those things myself many, many times, and they are true.

It is also true that people trust people who are willing to put their own names and their own stories on the line. There is power in self-revelation and vulnerability.

This piece worked because it told a story, a very personal story. And it worked because that story is one that resonates for the audience.

It’s both/and—I had my audience (fellow copywriters, some of whom might, I hope, be interested in my copywriter training program) in mind throughout. I knew the pieces of my story that they would care to hear. And then I let them see me, authentically, including all those days of ramen noodles and late power bills that many of them identify with. Then I gave them practical, hands-on advice straight from my heart to theirs, on matters that matter to them deeply.

Making it personal won’t always mean telling your own story. Sometimes it means making the topic personal to the people who will read it. Re-read those articles by Liz Ryan. She taps into matters of personal import for the people reading them, mostly without telling any personal stories of her own.

Don’t think that just because your market is a technical B2B market that the “make it personal” rule doesn’t apply. Sure, CEOs and VPs and operations directors all have business concerns that are top of mind. They can read about those topics anywhere. But who’s talking to them about what makes them tick? About what touches them personally? Find the raw places, the places where they’re not completely sure themselves, and you’ll be amazed at your results.