Laurence Fishman’s LinkedIn posts not only reach millions of people but they also win him significant new business. Here’s how he does it…
If your painstakingly crafted LinkedIn posts elicit less noise than cosmic dust drifting pointlessly through deep space, don’t worry. You are not alone. It’s a painful fact of cyber-life that most LinkedIn posts do not get as much engagement as their authors would like.
It goes something like this: you craft, edit and agonise over whether to write “fuck”, “f**k” or “fiddlesticks”; you decide, proofread, hit ‘post’ and… receive four likes: from your mate, your partner, the bloke opposite and a final kick in the teeth from your Dad, who joined LinkedIn last week and accidentally clicked the mouse button.
Even more annoyingly, a handful of LinkedIn Jedis strut around like Social Media Skywalkers. For these content kings, merely posting “yum” above a picture of toast receives more likes than you’ve had in the past two years. How have they harnessed the Social Media Force? Why do their posts get so much traction?
We tracked down a bonafide LinkedIn Jedi – Laurence Fishman, partner at accountancy firm Nyman Libson Paul – to get some answers. Laurence’s posts are legendary, pulling in millions of impressions (15 million in the past 12 months, to be precise) and netting him a significant amount of new business.
Here are Laurence’s ten LinkedIn lessons:
1. LinkedIn is no longer like a stuffy networking breakfast.
Ditch your LinkedIn preconceptions. Before you post, it’s important to understand how the website has evolved.
Laurence explains: “LinkedIn is no longer a purely business platform, but a place where people connect on a human level. Sure, almost everyone using the site does something business-related, but it’s no longer a dull platform where users simply write: ‘I am an accountant. Please reach out if anyone would like to use my services.’
“It’s only after connecting emotionally that people work out whether they can do business together. So, the website is now about people and connections first; business second.
“As a result, I never use my LinkedIn posts to sell services and I barely talk about my work. I only try to sell when I get an inbound approach in the DMs or in front of people in a real-life meeting. Every client I’ve picked up through LinkedIn has approached me saying: ‘I saw your post and really enjoyed reading it. Can we chat?’”
2. Show people who you are; not what you do.
Now that LinkedIn has evolved from a glorified Rolodex into a platform bubbling with ideas, fun and personalities, posters should adjust their content accordingly.
Laurence says: “Most people on LinkedIn make the mistake of thinking: ‘I need to shout about what I do.’ But that’s not a good idea because, first and foremost, we want to connect with individuals who we like. Hardly anyone visits LinkedIn looking for a service. Instead, their first questions are: Do I like this person? Would I work well with them? Do we connect ethically, culturally and spiritually? It’s only after working those questions out that they consider anything else.”
Explaining this shift, Laurence says: “During the pandemic, we went through a social revolution. People became much more open about their lives and what matters to them – because, for the first time, we all had the chance to step back and take stock. That’s flowed through to LinkedIn. The most popular posts today involve people really putting themselves out there, discussing topics like mental health, sexuality, religion – things you’d have probably avoided three years ago.”
3. Write about stuff that entertains and fascinates you.
The perfect LinkedIn post, in Laurence’s book, tackles a subject its author finds fascinating, written in an entertaining and engaging manner. What’s more, it reveals something about the writer’s personality and contains an attention-grabbing image or video. Tricky boxes to tick, you might think, but practice makes perfect.
Here are the subjects covered in Laurence’s five most-recent LinkedIn posts at the time of writing:
- Getting stuck in flash-flooding on the way to work in London with a video of the flooding.
- Thoughts on why people lie about their business success on LinkedIn, accompanied by a picture of Laurence’s bemused-looking face.
- Why the author ended up being an accountant despite his creative spirit, illustrated by an optical illusion image of straight lines that somehow look curvy.
- The fact Liz Truss stole Laurence’s regular Monday exercise slot with his personal trainer, above a face-swap video of him entering No 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.
- Why it’s always so painful to hear the word ‘no’ accompanied by a video of a crying baby.
Laurence says: “I tend to post comments, thoughts and musings about general ‘life stuff’ and I try not to overthink what I write. In other words, I post about things you might chat about with your mates in the pub.”
4. Find your perfect posting process.
To regularly come up with engaging content, you need a content-creation technique that works for you and your schedule. Laurence describes his process: “I’m an early riser, so get up at about 6.30am every morning. I’ll see a video or picture of something on social media that grabs me. Then I’ll think about how I can turn that into a post. I treat it like a challenge.
“When I’ve decided what to post, I write the content off the cuff. I don’t think too heavily about the wording. I just ask myself – how would I say this?
“After I’ve written my post, I’ll proofread it and ask myself: Does it flow? Does it work? Am I comfortable with what I’m saying and how I’m saying it? If the answer is yes to all three, I go with it.”
5. Be authentic and shoot from the hip.
What you need to avoid, according to Laurence, is creating a feeling that your posts are contrived, fake or trying to sell a service. Authenticity is the name of the game.
“I never plan or pre-write my posts,” he says. “I know many LinkedIn pros advise you to do exactly that, but I think that if you do, it feels forced; too structured. People see through that and it comes across as fake. Again, it’s authenticity that sells.
“For me, the best posts are written in a way that feels like the author is talking directly to you. Achieving that takes a little copywriting magic.
“Another criterion I use when deciding what to post is to write content that humanises me. I don’t want to come across as a standoffish corporate accountant. I want to be accessible – the sort of person you’d want to have a coffee or a pint with.
“But my golden rule is there’s no point in posting if I’m not being me. Others may not agree with what I write, which is fine, but my posts must always come from both mind and heart.”
6. Develop an engaging and unique personal style.
Laurence has a singular posting style that incorporates punchy lines of text delivered in a laidback, witty, chatty style. He uses emojis and throws in plenty of modern slang and humour. His advice is to develop a unique posting style that reflects your personality.
He says: “I try to keep my posts light, easy to read and funny because humour is important to me. If they’re too wordy, people ignore them, so I avoid heavy-duty paragraphs. LinkedIn isn’t a blog site – it’s designed for digestible, bite-sized chunks: shortish messages with a beginning, middle and end.
“I have had some negative feedback about my use of emojis but I use them to add colour and break up the text. When used cleverly, they convey humour really well – they can be powerful.”
7. Deliver the unexpected.
Posting something that makes people think – to coin a classic social media acronym – ‘WTF’ (or even ‘WTAF’) is an effective way to stand out, as long as you stick to the advice in No. 5 above and avoid trying too hard to deliver a surprise, which, as a result, comes over as contrived.
One of Laurence’s most talked about posts to date is a classic example of an uncontrived ‘WTF’ moment, which worked so well it went viral. He explains: “Around a year ago, I was in Spain and woke up early so, to avoid waking the kids up, I went for a walk on the beach. On that particular morning, it was stormy and dark.
“I heard some splashing, put my phone torch on and spotted an injured dolphin lying on the beach. To cut a long story short, I managed to single-handedly get it back into the water and save it.
“It was an emotional and strange experience, and I decided to share it on LinkedIn. The post was a real head-turner because it was so unusual. People labelled me Lord Atlantis and Aquaman and the whole episode has become a big part of my personal brand.”
8. Post relatively often.
This piece of advice is common sense because LinkedIn rewards users who post regularly. Laurence explains: “As a minimum, I try to post three times a week – say Monday, Wednesday and Friday – because LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards consistency. The more you post, the more – if you’re getting engagement – LinkedIn pushes you up the rankings. It’s an upward spiral.
“Consistent posting is important because you want to stay front of mind. To use a fishing analogy, you have to regularly dangle your worm in the water. Every time you post, it keeps the worm in view and increases the likelihood of inbound leads – it’s as simple as that.”
9. Grow a thick skin.
Social media attracts trolls. It’s a fact. A small number of posters at best love an argument and at worst enjoy being nasty. And the more successful your posts, the more potshots from under-bridge dwellers you’ll get.
Laurence says: “You have to be thick-skinned and accept it for what it is. There will always be the odd snide insult because that’s what keyboard warriors do. Also, posts that do best tend to attract the most negativity because more people see them. But if you need to, block people. I’ve done it before and no doubt I’ll have to do it again.
10. Don’t lose sight of the reasons you’re on LinkedIn.
Finally, it’s useful to regularly remind yourself why you’re on LinkedIn in the first place so you can keep it in its box, lest it start to take over your life and become draining. Each user will have their own unique motivation but two common reasons are to develop positive new relationships and win new business. By keeping those two aims in mind, you’ll stay focused and make better decisions.
Laurence says: “As a Partner of my firm, part of my role is to generate business. Before Covid, I’d always done it the old-fashioned way: through networking breakfasts, events and conferences. When those stopped, I turned to LinkedIn. Needs must – I had to try something new because face-to-face options had dried up and I was nervous about the future. It was a forced pivot.
“But I quickly realised that LinkedIn is the equivalent of fishing in a small pond, where all the fish you could ever want are swimming about right there in front of you. On top of that, posts are the literary equivalent of a handful of grenades and if you toss enough into the water boy can you eat well! Since starting using the platform in earnest in mid-2020, I’ve picked up significant business from it – it’s genuinely a big opportunity. I’ve also connected to some amazing people.”
The last post...
LinkedIn is fertile ground for winning new business, making new contacts and enhancing your personal brand. Laurence, whose unique posts are almost like performance art, proves just how effective the website can be as a marketing tool. Admittedly, not everyone is blessed with the creative copywriting talent of the Nyman Libson Paul partner, but by following some of his ten tips, you may well be able to turn the sound of LinkedIn tumbleweed if not into the cheers of thousands of adoring fans, then at least the pleasant chatter of interested, likeminded people.
To distil Laurence’s comments into a potent yet easy-to-drink concoction, there are two main takeaways. First, LinkedIn is now a much more creative, less ‘worky’ platform than it once was. The boundary on the website between life and business has blurred and the content that now pulls in the most clicks reflects this softening. Second, and perhaps most importantly, authenticity is king: Laurence’s posts work well not only because he’s a talented and amusing copywriter but because, beneath the emojis and humour, they are honest and written from the heart.
To thine own self be true.
The famous proverb is always worth remembering, especially when devising your next LinkedIn post.