Love it or loathe it, LinkedIn is great for generating leads!

Lots of people are successfully building a network on LinkedIn – and getting work – but it’s not an intuitive platform so we asked John Espirian,  known for his relentlessly helpful advice in the LinkedIn Learner Lounge, as well as his sought after writing services, to answer questions about how to make the most out of LinkedIn.

This is the write up of a Q&A from the Drive the Network Facebook Group 

This article covers:

  • How to make your newsfeed show you posts you’re interested in
  • How to unfollow people on LinkedIn
  • Why does LinkedIn show me old posts?
  • What is the point of a LinkedIn company page?
  • How much time do you need to spend on LinkedIn?
  • How often should you post on LinkedIn?
  • How to use hashtags
  • How to write a good headline on your LinkedIn profile
  • How to engage with people who don’t post
  • Connect for the right reasons
  • Is it worth paying for LinkedIn Premium?
  • How to show up in search
  • LinkedIn posts vs LinkedIn articles
  • Does copying articles from your website to LinkedIn negatively affect your SEO?

Am I following the wrong people? How to make your newsfeed show you posts you’re interested in

Ann Hawkins What’s the best way to see posts from people you’re really interested in – like our Drive Members?

John Espirian You have to give the algorithm clear signals about what you like. If you react and comment substantially on the posts of the people you like, and you keep in touch with them via direct messages, that tells LinkedIn that you’re interested in what they have to say.

You can supply extra signals, too, such as being in the same LinkedIn groups and following each other’s custom hashtags, though there’s no hard data to support whether that actually works.

If there’s content you don’t like in your feed, unfollow the creators. The more relevant you can make things, the more enjoyable and profitable LinkedIn will be for you.

There’s also the belt-and-braces approach of bookmarking (via your web browser) the feeds of the people you like most, then checking those feeds manually for the content you most want to see. Until LinkedIn implements a “see first” feature, this is about as effective as it gets for shortcutting the algorithm and seeing what you want.

A man browsing LinkedIn

How to unfollow people on LinkedIn

Helen Lindop Let’s say I’ve accumulated a feed full of ego strokers, what’s the best way to have them fade into the background? #AskingForAFriend

John Espirian Helen disconnect if they’re really driving you potty. Otherwise, unfollow people at will via this super-handy screen:

You have to give the algorithm clear signals about what you like. If you react and comment substantially on the posts of the people you like, and you keep in touch with them via direct messages, that tells LinkedIn that you’re interested in what they have to say.

Why does LinkedIn show me old posts?

Rachel Extance  I follow several people who have posted 6 times this week. I haven’t seen their posts.
Why don’t I see posts from everyone I follow? And, why does LinkedIn throw up posts from days ago but not new ones?

John Espirian That’s algorithmic sorting for you! You’ll see only a small percentage of what the people you follow post.
I’ve done tests with the people I engage with and for each 10 posts they publish, I’ll see only 6 of them in my feed.
For the average person you follow, the proportion may be much lower, especially if you follow a lot of people. After all, there’s only so much content that LinkedIn can stuff into your feed (while making room for ads and other sponsored rubbish).

What is the point of a LinkedIn company page?

Andy Boothman Is there any point in having a company page?

John Espirian Here’s an extract from an article I wrote about this, Andy: “What is the value of creating a LinkedIn company page?

  • Look authoritative & get an SEO boost
  • Display your website logo
  • Feature your best content
  • Run LinkedIn ad campaigns
  • Share video direct from Vimeo

How much time do you need to spend on LinkedIn?

John Espirian I’d try to do an hour in the morning and an hour in the early evening.  I reckon you can build a half-decent LinkedIn presence in 30–45 minutes per day.

How often should you post on LinkedIn?

Louise Lee  For those starting out or trying to create a plan to work to, how much content should we be posting and with what frequency? Let’s assume the content is good and worth reading.

John Espirian If you’re new, create 1–2 posts per week and comment on 10 posts by others.

I’m averaging 7 posts per week at the moment, but I’m deep into LinkedIn. Most people don’t need to do that much!

How to use hashtags

A hashtag made of breadsticksDavid Brown Some words of wisdom about hashtags please. How many to use per post and how to find the best ones for my content.

John Espirian LinkedIn recommend no more than 3 hashtags per post (see an article written by one of their senior UK people:
I prefer the personal branding approach of using my own custom hashtags.

  • Popular hashtags = more reach
  • Custom hashtags = better branding

There are various posts out there about what the most popular hashtags are, such as #socialmedia and #contentmarketing. It really depends on your industry. Andy Foote is probably the top voice on this subject. Read his insights here:

If you want to go down the branded hashtag route, make sure you read this:

How to write a good headline on your LinkedIn profile

Anne Archer I have 3 distinct target markets and not sure how to do an intro piece that shows all 3. Obviously shouldn’t be a terribly long list!

Helen Lindop To add to this, are keywords really important in LinkedIn headlines? If so, I guess the challenge is summing up what you do in a few words including keywords and not being boring?

John Espirian You have 120 characters to work with in a standard LinkedIn headline (you can sneak in up to 220 if you edit on iOS, but I always find that overkill).
Make this your “stock cube” that demonstrates your value to your principal audience. These first 40 characters are all that’s shown when people see your feed contributions on the LinkedIn mobile app – so that’s your shot at getting their attention and showing what you’re all about.
Use this part of the headline to add more context and keywords.
Add some personality or something different. I call this a “bravery badge”. It could be the talking point that is the reason that someone gets in touch. Mine is “Not a douche canoe”.

To get to the root of Anne’s real question, appealing to multiple audiences is tough and you’d probably need to do that via smart writing in the About section (2000 characters) and by adding separate Experience items further down your profile.
There certainly isn’t room to do any of this fancy manoeuvring in your headline. If I were advising a paying client, I would focus most of the profile messaging and feed content on whatever the dominant, money-making part of the business is. There’s great value in being known for one thing. Trying to appeal to multiple markets risks diluting your authority.
PS. Helen, boring is the new risky. You don’t have to drive the wrong way down the hard shoulder but it’s almost as bad to sit in the middle of the road.

To put it another way, if it’s one ideal customer you’re targeting (what I refer to as a “pen portrait”, but it’s more commonly called a buyer persona or customer avatar) then it’s much easier to come up with the right messaging.

What makes for the right messaging comes down to how well you understand the pains your prospective clients have and what you can do to lift them. Good copywriting indicates to the reader that you understand their struggle and that you can help them move to higher ground.

How to engage with people who don’t post

Karen Arnott What’s the best way to engage with people (you want to target) on LinkedIn if they don’t often post themselves? DMs get a bad rep, and I’d hate to come across creepy/salesy

John Espirian If they don’t post, then you could see which of their colleagues do, assuming they’re all associated with the same company. This could be a route in, if you can be part of the conversation with people they work with and trust.
DMs can be terrible if done badly, but if you have a no-pressure approach to connecting and getting to know how you can help the other person, they can work really well. A lot of my success is down to my DMs, but of course that’s the stuff that’s hidden from the public.

I’m on the free account so I could DM someone only if they’d connected with me first, so making that connection would be the first step. And of course I’d personalise the invitation, making reference to the public conversation.
I don’t approach people out of the blue any more. Almost everything now stems from people approaching me. If they comment well on my content, that’s a good signal that they’d be an interesting person to connect with.
The more active commenters you can add to your network, the better your content will perform in the long run. Comments are the lifeblood of organic reach. Without them, your content just isn’t going to be seen. Show love to your commenters!

Neon sign saying 'hello'

Connect for the right reasons

John Espirian Some “experts” recommend connecting with hundreds of people per day and not taking the time to personalise invitations or even to engage in conversation with those who say hello.

For me, this is the exact opposite of human marketing. I’m not surprised that it puts people off. But there are people out there doing things a better way, and they’re best placed to win the long-term battle for trust and attention.

When I last checked the stats, about 95% of my incoming invitations were generic. Things have improved since I switched to “follow first” mode, which means people have to take an extra step in order to connect with you. I don’t have the numbers to back this up, but it feels as though about 85%–90% of invitations are now generic. An improvement, though not a great one.

I try to DM chat with every new connection, to get to know them and see how I can help (without any sales pressure). That just wouldn’t be possible if I were connecting with dozens of people per day.

Is it worth paying for LinkedIn Premium?

John Espirian I think the Premium and other grades are overpriced and don’t deliver any real value to the typical small business owner. If you’re in recruiting or work for a bigger business that wants to target high-value leads, the costs are worth it for the enhanced search capabilities and InMails.
If you’re a small or solo business owner, you’re wasting your money.
I’ve never paid for LinkedIn and yet my content performs well and I regularly get leads from being active.

How to show up in search

Anne Archer How do you improve your searches? I get a reasonable number of people who view my profile and depending on the content, the post views. What I can’t seem to impact are the search appearances. How are they calculated or worked out?

John Espirian That comes down to the keywords you use in your headline, About, Experience and Skills sections. If those things marry up with what your ideal customers are actually searching for, then you’ll show up in more searches.
Also, if you have a large number of recommendations, you’re more likely to rank well in searches.
Wherever possible, try to use the real language that your customers use as opposed to technical terms that they wouldn’t really search for. To quote one of my content marketing heroes:
“The best marketing copy is written by the audience, not the marketer.” – Andy Crestodina

Anne Archer So, how is it lots of people view the profile yet it doesn’t appear in searches. How do they find me to look at the profile if you see what I mean?

Karen Arnott Anne – I’m sure John will have a good response for this. In my experience (as a LinkedIn user) I often click on people’s profiles if they’re connected to someone I know or they’ve commented on a post.

John Espirian Yes, exactly what Karen said. Profiles can be recommended by LinkedIn or simply viewed as a result of looking at content in the feed. A good profile photo and catchy opening 40 characters in the headline are essential to attract more interest.

LinkedIn posts vs LinkedIn articles

Louise Lee LinkedIn Posts vs LinkedIn Articles – how do we use each to benefit our business, please?

John Espirian Posts are good for visibility. Articles are good for credibility. You need both to help you create a well-rounded LinkedIn presence.

The new kid on the block is document posts, where you can embed Word docs, PDFs and PowerPoints into posts and also display those documents on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn seems to be boosting the performance of these, and I’m getting big viewing numbers on all my document posts.

These two articles may be helpful:

How to post documents on LinkedIn

LinkedIn articles – get your longform content right

Does copying articles from your website to LinkedIn negatively affect your SEO?

Karen Arnott Do you know if there’s a negative SEO effect from publishing posts (or articles) on LinkedIn that are repurposed content from your blog, and vice versa? (Copying verbitam was previously not recommended, is it still the case?)

John Espirian Ah, the whole “duplicate content” thing is a bit of a phantom bogeyman these days. The search engines are much smarter than they used to be!
More info about my suggested approach here:

Rachel Extance You have some good tips on putting links in after you have posted John, but would you advise people to share their blogs on LinkedIn or is it better to do a version in Pulse?

John Espirian You can share your own blogs in posts via the write-post-edit method and then also convert that blog content to live as a LinkedIn article (helps with credibility and SEO). So, the answer is to do both.

If you’d like to know more how to grow a great business with peer group support from Drive members, or get updates from other Ask the Expert sessions, let us know and we’ll send you what you need! 

Get in touch with John Espirian at or connect with him on LinkedIn.