How to Post an Effective Discussion for LinkedIn

Author: Chang Han (Google+)
LinkedIn is an amazing community of professionals, experts, business owners and potential clients.  It’s also a place full of shams, scams, spam and poor communicators.

Considering that LinkedIn is primarily a means of written communication, the poor communicators are often the biggest source of our frustration, irritation and even ire.  The others are usually easier to spot and don’t last too long anyway.

Don’t be a poor communicator on LinkedIn.

Learn to write Discussion Posts that achieve your goals – whether you are seeking to inform, entertain, persuade, merely express yourself, or any combination of these individual purposes.  A great Discussion Post gives you a large readership, creates followers for you and your future posts, inspires positive engagement and action from your readers, and props you up as a credible, believable, reliable source of postings.

There are only 3 simple rules that you need to follow, which will upgrade your LInkedIn posts right away.  Follow these rules now and take the important steps towards using LinkedIn to achieve your goals.

Rule Number 1: Write Short Headlines – 7 Words is Ideal

LinkedIn provides you with up to 180 characters to write your Headline.  Use all these characters only if you don’t want anyone to read your Discussion post, OR if you want people to complain about your Discussion post by flagging it, OR if you are J.R.R. Tolkien.

Think about this each time your fingers hover over your keyboard and you stare at the create Discussion link: “after your reader reads your headline, why would they bother to read your longer description?”

The primary purpose of this headline is to convince your reader to read the rest of the details in your post.  A secondary purpose is to convince your reader to click on your headline and read your full post, assuming it is too long to show entirely as part of the initial snippet.

One of the best ways to write headlines is to apply the best practices for writing a “headline” from the industry where this term was coined – print media.  There are tons of experts and advice about writing good headlines, headlines that are magnetic, headlines that are effective, catch headlines, headlines that sell – and the list goes on.

To give you the best practices, I could write pages and pages of history, examples, and pros and cons for different headline writing approaches.  Understanding that there is more than one way to do this well, and more importantly, understanding that the right way depends on what you are writing, what your industry or topic is, and what your audience profile is, use these simple tips as a great starting point:

– use the active voice (use “Talk to your customers…” instead of “Your customers are spoken to by you…” or “I love good data…” instead of “Good data is loved by me…”)

– capitalize only the first letter (either way is ok: just the first word, like a regular sentence, or all the words, like a real headline) – don’t use all caps (there are very, very few exceptions to this, and odds are your headline doesn’t fall into an exception.

– use the literary “hook” as often as possible (write a question, an outrageous statement, an interesting fact or statistic, a quote, a simile/metaphor, a definition, a comparison with a famous person or current event, the opening line to a scene – “It was a dark and stormy night…” – and the list goes on)

– use keywords (that you have researched) in your headlines

– use keywords that others use to search online in your headlines

– did I mention using keywords?  (use the Google Keyword Tool – if you don’t know how, connect with me on LinkedIn through the Startup Phase Forum 2 LinkedIn Group and send me a message and I’ll get you set up right away without any cost to you)

– remember: try to keep your headline to 7 words.  If you are one or two words less or more, that is fine.  Just don’t go over-board!

Rule Number 2: Write a Description That Gives Value AND Has a Strong Call to Action

The main purpose of this section of your LinkedIn Discussion Post is two-fold:

(1) to give your reader immediate value, now

(2) to give your reader a strong ‘call to action.’

You only have 400 characters to achieve both of these goals.  Lucky for you, the English language allows you to be successful – the only limitation here is your creativity and ability.

If you are clear on what you are trying to achieve with your post, it will be easier to meet these two-prong requirements.

Are you seeking to inform – meaning, are you sharing information that you think is relevant, useful, important, interesting, or otherwise worthy of your reader’s time?  (key point here: your READER’s time, not YOUR time)

Are you trying to entertain – meaning, are you telling a funny or terrifying story or strangely curious situation or riddle?

Are you attempting to persuade – meaning, do you want the reader to agree with you or buy something from you or do something after reading your discussion post?  (Of course, EVERY discussion post has this component at the end, as part of the call to action.  However, aside from the call to action, is the overall purpose to sell a product, a service, or some combination?)

One important point here – don’t overtly sell in your Discussion Post.  Anywhere.  I can’t emphasize this point enough.  Don’t sell.  DON’T SELL.

Are you trying to express yourself?  If you have wonderful news to share or need to get some deeply hidden angst off your chest, a LInkedIn Discussion Post is a great public place to shout to the rooftops about how you feel.

Once you have given your reader value by focusing in on what you are trying to achieve and provide the core nugget of your communication, now you have to craft your call to action.  You want a call to action that inspires, motivates, that moves your reader, and ultimately that converts.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here.  I’ve studied the “call to action” for years and years, in written and spoken language, backwards and forwards, and even traced this phraseology back to its prehistoric origins!  I know what a “call to action” is – and I’m going to share that with you here.  After all this research and brain space focused on the best calls to action, here’s what a call to action boils down to:

A call to action is what you say when you tell someone what you want them to do next.

Now, think about this.  Its not some fancy sales professional’s secret ‘close’ or an athletic coach’s urging to win at the end of a half-time speech.

Its simply you saying what you want your reader to do next.  That’s it.

The keyword here is “do.”  Action.  You need to use a strong verb and tell your reader what to do NEXT.

If you want them to buy a car, or read your book, or vote for Gangnam Style as the greatest song of all time – if you want your audience to do something ‘bigger’ than they are now prepared to do after reading your very short little Discussion Post, you will fail.

If you have a clear next step that is an easy step away from having finished reading your Discussion Post, then you win!

Whether you want your reader to subscribe to your blog, buy your product, pick up their cell and call you now, or like you on Facebook, or retweet your tweet, you MUST them to do so in no uncertain terms.  No beating around the bush allowed here – clarity and certainty will always win the day here.

Therefore, in order to be direct and unambiguous, learn to use the word “click” at the right time.

One experiment with calls to action for a ‘micro-blog’ tested three alternatives.  The results are clear:

1. “Click to continue” – 8.53% click through rate (CTR);

2. “Continue to article” – 3.3% CTR; and,

3. “Read more”: – 1.8% CTR.

Rule Number 3: Link to an Outside Source, Website, Blog, or Video

Since you have now provided a great call to action in your post, you must now assume that your call to action is being followed by your reader.

Now what?

In most cases, you need to send your reader somewhere else.  Unless your call to action is to ‘stand up and stretch’ or to ‘sit down and watch TV’ you want to send your reader to a full-blown blog, or video, or other website.

If you want to try this out and need a place to post your essay, story or blog, please post here!  I am making this entire website available for you to post as a Guest.  And I will not charge you and will keep your post up as long as you like – or take it down whenever you wish.

Connect with me on LinkedIn through the Startup Phase Forum 2 LinkedIn Group and send me a message.  I’ll get you set up right away.

Now you’re ready – ready to post great Discussion Posts.

And ready win in your business!

Want to ask me a specific question?  Send me a message on LinkedIn – you can connect with me by joining our LinkedIn Discussion Group and you’ll also find an entire community!

View Chang Han's profile on LinkedIn


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