🀝 Building better connections

Welcome back to your weekly roundup of ideas and stories for publishers and creators of all kinds. We're right on time, with your regular Sunday updates! πŸ‘‡

πŸ’¬ In this week's issue:

  • LinkedIn. A 7-step marketing strategy that helped Justin Welsh gain 430k+ followers.
  • Nonprofit news. How a community-led strategy can bolster growth for a more sustainable newsroom.
  • Social media ain't what it used to be. But here's how we can all contribute to making it a better place to hang out ✌️

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A 7-Step LinkedIn marketing strategy

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LinkedIn is not just a space for your online resume, nor does it work like many other social media platforms. When used correctly, it can be the place where you can build meaningful connections, share your content, and become a thought leader within your niche.

Justin Welsh, one of the top creators on the social platform with over 430k followers, shares their tried-and-true strategy for marketing on LinkedIn.

#1 Determine your audience β€” Avoid shouting into the void by first figuring out who you're aiming to connect with on LinkedIn. Ask yourself what your passions and strengths are. Ask who are the people you can help with your skills.

Knowing who you're speaking to is the first step in delivering content that sticks and sparks conversations. It's not about casting a wide net, it's about attracting the right fish. β€” Justin Welsh

#2 Optimize your profile β€” Treat your LinkedIn profile like you would your homepage, and make sure it showcases your expertise and credibility in a way that aligns with your target audience. Make sure you update every aspect of your profile, including your banner, headshot, tagline, featured section, about section, experience section, and get some stellar recommendations.

#3 Turn creator mode on β€” This allows you to add up to 5 hashtags relevant to your areas of expertise and helps you get discovered by other people interested in those areas. To turn this one, click the Me button, select View profile, scroll to Resources, and then toggle creator mode on.

#4 Don't stop networking β€” But don't play the numbers game and add everyone (no one likes this behavior). Build a relevant network, focus on quality over quantity, and foster real relationships with real people. Personalize those connection requests!

#5 Publish shareable content β€” As is always the case on any platform or on your own website, sharing valuable content with your followers is the best way to expand your reach. Create a domino effect by publishing sharable posts that are packed with value.

Your content shouldn't mirror what everyone else is saying. It should inspire, challenge, and educate. It should solve problems, open up new thought avenues, and stimulate meaningful conversations.

#6 Spend time on engagement β€” Sharing high-quality content is half the battle. The other half is sticking around for the comments. Set aside some time to engage in the comments on your posts with thoughtful responses that further the conversation.

#7 Partner up β€” Work with other professionals and creators to cross-promote your work. Get involved with (or host) a LinkedIn live, jump on other people's podcasts, and create some mutually beneficial opportunities to attract new followers from each other's networks.

Interesting stories & ideas πŸ“š

How a community-centric approach boosts member revenue

An illustration of a graph trending upwards that looks like mountains against a gradient sky

The Intitute for Nonprofit News shared an insightful deep dive into the success of Bridge Michigan, a nonpartisan news service published by the Center of Michigan.

Founded in 2011 as a digital-only outlet with only one editor and reporter, the organization has since grown to a team of 22 whose roles sit in editorial, growth, engagement, and membership. With a focus on transparency and accountability, the publication approaches its work as a public service and has leveraged several opportunities to grow a highly engaged audience, form a sustainable business model, and continue providing community-centered reporting.

Here's the digestible takeaways:

  • Adopting a membership model β€” By focusing on engaging deeply with their audience, going as far as buying a van to drive around the state to meet their audience, they were able to launch a membership program in 2019 which has gone over to raise nearly $1 million from over 8,000 donors, making up 24% of the organization's revenue.
This is going to sound easy, but I really do think [engagement] is kind of the secret sauce as to how we were able to get off the ground with membership so quickly, and how we’ve been able to continue to grow,” DeLind said. β€œWe sort of had that muscle memory, that institutional knowledge, of how to make people know that you care about them β€” that you’re interested in their feedback and their ideas, and that membership is really just the ultimate expression of engagement with your organization. You care so much about this thing, this organization that provides you news that you can get for free, that you are deciding to spend your money and just support it.
  • Investment in staff and training β€” Creating full-time roles to manage their growth strategy and membership programs was a big turning point for the publication, along with participation in the Meta Journalism Project Accelerator in 2018, they were able to work on a strategy to attract and retain new readers.
  • Understanding the funnel β€” Gaining a deep understanding of how Bridge readers were visiting the website, what they were reading, and when they were returning, became a valuable tool in understanding audience behavior, and promoting their one-time donation and membership offerings.
  • Refining tiers β€” The Bridge team continues to refine its membership and engagement strategy, build out new benefits for donors and members, and roll out new membership tiers for individuals and organizations based on what they learn from speaking to their audience. Running a sustainable newsroom is not a set-it-and-forget-it deal β€” it requires constant iteration!
Bridge Michigan has firmly established the membership program in less than three years, thanks to a culture of connecting with local readers and demonstrating the value of Bridge’s reporting work to communities in Michigan.

The engagement grave

A view of earth from space at night with lights shining up into the atmosphere

Is social media what it used to be? YouTube is out, TikTok is in, Instagram is always working through a mid-life crisis, and we're not sure what's going on with Twitter (𝕏). Many creators struggle with today's complicated algorithms, fuzzy metrics, and dead strategies. How are we expected to function within a dysfunctional social media landscape? Writer and social media manager Emily Rochotte shines some much-needed light through the engagement fog.

In all this uncertainty, there is good news. Social isn’t dead yet, but your social media accounts need some TLC. The negative experiences you, me, and our peers are having with social present a meaningful opportunity to explore how users feel about media platforms and the content that circulates on them. – Emily Rochotte

So, how can you make your social media insanity sane again? Try this:

  • Make everything meaningful. The way you engage with other accounts should be relevant, and on-brand. Don't just throw likes and follows at the wall to see what sticks.
  • It's not about the bots. Automation and AI may seem like the tools of the future, but it's become a big turn-off. When it comes to social media engagement, most people know a fake friend when they see one.
  • Don't cut corners. Shortcuts like buying followers will only falsely inflate your numbers, making your entire social media presence inauthentic. Real engagement needs real people.
  • Clean house. Don't be shy about combing through your followers and removing the obvious bots. Your follower count will drop, but you'll know who's left is real, which creates more authentic followers in the long run.
  • Content is key. There's never going to be one magic remedy to curing all of your social media ills, but one of your major focuses should always be creating and sharing quality content. If your content sucks, so will everything else.
  • Build relationships. Don't be afraid to show your true self to your audience. The amount of "human" you share will always be noticed, and you'll receive authenticity in return.
When you keep showing up, providing the information your audience is seeking, and delivering it in the manner in which they desire to consume it in order to help them learn, you’re showing them they’re valuable to you. And in a challenging world filled with an overabundance of low-quality, bot-generated content, making someone feel human is the best way to connect. That connection is the priority. The engagement that builds with it is the added bonus. – Emily Rochotte

In the end, is social media all about engagement metrics? Not really. Your audience doesn't care about your numbers, they only care about you and your content. If you keep giving them what they want and show them who you are, they'll follow you forever. Connecting with others is easy. The hard part is climbing out of the engagement grave, and connecting with yourself. πŸͺ¦

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