The mantra on LinkedIn: engagement, engagement, engagement. It seems if you ain't getting it, then you ain't doing it right (for whatever dumb value of "it" these numbskulls think is important).
Fact: if your purpose for being on LinkedIn is to generate business, I'm here to tell you right now you don't need engagement, and, oftentimes, seeking it is going to be counterproductive.
Where the "engagement" myth sprang from
We'll never know for sure, but I can make an educated guess and say it came from an uninformed view of how to overcome the big three hurdles to making sales:
- They have to know you.
- They have to like you.
- They have to trust you.
To be fair, liking isn't always necessary (those of us who have grown up a bit and are able to be objective can do business with people we don't like); and trust comprises two parts: trust you can do the job, and trust you will do the job.
But let's not get picky.
And the idea is if you post lots of "engaging" content — that is, content where you get a fuckton of views, likes, comments, and shares — you, over time, build relationships and let people come to know, like, and trust you.
It's not much different from the traditional ascension model of selling, where we get people into our world with a low-value purchase and sell higher-value products and services to them over time.
Let’s get something straight: I am not saying the ascension model and getting "engagement" doesn’t work.
That would be stupid, because it clearly does.
Here’s where they both let us down.
First, they're usually slow.
To get someone from buying, say, a £20 book or reading my take on pineapple on pizza to a high-end purchase like my Elite Mastermind can take (quite literally) years.
Often the reason for this is even if potential clients have burning problems they’ll settle for what you offer them (even if they had the will and the wherewithal to spend £1,000, if all you’re offering them is a £200 DVD set, then that’s what they’ll buy. The problem with that is sometimes they’ll decide that’s enough from you and take the big bucks elsewhere).
More to the point, if in my inane and fatuous engagement-seeking posts about what I did over the Summer I'm not speaking to them about their burning problems, they're unlikely to think of me as being the Fluffy Bunny who can solve them.
Secondly, it’s inefficient.
The amount of work required to take someone through the ascension process can be substantial.
Even if it is largely automated, there is a cost associated with it — even if it’s only the cost of random support, refunds, and general pain-in-the-arse clients who have spent a little and expect everything for it.
To recoup your advertising costs can take a long time, and slow lead-flow leads to slow business-growth.
And thirdly, it properly serves neither you nor your clients.
A proportion of your potential clients come to you with a burning problem.
They do not need a Band-Aid or a sticking plaster.
Rather, they need wheeling into the operating theatre Right Fucking Now and a full surgical team digging into their vitals right away.
Consider this: the moment I discovered I had cataracts I did not take the ascension-route and try ever-more powerful spectacle lenses, daylight-lamps, or other aids to nibble away at the edges of my problem, and possibly save myself some hassle or money.
No, instead I virtually screamed “shut up and take my fucking money” and went for the most expensive option they had (I even offered them more money if they would do it sooner, but they didn’t have that option available).
I travelled alone to Dublin for the initial consultation with the surgeon, and then to Clane a month later, also alone, for the op. For me, with my Asperger’s, that was a big deal… but I did it because solving the problem was VERY important to me.
These are the kinds of clients who will jump immediately into your high-end offerings but who cannot jump into them if you don’t have them, offer them, or encourage people to make that jump.
And these are the kind of clients you'd do well to be targeting on LinkedIn, just as I do.
How "engagement" can be counterproductive
I hope you can see the tactic of seducing your potential and future clients with an unending stream of low-value posts on LinkedIn (and other platforms) has the same drawbacks as the traditional ascension model.
As often as not you're overlooking clients with a burning problem and a desperate need to get it nailed in favour of tracking views, likes, shares, and comments on your posts — all activities which do not immediately bring you sales in the main (and even when they do, it's almost impossible to track).
But it's worse than that.
Because you can actually be hampering yourself in less obvious ways, ways you're unlikely even to be aware of.
See, if you write your posts to seek "engagement" you're going to start writing in a way where you respond to the reward of views, likes, shares, and comments.
In effect, what you're doing is changing your whole approach to the market in response to the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions of likely unqualified people whom you don't know and with whom almost certainly don't share the same values. Chances are you wouldn't even like most of them if you met them for any amount of time in real life.
You will necessarily water down your message to appeal to the masses and the lowest common denominator. You'll try to be all things to all men and women, and end up being nothing of consequence to anyone.
And all for what?
To get business from a rare one or two who might fit your criteria?
What really happens is you tend to take what comes.
Good luck with that.
So I'll end this with a question
Assuming you know the following (and if you don't, you're an idiot and should remedy that parlous state of affairs immediately):
- Exactly whom you're selling to;
- The specific problem you solve and the outcome they get from having it solved;
- The consequences to them of not getting it solved
Which do you think is the smartest, most efficient, most surefire approach?
- Engaging a massive audience in a classic shotgun blast and hoping you hit one or two targets? Or...
- Being very clear and direct in your message and speaking only to those you want to work with?
Here's something for you to think about: not a single client who's come to me through LinkedIn has ever engaged on any of my posts before sending me PM, getting on the phone with me, and then coming on as a client.
Every single one of them has gone from "cold to sold" in the space of a few days. They've come to know, like, and trust me enough to commit to a high-ticket programme in under a week.
The idea you have to sweet-talk your clients for months with an endless barrage of mindless, puerile, and witless bullshit in their feed is a myth.
I get why people do it, of course: it's easy and comfortable, and a lot less threatening than being direct and upfront, and asking for what you want and running risk of being told "no".
Ultimately, it's up to you.
Your choice, your responsibility, and your consequences.
You want my help to get this all fixed in your business?
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business mentor, and autism advocate