Algorithms and Alligators: Wrestling the LinkedIn Formula

(U.S. Air Force/Mark Herlihy)

Question: During the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class, folks talked about "working" the LinkedIn algorithms to get noticed. I already feel it's a lot of work to decide what to post, who to connect with and when to comment. Is it worth trying to game the system, too?

Answer: Undoubtedly, if you're not used to how social media works, where LinkedIn is different (and valuable) and how the engine behind the platform works, it can feel like wrestling alligators.

LinkedIn is not Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok or any other purely social media platform. LinkedIn serves to connect and support global professionals and business-minded individuals around topics of similar interest. It doesn't have the playful, casual or political leanings of other social media platforms, even though from time to time, a personal post gets shared.

The LinkedIn Algorithm

LinkedIn operates like a giant algorithm. As you complete your profile (populating all available sections), you're making choices about how you want to represent yourself, who you want to attract and the conversations you seek to participate in. Without even realizing it, how you fill out your profile tells the algorithm what you care about, are interested in, whether you're looking for work and who you might like to know.

Then as you post, comment, share and repost content, you reinforce what LinkedIn believes is important to you. For example, if your profile lists you as a software developer, passionate about solving complex issues for financial institutions, and you repost articles about how artificial intelligence (AI) is driving financial literacy, and you connect with thought leaders in Wall Street firms, the LinkedIn system is validating that finance, technology and growth are important topics to you.

Similarly, if you are a software developer passionate about solving complex issues for financial institutions yet you post about global political unrest, technology usage in banking, project management techniques for startup companies and so on, LinkedIn is less clear on how to help you.

This doesn't mean being uber literal and one-dimensional. You want to show you're a real person with real interests and talents, but too much diversity of thought on your profile, posts and network can confuse the system.

There are many best practices to understanding and leveraging the LinkedIn algorithm. Following them will ensure your content has a high likelihood of returning the results you desire. For example, posting on Wednesdays is known to produce more views and engagement than posts on Sundays. Depending on your goal, this could be beneficial.

But the best algorithm in the world won't work if you don't have a goal in mind. Are you looking to drive engagement on your posts ("engagement" is reactions, comments, shares, etc.), attract new connection requests (from your ideal target audience, such as employers or customers) or increase your visibility (views to your profile)? Set a goal before setting out to figure out the algorithm.

The LinkedIn Alligators

Maintaining engagement with your online connections, battling the stress of commenting strategies and focusing on analytics can feel like wrestling alligators. For me, that sounds like a lot of unrewarding work. Instead, become intentional and considerate about how you'll use LinkedIn. While it is an algorithm-based technology solution connecting more than one billion people around the world, it's still about people. Human beings tend to relate to content that feels genuine, thoughtful, helpful and engaging.

Resist the urge to try to scoop up hundreds of followers or connections and measure a post's success only by the number of views or "likes" it receives. Ensure the quality of your behavior on LinkedIn matches up with your personal brand, career goals and understanding of who and what you want to attract from the platform. Then results will flow in your direction, algorithm or not.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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