Have you seen those new posts flooding LinkedIn?
The ones that look like this?
A dull personal anecdote.
A clichéd life lesson.
But what are they?
And why are they on an employment-oriented social networking service...
That we occasionally visit to chuckle over lousy job leads?
Those posts are broetry.
And this is a broem.
If you spend enough time on LinkedIn, you’ll surely come across a broem, which has become the go-to post format for marketers, social media mavens, and “growth evangelists.” They draw you in with two semi-inspiring personal lines you might find on the front cover of a self-help book. Click the “... see more” hyperlink and a string of additional lines unfurls — each one a paragraph — that read like employee handbook haikus or an E.E. Cummings motivational poster. Sometimes there are emojis. Often, there is some closing fortune cookie-esque takeaway about “changing your mindset” or a rhetorical question asking, “What have YOU done today?”
LinkedIn declined to say specifically why these posts, which sometimes can reach more than a million views and garner thousands of reactions, have become so popular on the network. But in January, the company revealed in a blog post that it had made changes to its feed through “a combination of algorithms and human editors working together” to “surface the most relevant content from people and publishers you care most about.”
Whether they found an opening in the algorithm, or simply discovered a text-heavy format delightful to professional social networkers, LinkedIn power users are gaming the system with broems. They’ve perfected a posting style that, until now, had no official name, but is hard to miss if you scroll through your feed.
So what does a broem look like? Here’s one very popular example of broetry from Josh Fechter, a 26-year-old digital marketing entrepreneur, who some marketers credit with popularizing the genre of #content.
Fechter, whose LinkedIn title reads “Top Quora Writer of 2017” and “3X Author,” told BuzzFeed News that, while he wasn’t the first to use this style of posting, it’s something he uses because it’s “spoonfeeding people exactly what they want.” Each post has certain elements: a personal story, no links to external sites, and a tag to his company’s LinkedIn page for free promotion.
“I don’t think there are that many people that can write excellent copy, and I’ve probably written 7,000 pieces,” he said. “People say, 'This is very third grade-level writing style’ and I say, ‘Good luck doing it.’”
Fechter claims that since he’s started posting in his current style, he’s amassed more than 100 million views on LinkedIn posts he’s written both for himself and as a ghostwriter, leading to thousands of connection requests. He perfected his William Carlos Williams, spoken-word style on Quora, the site where users crowdsource answers to random questions, and recently penned a how-to blog post on the technique. Among the included tips: “don’t overestimate your readers’ intelligence” and “be known for one or two adverbs.”
“I probably average around, 4,000 engagements and 600,000 views per post,” said Fechter. He also stressed that it’s “all organic” traffic and he doesn’t spend a cent marketing the content.
Three online marketers that spoke with BuzzFeed News said that they first noticed the single-line, single-paragraph updates becoming more prevalent on LinkedIn in late September, when copycats began mimicking Fechter hoping for similar success. Since then, there’s been a broem for almost anything: hiring, failing, dating, being single, and fake news. There’s even been broems about broems, like those published by Sam Parr, the founder of business newsletter The Hustle. He published one as a joke. It racked up more than 2,000 likes in a matter of days.
“LinkedIn has a lack of content, and when content takes off they push it more and more,” Parr said. If a post is considered popular it's often pushed to people two or three degrees of separation from its author, causing a snowball effect.
Parr compared it to very simple copywriting techniques, similar to those employed on viral news sites such as ViralNova and Upworthy, where the first two lines of the post create a “curiosity gap” that plays into a human’s basic impulses and causes them to click to read more. In turn, he speculated, LinkedIn’s algorithm interprets that click-through as a hint that the post is good content, causing it to be surfaced to more people. “LinkedIn is prioritizing longform text statuses and all my friends in tech are viewing it as a miniature gold rush in terms of engagement,” Parr said.
There are other good broetry practices. Do not put links in the status body, said multiple broets, noting that LinkedIn seems to penalize attempts to take people off platform. Fechter suggests being vulnerable and personal; people who may want to do business with you want to see that you’re human too.
Mordecai Holtz, who runs social media for the City of Jerusalem’s tourism division, said he started writing in the format because it caters to an “A.D.D. mentality that people need to be short and quick to the point.” He thought the format might do better on mobile because it allows for easy reading and scrollability.
It’s unclear how aware LinkedIn’s executives are of the literary movement going on on their platform. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has not yet written his first broem, but he has liked at least one that he was tagged in. LinkedIn founder and Silicon Valley investor Reid Hoffman, on the other hand, has not engaged with any broetic posts, according to his recent activity. Both declined to comment for this piece through a LinkedIn spokesperson.
With so many people trying to game the platform, LinkedIn feeds are now flooded with broems and it may be only a matter of time before the Microsoft-owned social network cracks down. Holtz suspects the network may pare down the number of posts it promotes. A professional marketer, who declined to be named, said that a company representative at a November LinkedIn “masterclass” on advertising in San Francisco said the organization would be changing how it prioritizes these posts in the near future.
Fechter isn’t concerned. While he’s been suspended from the network before for allegedly attempting to connect with 800 people on LinkedIn in 24 hours, he said he’s not breaking any rules here. LinkedIn is hungry for content, and it’s content he will readily provide.
“It might be a flaw in LinkedIn’s overall platform, but they can’t do anything about it because it’s too late,” he said.
Parr has taken the exact opposite view. If these posts drive away users, LinkedIn will have no choice but to start demoting them in the feed.
“Without a doubt,
There’s going to be a crackdown,” he said,
Chuckling to himself.
“Marketers ruin everything.” ●
Caroline O'Donovan contributed the word "broetry" to this report.
Ryan Mac is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on the intersection of money, technology and power.
Contact Ryan Mac at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.