I love meeting people, online and in person. While I can be found most often on Twitter and Facebook, when it comes to professional networking I turn to LinkedIn. I am a huge proponent of this online network for many reasons, from job-hunting to public relations opportunities. That’s why I was super excited to receive an advanced copy of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kickstart Your Business, Brand and Job Search – and an interview with its author, Wayne Breitbarth.
While Wayne’s book is clearly geared toward eliminating the fear factor for older LinkedIn users by reinforcing that audience’s years of face-to-face experience in the real world, when it comes down to it, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success is a practical guide for any level of web user who still may be new to LinkedIn. Wayne takes a step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter approach to getting started on LinkedIn, from how to create a profile and adding applications to following the habits of power users. But he doesn’t just cover the how; he covers the why. Even with the advent of social media it’s still a very much “who you know” world. The challenge now is to get more “whos”and where to find them.
I caught up with Wayne in early March, just as his book was released by Greenleaf Book Group, to chat about The Power Formula; I also tapped into his expertise to learn why writers should embrace this powerful tool.
DONNA TALARICO: The part of your title appeals to the audience of Hippocampus Magazine is the “brand” – so many aspiring writers, especially in creative nonfiction, really have to brand themselves and focus on building and sustaining a platform; some of my questions will lean toward that.
One of the things I really liked about your book was that, at the beginning, you are honest and mention that you never even wanted to be on LinkedIn. In my current and previous day jobs, I work in social media. All the time I see people being resistant to social media – usually its Twitter – but suddenly they kind of transform and become believers and, sometimes, even advocates. So, what was your turning point? What really sold you on LinkedIn?
WAYNE BREITBARTH: My turning point was finding relationships that already exist between all the people that I knew and probably a bunch of people I wanted to meet. In my very first search, where I was able to click on a second degree person and say, “Oh my goodness, my friend knows that person and I was trying to get a hold of that person.” What’s interesting about that revelation – I call it the a-ha moment – is when I teach my class, that is usually the time you think that everyone would know that, but most people don’t and when you show them that little arrow where who knows who, they are like, my goodness it does that? For you (Donna), it’s old news because you’ve got 480 connections (at interview time) and you probably know what you’re doing but most people don’t, even if they have 20 or 30 or 60 connections, they don’t even understand that.
DT: And it must be neat to see those eyes light up and know that they made that connection when you are teaching them.
WB: Yeah, you know it is so funny because they go from leaning back and saying ‘who invited this social media guy to speak today, to taking notes.
DT: That’s great. So, just to elaborate on that, in the early part of your book one of the things you say is that LinkedIn takes connections that would normally be invisible and makes them visible. Could you talk about that?
WB: Sure. What’s interesting is that all your second and third degrees in your network were there since before you joined LinkedIn because your friends are there and they have friends too. Those connections and relationships were there. The relationships always existed but you could not see it unless you were on LinkedIn and it boils down to this: You don’t know who all your friends know; you can’t. And you sure don’t know who their friends know. So being able to know all that was impossible before LinkedIn. My newest thing that I’ll do sometimes is pull out a pair of 3D glasses you get at the movies, and I’ll put those on in my talk and I’ll go, this is what LinkedIn is like – you see, the movie’s always there, it’s sort of interesting, there’s some stuff there for ya, but when you put these on there’s all these other degrees – and that’s also when all the fun starts in the movies.
DT: Wow. That’s a fantastic analogy.
WB: Yeah. You know us old people need examples like that.
(laughter from both)
DT: I was always a visual learner too. [Analogies] always helped me. So, the title of the book and what you discuss in the first chapter is the power formula – a mixture of an individual’s uniqueness combined with a common tool. How did you develop that?
WB: You know, I didn’t have that until a year and a half into my journey. It came up like this. I was teaching people and everyone in the class loved it; I would get great reviews but I would sort of watch and see if anyone did anything with it [after]. I would say 25 percent of people did something with it and loved it when they got going, 25 percent of people started and did nothing, and 50 percent did nothing, even though they said they loved it. So I said, “What? Where is the disconnect?” And the disconnect is on that fact that it’s new and its on the computer. We have all this hesitance – most of the people I speak to are baby boomers – and we have this hesitancy because we did not grow up on the Internet. So this stuff really looks like a hassle to us and it’s different and probably going to be frustrating for a while. So I was trying to figure out an encouragement to those people as to why this tool would be wonderful for them. And, actually, what I always say to my class is, “we’re going to kick their butts.” What I mean by that is the younger people who get the first part, the tool, really easily, but they don’t really have as many relationships and they don’t have this rich resume yet. They can’t get either of those quickly, where we [the baby boomers] have that in the bag. It’s just a little tool that you can do during the weekend if you pick up a nice little book like mine and get the thing going. Whereas the younger person will go, “Gosh, I can’t get that many connections in a weekend. This tool is easy!” Younger people may have to go for years before they can really get the things that make this tool work. If you can just get through the hang-ups, you already have the first two things.
DT: Wow. I think that’s really fantastic advice. I was going to ask you about that, but you already covered it in my last question. I think that’s just a really great thing to point out that the relationships exist already and really helps eliminate that fear factor.
DT: Something else you spend a lot of time talking about in your book – and something that made me think about how I personally use LinkedIn and my practices and who I accept as a connection. You say you should only add the trusted professionals to your network on LinkedIn and I agree with that. But I think one of the things that writers do, specifically I’m talking about people who might have a manuscript complete and they’re trying to find an agent or editor to look at their book. What advice – or what etiquette – would you suggest to people, so they don’t go out and for lack of a better word stalk and agent or editor and try to find people and add them as connections. I mean, that’s not really a good practice.
WB: Remember this is a beginner book, and because this is a beginner book I think the best beginner step is to do just what I explained and make sure that everyone you connect with, they are already people in your network, you know them, you love them, you care about them or you’ll help them with something if they ask. That’s what that beginner should do.
WB: Now, once you sort of get a handle on this thing, then I start to strategically talk to people and say, now, I would say to start to think about people to expand to, that maybe you don’t know, love or care about but you think to yourself, that person could help me. And that’s OK, but not in the beginning because you don’t really know what you are giving away and what you are getting. You gotta get that under control first.
DT: Sure, sure.
WB: In the case of those authors you asked about, if they find somebody they want to connect with and they understand how LinkedIn works then I have no problem with them trying to use LinkedIn as a reach-out tool if they’ve tried some other things or if they think the receiver might respond to this better than any other method of communication. And you know what I find interesting about that is the tip-off, that you can tell by looking at someone’s profile—if the profile is pretty well done and they are in a lot of groups, there’s a good chance communicating through LinkedIn may get you a better response than any other method. Because the person is tipping off to you that they like this.
DT: Alright, yeah. That’s good advice.
WB: But I’m never suggesting that people become what they call LIONs. Do you know what a LION is?
WB: OK. A LION. Sometimes you’ll see right in their profile that they’ll have in all capital letters LION…
DT: Oh yes! I HAVE seen that. OK.
WB: OK. That stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. It’s an official classification that people use to show, hey, I connect with everyone. And what you’re going to find is the number one job responsibility of LIONs are recruiters.
DT: OK. Yeah, that makes total sense.
And other people you find as LIONs are there to do sort of mass marketing with LinkedIn. And LinkedIn is a tremendous marketing tool but it really wasn’t designed for that. And we all can use it as a marketing tool in our own little, subtle ways and we can talk about some of those for authors, but it was really designed for the whole connection thing and not really so much for marketing. Some people are out there using the great marketing techniques that are available and are starting to turn people off.
DT: Yeah. I’ve witnessed that in a few LinkedIn groups that I’m in and sometimes you get spammy messages and, you know, they turn from these helpful places to find and share information and helping each other to buy this, see me here, that sort of thing.
WB: Exactly. And you know it’s up to group managers to monitor that, but nobody likes to be a bad guy. But they really should be because they’re probably turning their other members off. That being said, something I always suggest to authors, especially in the space that you’re in, if you are writing to help people, one technique is to post (on LinkedIN) a teaser about a recent blog post in the groups that it applies to. And the link, of course, will go to your website or blog, and as long as your article is helpful, you won’t be blamed for spamming. And what’s interesting, some weeks I get as many as 450 hits on my blog just from posting to LinkedIn Groups.
DT: Fantastic. That’s great.
WB: I have a friend that wrote a fiction book. His family has some great Civil War stories and he wrote this great fiction book that is really based on his family. He joined all these Civil War groups that are out there [on LinkedIn]; there’s a whole faction of people that follow this stuff, re-enactors and all this. And so what he did, I helped him figure out, is find these Civil War groups and post a free chapter out there before the book came out and after that follow up with discussions about some of the characters and stuff. He’s just sold so many books because of those group postings.
DT: So, people who kind of have that platform for whatever their nonfiction book is about whether it is exercise or fitness and you can find these niche groups and have this audience that already is interested in your subject matter and, well, that’s great. On that note, can we talk a little bit about marketing again?
WB: Here are some applications that I think are excellent for authors. I like Google Presentations. You can have a video; so if you have a video of you speaking somewhere you could put it on LinkedIn and it will put one of those video boxes right on your profile. There is SlideShare, which can also be a video or PowerPoint and [users] can review those anytime they want. The next one I really like is Box.net files, and this is a place where you can put PDFs, Word or Excel files completely downloadable by people looking at your profile. I drop my free chapter that I’m giving away that people can download anytime they want.
DT: That’s fantastic. I didn’t even know about [Box.net] that until I read your book and the wheels were turning and I was thinking, ‘Wow, what can I do?’ Even though I’m an online magazine I could make PDFs of a few of the articles and put them there.
WB: What you should do then, Donna, in the summary section [of Hippocampus’s LinkedIn profile], I’d put a sentence in there to check out my free resources in my Box.net files below. You’ll find it very useful” or something like that.
DT: OK. Good idea. Thanks.
WB: So, as they read your cover letter, they’ll go down and look at it because it’s really good stuff.
DT: Yeah, like a call to action too.
WB: Exactly. Have you ever seen the reading list by Amazon?
DT: Yes. Actually, I just reactivated that today so I could add your book to it.
WB: Why thank you!
DT: You’re welcome.
WB: I’m always hesitant to put my own book on there, but I think it’s a great space for people to see the kinds of things you are interested in reading and it also adds a lot of color to your profile.
DT: I wanted to ask about the headline.
WB: Yeah. A lot of authors also do speaking right?
WB: And so I think you have to make sure that in the headline it does include the word speaking so that they can be found as a speaker. And also if I was a speaker, I’d make a separate job entry for speaker and a separate entry for author because, remember, job titles are extra keyword points. And under each job description that you write, you get 2,000 characters and also, what else can you put in those 2,000 characters? Keywords. Here’s what you also need to know about search. The more recommendations you have, the higher up you’ll show. The more connections you have, the higher up you’ll be.
DT: Back to the headline. You mention in your book that if someone is seeking a job, you encourage them to say what they are looking for in the headline. Would it be out of line for someone who isn’t a published author yet and is seeking representation – do you think that’s OK to put?
WB: I think that’s perfect. I think that if you step back and think about this in general: don’t have your profile be so much of a resume, because remember, resumes are backward looking–think about your profile as forward looking. Write this in such a way so that its what you want to accomplish.
DT: OK. And I really like how you mention to write more of a narrative, not as you would in a resume you’d send to someone on paper. But, I think if a writer is told that it’s OK for them to write that way on LinkedIn, I think that it will be very natural for them to tell their story. Could you elaborate a little on why storytelling is OK?
WB: Exactly! When someone gets done reading your profile, there’s only one thing you want them to do. What is it? To call you or contact you. So that’s why you should write it to engage them in the process – who you are, what you do and why you’d be an interesting person to call or write to. And that doesn’t happen by spewing out a bunch of facts. It happens by you sharing personality and humor and interest.
DT: I love that. What about recommendations? Oh – first of all, I have to tell you that I love your Good Monday concept. [Note: This is a concept Wayne shared about writing recommendations on Sunday night so connections are surprised on Monday morning – a nice start to the week.]
WB: Oh, thank you. Glad you brought that up.
DT: Yeah. I loved that. It reminds me of – I watched The Secret a few years ago and it reminds me of the gratitude concept. So your concept there really reminded me of that.
WB: Oh, thanks. I really love telling that story; it really resonates with people. My thought on recommendations is this: When I’m teaching a class, I’ll ask the audience, who wrote your profile. And they’ll say, “I did.” And I’ll say, “Could there be a few lies in your profile?” And they say, “Yeah, I guess there could.” Could people lie? And I hate that about the Internet in general; there’s no Internet police to come out and catch people. But here’s what I say to them. That’s why recommendations are so critical because it’s outside verification of all the things you’re really good at and why you’re the right person to be selected for something. So you need recommendations from someone on the outside to say, yes, he’s that good. And so you gotta work hard at them. And number two: recommendations will help you in searches. And recommendations are one of the sections that the keyword search works on. So when you can get someone to drop a keyword into a recommendation that’s going to help. I recommend that people get two to three recommendations for every job listed and don’t stop there.
DT: You know, that’s a good point too because you mentioned a few minutes ago that even if you are an author that speaks to make them two separate job entries. And you can get more recommendations for all that you do.
WB: You got it.
DT: Something else. I just added Hippocampus to my LinkedIn a few weeks ago and I’ve been getting so many requests from people that I don’t know, probably because of “magazine” or “publisher” in the headline and title, as we talked about before. So, what is the etiquette from both sides of making a connection if you don’t really know the person personally. I know I don’t personally like getting the default ‘I’d like to add you to my network’ invite. I usually ignore it.
WB: Yeah, I’m in total agreement there. If I get that standard invitation from someone I don’t know, I ignore it.
WB: Now, with that, I’ll tell you this. If I do click that person’s profile, which I usually do before I ignore [the request], I want to make sure it’s not somebody I really want to connect with. But what I usually say is this: someone needs to tell me where we met and why it would help if we connected. The big LinkedIn debate is very few connections and you know them all or a whole bunch of connections and you don’t know them all. That’s the debate.
DT: I know you have another interview after this, but real quick. Back to you. What gave you the inspiration to write the book?
WB: The funny thing about that is I had been teaching classes for about a year and my wife hadn’t been to any of them. At the very first event that she came to, she watched me hold up the book that I learned from. We got in the car and she said, “That’s not right.” And, I said, “What’s not right?” And she said, “You’re selling that person’s book.” And I said, “Well what am I gonna do? I’m just trying to help.” She said, “We should write a book.” Together, that’s what we did. She typed out my entire beginning class – which was about two hours long – and put it all on paper. And, at that time, I had 20 weeks worth of LinkedIn tips. And we took a trip to Colorado for vacation and we cut that class and all the tips into what we thought were chapters and put them in piles of manila folders. We came home from the trip and I put all the folders in my sunroom and I’d get up early once a week and dictate a chapter from the information that was in the folder. Then, my wife would type them and that weekend we’d talk about the changes we wanted to make. When we were done we sent it to three publishers and all three said yes.
DT: Really? Wow. That’s fantastic.
WB: Yeah, it was pretty exciting. It was really her idea. I had no idea I wanted to be an author. But what happened was during the time frame when we were putting together our book summary and synopsis – which was a great exercise for us — we could figure out whether our space was filled already. We were able to ascertain the fact that no one had written a LinkedIn for, we call them, “skeptics, investigators and beginners” and starting-to-be intermediates. Nobody had written a book that didn’t ready like a Dummies book. We wanted this book to be picked up at the airport, read on the two-hour flight and by the time you land where you’re going to go, you go, “I get it.” But then, if you decide to continue the journey, you can actually work through the chapters one at a time. It was meant to be a one read-through right away so you can understand all the concepts, but then go back and do the chapters sort of like a Dummies book.
DT: I really enjoyed it. I love to read about social media. I really thought it was well done. And I really liked how it was really for anybody – but I do like how you spent part of the time explaining, like you said, to the baby boomers how they shouldn’t be scared of it because they have a little more to offer than those entering the workforce, so I thought that was great.
WB: Well thank you.
DT: What’s next?
WB: You know what? I’m still enjoying continuing to write weekly with my blog and weekly tips.
DT: So after people read your book they can go to your website and sign up for tips and still learn from you?
WB: Yeah. And I’ll also be sending out book updates from time to time because as we know, sites like LinkedIn change from time to time.
DT: All right. Fantastic. Thank you. Anything else? Any other tips for writers and authors?
WB: Find good groups that are in your space. Be part of those groups. Share. You’ll find yourself making friends and they’ll look to you as an expert in your space because the group is defined by the face [of the group]. Use the status updates.
Other tips from Wayne condensed from our interview:
Headline – use all 120 characters.
Job Title – think about keywords. “Go into the search and think like your customer” to find appropriate keywords.
Summary – There are 2,000 characters available – think of the summary as your cover letter. “Treat it like you were having a cup of coffee with someone and what you’d tell them. Write it in Word and spell-check it.”
Website addresses – change the name of the title – instead of personal and company website, click “other” so you can change the title that appears.
Add publications – there is a newer LinkedIn features allowing you to share publications. This is a no-brainer for authors!