How LinkedIn Marketing Actually Works in 2021

Are you trying to dominate LinkedIn as we head into 2021?

It’s a platform with over 766 million users — many of them using their network to promote their affiliate programs. You can do the same with yours.

The only problem: LinkedIn isn’t the same platform it was a few years ago.
LinkedIn originally built a reputation as the go-to social network for people to connect with their coworkers. Now, people connect with others outside their circle of past colleagues. Anyone working in the same industry as you is likely to accept your connection request.

This change in LinkedIn’s positioning means it’s becoming more like a forum—and less like a platform for aggressive sales pitches.

People accept connection requests and want to see their content in their news feed.

So, what does that mean for your LinkedIn marketing strategy? Here are five key things about LinkedIn’s algorithm that’ll help you create engaging content into 2021.

1. Write text-only posts

It’s proven that text-only posts outperform the other types of content types on LinkedIn.

Videos, slideshows, and images can get solid engagement rates. But in my experience, text-only content gets the better reach. This means you can reach a wider group of people—even those who aren’t already following your profile.

The same concept applies to links you’re adding to your LinkedIn content, too. Once LinkedIn gets a user on their platform, it doesn’t make sense to direct them towards an external site (like your landing page).

They want users to spend the maximum amount of time on their platform. Writing text-only posts helps achieve their goal—hence why you’ll be rewarded with higher news feed placements for it.

(Side note: If you do need to direct people off to an external page, like your website, publish a text-only post and drop the link in the comment.)

2. Give value for free

Too many people think that LinkedIn is a place to sell stuff.

Age-old advice says that if you want to promote the new referral program your business just created, you should talk all about it on your LinkedIn profile. The same goes for any new features you add.

Truth is: Nobody cares about product-related content on LinkedIn. People want human connections there, not brand connections.

A great way to do that is by offering value—a piece of advice that someone can get directly from your news feed, without needing to visit your website.

That might be:

Take a look at how Harry Dry does this. He gives a smart marketing hack free to anyone following his LinkedIn profile:


The best part? LinkedIn’s algorithm will reward you Giving value on LinkedIn’s platform will encourage their algorithm to push you higher in your connection’s feed.

Check Tapfiliate’s affiliate and referral marketing features 👉👉

3. Be a conversation starter

We’ve already touched on the fact LinkedIn users are beginning to treat LinkedIn like a forum.

People want to chat with other people, find new content, and get involved in conversations. (Quite the opposite to the cold, hard-selling LinkedIn was infamous for back in the early 2010s.)

Build this into your LinkedIn marketing strategy by becoming a conversation starter.

This can be as simple as posting text-only content, and asking if anyone else does a similar thing. Ashley Amber Sava puts this into practice:


You can also start conversations by asking people to share a story. For brands managing an affiliate program, that could be:

  • Their favorite referral program
  • Their best tip for convincing affiliates to join their program
  • How they found the sweet spot for affiliate commissions

The more people that comment on your LinkedIn content, the better. It proves to LinkedIn’s algorithm that your content is interesting.

Remember: LinkedIn wants people to spend more time on their network. If your content is interesting, it’ll push it up other people’s news feeds. That helps build LinkedIn’s reputation for being a great place to engage in conversations.

4. Share controversial content

We already know that LinkedIn wants people to engage in conversation on their platform.

A surefire way to get people talking beneath your post is to share controversial content, be that in the form of videos, text, or image posts.

Do this using a simple two-step technique:

  • Pick a fight: find a common opinion in your industry that really gets people talking; one that has people convinced that their opinion is right.
  • Flip it around: share why you agree or disagree with that thing.

We can see this in action with Eric Siu’s LinkedIn post. It picks a fight (that SEO is dead), and flips a popular opinion around (why he thinks SEO will always have a place in marketing):


Eric’s post got 27 comments and almost 100 engagements.

It shows that controversial content sparks a reaction in people. Even if that’s a comment to explain why they disagree with you, those conversations are what LinkedIn users want.

5. Ditch the cold pitches

LinkedIn is no longer a sales platform for spammy sales reps to send crappy pitches.

Don’t believe me? I took some cold pitches that arrived in my boss’ LinkedIn inbox and reeled them off to people in the mall. Not a single person wanted to hear more about the “amazing business strategy” my pitch promised. Except for Santa. Check this video to see how it went!

Bear this in mind when you’re writing LinkedIn content.

Stop talking about how awesome your brand and company is. Flip the switch to your audience: what value will they get from following you?

Make LinkedIn your most lucrative social platform

As you can see, LinkedIn has changed dramatically over the last few years.
But knowing how it’s changed, and the type of LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards can help make it your most lucrative social media platform as we head into 2021 and beyond.

Remember to prioritize text-only content, give free value, and ditch the cold pitches. Your goal is to start conversations with the people following you. That’s the secret to cracking LinkedIn—and potentially going viral.

Gaetano DiNardi

Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker, and Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter - he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged. To get in touch, follow him on LinkedIn.

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