Now I know what you're thinking. LinkedIn? For list building?!?
But hear me out.
Sure, LinkedIn might have had a bad rap in the past as a hotspot for pushy salespeople and job seekers.
Lately, though, things have changed. I've noticed more and more freelancers, consultants, and online creators turning to LinkedIn to share valuable content and grow their audience—and finding remarkable success.
After taking a closer look, it turns out LinkedIn is a goldmine waiting to be tapped. Stronger relationships, higher reach, and a focus on work mean it's easier to generate new subscribers with LinkedIn than with other social platforms.
To find out how you can get more connections and grow your own business, I spoke to five experts who have used LinkedIn to power their audience and business:
- Case Study Buddy founder Joel Klettke, whose LinkedIn posts conservatively drove over $25,000 in revenue last year alone
- Career coach Kerri Twigg, who has grown an audience of nearly 180,000 followers on LinkedIn
- B2B copywriter John Espirian, who gets 60% of his business leads from LinkedIn
- Business consultant David Burkus, who says LinkedIn is his favorite platform for list growth
- Microsoft Excel consultant David Stavegard, whose LinkedIn videos get more views than his YouTube channel
With a few simple strategies, you too can build authentic connections, turn those connections into a thriving email list, and grow your online business using LinkedIn.
So hoist up your business socks, dust off that LinkedIn profile, and let's dive in.
Why choose LinkedIn over other social platforms?
Especially if you're a freelancer or consultant selling services online, here's why you should take another look at LinkedIn for growing your audience:
More focus on work over fun
LinkedIn, on the other hand, has more of a professional feel. The inherent focus on work means people come to LinkedIn to learn and network, not simply for entertainment. This makes it easier to drive new leads and subscribers.
“LinkedIn remains, for the most part, work and work-education focused,” Joel Klettke explains. “Where Twitter can get lost in drama and Facebook is absurdly noisy, LinkedIn is a place where there's an expectation of some sort of value in business terms, and that's an advantage.”
David Burkus agrees. “If your audience is business-related, this is the platform that's still trusted and where in-depth conversations still happen.”
Build relationships with people you know
It ain't all work and no play, though. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, LinkedIn is built on personal relationships.
Take a look at your LinkedIn network—I'm willing to bet you know everyone on there personally. No identity barriers to cross means higher recognition and engagement—and more new business for you.
“While you can hide behind a fake name on Twitter or Instagram,” Kerri Twigg told me, “most people on LinkedIn show up as their real names. [There's an] assumption that people on LinkedIn are there to meet new people or grow professionally.”
Higher quality content
It's no longer just a recruiting platform. For the past few years, the engineering team at LinkedIn has been laser-focused on improving their content feed. The LinkedIn algorithm starts by serving your posts up to a small batch of people you're already connected with as a test. If those people end up engaging, then your posts get passed along to a human editor who determines whether to boost the post to people you don't know.
And the increase in quality shows. With content on LinkedIn receiving 15x the impressions of job posts and engagement increasing at a staggering 50% year-over-year, LinkedIn has transitioned to becoming more a professional network where people go to learn.
LinkedIn has 310 million monthly active users—that's more than six times as many as Twitter.
Ninety million LinkedIn users are senior-level influencers, and 63 million are in decision-making positions
The kicker? Only 3 million LinkedIn users share content every week—less than 1% of monthly users. This gives you a great chance of standing out.
Oh, and 41% of millionaires use LinkedIn. Just sayin'.
The most interesting thing about LinkedIn for building your audience? People already come to LinkedIn looking to be sold, making newsletter signups feel like a smaller ask.
This makes it far easier to build an audience of subscribers more quickly than through other social platforms. Eighty-nine percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to generate leads, and 62% of B2B marketers report that LinkedIn successfully drives leads for their business—that's twice the rate of any other social platform.
More signal and less noise means more subscribers seeing your content and joining your list.
Four steps to grow your list using LinkedIn
Enough chit-chat—let's get down to business.
(Sorry—I couldn't help myself.)
Getting the most out of LinkedIn means thinking about it as a massive networking event.
The same rules apply as with any in-person event or conference you might have attended in the past: Make genuine connections, build your contacts, share value, and don't sell straight away.
To help you get started, let's look at the four key steps you should follow when building your LinkedIn marketing strategy.
Step #1: Build authentic connections with people you already know
First things first—finding some people to connect with.
The best way to start building your audience on LinkedIn is to start by connecting with the people you already know. Look through your email history, any lists of past coaching or consulting clients, or CRM tool (for those of you more organized than myself), and find people you know who you haven't connected with on LinkedIn:
- Prospects and leads
- Strategic partners
- Work colleagues
- People you've met at events and conferences
- People you keep in touch with on other social networks
- Friends and family
Once you have their name and a few details about their work history, it's easy to check if they're on LinkedIn using the search tool. You can also find like-minded people to connect with through LinkedIn Groups, by searching relevant hashtags, or by seeing the posts that people in your current network are sharing.
Once you find someone you'd like to be part of your network, send them a friendly connection request. LinkedIn lets you include an optional note with each connection request. You should always use this opportunity to add a few details about how you know the person and why you're looking forward to connecting with them.
The biggest mistake when it comes to building new connections, according to John Espirian? “[Connecting] with too many irrelevant people. The relevance of your network is essential if your content is to make the right impression.”
Remember, you're trying to build a targeted audience, not simply to grow connections and followers. Don't be salesy or sleazy with your connection requests—make sure you're being deliberate about who you're connecting with.
Step #2: Join existing conversations and share your insights
Now you know how to grow your LinkedIn network, it's time to get to know your new connections—and to help them get to know you and your business as well.
The biggest mistake Joel Klettke sees with new LinkedIn users is that they try selling too quickly. Instead, Joel recommends a more thoughtful approach. “LinkedIn is the perfect place for a ‘jab, jab, right hook' approach: it's all about sharing what you know and solving problems in public. [I try to play] a very long game of just constantly posting things that add value and make zero ask.”
Instead of going straight in for the sale, Kerri Twigg recommends engaging with existing content and conversations first. “I'm not ever linking or self-promoting on other people's content, just adding to the conversation,” she explains.
Engage with posts shared by other people in your network. “Make an effort to make 5-10 comments on other people's content, but related to what you're trying to sell,” Kerri suggests. You can also pull other people into conversations using @mentions, but be thoughtful: only mention people who are likely to respond, and stick to a maximum of five people at a time.
And remember, if you come across a post you enjoy, be sure to like, comment, and share. LinkedIn prioritizes posts with lots of likes, comments, and shares, so you're providing value to others by helping promote their posts.
Step #3: Start conversations and share your expertise by posting regularly
Once you're comfortable joining existing conversations, it's time to start a few of your own.
Regularly posting valuable and educational content on LinkedIn—text Posts, Articles, and videos—is the single most important way to grow your audience on LinkedIn.
Every piece of content you share should have one of three specific goals:
- Start a conversation with your audience
- Position yourself as an expert
- Encourage your audience to take action
We'll leave #3 for the next section since there are a few extra things to consider, but let's look at the first two goals in detail.
Posting regularly and giving value freely helps you spread the word about your business and stay top of mind with your audience. “In my first years of LinkedIn,” Kerri explains, “I never even encouraged people to buy anything or join a list. People found my content so refreshing that they sought it out.
What topics should you post about? Well, LinkedIn members tend to be more interested in diving deep into topics they care about, rather than engaging at a more broad level.
Think about the one topic that you want to be seen as the best in the world at, and keep all your content centered around that one topic. Don't be afraid to go super-niche, either—Kerri Twigg posts about career advice and improving your resume, and almost nothing else.
LinkedIn also gives you plenty of flexibility around the types of content you can post. A few different types of content that work well:
Motivational anecdotes and inspirational stories help build a personal relationship at scale. Kerri loves this post from motivational speaker Tania Katan.
According to Kerri Twigg, Tania's post works so well because it's personal. “LinkedIn is a network for professionals—which just means people who work. But not everyone works in an office in a suit. I think people make their content so corporately safe that we can't tell who they are or why we would want to follow or know them.”
“It's real, fun, silly, and so on-brand for Tania,” Kerri explains. “In a sea of content where people are sharing the same articles and ideas ‘be yourself,' ‘show up,' or self-celebratory posts about how their company is doing, this post made my day.”
Short case studies and business-related epiphanies all work well on LinkedIn. Check out this example from freelance copywriter Garrett Oden:
Garrett's post is short and sweet but perfectly positioned for his target audience of food-tech founders and coffee business owners. It's a shining example of how length matters less than positioning.
Business tips and tactics
Short posts and native articles packed with nuggets of industry-specific technical and business advice perform strongly. “I like the informative kind of posts that teach me something,” David Stavegard told me. “For example, a few days ago, someone wrote about passwords and what to think about, and I liked that post – it was clean, informative, and well written.”
Here's one example from John Espirian:
John's post cuts straight to the point, teaching readers how to write better LinkedIn headlines and providing huge value right within LinkedIn. You don't even have to write new posts—simply post snippets from existing blog posts, or syndicate entire posts as native Articles, and throw in a link to the original post on your site.
Zero-intent questions—for example, “what's your favorite business book?”—is a great way to drive engagement and grow your network. Here's one from author Allen Gannett:
Try prompting your audience with a thought-provoking question related to your business, and ask them to drop their answers in the comments. For only a few minutes of work, the boost in likes and comments is well worth the effort.
Native video content
Since videos auto-play in the LinkedIn feed, short 2-3 minute videos tend to get a lot of attention. Here's one example from author Andrew Davis:
Video is great because it gives you multiple opportunities to reach your audience. You can recycle video content into social media posts, YouTube videos, video landing pages, and much more. Both David Burkus and David Stavegard cross-post videos on their YouTube channel and LinkedIn, and regularly see higher engagement on LinkedIn.
How often should you post new content on LinkedIn? It depends on your audience—people don't log into LinkedIn as often as, say, Instagram or Facebook, so LinkedIn posts have a longer lifespan than other social media platforms. According to Vox Media, posting new LinkedIn content 2-3 times a week is plenty.
Step #4: Invite readers to join your list
While it's important to get more connections and followers on LinkedIn, the real business value starts when you use your LinkedIn audience to drive prospects and customers to your lead magnets, landing pages, or website. John Burkus recommends balancing your time between on-site and off-site content.
“I'm looking to grow an audience ON LinkedIn, but almost every piece of content shared on LinkedIn includes a link to a bonus resource, lead magnet, etc for people to sign up OUTSIDE of LinkedIn as well.”
It's important that you tread lightly here. People are browsing LinkedIn because they want to be browsing LinkedIn—not because they can't wait to click through to your landing page or subscribe to your list. LinkedIn knows this, and they tweak their algorithm to match.
“LinkedIn's algorithm penalizes you for external links,” Kerri Twigg explains. “[You can] try it yourself. Post with an external link one day. The next day try without, and measure the audience size.”
There are a few ways you can work around this problem. The easiest, according to Joel Klettke, is simply to provide so much value that LinkedIn promotes your post anyway.
“I'll tease my upcoming newsletter campaigns by sharing one of the tips I'm going to be covering, then inviting them to subscribe for the others. I've built up a reputation over time as someone who's interested in providing value, so people get curious or excited about what I'm going to share and sign up.”
Including your landing page link in the post comments instead of the post itself can also help bypass the LinkedIn algorithm, according to Kerri.
“Don't include the link in your post, since the LinkedIn algorithm deprioritizes posts with external links. LinkedIn just added a feature where you can feature external links. So you can add in your landing page or blog post link for the people who check out your profile.”
Another great tactic is to offer a free resource in exchange for leaving a comment on your post. You can then message users who comment to ask for their email and send them the lead magnet directly (and, if they give you permission, subscribe them to your list). This tactic feels a little more personal, and also boosts engagement on your post, increasing the chances users outside your network will see it.
Don't be afraid to try tactics that don't scale, like John Espirian does with his audience. “I send an intro video message to new LinkedIn connections which ends by pointing people to my email list signup page. It gets me new subscribers all the time.”
Start growing your list with LinkedIn today
At the end of the day, LinkedIn is all about growing business relationships—and every great relationship goes both ways.
If you're open with your knowledge and you make your audience the hero, Joel explains, you'll quickly find success. “One positions you as an authority; the other makes you look like an amateur. If you spend time trying to teach people or make them better at what it is you specialize in, you'll come out much further ahead than if you were constantly asking people to hire you.”
Remember these LinkedIn best practices when you're building your list:
- Instead of going straight in for the sale, consider: what superpower can you offer your audience? How does your content make them better at their work or make their life easier?
- Engaging openly with other peoples' content sparks conversations and gives you the chance to share your expertise without being pushy
- Post valuable, thoughtful, and personal content regularly, and encourage readers to respond and share your posts with others
- Encourage readers to visit your website and join your email list for even more valuable content—but be sure to follow best practices when linking outside of LinkedIn
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