When I studied Economics back in my BYU days, one of my favorite new words I learned was stochastic. The closest synonym to stochastic is random. Usually, the term is used to describe random variables in business or academia. I bring this up because it seems most social media sharing is stochastic. You share twice one week, ten times one day, then nothing for weeks or months. If social media is meant to play a significant part in your personal branding, stochasticity (or randomness) is your enemy. Consistently dripping out quality information over time (think of a leaky faucet) is your friend.
While working with thousands of busy lawyers, accountants, and recruiters on their social media usage, I’ve found that this randomness is the norm, unfortunately. 98% of professionals are simply too busy to post multiple times per week and 99.5% aren’t organized enough to schedule out posts for their entire week. I’m not talking about over-sharing either, I’m talking about sharing the ideal number of times each week on each individual social network. Following all of the latest research a well-organized weekly calendar of social media sharing would look a little bit like this:
Let me explain the above graphic. In the above calendar I am sharing daily to LinkedIn and Facebook at the ideal windows of time each day, and then multiple times each day on Twitter. Let me make an important point here: this is NOT oversharing. Research shows that this frequency of sharing falls far short of the point at which you will see diminishing returns for your sharing. Translation: people will keep clicking on your articles at a high rate of clicks per share at this frequency.
There’s one more hidden gem in the calendar that I need to explain because it seems counter-intuitive. When you share an article to Twitter, don’t just share once, share it thrice. You read that right. Research shows that when you share the same article to Twitter three times over three days, it gets almost three times the clicks. Keep in mind, Twitter is like a river constantly flowing by. If you share three times at different windows of time, you will maximize the reach of each article you share. If someone goes to your Twitter account, are they going to see the same articles repeated sometimes? Maybe, but even if they do, the research still shows you it is still worth it because you will get far more engagement from your network.
At this point, we’ve already lost most busy professionals reading this. They simply had too much to do and the thought of stopping their work at 25 scheduled intervals throughout the week to share an article, is somewhat daunting. Others who are more organized may stay up late Sunday night using a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule the articles for the coming week. The rest will likely continue on their merry stochastic sharing ways. It’s difficult. We are all busy. I get it.
What if you could receive an email with the suggested articles to share for the week, with a “share all” button at the bottom that would magically build this ideal calendar for you? You click one button, the software service does the rest. Full disclosure, that’s exactly what the new PeakTime feature recently released by ClearView Social does. Marketing Directors send out emails to their professionals, the professionals hit one button, and their social media calendar is set for the week. Good-bye stochasticity, hello 10x visibility. Want to see PeakTime in action? Visit clearviewsocial.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a demo with me.
One more thought. Don’t leave your future success in the hands of stochasticity.
This last week in NYC I met with a frustrated Marketing Director who finally convinced their Managing Partner to share an article to LinkedIn as an update. You know, those articles that show up on LinkedIn’s Facebook-like newsfeed? (If we are going to give credit where credit is due, Facebook copied Twitter on the timeline idea, but that’s beside the point.) The Managing Partner shared the article, but nobody clicked on it. Zero clicks. Zero likes. Zero comments. Why didn’t it get any clicks? There are five reasons many articles don’t get any clicks.
- You shared an article that is of no interest to your network. You may be a very distinguished employment lawyer, but if your LinkedIn network is mostly old college and high school buddies, they might not be digging your latest article on the changes in state-specific employment law. It doesn’t mean the article isn’t any good, it just isn’t aligned with this particular network. LinkedIn is a crazy mix of everybody you’ve met professionally and personally in the last decade. This doesn’t mean you should create content that caters to your network, you need to own your area of expertise so keep writing about that, just don’t be surprised if there aren’t a lot of your LinkedIn connections that are interested in the content.
- Your LinkedIn network is too small. It’s not uncommon for me to meet lawyers who have been practicing for decades but only have 50-100 LinkedIn connections. I once worked with a partner at a big law firm who had 7 connections on LinkedIn and 220 connection requests waiting in her inbox. If you don’t have hundreds of LinkedIn connections, you aren’t likely to get many clicks. Most LinkedIn users only visit the site a few times a week for a couple of minutes. If you have 20 total connections, the likelihood of getting one of them to chance upon your article at the exact time they decide to visit LinkedIn is quite small. Remember the newsfeed concept. Articles are streaming by like a log on a river. They will only see your article if they happen to be visiting LinkedIn close to the time you shared an update. This brings us to our next point, timing.
- You are sharing at the wrong time of day. According to our research and the research of Hootsuite and Buffer, articles shared between 10:45am and 4:30pm get far fewer clicks per share. On average they get almost half the clicks than articles shared early in the morning or in the evening. This average is dragged down by the thousands of shares that get zero clicks. Share an article that isn’t very interesting at the wrong time of day, and that is a recipe for zero clicks. In case you are wondering, the four best windows of time to share on LinkedIn are 7:30am, between 9:45 and 10:30am, and then again at 5:30pm and after 7:30pm. Our software platform, ClearView Social, automatically schedules in those windows, but there are plenty of other tools like Hootsuite and Buffer that let you choose scheduled times as well.
- Your title is too long, too boring, or lacks a hook. We all hate those click-bait headlines, “This massive grizzly bear escaped right by a day care center, you won’t believe what happened next.” These headlines grab attention because they build intrigue. You don’t need sensational headlines to get clicks, you need headlines that specifically tell people what they will find when they click on the article. Keep it as brief as possible. Make things into a list if the article lends itself to lists. People click on lists in large part because they know exactly what to expect.
- LinkedIn is hiding your article in the “recent updates” section. Did you know that LinkedIn no longer shows all your updates each time you share? If you notice on the LinkedIn screenshot below the default on LinkedIn is Top Updates. What classifies updates as “Top Updates?” According to our research, articles that receive multiple likes or that are shared by individuals with a large number of connections will often make it into the Top Updates section. If your company or firm has multiple people sharing the same article, it is also more likely to be shown in Top Updates because multiple people are talking about it. This is one area where having a team approach to social media can really help increase the visibility of firm content. If you have a small network and content that isn’t very popular, this makes it even more likely your content will get little attention. I anticipate LinkedIn will continue to tinker with their newsfeed so that they eventually become more like Facebook’s newsfeed where you see content from people and in areas that are of particular interest to you.
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? -Philosophical thought experiment
For the first five years of my consulting business, I gathered data and case studies on how professionals could get the most out of their social media use. This included telling them when and what to share, and how to leverage their network to build their reputation. Then just over two years ago, my team launched ClearView Social. Now, after observing data from tens of thousands of professional shares and comparing it to the industry research of millions of shares, we’ve learned that many professionals are sharing at the wrong times.
Here are some of the most surprising findings:
- LinkedIn is nearly a dead zone from 10:30am until things pick up again at 7pm and then hit a peak around 9pm. What do I mean by dead zone? The average share between 10:30 and 7pm gets less than 1.5 clicks per share. Sharing at the best times, the averages go up by over 150%. Click averages at the best times or at PeakTime(TM) as we are now calling it at ClearView Social, will as high as 4.5 clicks per share. What do we learn from this? Nobody wants to read content or surf LinkedIn between 11am and the end of the work day. It should come as no surprise that there is a huge drop-off in clicks over the weekend.
- Twitter performs very well between 2pm and 3pm local time, then picks up again at 5pm and again at 7pm. Why will people click articles on Twitter at 2pm but not on LinkedIn at that same time? We don’t know for sure, but our best guess is that Twitter is accessed when users are actively looking for content to read. Either as a distraction from work or in search of content relevant to work. Twitter stays hot through the weekend as well. People leave LinkedIn at their office for the most part, but bring Twitter and Facebook home with them.
- Facebook isn’t just for personal sharing anymore. PeakTime for sharing professional content to Facebook is at 7:30am (when people are waking up in the morning) and then again at 5:15 until 6:15 pm local time.
If this is helpful to you, feel free to adjust your scheduled sharing times accordingly, and for users of ClearView Social, our PeakTime launch will automatically slot in your shares to the best times for each platform.
For our customers, here is our company’s help page explaining how PeakTime will work: PeakTime Explained
By now, it’s old news that Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion dollars in cash. Tech sites, Time, and even the Moody ratings agency have been fairly critical of Microsoft massively overspending on this acquisition—see here, here, and here. I, on the other hand, see this as a big positive for the social media eco-system, and here’s why:
When LinkedIn went public, they changed for the worse. They locked down their API, restricting access to developers in a fairly draconian way. When I interviewed a LinkedIn exec off-the-record, he explained it to me this way: “We don’t want developers to make money from the LinkedIn API in ways we could potentially make money in the future.” While this makes sense from a very close-minded scarcity mentality, it doesn’t make sense for one of the largest social media tools in the history of the world that is built 1o0% on a backbone of user-generated content. They want every professional to share with them, but they aren’t willing to return the favor unless it directly benefits them. More specifically, they won’t give developers freedom to leverage the amazing data they have collected.
With this acquisition by Microsoft, it opens the door to the possibility that LinkedIn could operate as a somewhat more open system with more in common to the original Twitter than to Apple’s app store. Remember, Microsoft was the original open platform where any company could leverage their operating system to build their own tools. Microsoft may have the reputation as being stuffy and less cool than Apple, but they really understood the power of leveraging third-party developers to make powerful innovations. It is still hard to say how much control Microsoft will choose to take over the operations of LinkedIn, but at least now there is a chance that the tunnel vision at LinkedIn will be altered. It’s exciting to think what Microsoft can potentially do when they combine the massive data from LinkedIn with their cloud technology.
What does this acquisition mean to the average user? In the short term, very little. I guess you can feel secure that LinkedIn isn’t going anywhere, but for the last seven years that wasn’t really in doubt. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the big three social networks. Ten years from now, it will still be Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Other sites will come and go and every two months there will be an article claiming “Young people have all new sites they are into now.” At the end of the day, LinkedIn isn’t going anywhere because it has become a fixture of the business landscape. The older professionals that came kicking and screaming into the social media world aren’t migrating to a new social network in the near future or really ever.
Before people become overly critical of Microsoft for this purchase, just remember that Microsoft is really only doing what Google should have done before embarking on the crazy mission to re-invent social media with Google+. The winners of the social media game have already been crowned, Microsoft just decided “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Microsoft may not be the innovator they were thirty years ago, but hopefully, this purchase will allow them to inject some innovation into a social media company that would greatly benefit from becoming a little more open.
The world is full of coincidences. Once in the airport of Salt Lake City, I ran into Natalie Cook on her way to Romania to do missionary work there. I had met her in high school, so we had a brief conversation and I wished her luck. Didn’t think anything of it, but just over two years later after she returned from Romania we met again by chance and we are now married with three kids. Some things are serendipitous that way. By being in the right place at the right time, amazing things can happen. How can this help you with your social media sharing? Every share you make online gives you a chance at serendipity, a chance for a potential client or an old friend to read your content and hire you. New data we’ve collected at ClearView Social can help you maximize your chances for more of these fortuitous collisions.
We’ve specifically collected data on when professionals view business content shared via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This is not the same data you will see in the surveys from Hootsuite or Buffer – both of which are outstanding surveys of millions of tweets and shares, this is data highly focused on viewers of content related to law, accounting, insurance, recruiting, and other professional services. We will refer to these types of shares as pro-shares, short for professional social media shares.
The results are not surprising, almost nobody reads pro-shares over the weekend. Very few read pro-shares on Fridays or late at night.
It’s a tough question to answer because I don’t think everyone is on the same page when it comes to understanding what “blogging” means. Four years ago I took a pass at this in a post titled: Are We Heading to a Post-Blogging World?The irony of publishing that post on a third-party site (Social Media Today), instead of my own blog, had everything to do with my point.
I feel the same way today as I did then: many people think “blogging” is synonymous with “audience.” This is a fundamental mistake. In it’s barest form, unpopulated with smart thoughts and good writing, a “blog” is just a web-based, technological means to publish.
The story of the rise of the web (and the story that connects Web 1.0 to Web 2.) is in large part the story of ever-evolving tools to make it easy to publish. In the early days, we had HTML editors, FTP, servers, domain name registration via Byzantine processes including sending off your registration information by fax.
Today, we have a text editor easily available in a browser and a button that says “Publish” for when we are done. Between the time of hand-coded HTML and FTP mastery and today, blogs arrived to make online publishing easy.
Since those early days of the web, much excitement and interest in online opportunity has been colored by a misperception that lives through today, summed up best by the old rallying cry: “If you build it they will come.”
Not true. At least, for most, not true enough. And today that misperception manifests around the primary means for quick and easy online publshing (blogs) when most people think that having a blog is the same as having an audience. A blog is no more and no less than a technological means to build and engage an audience – and building a blog is not the same thing as building an audience.
Bloggers build audiences – yes they do – but busy people also do what they can to put their work in front of audiences where they are proven to gather. So I think blogging might not be dead, but certainly has evolved. For many who like to engage friends and colleagues on important matters of the day – much of the writing might take place not on blogs, but where people actually gather.
This is my longwinded way of saying that I don’t think blogs are dead, but I do believe people who have been paying attention expect something different of them. For the last five years, we have seen a rise of third-party websites of every shape and color that give people the means to say something and the audience to appreciate it. [Disclaimer: of course I see things this way, JD Supra exists as a way to make it very easy for writers – including bloggers – to actually be read and noticed by people after the hard work of putting pen to paper, as it were. It is fairly common for new clients to come to us because “We spent all this time starting a blog and now we want readers.”]
Since I wrote that article four years ago, we have seen the rise of even more third-party platforms that, in their own way, can help to answer the problem of readership (or, more specifically, can deliver the readers you’re looking for).
(In parallel, we have also seen the rise of a new type of platform that VCs seem to love to fund: the marketplace. Uber is a marketplace. AirBnB is a marketplace. They connect people who need something with people who have what’s needed. Think of third-party sites for publishing your writing as knowledge marketplaces that connect people who have something to say with people who need to know something…)
However, in the years since I wrote that post, we have also seen the inevitable, steady rise of noise (in the constant dance between signal and noise) because, while more and more people have the means to publish, for most organizations, the model for making money from it has not changed. That is to say: for the majority of producers of content (mainstream media), it is an eyeball model. Content is produced to generate eyeballs against which to sell advertising. This is a race to bottom, causing (as we see today) clickbait that is skewing the balance between signal and noise – and the landscape has never been noisier.
Most bloggers (or porfessionals who happen to be bloggers) don’t write to sell ads against eyeballs, but they do compete for readership in a noisy landscape in which the competition is very good at making you click … so I say all of this to make the point that building your own readership remains a challenge today. It’s do-able, but your readers are pulled in many directions by many other destinations. Bloggers build readers, they do – but it seems to me that there has always been a minority of bloggers who do this. It requires, in my view, a commitment beyond the desire simply to write and be read.
I don’t think blogging is dead – but I do believe that, for those who are paying attention and learning as they go, the meaning of blogging has changed.
Is the concept that if I have a blog, I have an audience dead? I hope so.
People will correctly argue on the other side that one needs a destination, a home of one’s own for your own writing. I agree to that. But lately that has not been my dominant way of thinking. Sometime between that 2012 post I wrote and today, I started caring more about being read – by the right people, period – versus being read on my blog … and so our own blog faltered. We don’t publish there anymore. We publish where we know we can guarantee audience.
I keep all of my shirts in a closet at home that few people have seen. But I wear my shirts out in public and that’s where they are seen by whomever I encounter. That’s my view on content. For many people, to think that way requires a re-consideration of what blogging means.
As originally published in the National Law Journal: Shortly after Google+ was launched, I warned people not to jump on the bandwagon, because the platform hadn’t quite figured out what it was, other than an attempt to unseat Facebook. [See “Why You Can Ignore Google+, For Now,” Sept. 10, 2011. ] People were happy with Facebook and weren’t looking for an improved version.
Why does this matter to lawyers and their clients? At a very basic level, it means that creating a Google+ account is one less thing to worry about. On a big-picture level, that Google+’s massively expensive attempt to compete fell short demonstrates that Facebook is here to stay. For years we’ve seen articles proclaiming, “Facebook is dying among teens,” or “This may be it for Facebook.” The truth is, the platform isn’t going anywhere, for two reasons:
• 1.4 billion people are on Facebook. Mashable recently compared Google+ to the flashy bar that isn’t attracting the hoped-for crowds. Facebook isn’t perfect, but packs a massive network effect.
• Facebook is useful. Do you have family members out of town whom you don’t see very often? Would you like to have more contact with most important people in your life? Facebook helps you do this, while filtering out people or content you aren’t interesting in.
Google+ failed because it tried to be Facebook+. It was trying to do what was already being done, but a little bit better. This is not good strategy, but how many law firms are making the same mistake, trying to be Skadden+ or DLA Piper+?
In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins argues that we need to find the one thing we can truly be the best at. For law firms, this doesn’t mean competing in the exact same practice and industry areas that the No. 1 firm owns. It makes far better strategic sense to strive to become No. 1 at something else — in a practice area or industry where they can dominate.
With some of the most brilliant engineers in the world, just imagine what Google could have done rather than try to build a slightly better Facebook. Maybe those engineers could have cured cancer, built a hotel on the moon or invented a cure for world hunger. OK, all of those are crazy, but so is the amount of money Google+ spent trying to do something that was already being done well. Don’t make that same mistake with your firm’s strategy.
Facebook — and Twitter and LinkedIn, for that matter — are here to stay. They are popular because they are useful and contain massive populations of people you want to connect with. Google+ hasn’t passed that test. And if your firm learns from Google’s mistakes and aims to be No. 1 where your competitors aren’t, you might be around until some decade far distant even Facebook has been dethroned.