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I Went Viral! I Didn’t Go Viral! Lessons From 1 Year on LinkedIn’s Pulse

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My first post on Pulse trended to 90k+ reads. My second post above 20k. One of my more recent posts had 218 reads. Welcome to my year long publishing experiment on Linkedin’s Pulse, which is now up over a million writers btw. 

For those of you considering how you might be part of the push to 2 million writers, these are a few of the things I’ve observed in that time:

1. Snappy headlines are good, but you’re fooling yourself if you think you can predict what people will respond to. I’ve read the advice posts about headlines, viewed the data about best times to publish and keywords that draw best response rates and they’re all totally valid except for when they’re not. And that’s the whole point of creating content. You can’t know what’s going to resonate and what won’t. Nor do you have visibility in real-time to effect any kind of A/B testing. So you’re left with luck. Timing. A great picture. Your writing. And maybe more luck. Welcome to the joy of creating.

2. Pulse is first and foremost about entertainment. That’s not meant as a criticism, rather an observation. People may be on LI for a lot of different reasons, but the reality is that they’ve got a limited amount of time and want to cover a lot of ground. Your white paper on whatever subject may be awesome; but, in my experience, “education” posts do not draw readers the way entertainment does. 

3. Distribution is everything. Absolutely tweet to tips @LinkedInPulse. If your post doesn’t get featured, no one’s going to see it. Of course, even if your post does get featured, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get read by anyone. And, to that end, just because you tweet to @LinkedInPulse about your post, that doesn’t mean you’ll get featured, regardless. But tweeting’s the best you can hope for. Bottom-line: you and a million others are hoping to be read and shared. I’ve seen a fair bit of complaining about this in some of the writer groups. Here’s the reality: If you’re not an influencer,  your part of the firehose of content. There’s some opacity in the system. Deal with it.

4. Have I mentioned there’s a flood of content? I’ve observed a steady decline in the number of total reads of my posts (along with everyone else’s) over time, surely a victim of the flood. Even if it trends, since you’re not an influencer, your Pulse post will have a very short tail – 24 hours at best, and then it’s going to fall into the great void that is the internet. Which means that a) you shouldn’t waste too much time writing the perfect article;  b) you should focus more on writing more often; and most importantly, c) you should have realistic expectations about what success looks like.

5. Speaking of which, define success ahead of time. This is a strategy no-brainer, but it’s frequently overlooked by a lot of people. I have had lots of interesting and cool people connect with me after reading one of my posts. After my post about lying to James Cameron, I got INMAIL messages from people THANKING me for sharing the truth of their work experiences. For me, that was an awesome success point – if only because, as one person stated, INMAIL’s cost money! Or the time I was at a client giving a workshop and one of the participants pulled me aside to tell me how much they agreed with me about Millennials (336 reads). Success. A friend read my post on Interviewing right before she had her own interview, and she said it helped her be more mindful of sitting forward and showing engagement in her interview. Success!

So there you have it. Should you be publishing on Pulse? If you enjoy writing, yes. Will it make you famous? Unlikely. Is it satisfying professionally? I can tell you that having 90k+ reads is more fun than having 100. Will it get you work? Uh….

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