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How to Use Long-Form Content for Personal Branding5 min read

April 10, 2017
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How to Use Long-Form Content for Personal Branding5 min read

Long-form content is the key to thought leadership. That holds true with business and it undoubtedly holds true with personal branding. The sooner you start leveraging thought leadership to build your own channels, the more exposure you can bring to your own expertise within your industry. When done right, it can grow your network and opportunities, especially amongst business-centric platforms like LinkedIn and Medium.

While working on how others see you can seem like a second job or another gig to add to your schedule, it can lead to plenty of inbound opportunities in the long run.

In 2016, I was named No. 5 among LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Marketing—a distinction given the top ten thought leaders and content creators within a specific vertical. Here’s what I learned about being successful with long-form content, applicable for both LinkedIn and Medium.

Growing your audience on LinkedIn

In the race for virality, we’ve all reached the point of frustration where what you’ve written doesn’t produce the return you’ve expected. LinkedIn is a prioritized channel for businesses, especially with it’s growing community of engaged users looking to expand their own network. Now, with 160,000 new articles per week on LinkedIn, entrepreneurs and freelancers are using the platform to grow their audiences and their businesses.

I molded my own approach to publishing on LinkedIn and identified a handful of easily replicable tactics:

Choosing the right topic

Many times, the methods for optimizing content will vary across platforms, and that is inherently true with publishing on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has just announced Storylines which help users with a head start when it comes to identifying trending topics and themes worth writing about.

The difference in this platform lies here: LinkedIn has become a syndicated outlet for news reporters and media publishers, so you must speak from a new, fresh angle about a timely trend. Choosing the right event, from the right perspective, can increase your story’s exposure and engagement. In short, your post must present a new point-of-view if you want to reach a mass audience.

Getting the timing right

As a business professional writing to other business professionals, it’s vital that you take everyone’s schedule into consideration when looking to publish. The best writers have aligned their posting schedule with anticipated activity on LinkedIn. As someone who’s a part of the audience you’re writing to, assume their role for a second when you’re deciding when to push your content live.

Monday mornings are usually inopportune times, as many of the readers you want to reach are catching up on the weekend’s emails, rather than browsing their LinkedIn feeds. This same thought process applies to Friday afternoon, when people are just as busy finishing their week’s work in preparation for the weekend.

Put your posts in the best position of being seen by finding the right schedule for your immediate audience. Data shows that posts published on Thursdays see the highest average total views, closely followed by Sunday.

Using the algorithm to your advantage

Engaging in conversation with those who comment or share your content is crucial for growing your readership on any platform. It’s arguably even more important when it comes to your success on LinkedIn, since LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards active conversation.

The algorithm uses a few ways to tap into additional networks through those who’ve engaged with your work. When a user likes or comments on an article of yours, it appears on their network feed. LinkedIn’s product is built to present content that similar audiences would be interested in and find valuable.

You can hack this product feature to your own benefit by starting conversations with those who have responded to your content. Interaction in the comments section of an article is the reason behind the success of many of my LinkedIn articles—not to mention that the most engaged threads will get pinned to the top of the comment section.

On LinkedIn, engaging with those who comment or share your content is critical to growing an audience. Click To Tweet

Tagging individuals who have their own followings is another method of garnering more exposure, but be wary of overdoing it and appearing too spammy in your approach. That said, including other (relevant!) thought leaders in the conversation can bring in credible perspectives from which your readers will ultimately benefit.

Same methods, different Medium

Your presence on Medium will benefit from these same practices. To be more efficient, it’s advisable to find a way to repurpose the content you’ve spent so long writing amongst different platforms. Since most people’s LinkedIn audiences vary from that of their Medium profiles, repackaging content is a common practice here.

Medium is similar to publishing on LinkedIn in many ways, but it also differs largely in the fact that it doesn’t have as large of a built-in audience of readers who actively engage and network there. For context, LinkedIn has 460 million+ members; Medium has 30 million users.

Distribution is key

As you well know, your work isn’t done once it’s published and dismissing distribution does yourself and your creativity a disservice. The true test comes in what you do immediately after you’ve posted. Where are you sharing this content and to whom?

Syndication is a major catalyst for any trending post on LinkedIn and Medium. Few things are more important than earning early traction on your article. Consider pushing your content to relevant LinkedIn Groups as these communities are full of decision makers in the industry, which is a prime opportunity to introduce them to you and your brand. But, at the same time, it must provide value in an organic way, and that is achieved with the techniques above.

Both LinkedIn and Medium house a community of hungry enthusiasts in their own right. It’s quite possible to build your thought leadership brand and convert new business with the right narrative and approach.

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Dennis Williams II is a is a contributor for Hustle&Co, the leading publication devoted to educating and empowering the future workforce. He's also a LinkedIn Top Voice in marketing and co-author of the Content Engine. Dennis speaks on the future of content and how it relates to digital platforms, from a millennial's perspective. He is currently the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Redbooth, and you can find him here on Twitter.
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