(Title photo credit: Cecilia So)
This article was originally posted on Eric Sim’s LinkedIn blog. I wanted to bring this story to light because I’ve found LinkedIn to be a more important social media platform for me as I get older, but I had never met a LinkedIn “influencer” until I had a chance to meet Eric. He’s a very affable fellow!
A recent Linkedin post went viral, accumulating 96,000 ‘likes’ …and the like count is still rising.
The post in question is an inspirational one, titled the “8 Qualities Of The World’s First Michelin-Starred Street Food Chef” This article gives readers a walkthrough on the unique qualities of Mr Chan Hon Meng, the Michelin-starred hawker* and how we can all integrate Mr. Chan’s exceptional qualities into our own work lives.
*In Singapore, a hawker sells street food in an open-air food centre
The question remains: how do some create viral hit content, while other posts languish and how do you build a platform and brand on LinkedIn?
The author behind the viral piece is Eric Sim. A hawker-turned-banker, Eric’s passion is teaching people how to develop themselves and lead a successful and happy work life. He advocates work-life integration and has gained an audience on social media, but his work wasn’t an overnight success. The first article he wrote was only ‘liked’ by three people – his best friend, his sister and a colleague – before he started begging his friends to read his article. Today, Eric no longer needs to ask friends to read his articles because now his audience has grown to over 100,000 followers on LinkedIn. Even more amazing is that he accomplished this in the span of just 18 months.
Besides being an investment banker advising clients on M&A, financing and investment, Eric is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Hong Kong University Science and Technology where he teaches key skills for finance professionals.
What Eric saw as he went from 0 – 100,000 LinkedIn subscribers
If you’re looking for tips on building an audience on LinkedIn, Eric has broken down his growth into 3 stages that has helped him visualise the process better.
Eric says, “At the beginning when you have less than a handful of followers, promote your work through your colleagues, friends and family. Everyone you meet, try to introduce your blog or content to them. Cross convert your FB friends into Linkedin followers. This brought me up to about 100 followers. The next step is to reach out to your network, people you’ve met at networking events, seminars or even acquaintances. Doing this allowed me to reach up to about 500 people.
When you get to 500, you have a good minimum audience for the Linkedin algorithm to work for you as you share your content. When you have great content, your 500 followers will comment and share, helping you distribute your posts. I post a long article once a month and a short status update once a week.
You must be persistent as the results in the few months is extremely slow and sometimes discouraging but you will get better with each post. I reached 10,000 followers after 12 months.”
When creating social media content, make sure it is thematically consistent but unique and relatable
Whether you’re a multinational brand or a solo online personality, understanding what resonates with your audience is key in building a following. Eric’s LinkedIn blog has always focused on tips that help to improve life and work performance, yet each blog presents this information in an unique manner.
As Eric says, “Almost every one of my posts, whether it is about a hawker, a shoe-seller, photographer or food, fashion, running, I always infer some lessons that are applicable to work-life.”
For example, for “8 Qualities Of The World’s First Michelin-Starred Street Food Chef” he took his in-depth knowledge of hawkers to add extra depth and a unique spin to his article.
He provides the example, “I found out that Mr. Chan customises his chopping worktop according to his height. You would need to be in the hawker business to know this. You wouldn’t know details like this even if you interviewed him. I then related that efficiency to work life – something most of my audience understands by now. You should customise your office work space. At your desk, even if you close your eyes, you should always know where your staple and calculator are for maximum efficiency.”
This connection provides an extra level of interest to the reader.
Also, be sure to always test your content when possible to make sure it’s optimised
Eric often retools his content ever so slightly to improve it, saying, “For LinkedIn, I will edit my posts, depending on the response. If the response is low, maybe the title is not attractive enough, perhaps the ending is not emotional enough, or there could be too many photos, etc, so I’ll improve the content as necessary. You’re allowed to edit an unlimited number of times on LinkedIn, so I make sure to take advantage of that.”
Understanding your audience allows you to better target your content
Eric is quick to understand that differences exist in social media audiences and channels, such as WeChat and LinkedIn. This often means his articles have to reflect this.
“95% of the audience on my WeChat account are Chinese; I not only post in Chinese but also use Mainland Chinese lingo and be sensitive to Chinese culture. On LinkedIn, my audience is about 50% from China, 30% America, and the remaining from the rest of the world. A simple example is, “if I write an article about how to take and post pictures on social media, if it’s for Mainland Chinese audience, I’ll talk about posting photos on WeChat’s Moments which allows a maximum of nine photos, and sometimes one photo attracts more ‘likes’ than nine photos will.” (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are not allowed in Mainland China); “If I write for an international audience, I will talk about how best to post photos on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.”
Posting time is incredibly important when it comes to your audience and it’s different with each social media channel
“If I want to publish something on WeChat,” Eric says, “I’ll usually post around 5:30PM (local time) on there, because that’s the time a lot of Chinese state-owned enterprise workers will be heading going home on company shuttle bus. Dinner often starts at around 6pm.
For Facebook, I tend to post at around 7pm because many of my Facebook connections work in the finance industry and they usually don’t leave office before 7pm. For LinkedIn, I usually post between 8pm and 9pm, that is the time US followers are on their way to work, European followers are having lunch while Asia followers are at home on their desktop.”