As the most followed CFA charterholder on LinkedIn, Eric Sim, CFA, has expertly leveraged social media to connect with other professionals, build your personal brand and advance your career. In the How to Master Social Media series, adapted from his recent book Small actions: lead your career to great successSim shares some essential lessons on how to make social media work for you.
In 2020, I made two of LinkedIn’s lists for its content creators: China Spotlight and Singapore Top Voices. It was such an honor to have my work on LinkedIn recognized for driving thoughtful and professional conversations.
I’m sometimes asked to reveal my secrets on how I grew my follower count on LinkedIn, which now exceeds two million. My first piece of advice is that the quality of your followers is more important than the quantity. And the quality of your content is the basis for building your follower base.
But while you’re focusing on producing great content, there are other things you can do to help you get a wider following on LinkedIn. Here are my seven tips.
1. Comment on other people’s posts
When I come across an interesting post on LinkedIn, I try to leave an insightful comment, which often prompts the author to engage with me. With engagement comes more visibility. If your comments add value to readers, they will follow you. Commenting only takes a few minutes, so it’s an effective way to add value to readers.
2. Reveal failure
Most social media posts only show the positive side of life, but we all know that life has its ups and downs. When you post something that exposes your weaknesses, you help people identify with you and share their own failures. You help relieve people’s pressure to be perfect all the time. Revealing failures makes the stories you tell on LinkedIn more interesting (remember, when there’s no conflict, there’s no story) and makes you more likable. This phenomenon is known as the Pratfall effect.. It was discovered in 1966 by social psychologist Elliot Aronson, who demonstrated that highly competent people are perceived as more likable when they commit an ordinary blunder.
3. Be observant
To attract followers on LinkedIn, you must regularly have interesting and fresh ideas. Some people ask me how I develop such a wide range of topics to write about while staying within the general theme of career and life skills. The answer: I observe my surroundings and the people I meet. When I find a potential topic for a LinkedIn article, I immediately jot it down on my phone.
My story ideas often come from people in everyday life, including my tailor in Hong Kong, a tour guide in London, and gardeners tending lotus plants at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Sometimes I just go to my own garden and learn from nature.
If you interact with people and your surroundings, you can learn from them and translate them into engaging content that adds value to your followers.
4. Speak at events
I get invited to speak at events almost every month. On the last slide of my presentations, I share my usernames on social media in case attendees want to follow me. I also post a summary of my talk on LinkedIn. Usually I
see a slight increase in my follower count after each conversation.
If you don’t have the opportunity to present at events yet, try organizing conference sessions at your university or workplace to share your hobbies, specialist skills, or topics that interest you.
5. Refer your LinkedIn profile
Before each speech, the organizers usually ask me for my biography to post on their website, and I make sure to include my LinkedIn URLs in the biography. Over the years, my LinkedIn profile page has been linked like this on the websites of many organizations, including those of top universities, whose sites typically have high domain authority. Search engine algorithms determine that these links all point to my LinkedIn, which helps with the search engine optimization (SEO) of my profile so that it appears higher on the results page when people are looking for my name.
Bonus tip: If you’re a charter holder, always add your CFA designation to your name in your bio or whenever you’re mentioned online. Try googling “Eric Sim”. You may or may not find me, but if you Google “Eric Sim, CFA” you will see at least three pages of search results for me. This is the power of “CFA” as an identifier for SEO.
6. Offline network
It’s a good idea to network to add value beyond just posting content. This will keep your followers happy and help you attract new ones. For example, I host online and offline networking events for some of my followers who regularly interact with my posts. I’m curious to know who they are and why they like my content. Shakiru, a London-based crude oil trading analyst, liked my very first LinkedIn post, “I Failed My Maths Exam.” At that time, I only had a few hundred connections. Whenever I visit London I always invite Shakiru to join my networking events and introduce him to my other London based friends and relations. Meeting one-on-one helps strengthen our relationship.
7. Be like bamboo
A reporter writing for a tech magazine asked me if my LinkedIn follower growth looked like a linear or exponential pattern. It was the latter. At first, I progressed slowly to gain followers, but I still loved writing my articles. Users like Shakiru, by interacting with my posts, have helped me build a follower base, improve my writing, and broaden my thinking. It’s like the way bamboo grows. When I planted bamboos in my garden, nothing more happened the first year, then new bamboos suddenly shot up a few feet in a few weeks.
A blog with a million subscribers starts with a single connection.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image courtesy of Eric Sim, CFA
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