Digital-First Leadership

Podcast

LinkedIn Algorithm and Strategy with Richard van der Blom

July 27, 2021
Richard Bliss

In this episode, Richard dives into LinkedIn strategy with Richard van der Blom, the founder of Just Connected, a LinkedIn and Sales Navigator training company that is responsible for the yearly LinkedIn Algorithm Report. Both Richards are deeply knowledgeable on the strategies of LinkedIn engagement. 

As Richard van der Blom says, "Working on LinkedIn is like playing a board game, and a lot of people haven't read or learned the rules." Richard van der Blom also shares his top tips for creating the best engagement strategy for creators and executives alike. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardvanderblom//

Narator:

Welcome to Digital-First Leadership, the podcast that focuses on helping leaders and teams understand how to master the language of social media in today's digital First World. In this episode, Richard dives into LinkedIn strategy with Richard van der Blom, the founder of Just Connecting, a LinkedIn and Sales Navigator training company who is responsible for the yearly LinkedIn algorithm report. Both the Richards are deeply knowledgeable on the strategies of LinkedIn engagement. As Richard van der Blom says, working on LinkedIn is like playing a board game and a lot of people haven't read or learned the rules and Richard van der Blom shares his top tips for creating the best engagement strategy for creators and executives alike.

Richard Bliss:

I want to welcome everyone for joining us! It's always a pleasure to have you here on the show. My guest today is someone who's been on the show I think before, but it's hard to tell because he and I talk and engage all the time. I'm welcoming Richard van der Blom. Richard, thanks for joining me.

Richard van der Blom:

You're welcome, Richard. Always a pleasure to be on your show.

Richard Bliss:

It is always a pleasure. This time, you know, I think it's, I don't know if you've been on the, have you been on the podcast before? I think it was the, we've done so many little videos and trainings together. That's what it's hard to remember.

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, I don't think I've been on the podcast. We did two short videos, which we both publish on LinkedIn, with awesome results and yeah, like you did, we did some trainings together and almost on a weekly basis, no?

Richard Bliss:

We do. And for those who don't know, Richard van der Blom is the owner/founder of Just Connecting, LinkedIn, and Sales Navigator consulting practice. Richard is Dutch-based in Valencia, Spain, and he produces and puts out the annual LinkedIn algorithm research report. And this is one of the reasons he and I have worked together over the last year or two, clearly. And so Richard, as you join me, one of the things that we continually see is an increased interest in how LinkedIn works and it's been a dramatic increase in the interest. What do you think is driving a lot of that interest?

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, I've seen it myself and also pose myself this question, I think, well, I don't want to bring the pandemic back in as a topic, but I think the past one and a half years people have been working more remotely, have been doing more sales, remotely, networking remotely. So it has become quite busy on our LinkedIn feed. People are posting, people are engaging. So I think what happens is that everybody now is really looking how they can stand out in a timeline. And a lot of people are, at this moment, sharing insights about the algorithm and about how to maximize your content on LinkedIn or maximize the impact. So I think because people read more and more about the algorithm, they become more and more interested in it. I think that's what's happening.

Richard Bliss:

I think that's it. I think that's a good way of looking at it because your research, this'll be the third year of the research. Is that right? The third year of the report?

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, no, the third year. We did the first in 2019. Last year, we were a bit late in October, and this year we are aiming to release the report in September.

Richard Bliss:

And this report now, because I see it having read the reports, worked with you so closely, I see it now popping up everywhere because it's really driving a lot of awareness that the behaviors and activities that we use on other social media platforms often are detrimental to our efforts on LinkedIn because LinkedIn operates fundamentally different, doesn't it?

Richard van der Blom:

Yep.

Richard Bliss:

And so what would you think would be some of those common misconceptions or mistakes that people who are just starting out, trying to stand out on LinkedIn, what are they doing maybe that they need to change?

Richard van der Blom:

Well, it's a good question. I see a lot of people that are in the same business as us that share the knowledge and insights how LinkedIn works with their clients. I see a lot of those people now creating posts, maybe because they suffer algorithm fatigue and they go, forget about the algorithm because there's no way you will find out how it works. Just focus on creating quality content and then the magic will happen. And I agree and in the same time I disagree because I agree that quality content is key. If you don't have quality content, it doesn't matter if the algorithm picks it up or pushes it away, it will not bring you any results.

Richard van der Blom:

But over the past two, maybe three, years, I've worked with a lot of companies and a lot of good sales and marketing professionals who were able to create a lot of awesome content. And then they got disappointed by the results, and then why, because they published it in a way, in a form, that the algorithm does not like. And I look at this as playing a board game. I like to play board games, you know, I know we live in the era of video games, but I still like to play board games. And I always say like this, it's like playing a board game without knowing the rules. There's no way you're going to win the game. It's not possible.

Richard van der Blom:

So that's why I disagree. You just, if you are able to create killer content, really valuable relevant content, and you abase some of the algorithm rules, you will see an increase with three, four times, more views which eventually, because of the quality of the content, will resolve in three, four times more engagement, more conversion. And I think that's where we are, that's what our main goal should be on LinkedIn.

Richard Bliss:

It really is. And as I talked to, you and I both talked to executives, we talked to sales teams all over the world, and a couple of things: one is that some get discouraged because they're caught up in believing that they always have to be creating content. And I see behavior carry over from Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, where it's quantity over quality, right? Just pump it out, just keep it coming. [crosstalk 00:06:23] What a lot of people don't understand is that LinkedIn is going to actively try to discourage you from that kind of behavior, right? For example, go ahead.

Richard van der Blom:

No, that's one of the things, you know, and I think you'd get the same question. People think that they should, well, there is a vast majority that even doesn't succeed in publishing a post once a week, they still find that a challenge.

Richard Bliss:

Yeah.

Richard van der Blom:

But a lot of people, once you to get the hang of it, once you get, you know, once you get the routine, and creating content, and especially also publishing more posts of your own, some of the people, they are going to post more than a day, or they're going to post in a frequency that your new post will actually harm the performance of your previous post.

Richard van der Blom:

And we see mainly two things happen: first, if you publish your posts on the same day, because then LinkedIn is going to not show your previous posts in the timeline because they want to test your second post of the day, so you actually are killing, making your first posts invisible. And you see this in the numbers. And the second thing that happens, that is, if you make, if you create a very good post that is bringing you not only views, but also engagement for the first day, but also the second day, I always advise people just wait until you seriously see a drop in engagement and then post the new stuff. So as long as you post is performing, don't be too quick with making a new post because LinkedIn will stop showing your first post. And if this is engaging, then it would be a shame to stop that post from being visible in the timeline.

Richard Bliss:

And I see a lot of people who don't even, who aren't even aware, because they've turned to automation tools to put the content out on their social media, on a regular cadence. And they're not even paying attention to whether their content is resonating with their audience or not, right? It goes out every morning, 9:00 AM, no matter what the next post goes out.

Richard van der Blom:

There are several reasons why automation tools do not work. People think they are efficient, people think they are playing the game, but they're playing the wrong game or they're playing the wrong game on the wrong board. First of all, people that use automation often don't engage with the engagement. So they use automation, the post is out, they're not seeing the posts themselves, and they get comments and get likes and they do not reach out. And if you, as an author, don't engage, then you know, the algorithm would will not pick up the post as fast as if you will engage in the first two hours. That's the first thing.

Richard van der Blom:

Second, if you use automations, if you use a scheduling tool, we have seen not a big, but a small decrease of your first batch, because LinkedIn wants us to be present on the platform when we publish a post, they do not want you to use external tools. An interesting question we got from some of our clients was, "But what if we use, for example, HubSpot or Hootsuite, which are official partners of LinkedIn?". And even then we see a small decrease in numbers and obviously they're not going to confirm this nor is HubSpot, but we see it.

Richard Bliss:

Yeah, it's a big challenge for a lot of companies that are running employee advocacy tools that are helping the employees share the content. Well, that works on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, but it doesn't work on LinkedIn. And that's one of the biggest, I think, unlearnings we do with our clients is to help them understand that they should use that as ideas for content and not simply to click the share button and push it out there.

Richard van der Blom:

No, I agree.

Richard Bliss:

Yeah. One of the biggest things that we also see is helping executives, particularly executives and sales leaders find the time to participate in social media. And one of the biggest things we talked to them about is, look, you don't have to create a piece of content all the time. There's a much more effective way of engaging on LinkedIn that will spread your influence. And you just shared a post on LinkedIn that did very well talking on this very topic, right? What advice do you give to an executive who wants to have an influence on LinkedIn? What behaviors should they be doing more than anything?

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, I think you're referring to the slide I have posted where I said 10 comments a day make their frustration go away, you know? The frustration about finding the time to create an authentic post every week or every few days, for a lot of people, that is a frustration because first you need to find a topic, then you need to find the assets, whether it's a picture or a video, then you need to find a time to write, and maybe you get disappointed by the results. Well, if you identify every day, ten valuable, relevant discussions, whether it's inside your first degree network or whether you find them by searching for [inaudible 00:11:25] buzzwords, and you just go into 'add value' by commenting on, let's say, 10 posts, you will see a massive increase in profile views, in invitations, people coming back to your profile. So this works actually really good.

Richard Bliss:

It does. And that was it. And what's interesting is that I had somebody in the executive yesterday, a CTO of a fairly large company say, "Well, what's the point? Why am I doing this?" And I explained to them, as we looked at their LinkedIn profile that had no banner image, no photo, no about section. I said, you're the leading face and voice of your company in this digital-first age, and every prospect who's looking to come to work for your company, every employee, every partner, every customer... nearly a hundred percent are looking at your LinkedIn profile beforehand. And when you start commenting and engaging, they start to see your voice that's not filtered through a press release or a soundbite, but instead is authentic you. That's the point, is that in today's digital first world, nobody sees you. [crosstalk 00:12:29]

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, definitely. I can back up this because I found an interesting research about two weeks ago, and one of the elements they researched they asked, I think were about 8,000 buyers globally. They asked, if you are doing research for doing the buyer journey for a potential customer, what kind of profiles will you research from the company? The first was product managers, product developers, because those are the people who often share insight about innovation, about product specs. Second was C-level. So they're going to look at the profile of the CTO, seeing no banner, no picture, and think, "Hey, what the hell? This is not a very professional company or person." Third was company page, and salespeople were almost at the bottom of the research. Only 30% looks for salespeople, because they don't want to engage with salespeople, because as soon as the buyer takes in the salespeople's profile, you know, within 10 minutes you will receive an invitation and a pitch or something. So they are looking to find either in-depth content about the products or the services, but also are looking at a C-level of the company, that's where you can build trust. So definitely executive's profiles need to be very professional as being one of the most important stakeholders of the company.

Richard Bliss:

It really is, and it's one of the things. And I'm here in Silicon Valley, you're there in Europe. It's amazing that the vast majority of my clients, when you look at their C-level or their senior VPs, that you would think that tech companies, particularly my clients, you'd think that they would be out there. No, no. Sometimes they're the worst, because they're oftentimes driven by relationships and subject matter expertise and don't think that the social media thing is really important to them.

Richard van der Blom:

I think they haven't made a transformation from LinkedIn being a resume, an online resume, to LinkedIn being a business-wise network tool. They do it offline. For example, I was phoned by very big company last week, where I got a call to have a meeting with a chief commercial officer, very big company, international operating, and they got my name through another CCO in one of their networking clubs of our clients, and lucky for us, they spoke good about us. But you see that they network on an offline level and also online, but they don't relate to LinkedIn as being the business network tool where they should present themselves in a way they would also do offline. So I think that's one of the main reasons.

Richard Bliss:

I agree, and that you bring up a really invaluable insight is that they do this offline, but online, and as I have these conversations, one of the challenges is, is that they feel that it's forced online, that it's an artificial forced, insincere effort. And I have to point out to them that if they were in person, would they share a personal anecdote? Would they want to talk about their background? Would they only talk about the jobs that they've had in the past and the certifications they've received? The answer is no, because they say, "Well, I don't want to share personal information."

Richard Bliss:

`And then we have to do the distinction between personal and private. And the personal information, I like to bike, I like to swim, right? I have a dog, whatever that might be. That's personal, but not private. And so that's getting them comfortable with understanding that this online world takes a different set of skillsets. And I think you've done a really good job of identifying that with what you've said. The people want to find out more information about you, the research, LinkedIn, what you're doing, your training, particularly those listening from Europe, how do they find you?

Richard van der Blom:

Well, the traditional way is through the website, which is www.justconnecting.nl. We also have an English version, but, you know, that needs a big update and most of the people who ask for my contact details I always refer to my LinkedIn profile because that's actually more up-to-date. They can also connect with me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I share a lot of insights about social selling and how you can use LinkedIn to generate more leads by [inaudible 00:16:56] the marketing and sales. So it's very hard not to find me on LinkedIn.

Richard Bliss:

It is very hard not to find you. And it's Richard, which is a great name, van der Blom. B-L-O-M. So, van der Blom, right? Richard van der Blom.

Richard van der Blom:

That's it.

Richard Bliss:

LinkedIn. I think you're the only one out there, right? Are you the only Richard van der Blom?

Richard van der Blom:

No, there are three in Holland.

Richard Bliss:

Oh no!

Richard van der Blom:

Yeah, there's someone working as a train conductor and the other one is an IT engineer or something. So don't invite them. But invite the good one, the one with the beard!

Richard Bliss:

The one with the beard. Fear the beard, as we refer to it sometimes here. So Richard, I really appreciate you taking a few minutes. And for those who are listening, Richard and I will continue to be working together. BlissPoint is one of the sponsors of this year's social, LinkedIn algorithm research, and that will be coming out. Also, Richard and I will be working on a series of training videos and content for organizations this fall if all things work out. Right now, you're scheduled, you and I are scheduled, to come together in October for a week together here in the United States. I'm looking forward to that. And then I'm going to return the favor and come visit you in Valencia next year. That's the goal.

Richard van der Blom:

Awesome. That's a lot of synergy we can create.

Richard Bliss:

I think so. So Richard, I always appreciate having you on the show, the chance to talk, especially in public, when we're able to share our insights. Thank you for joining me.

Richard van der Blom:

Was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

Richard Bliss:

You've been listening to my podcast, Digital-First Leadership. My guest has been Richard van der Blom of Just Connecting research and training on LinkedIn and Sales Navigator. Hopefully you found something interesting and were inspiring. Be sure to connect with him or I so that you can stay up-to-date with the latest content information out there about how to become a digital-first leader. Thanks for listening. Take care.

Narator:

You've been listening to Digital-First Leadership, the podcast where you learn to leverage and build your expertise on digital platforms. For more valuable tips on mastering the language of social media, subscribe to our newsletter at blisspointconsult.com. If you'd like to stay in touch, feel free to add Richard on LinkedIn and join the conversation.