“The pen is mightier than the sword” is an expression first written by novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Well, I have an update to the famous proverb: “LinkedIn is mightier than the Conference” and here are 5 reasons why…
1. Numbers – I started publishing on LinkedIn after CES in January and I set myself a target of pumping out 1 article a week. I have occasionally managed 2 when there has been something particularly topical (like ‘The Dress that Broke the Internet’ – I’m still firmly Team Blue on that by the way). Not exactly prolific but at least I’m consistent. What has surprised me is the volume of views, likes, shares, tweets etc. Collectively I have written 18 items and from the analytics provided by LinkedIn (you can access your own stats on your publishing home page in your profile) total views are currently a whisker over 15200. Not too shabby.
But when you factor in the additional views generated by third party articles based upon the pieces I’ve written then I have conservatively estimated that this rises to well over 100,000. Proof points? One article I wrote entitled ‘Burn Your Resume’ was featured in The Journal and has generated almost 32,000 views to date (verified by their own tracker). Add to that the coverage it gained via Yahoo Finance, Business Insider and several other featured news items (of which sadly I don’t have the stats) I’m pretty sure it would swell the numbers dramatically. There have also been versions in different languages from countries as far away as Brazil, Italy and Romania which is reflected in the viewing stats recorded by LinkedIn.
Interestingly, although I’m located in Asia, my reader base is geographically very diverse with my largest viewing audience being from the US (circa 30%). I think it’s fair to assume that it isn’t often that a conference can reach out to such a Global audience. Co-publishing in Digital Market Asia has also bolstered views by another 30,000+. I have also grown my number of regular followers to over 2000 and that loyal base of readers keeps the views up plus it rises with every published narrative. My own numbers are eclipsed by many of the LinkedIn INfluencers who regularly achieve views of over 100,000 for a single post. So by comparison, how many people can you reach via a conference? At best, maybe a couple of thousand? On average maybe more like 500. I did a panel recently to about that number with a leading marketer from Hasbro and a Global lead from Facebook. Interestingly I wrote a LinkedIn piece on the back of it about content marketing. That item delivered nearly triple the numbers than the conference slot itself.
I spoke to Andrew Goldman, Global Partner Lead at LinkedIn for his opinion and he was typically emphatic in his view…
These are high-quality views and engagements. We know that the mindset of a social consumer on their professional network is more invested in the content they consume than on personal networks, places they go to find entertainment and distraction. LinkedIn members are looking for knowledge and insights to make them better at their careers and more competitive in the workplace. That’s a very focused and emotional mindset for your professional audience, and arguably a level of emotional engagement rarely seen at scale at Conferences.”
2. Cost – what is the average cost of attending a conference these days? Based upon my own personal experience it is something in the region of US$500-$1000. Not an insignificant amount of money. Then there is the travel cost plus the accommodation and the inevitable bar bill. The entry level for publishing on LinkedIn? Zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing.
3. Time – conferences are a big commitment in terms of time allocation (the most limited and costly resource for many companies). More often than not conferences last at least a day and increasingly more like two or three. That’s a big commitment on behalf of both the speakers and the audience. The beauty of resonant content is that it can be written within a few hours and consumed within just a few minutes. Actually, I try (wherever possible) to ensure that the items I knock out are short, sharp and to the point. I attempt to make a virtue of their accessibility. The ‘2 Minute Skinny’ is a favourite method of mine. As is a Top 5 (like this one). Simple, bite sized chunks of information that are easy to digest and enable the reader to quickly move on. Can the same be said for conferences? Most speeches are allocated a 30 minute slot. Often up to an hour. So ask yourself this question… of the ones you have seen in the past few years, how many of them actually needed all that time to make their point? Or were they just filling the slot they had been allocated? And how many can you actually remember? Be honest. I’m guessing it’s less than five.
4. Prescient – we live in an age where we want our information now. We are less interested in what happened in the past, we are far more engaged by what’s happening real time and are more likely to base our opinions upon it. And that’s another reason why publishing on LinkedIn has the edge over conferences. Most material that is produced for a conference is completed weeks (if not months) before the event itself. It’s not that they aren’t forward thinking, it’s just that the POV is arguably not quite as well informed because it often doesn’t take into consideration what has literally just happened. That’s where writers have an advantage because they can harness the power of a multitude of real time sources (like Twitter) to bring their thinking right up to the minute (if not the nanosecond).
5. Attention – humans are fickle beings. Let’s face it we are quite easily distracted. At the last conference I attended, I think it’s fair to say that at one (admittedly turgid) session most people in the room were not focused on the material being espoused by the monotone orator but were far more interested in checking their Facebook page.
Or maybe even reading an article on LinkedIn Pulse? I would warrant that if someone is reading an article then they are far less likely to be distracted by something else and even if they are they can break off and return to the piece later.
To conclude I asked Chris Reed, who is Global CEO for Black Marketing (a B2B marketing consultancy who specialise in enabling LinkedIn for businesses and individuals), for his opinion. He was categoric that LinkedIn publishing trounces conference content comprehensively but he also added another interesting dimension:
“LinkedIn is not only more powerful than conference content but it’s more powerful than posting a blog on your website too. How many people view your website for your blog? Not many. Most people are looking for services, contact details and case studies. How many of the 350 million people on LinkedIn are looking for content? The majority of them, as it’s a content marketing engine where people actively search for insights and thought provoking articles.”
So does all this mean that conferences are a thing of the past? Far from it. Of course they will continue to thrive. People will continue to flock to them as long as the content is strong, the buffets are decent and there is a good opportunity to network with colleagues. But the dynamic has clearly shifted thanks to the introduction of personal publishing on LinkedIn and it will be interesting to see how the eco-system develops in the future as the two start to feed off each other more readily.
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