Why I Give Away My Time And Expertise On LinkedIn (And Maybe You Should Too)

I receive a half dozen requests for help with using LinkedIn every day, ranging from a simple one like “where did this feature go?” to complex as in “how can I make publishing work for me?”.  I try and answer everyone who asks, often with a full answer or I can just kind of give the person some suggestions and point them in a more productive direction.

Back in June I actually tracked how much time I was putting into these ad hoc help sessions and it came to just over thirty minutes a day. That’s 3 hours a week of time that I don’t get paid for. Then I just shrugged and have kept doing it, whether it be for clients, ex-clients, connections or strangers who accost me with “I have a question about LinkedIn…”  

I have good reasons for doing this. Here are eight of them.

It keeps me sharp.

A lot of my time goes to Sales Navigator and related topics such as InMail and Using Advanced Search. I also coach people on publishing articles and posts in LinkedIn. But I get questions coming out of the blue on all kinds of things – profiles, invitations to connect, groups, privacy settings, you name it. Responding to these questions keeps me sharp.  

Helping people shows me how most people uses LinkedIn

Helping other people gives me clues as to how users are experiencing LinkedIn and where they have problems. I have been using Linkedin every day for several years now. It is easy to forget that people may be confused about things I take for granted.

It sets a good example.

I am a big proponent of “give to get”.  

Helping other people is like giving away free samples.

Free samples of what it would be like to have me coaching them. People respond well to free samples. It makes them wonder “if he gives this coaching away for free, what’ the paid stuff like?”

It makes me better at explaining LinkedIn.

Practice never hurts.

It gives me ideas for content

I publish an article about using LinkedIn every week. I publish a post about using LinkedIn every week. That’s a lot of ideas I need to come up with on a regular basis. I get a lot of those ideas from these help requests. If one person is asking why LinkedIn posts seem to get more views than LinkedIn articles, a lot of other people must be wondering too.

It’s gratifying

Who doesn’t like being seen as a “go-to” resource?

Most importantly, helping other people for free is good for my business.

Most of the non-client people I help don’t become clients. But many of them recommend me to their connections. This is one of the great values in networking that most people never “get”.  It would be nice for the person I help to become a client. But it is just as nice when that person becomes a sales person, talking me up to their one thousand connections.  

Giving away little pieces of my time now leads to getting paid for big pieces of my time later.

If you want to up your LinkedIn game, schedule a call with me using the link at the top of the page. 

A Simple Technique That Improved My LinkedIn InMail Response Rate By 30%

Author’s note: while today’s article will mainly appeal to people who use LinkedIn InMail, it also shows how a good understanding of LinkedIn’s rules and how LinkedIn works can yield surprising benefits.

I would like to share a simple idea with you. I figured this out a little while back and it has increased my InMail response rate quite dramatically. But to understand this idea, you need to look at InMail a bit differently than perhaps you do now.

The number one rule for LinkedIn InMail is that If you get a response – any response, including “I am not interested” – you get a credit for another InMail from LinkedIn, and get to try again with someone else.

Because you are credited with a new InMail for any response, there are only two ways you can “use” up an InMail credit:

  • Someone reads your InMail and does not respond
  • Someone never sees your InMail (and consequently does not respond)  

The latter point I am not worried about as I only send InMails to people who I am pretty sure are going to see them. But I wondered how I could get more of the people who did read my InMail to send me a response, any response, as even a negative response would get me a credit.

So I decided to ask them to respond. I added a variation on this line to my InMails:

If you are not interested, just say so: please reply “Not Interested”

My InMail response rate went up 30%.

Now I should explain here that I experiment a lot with InMail (I sent 368 of them in May for example, that’s a lot of experimenting) and I am very good with it. I do a lot of things “right” and this discovery added one more tool in my InMail toolbox.

Sometimes it is that simple. You want a response to your InMail, even a negative one. So ask for it.

This “go ahead and ask for a negative response” idea has become one of fifteen items on my InMail checklist. If you are interested in upping your InMail game, I can help you do it.

The Return Of Who Shared Your LinkedIn Article Or LinkedIn Post

The background

I have a rough “hierarchy of engagement” for people that engage with me and my content on LinkedIn. These people are important to me – and if you publish on LinkedIn, they should be important to you too. In order of how likely it is to engage them in conversation, and possibly connect, the hierarchy goes like this:

  1. Followers
  2. Comments on posts or articles
  3. People who share posts or articles and add an introductory comment
  4. “Naked” shares, that is people who share with no comments
  5. Who viewed my profile
  6. Likes

You can identify your Followers and Who Viewed Your Profile types, and Likes and Comments can be easily seen in association with any given article or post you publish. But aside from the odd oblique notification that someone shared your post or article – for example, someone shared my post and I received a “Someone liked a post that mentions you” notification – we were out of luck with respect to who shared our content.

The return of who shared your article or post

Late yesterday I got a note from one of my connections, Thom h Boehm

“Did you notice that you can now see who shared your posts again? It is nice to have that feature back. I actually did not expect for it to return!”

(hat tip and thanks to Thom. Shameless plug follows: Thom’s a great writer and publisher of articles on LinkedIn. If you don’t follow Thom already, go check him out.)

I would have discovered this new feature myself today, but not in time to write this article. Today’s regularly scheduled article on a trick to increase your InMail response rate by 30% will be seen at this same time next week.

How it works

So after seeing Thom’s note, I went to have a look. And indeed your sharers are back. When you click on the statistics icon – where it says number of views for your post or number of clicks for your article:

You then see an addition to the statistics screen:

The number of times your post or article has been shared is there. Clicking on that will reveal a list of people who shared your post. Each entry on the list is clickable so that you can go to their re-share of your content and see what engagement they got. But the important thing is you can identify the people who shared your content so that you can engage with them – in my case I like to thank people who  shared my content, and often that will lead to a conversation and a connection.  

A couple of observations:

  • so far, no real Notifications that “XYZ and four others shared your article / post”
  • some, but not necessary all, of the people who shared your post or article will be shown. The article I referenced in the screenshot above has been shared 51 times to date. Upon clicking, a list of 25 people shows up. My guess is we are not shown the people who shared our posts and articles to individuals and to groups.

So why is this important?

Engaging with people that engage with you is one of the best ways to meet people, build your LinkedIn network, and uncover business opportunities. And it is something most LinkedIn users seem to ignore. I get around twenty new connections every week that started out as people who discovered me through my content on LinkedIn. I have been publishing on LinkedIn for three years and have a sizable network, so those are important contributing factors. But I also  have a specific repeatable process for identifying, tracking, responding to, and engaging with the people who have taken the time to engage with my content. And people who share my articles and posts are an important part of that group.  

Thom’s right. This is a welcome return.

What I Learned About LinkedIn Profiles From Reaching Out To 2000 Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read any of the other three articles I have written about my 2000 connection research).

Background

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations.

This is what I learned about job hunting and LinkedIn profiles

A lot of profiles are too thin

There are many LinkedIn profiles with no Summary and with Experience sections that consist solely of the title, company worked for, and years worked there. This didn’t surprise me though I don’t understand why anyone using LinkedIn wouldn’t want to add some detail about what they do in their job (are they ashamed?). But they are certainly not in some tiny minority in not fleshing out their experience sections.

A lot of people have way too many specialties

What I never realized and what did surprise me was the number of people who have profiles that are overrun with specialties.  In these LinkedIn profiles, the writer is paranoid about missing something so they list everything they “specialize” in. You know the ones I am talking about. The person who specializes in twenty different areas. Or thirty. And I am not talking about endorse-able skills, I am talking about discrete specialties in one long list, usually in the summary. They seem to be under the impression that they may lose out if they don’t list everything. Their profile becomes a catch all. And as an old advertising adage goes, “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” A LinkedIn profile is a place to talk about what you are uniquely good at doing. And that’s because – whether it’s a new hire or a new supplier – companies want someone who specializes in something they don’t have already.

Here’s an example: you decide to start blogging. One LinkedIn profile says “Specialties: Publishing, Videos, Podcasts, Blogging, Slide decks, Webinars, Livestreaming, E-Books, Testimonials, Case Studies and Semaphore.” Another LinkedIn profile lists their specialty as: “Blogging, Just blogging.” All other things being equal, who would you call first?   

The idea here is that when you list a pile of specialties, people don’t think, “wow, he can do it all”. Instead they think “There isn’t anything special about this guy.”

I was surprised at how many people are quietly looking for better work

The passive job market is huge. There are a lot more people that would jump than you think. They are just waiting for the right offer. LinkedIn has this right. I was shocked (but I still reserve the right to despise the term “dream job”).

Regardless of how fabulous a LinkedIn profile is, it only tells 10% of the story

This was one of the biggest things I found from actually talking to people. When you talk to someone you find out what their real specialties are, and what they are really passionate about. What’s in their LinkedIn Profile is the tip of the iceberg. A lot of profiles list the things someone does on their job. A conversation tells you the things that really matter to that person. What fascinates them. The parts of their jobs that they really look forward to doing.

Someone will be a “content specialist” and on their profile they list all their tools and capabilities. Then when I talk to them they casually mention that what they are really good at and enjoy doing is writing for healthcare providers and medical device companies. They have some relevant background in this area that makes them particularly comfortable with the lingo and the way content needs to be written for that industry. And there was nothing about this on their profile. Not a hint. But after my conversation with them, I now  have a go-to content writer for healthcare and medical that I didn’t have before.   

So here’s your thought for today: if you haven’t talked to one of your connections in months, invite them to have a 15 minute call with you. When you get them on the phone, ask them what’s hot in their specialty area lately and how it is affecting them. Offer to help them. Offer to introduce them to someone in your network. They may not need your help right now. But you will know them better, they will know you better, and they will remember that you offered to help them.

And almost no one on LinkedIn does it.  

Deciphering The New LinkedIn “Weekly Search Appearances” Feature

There is a bar on your profile under your intro section and above your articles and activity section. It used to feature your profile strength, the number of people who had viewed your profile, and the number of views of your latest post or article.

Then last week I noticed that it had changed.

The profile strength has been truncated (that’s the blue star at the left end of the bar) and “Weekly Search Appearances” has been added.

Clicking on the number of search appearances results in this screen:

(the number of search appearances differs between my two screen caps as one was taken using last week’s numbers and the other for this week’s)

What this page appears to do is to provide you with some clues as to how well your LinkedIn profile is performing for you.

The statistics that LinkedIn provides show three things.

The number of times you showed in search results during any given week

While it is a nice ego boost to think I am showing up in a lot of searches, without any context I am not sure that knowing this number helps me much. That’s because LinkedIn quite helpfully does not tell us how a “search” is defined. Here’s a good example: if someone I know types my name in the search bar and hits enter, they find me. Does this constitute a search? And if so, should I be excited that I turned up in their search results?

And it would be nice to see how many of these search results that I showed up in actually translated into profile views. I am guessing not many because if the number was impressive, you would think LinkedIn would want us to know. I know my profile was viewed around 160 times in the past seven days…but how many of those came from searches as opposed to from posts and articles and other places?

And there appears to be a few bugs in the system. I took the screen capture at the top of this article on Wednesday afternoon, June 21st. It said I showed up in 867 searches for the week that ended June 20th. Later the same day (June 21st) I went back to check something and noticed I now had appeared in 940 searches for the week ended June 20th. How can that number still be going up today if the search period ended yesterday?

The statistics screen then lists the top places your searchers work

I am not sure what to make of this. Last week on my report there were three companies listed. This week there are two. Those two were both there last week too. WTF? (WTF of course, stands for “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday”). Apparently, over a two week period I landed in more searches performed by people at Oberlin College than anywhere else. How can that be? Does Oberlin College have a “Find Bruce Johnston on LinkedIn” course that I don’t know about?

Even if I put the nice people at Oberlin College aside, that leaves Intel as the next company. Now how can I use that information? Maybe I can send messages to my three connections at Intel asking if it was them. Or maybe I can send InMails to the 5,600 second degree connections I have at Intel.

So once again this information is interesting but not useful.

What your searchers do

Now this is data that helps. In my case, I show up in more corporate trainer’s searches than anyone else. And these are the type of people I want to meet so I know my profile is doing it’s job. If I was job hunting, I would hope to see Recruiters and Human Resources people as my top searchers.

What these statistics don’t do for you

They don’t tell you where you ranked in the results and that is a big deal. If you don’t rank highly in a set of search results then who cares? I regularly perform searches that get thousands of results. I don’t look at them all. When was the last time you performed a Google search and reviewed all the results? Okay then, when was the last time you performed a Google search and got even halfway down page one of the search results?

In a lot of ways, these statistics make me think of views you would get for a post on your LinkedIn Homepage screen.  A thousand views means it was on a thousand screens. But you don’t know how many people actually saw your post and then read it. In the same way, appearing in a thousand search results is nice. But it doesn’t tell you if the people searching even saw you in the search results, let alone clicked on and opened your profile.  

I just stopped writing for a moment, hopped on LinkedIn and did a search for people in North America. So congratulations, if you are a LinkedIn member and live in North America, you just showed up in my search results….with 118 million other people.

As it stands, “Weekly Search Appearances” gives us some useful clues, but not the whole story.

 

Should You Send “Blind” LinkedIn Invitations To Connect?

Maybe not. Let me see if I can persuade you may be heading for a brick wall.  

I define a blind invitation as one that comes in out of the blue. The recipient is not aware of the inviter’s existence until the invitation to connect arrives. Sometimes the invitation to connect is personalized, but often the personalizing isn’t very imaginative, just a bland “We share ten connections so we should be connected too” type of thing.

Some aspects of the blind connection request you should take into account:

They can leave you waiting…and then what do you do?

Someone receives your invitation, reads your personalized plea to connect and goes, “meh”, and does nothing. But you don’t know that, you’re waiting for a reply.

Did they reject your invitation?

Did they just put it aside for a couple of days?

Did they turn it down?

Welcome to Limbo, population: you  

They can turn you down…with extreme prejudice

Someone you invite to connect has the option of not only declining your request, but telling LinkedIn they declined because they don’t know you. Collect enough of these “I Don’t Knows” and LinkedIn will restrict your account. Even worse, LinkedIn will not warn you if have collected any “I Don’t Knows” or how many.

Having your account restricted means having to know and provide the email address as part of any connection requests you make from now on. I had this happen to me early in my time on LinkedIn when I sent invitations to connect to customers of a company I used to work with. Apparently I remembered them a lot better than they remembered me. It took a lot of explaining with LinkedIn in order  to get my privileges restored.

LinkedIn appears to be changing the focus from a finite number of invitations to your overall invitation success rate

LinkedIn used to allow you a certain number of lifetime invitations to connect. A few years ago this number was rumored to be three thousand and in the past couple of years it was rumored to be five thousand. If you reached the invitation cap, you were cut off from inviting more people and you had to go and grovel with LinkedIn to get an extra fifty invites at a time to use.

Now it seems that “negative feedback” matters more than absolute numbers. In the LinkedIn help section, the references to a hard cap seem to have disappeared. Instead, LinkedIn says you can be “limited from inviting more members” if too many of the people that you invite to connect either ignore you or report you. So it is not just “I Don’t Knows” anymore. Even well written and personalized invitations to connect are not immune to being ignored.

Blanket acceptance of invitations is being taken advantage of

There was a “sweet spot” in late 2016 and early 2017 when a lot of people would accept connection requests pretty easily. Being rejected was something you really didn’t have to worry about. So blind invitations became a popular strategy for sales people. But the pendulum seems to have started swinging back again as too many people have used easy connection acceptance as a way to immediately bombard those new connections with sales pitches. Even more insidious, these connectors would immediately – and without permission – add those new connections to their email lists and the Spam those poor connections outside of LinkedIn too.

I think this has the potential for connection requests to be not accepted as easily as they were just a few months ago. And there are other potential problems with this as well:

  • If LinkedIn users start thinking of their connections as pests, maybe they will start ignoring messages from connections.
  • Maybe the pendulum swings too far the other way and LinkedIn members start accepting fewer and fewer connection requests.  
  • Or maybe to avoid spam, more LinkedIn members start using a “special” email address for LinkedIn. One that they never bother checking.

While these latter three may seem improbable, the idea of them happening would probably give LinkedIn a case of the cold sweats. So my guess is at some point LinkedIn will really clamp down on invite abusers.

The takeaway here? Don’t take inviting someone to connect for granted. If you are inviting ten people to connect and getting four acceptances, maybe it is time to re-think this strategy. Someone accepting your invitation shouldn’t be an open question, it should be close to a given. Keep your invitation acceptance rate up.

Be The One To Offer Value First

Once every week or two someone will contact me and the conversation goes something like this:  

Seeker: No one in my network wants to help me.

Me: How many exactly have you helped?

Seeker: Well none. No one has asked.

And there is the crux of the problem. You will be offered help from people you have offered to help.

And this leads to one thing that works on LinkedIn: providing real value to other LinkedIn users first. And for free too. Regardless of what your goals are – networking, finding a job, sales, marketing – nothing beats providing value, especially at the start of or early in a new relationship.

Because what does everyone want? More. More information to help them make better decisions. More access to the right people. More resources. That’s what it comes down to. Be the person that offers some of that information, that access. Be one of those resources.

Providing value is giving a little piece of yourself to someone else on LinkedIn that will make them better informed, give them information that they can use, or help them with a problem that they have. And at the same time, not expecting to be compensated directly for it.

When I suggest this to someone, I usually get this objection:

“We don’t give away our hard won knowledge and expertise for free. They should expect to pay for it.”

 But I didn’t suggest you give it all away…just a piece. Enough to help the other person. I often do this, sending one of my how-to’s on something like using InMail. The how-to I send will legitimately help someone with a facet of InMail such as subject lines or  calls to action. But as I teach eighteen different facets to InMail in my course on that topic, I’m not worried about giving away one of them.  

Giving away a bit of your knowledge demonstrates your expertise. And it invites the question, “Well what else can he/she do for me?”  Helping someone like this makes them think of you as an expert first and someone out to ask them for something second. It puts the focus on business and it puts the focus on them and their problems.

Some people say that what they sell or work with doesn’t lend itself to the idea of giving away little pieces of their knowledge. That’s fine. You have something else extremely powerful to offer: your LinkedIn network. You can offer access to your connections. If you have 500 connections, you have multiple people you could introduce someone to that would be valuable to them, and to your connections.

An offer to help someone, sincerely and without expectations of any direct compensation or tit for tat is something people don’t expect. But they will appreciate it. And it works.   

Outreach On LinkedIn: The Things They Don’t Want And The One Thing They Do

Pretty simple message: When you reach out to someone new on LinkedIn here are some of the things they don’t want to hear about:

  • Your company’s latest product improvements
  • Your need for a sales meeting with them
  • Your company’s new service
  • Your need to get them on the phone
  • That you are the #1 sales person or #1 anything else
  • Any other fabulously self-congratulatory achievement, even when you think you have disguised it by saying something like “I was surprised and humbled to receive the Nobel Prize for sales this week…”

All of these translate into you and what you want. Well, what about what they want? And what they really want is:

Information that helps them to make better decisions.

Give them information that will help them make better decisions with the problems they face and those other things that you want will take care of themselves.

What I Have Learned About Introductions and Referrals After Reaching Out to 2000 LinkedIn Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read either of my previous “2000 connections” posts)

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations. Here is some of what I learned.

Almost without fail, everyone I spoke with could think of someone to introduce me to right away. I think that while people know what you do, it is not until you have a  conversation that they understand what really sets you apart. This could be because they haven’t read your profile lately (and who does?), or because  having the actual conversation prompts them to start thinking of people that you should meet.

And this gets to the heart of having these conversations: discovering the unknown paths to interesting people. Your connections are the path. The truth is you can be successful on LinkedIn without a premium account. If you have 500 connections with 500 connections each you have 250,000 second degree connections, and a lot of them are going to be people in a position to help you and that you can help in return.

Here’s an experiment for you: Go take a company you would like to be involved with, whether as a customer, supplier, or potential employer. Now look among that company’s employees for any second level connections, your two’s. Your connections are the pathway to those two’s. And if you are like a lot of LinkedIn users and you are probably saying, “yeah, but I don’t really know my connection who knows that person very well.” Well, I have one thing to say to you: that’s why you should be reaching out and having these 15 minute introductory conversations.  

And one other thing, when you get introduced by a connection to someone new  you start with the most valuable commodity of all: credibility. The connection that introduces you is in effect saying, “This person is worth ten minutes of your time. I’ll vouch for them.” That credibility is fleeting and only gets you that first few minutes, but that’s more than you would get trying email, cold calls, blind invitations to connect, InMail or even “warm” social selling outreach.

Your connections are ambassadors that can introduce you to the people that you would like to know. Shouldn’t you get to know those ambassadors?

 

Statistics For LinkedIn Articles And Posts Are Back! (Sort of…)

Last week I noticed that some of the statistics for published articles and post on LinkedIn had come back.

In addition to the total views, likes and comments, you can now see the top nine each of:

  • Which companies your viewers are from
  • The titles for viewers
  • The geographic areas your visitors are from
  • And how they found your article or post

But there are a couple of asterisks.

I am skeptical about some of the statistics. If one person comes back multiple times to comment, reply to comments, or re-read the comments thread, they appear to be counted as a “view” each time they return. I have had this happen recently on multiple articles: LinkedIn tells me that people from “XYZ company” viewed my article 17 times. It turns out XYZ company is a consultancy with one consultant.

And although this hasn’t happened to me, numerous people have reported view counts that go down instead of up. 400 views of an article as of yesterday, but only registering 380 this morning, that type of thing.

Another example can be seen in the screen cap I used for this post. The article was a general interest personal development one I shared, written by one of my connections. It had over 1600 views at that point. Now what are the odds that four of the top five companies for a general interest article would be pharma companies? Or that “Laboratory Scientist” would be the title of more viewers – by a mile – than any other?

Another oddity is in the “biggest audience” metric in the column at top right. More views from Boston than anywhere else. But how many more? I don’t know as there is no number. But LinkedIn will show me how many came from the second through ninth geographic areas. I wonder if LinkedIn was in a hurry when they decided to reinstate these stats?

And there are still no statistics on who shared your post – oddly the number of times your post or article was shared shows on the post itself, but is omitted from the statistics.

Question: If sharing isn’t that important, why does LinkedIn make a big deal of it in their social selling index? Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time LinkedIn has sent mixed signals.

So…good to see statistics back, but like many aspects of the new User Interface, still a few bugs to be ironed out, and a bit of work required on that whole sharing thing.