It’s happened to all of us. Spend months, weeks, or hours on a project that you believe in and that you think is going to make a difference. Tweak it to perfection. Make it shine. Make it the best you can.

Then, send it out into the world.

And . . .


We’ve all been there. It’s a gut wrenching realization when you ship something you care about so much, and no one pays attention.

It’s painful because you feel like all of your hard work and effort has been wasted. But it’s even more painful because you have something important to share with the world, and no one is listening.

As data product or report builders (or as anyone trying to do something meaningful), it’s incredibly important that we learn how to avoid this, so that we can actually change the world for the better.

Learn From What Works

I came across an article recently that gave an analysis on the top 10 most engaged with articles in May 2019 on LinkedIn. As I looked over the articles, some patterns started to emerge, and it occurred to me that there were some things we could learn and apply about increasing engagement from these 10 articles that had achieved it so well.

At the time of writing, these articles have on average received 168,311 reactions, 3,839 comments, and 15,039 shares a piece, which is pretty amazing for the platform.

Here are seven patterns I saw from these articles that we can apply to our work to make it more engaging for our customers and the people we serve.

Here is what works:

1. Brevity Works

The average word count from all of the articles was 775. That’s about 10–15 paragraphs. The shortest article was 89 words. It was only eight sentences.

You don’t have to be verbose to get engagement. 

Data application: For those building data products or reports, remove the clutter. Go for simplicity and clarity.

2. Positivity Works

80% of the articles were positive in nature. They talked about how to become a leader that is authentic and inspires people, how to build real relationships with people, and how to move causes forward that matter.

The other two articles point out negative traits in leaders and hypocrisy. They seemed to work because they give people a common enemy to “throw rocks at.”

Data application: For those building data products or reports, point out what is going well, and spin areas of improvement as positive opportunities for change.

3. An Emotional Statement that People Agree with Works

60% of the articles had a strong, positive emotional statement that resonated with people—either in the title or in the featured image. In some cases when you read the comments, it seems most people react to that title statement without even reading the article. Two examples:

If People Aren’t Nice, It Doesn’t Matter How Smart They Are

People Do Not Quit Companies, They Quit Toxic Work Cultures!

Data application: For those building data products or reports, lead with an emotional component that resonates deeply with people, and follow with analysis if needed.

4. Surprising News with Promise of an Explanation Works

30% of the articles had a title highlighting something surprising in the news, with the promise of explaining it in the article. This stirs people’s curiosity about an entity, person, or strategy they want to learn. Two examples:

Jeff Bezos & Amazon Just Offered Employees $10,000 to Quit. Here’s Why It’s Brilliant 

A Frustrated Amazon Customer Tried to Return Her Package Directly to Jeff Bezos. His Reaction Was Eye-Opening

Data application: For those building data products or reports, lead with a surprising finding or insight, and then explain why that insight is valid and why it matters.

5. Being Famous Works (but Isn’t Necessary!)

The one article that did not lead with a strong emotional statement or surprising news was written by Bill Gates. Being Bill Gates gets engagement.

If you aren’t Bill Gates, reference Bill Gates. 

Data application: For those building data products or reports, the important thing here is authority. You don’t have to be famous, but you do have to have a reputation of trust for people to believe you.

6. Teaching Strategy and Leadership Works

Every single one of these articles touched on life strategies or causes that help people be better leaders or professionals. Help people see the vision of what they can become. Help them see the tactics and actions they can take to get there.

Data application: For those building data products or reports, always focus on helping people take action or start conversations that will improve their lives or their business.

7. Telling a Story Works (Even Without Data)

All of these articles were low on data, and high on either commentary or stories. The data that was presented was from research insights or anecdotal evidence—but always in a form that supported the story.

This one should be surprising. People connect with and remember stories. Use them to help people connect with and remember insights.

Data application: For those building data products or reports, couch your insights in a meaningful, contextual story. You don’t have to make it complicated. You can tell a story in a sentence or less.


You can create engaging products and services that will change the world. We need you to!