As the most followed CFA charterholder on LinkedIn, Eric Sim, CFA, has expertly leveraged social media to connect with other professionals, build his personal brand, and advance his career. In the How to Master Social Media series, adapted from his recent book Small Actions: Leading Your Career to Big Success, Sim shares some critical lessons on how to make social media work for you.
In 2020, I made two of LinkedIn’s lists for its content creators: China Spotlight and Singapore Top Voices. It was such an honor that my LinkedIn work had been recognized for driving thoughtful and professional conversations.
I’m sometimes asked to reveal my secrets about how I’ve increased my follower numbers on LinkedIn, which now exceed two million. My initial advice is that the quality of your followers is more important than the quantity. And the quality of your content is the foundation for building your follower base.
But while you focus on producing quality content, there are other things you can do to help you become more widely followed on LinkedIn. Here are my seven tips.
1. Comment on Other People’s Posts
When I come across an interesting LinkedIn post, I try to leave an insightful comment, which often prompts the author to engage with me. With engagement comes more visibility. If your comments add value to readers, they will follow you. Commenting takes only a few minutes, so it’s an efficient way to add value to readers.
2. Reveal Failure
Most social media posts only show the positive side of life, but we all know that life has its ups and downs. When you publish something that exposes your weaknesses, you make it easier for people to identify with you and to share their own failures. You help take the pressure off people to be perfect all the time. Revealing failures makes the stories you tell on LinkedIn more interesting (remember that when there’s no conflict, there’s no story) and makes you more likable. This phenomenon is known as the Pratfall effect. It was discovered in 1966 by social psychologist Elliot Aronson, who demonstrated that highly competent people are perceived as more likable when they perform an ordinary blunder.
3. Be Observant
To attract followers on LinkedIn, you need to have interesting and fresh ideas on a regular basis. Some people ask me how I develop such a wide range of topics to write about and yet still stay within the general theme of career and life skills. The answer: I observe my surroundings and the people I encounter. When I find a potential topic for a LinkedIn article, I immediately note it down on my phone.
My article ideas often come from people in everyday life, including my tailor in Hong Kong, a tour guide in London, and gardeners tending to lotus plants at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Sometimes I simply go out to my own garden and learn from nature.
If you engage with people and your environment, you can learn lessons from them and translate those lessons into appealing content that adds value to your followers.
4. Speak at Events
I am invited to speak at events almost every month. On the final slide of my presentations, I share my social media usernames in case attendees want to follow me. I also post a summary of my speech on LinkedIn. I usually
see an uptick in my follower numbers after each talk.
If you don’t have the opportunity to present at events yet, try to arrange speaking sessions at your university or workplace to share your hobbies, specialist skills, or topics you’re interested in.
5. SEO Your LinkedIn Profile
Ahead of each speaking event, the organizers usually ask me for my biography to post on their website, and I make sure to include my LinkedIn URL in the bio. Over the years, my LinkedIn profile page has been backlinked like this on the websites of many organizations, including those of top universities, whose sites typically have a high domain authority. Search engine algorithms figure out that these links all point back to my LinkedIn, and this helps with the search engine optimization (SEO) of my profile, so it appears higher up the results page when people search for my name.
Bonus tip: If you are a charterholder, always add your CFA designation to your name in your bio or whenever you are mentioned online. Try googling “Eric Sim.” You may or may not find me, but if you google “Eric Sim, CFA,” you will see at least three pages of search results about me. That is the power of “CFA” as an identifier for SEO.
6. Network Offline
It’s a good idea to network to add value over and above just posting content. This will keep your followers happy and help you attract new ones. For example, I organize online and offline networking events for some of my followers who regularly engage with my posts. I’m curious to know who they are and why they enjoy my content. Shakiru, a crude oil trading analyst based in London, liked my very first LinkedIn article, “I failed my mathematics exam.” At that time, I had just a few hundred connections. Whenever I visit London, I always invite Shakiru to join my networking events and introduce him to my other London-based friends and connections. Meeting face to face helps strengthen our relationship.
7. Be Like Bamboo
A journalist writing for a tech magazine asked me whether the increase in my LinkedIn followers resembled a linear or exponential pattern. It was the latter. At the beginning, I made slow progress in gaining followers, but I still enjoyed writing my articles. Users like Shakiru, by engaging with my posts, helped me build a foundation of followers, improve my writing, and expand my thinking. This is just like how bamboo grows. When I planted some bamboo in my garden, nothing much happened in the first year, then new bamboo suddenly shot up by a few meters within weeks.
A blog of a million followers starts with a single connection.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image courtesy of Eric Sim, CFA
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A key opinion leader on LinkedIn, Eric Sim, CFA, is the author of the book Small Actions: Leading Your Career to Big Success. He founded the Institute of Life with a mission to train young professionals to be successful at work and in life. Previously, when based in Hong Kong, Sim served as a managing director at UBS Investment Bank and an adjunct associate professor of finance at HKUST. Check out his visual CV and its notable failures here.
Simon Mortlock is a writer and editor, and an expert in producing B2B and B2C content across a range of digital channels. He specializes in employment-related topics, and currently works as a content manager at eFinancialCareers (eFC), a leading careers website for the financial services sector.