What Small Business Users Need to Know About LinkedIn in 2024

close up of linkedin page on smartphone screen

As a small business owner (or someone that works in a small business), it’s likely that LinkedIn is one of – if not the only – social media platform you use for business purposes. 

But for the time you spend there to be effective, you really need to know 2 things:

  1. What your actual LinkedIn strategy is
  2. How the LinkedIn algorithm works

In this post, we’re going to have a look at the latter, exploring the key things that you need to know about “how to do LinkedIn”, based on the most recent insights available on how the platform’s algorithm works*.

In particular, we’re going to look at:

*As with all social platforms, the algorithm and user interface (UI) are constantly changing, so although the information, screengrabs and recommendations are correct at the time of writing (February 2024), they are subject to change.

Post format matters

There are lots of different ways that you can share – or post – on LinkedIn, and it’s important that you understand the differences, and when to use each of them to greatest effect.

Unless you’re a confident content creator, it’s likely that you’ll mostly use Text + Image or Text-only posts, but there are occasions when you might find it useful to try something different.

Text + Image posts

The combination of text + a single image remains the favoured format, but is only 3rd in terms of reach, achieving 1.26x the average number of impressions. 

900-1200 characters is the optimum length for this format, ideally with under 12 words per sentence, and not being overly promotional in nature. Relevant selfies and personalised images (rather than generic stock photos) are the most impactful.

Best suited for storytelling and sharing infographics.

Text-only Posts

Only 4th most impactful in terms of reach text-only posts still achieve 1.17x the median and account for 16% of all content on LinkedIn, with posts between 1800 and 2100 characters (300 words) performing best, and those under 1000 characters (~200 words) typically seeing a 25% drop in reach

Ending your post with a question can lead to an increase in engagement of 20-40%.

However, for Company pages, text-only posts are a lot less effective – achieving 0.46x the median reach.

Ok for Personal posts, but best avoided for Company Pages

Other notable post format stats

When using Document (PDF)/Carousel posts, the ideal number of slides is 12 with 25-50 words per slide. With accompanying post text fewer than 500 characters.

Video posts out-perform all other post types in terms of engagement, with the optimal duration of 1-2 minutes (1m 20s is the absolute sweet spot).  Video posts work best when paired with a max of 500 characters (~100 words), and posted both natively and in vertical format.

The best post format for each type of content

All content is not created equal, and that’s as true for LinkedIn as it is any other “platform”, digital or otherwise. 

Page 41 of the report contains a great summary of the most effective type of post to use in order to gain the best possible engagement and impact, which I’ve simplified below:

Content purposeMost effective post formatLeast effective post format
Personal storytellingText Only / Text + ImageExternal link / Poll / Article
Thought leadershipVideo / DocumentExternal link / Text only
Event contentVideoPoll / Text only / Document
Educational contentText only / DocumentExternal link / Poll
Industry-related contentExternal Link / Text + ImageText only / Poll
Employer brandingVideo / Document Text only / Article / Poll

Aim for consistent timing

There is also a summary of the best times to post for maximum visibility, but as this is hugely dependent on your audience, it’s something that you’ll need to test for yourself. If you’re interested in the general rules of thumb, check out page 42.

Two things that can be applied as more general rules of thumb are to focus on are:

  • Being consistent in when you post – as it appears to help train the algorithm, enabling it to better serve your posts to your audience)
  • Not posting more than once in any 24-hour period – as doing so appears to split the reach between the two

No matter when you post, ensuring you use a variety of different post formats is the best approach – which, seen as you want to vary the type of content you share (a mix of all the different purposes), isn’t surprising.

Linking to external content

Most people/businesses posting on LinkedIn do so as a means of lead gen, and regularly link to content (e.g. blogs, case studies, sales pages etc) on other websites.

However, as tempting and straightforward as it may be to just include links as part of your regular text, doing so is more than likely negatively impacting your posts’ reach – by 40-50% (Personal), and 25-35% (Company).

So what can you do to counter this? 

You may have already noticed a huge increase in the number of people saying “link in comments”, or similar, in recent months, and wondered why they were doing so.

The “link in comments” method is one of 3 ways you can circumvent the algorithmic throttle on reach. However, there are signs that the algorithm is getting wise to this (since October 2023), and starting to limit reach where such wording is present in your text. And in any case, you risk your link getting lost in the comments thread – making it hard for people to click through even if they want to.

Add external links using the “edit” method

The alternative method, which seems to be most effective (at the time being, at least), is to edit your post to include the link after publishing. 

This method takes a bit more time, as seems to work best if you wait a bit before making the change, and if you include an image with your original post (as link previews aren’t included unless they are present when published).

The importance of engagement

There are also some interesting stats on the importance of engagement – both in terms of connections and content.  

We’ll start with content (posts), as a more natural carry-on from the previous section…

1 – Engaging with your own content

Page 44 provides a great summary of the importance of engaging with your own content, and not just adopting the all-too-common “post-and-ghost” approach.

The first hour after posting is the most important time as it’s this early engagement that sets the momentum for the next 6 hours, and beyond.  Replying to all comments received within the first hour of posting can lead to a remarkable 40% increase in post growth.

This means that not only should you focus on posting at a time when your audience is most active, you also need to make time to respond as quickly as possible to those that engage with your content within this first “golden hour”. 

After that, engaging continues to help prolong the life of your post, but with diminishing returns.

2 – The importance of engaging new connections

Earlier in the report (page 9), there is a section that covers how you can influence what content appears in your own feed – which, if we flip it around, can provide us some insight into what you need to focus on when it comes to engaging your own new connections.

To summarise, new connections are most likely to see your content in the first 2 weeks, but if they don’t engage with your posts in that time, they are less likely to see your content in the future. DMs from connections also significantly increase the likelihood of them seeing your next post.

The main takeaways from this are:

  • Be aware of what you’re posting on LinkedIn and try to keep it in line with any campaigns you’re running to build trust in the early days 
  • Encourage connections to DM (direct message) through the platform (it will increase the likelihood that they will see your next post.

Focus on building a following

Interestingly, the report also answers (on page 46) something that I’ve recently begin to question myself: whether followers and connections are treated in the same way when it comes to post reach.

The answer: Yes it does. Only ~10-15% of your Connections will see a typical post, whereas that increases to ~25-30% of your Followers.

These findings reinforce my long-held belief, that your “Connections” should be just that – people you are actually connected to in some way (e.g. colleagues, collaborators, and other actual IRL acquaintances).  And that if you are looking to build an audience, you should be focusing on building “Followers”.

PRO TIP: Turn on Creator Mode*
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend enabling “Creator Mode”, and updating the default action to “Follow” rather than “Connect”.
Once activated, incoming connection requests also automatically convert to followers (whether or not you accept their invite) – which helps grow your Follower audience.

*Note that Creator Mode features are being integrated into all profiles, so if you don’t get around to it, you’ll still benefit once this update rolls out at some point in 2024.

How you engage matters

Something else the report summarises (page 47) also backs-up the advice that I share with my clients: that the action you should take depends on what your reason is for engaging in the post. 

  • Want to increase visibility of the original post? Instant Report
  • Want to promote the original post AND your own profile? Add an insightful comment
  • Want to boost your own visibility? Create your own post

Effective Tagging

As with adding links, which we touched on earlier, tagging (@mentions and #hastags) can also have an unexpected impact on the visibility and engagement of your posts. 

The impact of @mentions

There’s a lot to know here, but the main things to be aware of are that comments from tagged profiles increase post visibility; but you shouldn’t tag more than 8 people per post as this can have a negative impact on reach, as can low engagement from tagged profiles.

Play it safe by tagging in comments instead, as this doesn’t appear to result in any of the negative effects of tags in posts.

Optimal use of Hashtags (#)

Using 3-5 hashtags per post has been optimal for a few years now, and nothing has changed on that front. Likewise, where you position hashtags in your posts (mid-text, or at the end), doesn’t appear to nave any notable impact on engagement.

However, one thing that is new (to me at least) is that LinkedIn has a database of associated hashtags, so (per the report; page 51): “#SocialSelling will also expose you to related content, such as #Sales”

Getting the most out of LinkedIn Company Pages

If you’ve been trying to use your Company Page to help create new leads, then it’s likely you’ve been having a hard time of it, as that’s not something that Company Pages are particularly effective at doing. 

In fact, the latest data suggests that there’s been a notable decline in Company posts of a whopping 30-40% in the last year! Follower growth has remained fairly stable during this time, however, and engagement with Company posts has actually grown a small amount (8%).

Company page content pillars

As LinkedIn Company Pages are viewed far less frequently (and usually only at specific points in a buyers journey), I often recommend that clients think about Company Pages as more of a “ticker tape” of news and activity that’s going on inside the business, showcasing their employer brand as well as highlighting products/services and latest news/blogs.

This is echoed in the report which found that for small companies (betwen 2 and 50 employees) the best frequency to post is between 2-4 per week, with a mix of thought leadership, product/service highlights, and personal stories the best mix of content types.

TL;DR and key takeaways

The LinkedIn algorithm is constantly changing, and there have been various updates in the past 12 months that impact what the best approach is – especially as a small business user. 

As with most things “marketing”, using LinkedIn should be seen as an investment: the more you put in, the more you’ll get out – both as a business and as an individual/professional user of the platform.

5 Key Takeaways for Small Businesses Using LinkedIn in 2024

To ensure your investment is focused on activity that will generate the most return, there are 5 key things to be aware of:

  1. Understanding Post Formats: Different post formats yield varying levels of engagement. While text + image posts remain popular, video posts outperform all others in terms of engagement. Small businesses should focus on storytelling and infographics for text + image posts, and keep video content concise and engaging.
  1. Consistent Timing and Post Variety: Consistency in posting timing helps train the algorithm to understand your personal activity, but avoid posting more than once within a 24-hour period. Varying post formats is crucial to keep audience engagement high and diversified.
  1. Linking to External Content: Including links in posts negatively impacts reach. To circumvent this, consider adding links in comments or editing posts after publishing. This method helps maintain visibility while ensuring your audience can still access external content when they want to.
  1. The Importance of Engagement: Engaging with those that engage with your own content within the first hour of posting significantly boosts post growth. Encouraging connections to engage with your posts within the first two weeks of first connecting also increases visibility in their feeds. Building a following is key, as followers are more likely to see your posts compared to connections.
  1. Effective Tagging: Tagging (@mentions and #hashtags) influences post visibility and engagement. Avoid tagging too many people per post and use hashtags strategically. Use LinkedIn’s associated hashtags database to expand reach and relevance.

Overall, small businesses should focus on creating diverse, engaging content, being consistent in posting, and actively engaging with their audience to maximize visibility and impact.

If you’re interested in reading the full report and missed the link at the start of this article, you can find/read/download it from this LinkedIn post by eport author, Richard van der Blom.

Need help defining and implementing your Small Business LinkedIn Strategy? Arrange a quick discovery call to find out more.