How best to start a social media campaign on LinkedIn, the professional network. Nils Jeners is a freelance innovation coach and consultant. And he kicks off my new special series on “Social Media” in my podcast “Designed Innovation”.
The podcast comes out regularly with a new episode. In addition to this English-language version, a German-language version is also published in parallel. Always in alternation there is a column or an audio lexicon.
This is a special series on social media. There will be 14 episodes in total. In episode 1, Nils Jeners is the interview partner.
The appeal of LinkedIn
What appeals to me about LinkedIn is networking with like-minded people. I don’t see it primarily as a sales tool, i.e., establishing contact with my customers. That’s a side effect, but I don’t see it as that important. It just happens on the side. I think it’s much more important to exchange ideas with experts who do things in the same way or differently to exchange perspectives. Because I work on a freelance basis and alone, which ultimately makes LinkedIn such an extended team for me.
Because it’s a networking platform, how I came to it is maybe worth an anecdote. I signed up at some point, I don’t know, in 2007 or so, but I used it the way it was meant to be used, just with a profile, and that was it. And then I networked with acquaintances from time to time, and that’s about it.
And I got more involved through my former boss, who said we should be more active. And he said once a week we should write something. And then I thought to myself, once a week, why don’t you try it every day. That’s what I did at the beginning of 2020: To write something every day except on the weekend, and I stuck with it because I also saw the effect. So because I’ve seen how strongly a network can grow, I grew from, I don’t know, 800, 900 contacts to over 4,000 followers, now followers, no more extended contacts, and this network growth. I find it simply exciting, because along with it, of course, a vast exchange can take place.
LinkedIn as an exchange platform
The exchange on LinkedIn ultimately takes place first through the posts. You generate attention to what you do, what you stand for. And the essential exchange with these other experts than, of course, no longer takes place on LinkedIn. But you chat back and forth, but then arrange to meet for a virtual coffee, half-hour and then talk about various topics. Ultimately, LinkedIn is only intended as a networking tool but not an exchange platform. Still, without LinkedIn, this exchange would not be able to take place.
Last year I tried to have a conversation every day for half an hour, which worked quite well on average, certainly over several months. But now I’ve cut back a bit because of the time pressure, maybe once or three times a week. And that’s with freelance consultants, not necessarily always in the innovation area, sometimes with innovation houses, agencies, or people who work in the company in this area.
Many people do not betray now also then secrets if one meets the first time. It’s more like checking out where the market is going, how the trends are, and what others are doing. They are more like small signals rather than something surprising. When people have a management position in innovation, I ask how they work, how the department is structured. And this is generated knowledge for me, which is not in any textbook. That’s helpful for me, but it’s nothing surprising or earth-shattering. Still, it gives you a much better feeling of how the industry works.
Kind of activity on LinkedIn
It needs somehow such a starting point to write a post. That’s sometimes a fixed idea. Sometimes it comes from such virtual coffees with others, sometimes just from working with customers every day or just working on something alone. Then it occurs to you. That’s a posting-worthy piece of content. And then that has to be worked out again as a posting because you can’t just post it out there as I write it to the customer.
Still, you have to put it in some bracket or do it independently in such a way that it just also works.
And I’ve experimented with different content types, just text, text with images, these carousels. I’ve also done videos before. For me, ultimately, the workflow is the most important, so an efficient workflow. The posting has to be done quickly. I can’t produce long videos because I do that alongside work and try to do one every day. If a posting like that takes half an hour, then that’s just time, and the shorter, the better.
So specifically, I work with Canva. I previously worked with Keynote from Apple, which you can also export as a pdf and then upload. Canva is just interesting because it’s all online and can be posted immediately on LinkedIn and even scheduled. And that’s quite good for me. Partly I do on vacation. Somewhat it goes through, but Canva automatically posts one or two weeks. And I have the articles prepared. And I have my templates in there, my style ultimately with colors and font, and then I have to write it down, and then it’s also finished.
Sometimes it’s like this, sometimes it’s like that, depending on how mature the idea is. Sometimes it needs an exciting graphic. I think about a post for several days before it’s ready. Some I actually write and then don’t send it because I think it’s stupid because the fixed idea doesn’t work.
It varies a lot how long I need for posts. Sometimes it’s an idea, and until the post, it’s only five minutes. And I’m done. Sometimes the idea is in my head or somewhere on the notepad, even several weeks. And they may not go out at all. That’s very different. Sometimes I have no lead time at all. Then I have to post something in the morning, in quotes, I don’t have to, sometimes I skip a day. Sometimes, before Christmas, for example, I had the whole month of December full because I sat down once and said I have time, do this now. And then it was, by before Christmas, I had prepared two and a half weeks.
I only have one template. So in terms of style, it looks the same. I have three different colors that I change somehow; that’s random. It doesn’t always look the same, but the structure is always identical. So I don’t differentiate there. There are, of course, more text-heavy posts and more graphics-heavy posts. I wouldn’t distinguish, so I took the template from the text and made the text away, and made a graphic in. After that, it just looks different. But it’s not like I follow a system that on Mondays, I only have motivational posts, and on Tuesdays, I only have training posts. That’s how it comes to my mind. And how also I say the impulses come from my daily work.
I don’t know how much it’s read, so whether it’s the one-sentence tile that resonates with the audience or the longer text that explains that one sentence, I don’t know. There’s not that much commentary there either that you could kind of read that out. I’m experimenting with it, but I don’t write huge texts because of the time.
So you can write 1,000 characters already on LinkedIn. That’s for me than actually three, four paragraphs with one, two sentences. That’s all it takes to explain what I have on this tile.
As I said, whether these texts are read, I don’t know at all. I feel that also as annoying work, I must say. I remain unclear and leave room for interpretation to write this text about it. I have tried it, of course, once.
But now, today, I have a post where no text is over it. So where I have now also no one-sentence tile but made a text in the carousel. I’m experimenting with it now. These are then essentially shorter texts that do not require any explanation.
Kind of interaction
I have experimented with call-to-action elements. I find that rather, rather clumsy. “Comment here or make a heart if you find that.” I see pretty clumsy. Also, call-to-action like “if you want to download this” or “if you want to have the document comment with XYZ,” I find it clumsy. Still, it works, but I usually refrain from that.
I read all comments, not always immediately. I rarely answer them. I don’t get into a discussion. So when people criticize something, I say thank you for the perspective, “you can also see it that way.”
Someone also attacked me once that that was inappropriate. That there was room for interpretation. It was about triage, which you can also see in connection with Corona, which he found inadmissible because it’s also about the suffering of people.
I said, yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way; everyone can see it that way. But I don’t want to get into a discussion. I had once or several times people who have warred under my comments. I do not get involved. A) I do not have as much time. B) it brings me nothing.
I’m not saying that I find it stupid. I don’t want to get involved in it. Different perspectives also give readers more content and exciting information. I think people can interpret it differently. But I don’t have to take a position on it now.
Yes, with LinkedIn, it’s impressive. It’s a business network, but the fewer brains you put into a post, the more successful it becomes. That’s my rule of thumb. The intelligent things that don’t resonate so much, the funny things that you can shake out of your sleeve quickly, work very well.
And the ones that don’t have anything to do with business might even work the best.
Of course, you have to be careful, if you only post things like that, you’ll be unfollowed very quickly, because people don’t like that either. I think it’s the mix that makes it. If you read so on blogs, then, of course, videos should work well. These call-to-actions, “if you want to have this document,” also work well. These icon surveys work very well where each icon stands for a specific answer. Of course, you answer or like the post, and it is also pushed again. But also, regular surveys work well, which depends significantly on the algorithm that LinkedIn has implemented there and which content types they want to push. And you know that there are videos on their platform and that there are surveys. And this also works very well. But you don’t know how long.
I’ve been doing this now since the beginning of 2020. Meanwhile, LinkedIn changed the algorithm once, and you noticed that very much. So I had likes before between 100 and 200 to 500 on average. And all of a sudden, I only had under 100, like 40, 50. And I didn’t change anything in my content. I didn’t have 100 people bounce or anything like that. Still, it was just because LinkedIn decided to play the content differently.
Of course, people can follow you without you agreeing. That happens. People follow you without you compromising. Let them do that, for that, that’s why I do it in the end. But of course, some people send you to contact requests, where you then agree and then also write back and say, yes, thank you for networking. I also report back to everyone then, thank you for networking, I’m looking forward to the exchange, so quite non-binding, quite open. And then nothing comes back.
And then, I asked myself why they wanted to network with me. They can also follow me. Sometimes it comes back, yes, excellent, friendly, thank you, and then nothing happens. And sometimes, these virtual coffees come.
And in 2020, I did that very offensively. I also talked to people from Australia, Africa, and everywhere, India. That’s nice. But in the end, that doesn’t bring me much.
For instance, I talked to someone who is setting up a safari in Africa. That’s exciting, but that doesn’t get me anywhere professionally. Much better are contacts in Europe or even better maybe even in Germany, because that can then A) become cooperation partners or B) of course also become customers.
But, I do not understand people who send a contact request and then do not write back or interact.
Inspirations for social media work
So the master of social media is undoubtedly Gary Vaynerchuk. He certainly does or uses social media optimally. There are some other smaller ones that I wouldn’t recommend at all now, but from Gary V., you can learn a little bit.
Tips to get started
Yeah, a social media starter mindset tip is: Do it, really start with the platform where you’re up for it. And then try out what you think works or what you’ve picked up from other people.
I wouldn’t give a tip for a platform at all because it’s very different from what your goal is.
If I want to get ahead professionally, certainly LinkedIn. If I want to get ahead artistically, maybe Instagram or TikTok, that’s very open.
You can undoubtedly reinterpret that, but sign up, see what others are doing, try to imitate that, I say, try it out, and then find your style.