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How agencies can get the most out of LinkedIn (featuring Chuck Hester)

Chuck Hester, longtime communications expert and author of Linking In to Pay It Forward, offers tips on how agency leaders can use LinkedIn effectively for business development, recruiting, and more.

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Chuck Hester is a senior integrated marketing executive with deep experience in B2B and technology. He has worked in-house and on the agency side, so he brings a strong understanding and great perspective to this episode of Chats with Chip.

As the author of Linking In to Pay It Forward, Chuck provides advice to communicators on how to use LinkedIn effectively. In addition to his current role as Director of Strategic Communications for Fountain Forward, Chuck provides 1-on-1 advice for agency executives and on-site or virtual training for agency teams.

Quotes

  • Chuck on how individuals should see LinkedIn: “LinkedIn is not an online resume, it’s it’s really an online portfolio.”
  • Chuck on video opportunities: “If you’re an agency, and you’re trying to promote the fact that you know how to market [then by] having video on LinkedIn you’re showing customers and potential clients that you know how to use that platform.”
  • Chuck on LinkedIn company pages: “I’ve always quite frankly, looked at a LinkedIn company page, unless your Microsoft or whoever it may be as kind of an online brochure, more than anything else.”
  • Chuck on whether you should subscribe to LinkedIn Premium: “if you are a recruiter, if you’re a business development person, or if you’re a giant, executive job seeker, then LinkedIn premium makes a lot of sense for you. If you are not, it’s not necessarily the case”

Resources

Transcript

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the original audio to confirm accuracy.

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Chuck Hester. Chuck is a marketing expert with great knowledge about all sorts of things, but particularly linked in, which is what we’ll be talking about today. And he has literally written the book on LinkedIn, he is the author of linking into pay it forward. Now in its second edition, he is currently the Director of strategic communications with fountain forward, welcome to the show, Chuck.

CHUCK: Thanks, Chip, always a pleasure to talk to you.

CHIP: And I always feel bad when I’m introducing you somewhere because your your credentials are so strong, what did I leave out that I probably should be sharing with the listeners at the start of this conversation?

CHUCK: You know, marketing communications forever. I mean, that’s kind of the bottom line on that and content marketing specifically, as well, a lot of content marketing work. You know, I’m a Joe bluesy acolyte, best way to describe it. So, actively involved in content marketing work, and working with agencies and organizations on how to use use content marketing and LinkedIn to do better.

CHIP: And I’ve seen you speak a number of times, you’re a great speaker, you share lots of useful information on your LinkedIn account at events, one on one all over the place. So I think you’re going to have some great insights for our listeners, particularly as it pertains to how agencies can use LinkedIn more effectively, not just for their clients, but also for themselves, because I think that’s an area that’s often overlooked.

CHUCK: Yeah. Well, thank you. I appreciate that. We I’ve done a lot of work with agencies. And it’s one area that you like you said, I’ll use the old term cobblers, children, we have a tendency, not the market ourselves, even though we’re marketing people.

CHIP: Absolutely. So you know, if I’m, let’s say, I’m an agency owner, I’ve got a small to mid sized PR marketing agency, you know, how should I think about LinkedIn? Should I be thinking about it in terms of business development, or recruitment? or something else? or all of the above? Is that a learning tool? How do you think about it from an agency perspective?

CHUCK: It really is honestly, all of it, I love it, I use when my seminars for agencies in particular, we talk specifically about how to build brand equity and subject matter expertise, medium sized agency, there’s usually a agency head, or someone that’s actively involved, and it really is the face of the agency. So it’s brand building for that person. It is business development, and working with finding new customers or for that matter, promoting the customers that you have already. If you’re promoting them on LinkedIn, and you’re not promoting their LinkedIn information on your account, then you’re missing a step. Then the other aspect of it is and you know, the LinkedIn myth is that it’s just a recruiting platform. That’s, that’s kind of gone by the wayside after a lot of years, basically. And I always used to say that, you know, LinkedIn is not an online resume, it’s it’s really an online portfolio. But you know, being able to show that you have strength within marketing public relations within this particular area, that’s always important. And LinkedIn is a great place to do that you can find some really good talent that way. And you know, my numbers, I’ve got to get it right. But I think it’s 580 million people on LinkedIn, there’s a database for you to find really good talent. So good way to use that.

CHIP: And you know, I think, originally people saw LinkedIn as sort of a place to post your resume in a fancy for, if you will, and it had social components to it. But I think I think it’s fair to say that LinkedIn has grown more slowly as a social platform than some of the pure social platforms like Facebook or Twitter. But it seems to me that that particularly over the last year or two, it’s really picked up steam, and there’s a lot more quality engaging conversation taking place on the platform. Is that is that an accurate perception? Do you think?

CHUCK: Yeah, I think that in that that’s intentional on LinkedIn, Spark, you know, LinkedIn is really good. And we’ve always talked about this, you know, back 510 years ago, LinkedIn will look at a particular feature on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, wherever it may be and say, Oh, yeah, you know, we should probably try and do that. They’ve really kind of been very specific and two areas. One is content marketing, and doing a lot of work with in content marketing and promoting blog posts and status updates and alike. In a second area, which is really starting to pick up steam is video. They’re doing a lot of work with video. Now. As a matter of fact, I’m I’m as as of this podcast airing, I will have done a Cox media, LinkedIn seminar, and one of the things that we’re adding to that which is new, is actually a video introduction that you place into your LinkedIn profile. And nobody would ever really think about it. It’s almost like a Hey, Well, welcome to my profile type video. Something unique and interesting that the cock said, Hey, Leah, can we do this, and so I instituted that. So I have a lot of fun with that. But yeah, the the video is Big Content Marketing is is very large. But they are very intentional. They have an internal staff that works hard on content marketing, and does a really good job in that regard. And they are lack of a better way to put this kind of honing their brand if you We’ll as a business to business platform, and making sure that you know, this is a business marketplace, this is where, you know, I was like say, this isn’t where I’m talking about my applesauce recipe,

CHIP: right? And video, I think in particular, is something that they like all of the social platforms are really emphasizing, you know, I can see it in my own results. If I post video content, on my own profile on LinkedIn, those always get larger number of impressions, then if I say share a link to an article I wrote or something like that. So they’re, they’re really putting an emphasis on it.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s a really, it’s fun to play with. I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of work with visuals on video. So it’s good. It’s kind of engaging, and all the way back around. So you know, if you’re in a, you’re an agency, and you’re trying to promote the fact that you know how to market having video on LinkedIn and showing basically what you’re doing when you’re you’re working in LinkedIn as an agency for your account, as you’re showing customers and potential clients that you know how to use that platform. That makes a big difference,

CHIP: when I think the video allows you to humanize yourself so much more as well. So that when someone is thinking about hiring you as an agency, they can start to get to know you a little bit if they’ve got some video content. So when they’re first on the phone with you, that’s not the first time they’ve heard your voice. It’s not the first time that they’ve heard your perspectives on things. So I think there’s real value in that.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. And and for, you know, quick plug for fountain forward, our CEO, Stephen Shigella is doing short videos on LinkedIn and and killing it, I mean, some really interesting stuff going on. One of one of the number one things that you make sure you do is caption the videos, and you know, they’re engaging, they’re quick, you can take a look at it. So, you know, take a look at the word stuff so that we’re starting to build on content marketing for him as well.

CHIP: And the other thing LinkedIn is starting to roll out is live video, right? It’s not something that everybody has access to yet, they’re, I think, being very intentional and giving it to people that they think are going to have an audience to build some momentum around it before they turn it on, for the masses, but it certainly, it certainly seems like they’re trying to hone in on that particular aspect of video as well.

CHUCK: Yeah. And again, that’s that’s them looking at Facebook Live and calling it LinkedIn live and seeing where we want to go with that. You know, yeah, in its, as they’ve done in the past, with publishing, for instance, they roll it out on a beta level, and they rolled it out, you know, the first 25,000 500,000, whatever it may be. And again, it’s starting to work, one of the coolest places, I’ve seen it done, and agencies can pay attention to this as well, you know, you go to a conference. And so you start doing video interviews live, that you can broadcast back on your on your LinkedIn account. So it works really, really well. We curious to see how well it works, quite frankly, because honestly, LinkedIn, to me is not necessarily a live platform per se, as much as Facebook is. But it’s still something that that’s different. And they’re experimenting with it, we’ll see where this ends up and where it goes there at the influencer level right now. And, you know, you know, folks that I know, like Carlos Gil, for instance, are using it, and Jason Miller and a like that, that are that are doing well with it. But again, one of the things I mentioned is make sure that you’re not in love with a tool and and therefore just using it, because it’s a cool thing, as opposed to whether or not it actually gets engagement.

CHIP: Right. And, and LinkedIn sort of has a history of trying things. And sometimes they run with it for a longer period of time then than others. You know, they’ve had, you know, one of the things I think I would say, not really an experiment, but one of the things that sort of gone on a roller coaster over the years as far as popularity and usage is groups. And Yep, I mean, how do we feel about LinkedIn groups today? Chuck,

CHUCK: there are indications that they’re starting to bring them back up. And it’s interesting, you’re, you’re very accurate in that regard. You know, I watch live, obviously, on LinkedIn on a daily basis. And, and in a couple of insider groups that are directly connected to the corporate. Ironically, one of my favorite groups used to be on Google Plus for a LinkedIn, Lucan folks, but and then the other one I’m using right now is a LinkedIn experts group that’s actually in Facebook. So it’s kind of interesting to see how that’s working. I have, I have hope for groups, quite frankly, because as a content marketer groups is a great place to be and also for business development, you know, if they were to, to, to kick start that, again, if you will, and put more emphasis on it, I think it would be really good, I’m hopeful for that. Because you know, the like, again, that content marketing aspect of LinkedIn groups, and actually business development more than anything else, you know, knowing where a cost up prospect lives on LinkedIn, and a group in particular, and commenting and liking and sharing his information, her information, can make a big difference on the what what is now we always talk about it, but it’s 17 touches, it’s necessary to do to land an account,

CHIP: when it seems to me that, you know, it would be great for LinkedIn to get groups, right, because it is the right place for those kinds of conversations to be taking place professionally. A lot of folks, as you know, are using Facebook, the problem with Facebook is you then it then gets mixed in with all of your personal updates and all sorts of other things. So you know, there are more distractions, when you’re on that platform was, whereas when you’re on LinkedIn, you are typically focused on the business side of your life. Right.

CHUCK: And I’m sorry, but yeah, I’ve always likened LinkedIn groups to online chambers of commerce, that’s the best way to describe them. If you want to go find somebody and interact with them in a business setting, a LinkedIn group, especially a mastermind group, or a subject matter expertise group, you know, several years ago, that’s what I used to counsel folks on particularly agencies, I’m, okay, you’ve got a client in aerospace. So let’s talk about best practices in aerospace manufacturing, for instance, it can be a group, and it’s sponsored by that particular organization. So that’s a good way to do that. That’s, again, why I’m hopeful that this will, will start happening. And again, you’re you’re right, when you’re on a LinkedIn group, it’s professional, it has nothing to do with, you know, the kids graduation or whatever it may be. It is all about, you know, learning from colleagues and interacting with colleagues on on particular subjects.

CHIP: Another area that I think a lot of folks are confused about how they should be using it, or what the value of it is, are the company pages on LinkedIn. And, you know, LinkedIn has been making some tweaks to that as well, recently, you know, but it always strikes me that you get so much more engagement for things that you’re posting personally versus company, whether that’s my clients or myself, I’m curious, you know, what, what is your take on it? Is the company page something that agency should be investing time in for themselves? Or is it should they really be more focused on the the owners principles and employees and what they are doing individually on the site?

CHUCK: Yeah, I have a, I have a two prong aspect to that, I suggest that they would post information on their LinkedIn company page, mainly on the on the site, and we talked about earlier for recruiting, I mean, can be that can be a big aspect of because they do have a section of you know, company life in a like, one signpost by the way that LinkedIn is taking company pages seriously, again, is the fact that if you connect with somebody on LinkedIn, so you and I, you know, connect directly. If I accept that invitation, the first thing I see is a banner up top is why don’t you follow chips company page as well. So they are prompting now for folks to go find the company page and follow that company, of the person that they just connected with, which tells me that they they are serious about what’s going on with that, I have a method that I consult with agencies and organizations on how to use company pages. And basically it’s you know, put a status up, that looks in and then have a link that goes directly into an email blast out to the employees and say, Hey, please share on your, your personal LinkedIn pages as well. There’s a, there’s a shortcut to be able to do that. But I’ve always quite frankly, looked at a LinkedIn company page, unless your Microsoft or whoever it may be as kind of an online brochure, more than anything else. I mean, it’s a great way to It is almost like a little mini website, if you will, where you know, if you’re recruiting, you can talk about, you know, company culture, if you’re talking about specific things going on, you can take a look at it. So, again, I’m hopeful. I honestly, it’s not where my major work is in consulting as far as business development goes. Because it takes a long time to get somebody to follow your page. And then you know, like the information and do whatever, if you are a smaller, medium sized agency, and you have again, that person who is kind of the face of the agency, that’s really where that status should start, and be able to do that and then have other employees share that information.

CHIP: So I guess if I were going to distill it into a sentence or two, your advice would would basically be to make sure that your company pages respectable, but invest most of your time on the personal.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that, you know, it’s the halo branding effect is is a big part of my consulting, of making sure that you know, Chip Griffin principle is the guy and then that that halo of the branding goes over to the agency that

CHIP: that they own. And my case, Chuck, it’s it’s not a halo, it’s the glare off the

CHUCK: Yeah, well, yeah.

CHIP: In any event, so LinkedIn premium accounts, should should agency owners and their employees, should they have them, should they just use the service for free? What’s your take on that these days,

CHUCK: there, there’s a couple of folks who should be using it. And you know, LinkedIn and LinkedIn doesn’t like when I talk about premium, because I have premium, mainly because I teach it. And I use it for a couple of different reasons. But you know, if you are one of three areas, if you are a recruiter, if you’re a business development person, or if you’re a giant, executive job seeker, then LinkedIn premium makes a lot of sense for you. If you are not, it’s not necessarily the case for you know, for the longest time I’ve been on LinkedIn, and I got to do numbers, but probably 716 years, something like that. And probably the last 12 of those 16 years, I was not a premium user. You know, so there are there are small aspects of search that make a difference when you have that. And that’s why I’m saying for recruiters and biz dev folks that makes a difference. And for job seekers. And you know, there’s one little hidden area called who’s viewed your profile that I use on a regular basis to find out who’s looking at me basically, and and then engage them that way. So it depends, I mean, it depends on a budget that you got for, you know, 79 or $99, or whatever the number is a month, is it worth it? And it typically at least have one person with that account would probably make sense.

CHIP: Yeah. And I think you’ve touched on the two things that I find most valuable in premium, which is the additional layers of search that you’re able to do, and the who’s viewed your profile, I do find it to be particularly interesting, because oftentimes, you can get a little bit of intelligence and find someone out who you want to reach out to. But it’s also, you know, it’s a good reminder sometimes is that you may be on someone’s mind. And it’s worth talking to that person, even if there’s not a particular business opportunity to be had.

CHUCK: Yeah, and I’ve actually, you know, I’ve jumped the gun on a couple of things. I’ve had folks that have looked at my profile, and I engage with them and say, You looked at my profile, how can I be of service? And they come back and say, Well, you know, we’re looking for a seminar leader on LinkedIn, and you came up. So it’s nice to be able to do it that way. The other part of that, by the way is, you know, if you are already connected with somebody, they’re looking at your profile, it’s a nice prompt to say, Hey, Chip, we haven’t talked in a while and you really I saw your face on my LinkedIn profile. So I thought I’d check in with you and see what’s going on. And it’s a nice way to start up a conversation you may not have had in a while.

CHIP: Right? Right? Yeah. Good way to start Big Brother’s watching told me you were watching. So

CHUCK: yeah, it’s the old it’s the old gym thing of, you know, looking at me looking at you looking at me lipid saying so yeah, right. Little

CHIP: bit. Right. And so, so let’s see, open connecting, who should Who should I be connecting with today? Is it is this? Should I accept all of these questions, the invites that I get, should I only accept ones with people? I actually know what do you what do you think works best in in 2019?

CHUCK: Oh, Chip, accept everybody without any difficulty. Now, I’m kidding. That’s, that’s my sarcasm there. I am a advocate of never accepting generic invitations unless you know exactly who that person is. You know, again, I’m, I’ve done a Cox seminar. And when the process of doing a Cox seminar, I got several generic invitations from Cox media is exactly the piece I accepted, but immediately then sends an email opposite or message out said, Hey, you know, I know you’re from Cox, and therefore I accepted your generic invitations. I do not accept them what I do if I have time, and normally I do, because I’ve got scripts that I set up. But basically, I’ll send a message back and say, Hey, you know, I see, I don’t accept generic invitations. But tell me why you want to connect and how I can be of service. If they come back to me with an answer, then I know for a fact they’re legitimate. If not, then they’re probably scraping and getting information. So I’m, I’m a big advocate good. not accepting generic invitations, because it does make a big difference.

CHIP: Now, how do you feel about emojis in your

CHUCK: you’re talking to a 60 year old guy here? Yeah. I mean,

CHIP: it’s, I really wish that LinkedIn just wouldn’t allow those. Because, yeah, it’s really irritating to see that in a professional environment.

CHUCK: You mean, the green hands? Congratulations, stuff that’s now out there. Yeah. Now, I’m not a big fan, quite frankly, you know, the smiley faces and whatever. And, and honestly, what one of the things in and really kind of protocol in regards to LinkedIn. And I’ve talked a lot about this in the book, and I talk a lot about him on my seminars. You know, LinkedIn is a professional profile, I’m sorry, professional platform, you need to act professionally. And that’s kind of the bottom line. So I guess the question would be, if you had a potential client, and you were sending an email to them, would you send a smiley face within that email? And that’s kind of that’s where that looks like, for me, you know, if it’s a personal friend back and forth, like you and I, every once in a while, I mean, I smiley faces, okay. Sure. But again, you’ve got to be real careful. And that, you know, LinkedIn while they are trying to mirror some of the features from Facebook and the other platforms, they’re not Facebook, and so don’t treat them like Facebook, my best analogy that I have is, you know, LinkedIn, sorry, Facebook is your backyard barbecue, and LinkedIn is your backyard barbecue you invited your boss to, that’s the best way to describe it. I mean, it’s really, you know, it’s a professional platform, I’d say, my favorite area to talk about is, you know, the LinkedIn profile picture. And I’ve got a slide within the presentations, that I do have some pictures that you would not believe that our actual LinkedIn profile pictures, the bottom line, and that is a profile pictures got to be professional, you know, act like you’re going into a business meeting, what would you What would you be wearing? And what would you look like, that’s kind of the bottom line. So all the way around to emojis. Now, I’m not a big fan.

CHIP: Yeah. And it particularly irritates me that LinkedIn allows them in just in the summary description and things like that, because some people then load them up with fireworks and weird, like that, which I just I do not understand. But any case. You know, one of the I think often overlooked values in LinkedIn, particularly from an agency perspective, is the ability to do some degree of competitive intelligence, and particularly in the agency world, where, you know, you often will, will either be going up against an agency or potentially talking about a partnership with them. And it’s, it’s hard to tell how big an agency is how they’re structured, things like that. But you can very easily go into LinkedIn and get a real sense as to who it is that you’re working with, whether that’s a client, a partner, a competitor, etc. And, you know, so you want to think about how you can use it that way. Yeah,

CHUCK: absolutely. And, and one of the areas and we go back to the company pages, but I look at a company page for you know, a potential client or even a competitor. The first thing I look is the number of of employees on LinkedIn, you know, if they, they were real good at smoking mirrors and being able to say, Hey, you know, what Chester enterprises is amazing place in Raleigh and Houston and wherever it may be, but then you look at it and say, you know, number of employees on LinkedIn to you kind of get the feel for what what that size of that company is what they’re doing. The other part of that is on the competitive intelligence that you look at it, see how their content marketing works, and what they are doing on LinkedIn, and what their what their principles are doing. Sometimes that can be used as a competitive advantage for you if you are doing better than them pointed out. I mean, you know, not necessarily, you know, the specific company that you’re talking about, but you know, point out how well you’re doing it and and offer to, to have them go look at others and that they may be talking to that sometimes can help.

CHIP: Well, thank you, Chuck. This has been some great insight. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about Chuck or having him come in and do one on one training with your agency executives, or perhaps doing an agency wide seminar, either via zoom or in person to help with business development, and recruiting. He is the man he is the person who understands LinkedIn and he speaks agency, which I know all of you listeners will appreciate. If you’d like to reach out to Chuck, you can reach him at Chuck Chuck hester.com. Or of course, you can connect with him on LinkedIn, which probably is the most logical place given the topic of this interview. So, again, my guest today has been Chuck Hester, and I look forward to speaking with all of you again on the next episode of Chats with Chip