A funny thing happened the other day. I created a post on LinkedIn (nothing unusual there – I’m on LinkedIn a lot, working on client accounts as well as my own) – but somehow this post was different. After a few hours it started to fly, and by the end of the first day it had gained over 36,000 views, 160 likes, 318 comments.

As anyone who has ever posted on LinkedIn will know, this is an unusually high level of reach and engagement. So I don’t mind admitting I went to bed a little bit excited to see what the next day would bring (I know – I’m such a LinkedIn Geek!)

I wasn’t disappointed – by morning it had reached over 100,000 views.  It ended that 2nd day with 300 likes and 485 comments. And, it didn’t stop there; it continued to grow exponentially over the next few days and finished the week on 1,157,653 views, 2,658 likes and 3,216 comments.

Here’s what the post looked like:

At the time of writing, nearly two weeks after posting, the moment has finally passed. I’m only picking up a few likes and comments a day, with just 1,000 or so new views per day.

Naturally we have been tracking this post on a minute-by-minute basis, trying to piece together exactly what it was that made it hit the big time so that we can do it again.

Here are the big takeaways from the ‘golden post’. Maybe it will help you to go viral too!

A picture speaks a thousand words

I used two photos of myself, side by side; a bit like a ‘spot the difference’ of profile pictures. You don’t see all that many split-photos like this on LinkedIn, so this made it stand out in the LinkedIn feed.

Keeping it real

I was being completely authentic when I posted my question. I had no expectation (or intention) that the post would go viral.  Of course, as a trained social media manager with plenty of experience of LinkedIn, I had a good idea it would capture the attention of my first and second degree network, but I really wasn’t trying to ‘go viral’. In fact, my main motivation was to try to desensitise myself to sharing my headshot, because we are planning to do a Marketing Architect team shoot soon which I would like to NOT ruin by hiding away from the camera!

Everyone’s an expert

My post asked for opinions. And people on LinkedIn really like to share their opinions! If you can find the right question for your target audience, your post can gain some strong engagement. And this question seemed to REALLY resonate with the LinkedIn crowd – maybe because we’ve all had to choose a profile picture so we know how tricky it can be to find the right image to represent us both personally and professionally on this particular platform.

No distractions

I didn’t include an external link, so there was nothing to distract people or take them away from LinkedIn. There are many theories that the LinkedIn algorithm prefers posts with no links as this keeps viewers on the platform.

A little bit of luck

Here is where good old luck came into it for me. My contacts are, themselves, very well connected, and are also quite well spread around the world. So when my old boss, now in Abu Dhabi, my workmate now in Australia, and another workmate now in Hong Kong, all commented within a few hours of the post going live, the algorithm really took note of the post and pushed it out to a wider audience.

Tapping into trends

My post tapped into a recent, growing, trend to be ‘more human’ on LinkedIn. There’s a movement underway to be less ‘corporate’ and stuffily professional on LinkedIn and more approachable, open and honest. My post was pretty honest and open and tapped into this trend. I did get some negative comments as a result (one person commented that I should ‘save it for Facebook or Instagram’), but, I can live with a few sour grapes amid a sea of overwhelmingly positive comments.

Tailor it for each platform

A word of caution though. Each of the social media platforms has its own characteristics and one size does NOT fit all. So the secret sauce recipe for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other platform, will be quite different to the LinkedIn recipe. It’s important to get to know what’s ‘the norm’ on your platform of choice, and then analyse the posts that stand out from the crowd: what did the poster do differently to make it stand out? And above all – remember that the most important element of all of these was authenticity. Whenever you try to ‘game’ the algorithm, it will be apparent both to your own network, and to the algorithm itself (these algorithms are fiendishly clever!) and could very well backfire resulting in lost followers.

If you’re anything like the Marketing Architect team, and love geeking out with the metrics, you might enjoy this chart showing the growth in reach and engagement.

Interestingly, I’ve spotted a few copycat posts in the last few days. Some are more blatant than others, but none of them are having the same level of success that my original post did – proving that, even when you think you’ve spotted the magic formula to go viral, it still needs a bit of luck to make it happen.

If you want to try going viral yourself, why not tag me in (@Sian Mansbridge)? I’ll be very happy to comment to help drive your engagement and reach.  Or, get in touch today to book a power hour on LinkedIn (or any other social media platform), so you can learn more about how to get the most out of social media for your business.