How LinkedIn Can Benefit You As A Business with John Espirian

This week’s episode is another interview, this time with John Espirian. After hearing John speak about LinkedIn at a local conference, I knew I wanted him to be a podcast guest as I was able to learn some valuable tips and tricks from his talk and as someone who has been in the industry for a long time, it’s always so refreshing when that happens. With lots of actionable advice when it comes to LinkedIn, this is definitely an episode for those that have been looking to maximise their profile.

  • The simpler your message is, the more people will remember it and take action.
  • When it comes to LinkedIn, you need to trial and error what works best.
  • Even if you talk about a variety of different topics, you need to ensure you have that ‘one thing’ that everyone knows you for. This should apply to all social media platforms.
  • Invest in relationships as much as you possibly can. Although you need to put sales content out, building relationships is much more important when it comes to LinkedIn. Whether it’s publicly or using direct messaging.
  • LinkedIn doesn’t just have to be for those that are B2B.
  • You have a smaller reach on LinkedIn so the organic reach is better than any other platform.
  • LinkedIn posts have a lifespan of around 2-3 days.
  • If you write an article on LinkedIn they will be indexed by Google. You should be aiming to create both short-form and long-form content on your platform
  • Don’t put links in your post right away. Post your content, wait a few seconds and then edit your post to include the link. This is known to give your post much more reach.
  • Document posts are more likely to be boosted by LinkedIn, so make sure you’re using these every now and again. If you use document posts, you need a clear call to action.
  • A great statistic to monitor is how many people are visiting your profile page, as this is a one big sales page for you and what you do. One of the best ways to do this is to switch to follow first.
  • When writing your headline you should follow a 40, 60, 20 rule in terms of characters. The first 40 characters should be interesting, the next 60 should be informative and intrigued. This will get more people to click through to your profile.
  • Don’t use more than three hashtags. Make them a mix of personal brand hashtags and popular industry hashtags. Put them at the end of your post.
  • Tag yourself at the end of your post for up to 28% more visibility.

You have to be in the conversation long enough for people to start remembering your name. You can’t just start posting on LinkedIn and expect it to work. You need to show up and have clear branding.

  • Introducing John Espirian – 04:59
  • Becoming Seen as A LinkedIn Expert – 12:30
  • Investing in Relationships – 20:30
  • Why Should You Bother with LinkedIn? – 22:56
  • The Basics of LinkedIn – 24:53
  • How to Ensure Your Posts Are Seen – 30:00
  • Using ‘Follow First’ – 39:50
  • Other Important Points to Consider – 45:19
Transcript below


Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How are you? How are things going? At time of recording this episode, it's a very rainy February day, so I'm hoping by the time you're listening to this, it's kind of mid-March and the sun might be shining. Let's hope so. I am desperate for the spring to come and to have some nicer, warmer weather. That's why, in Episode 100 when we talked about we wouldn't want to move to the States. That's one of the reasons. Wouldn't it just be lovely to wake up every day and the sun to be shining? Honestly, I think it puts us in such a better mood, so much nicer mood. Okay, this week's episode is an interview. It's with the really, really lovely John Espirian.

John and I had followed each other on social media for quite some time, but we met properly for the first time at Cambridge Social Day when I was keynoting Cambridge Social Day and he was speaking there as well, and he talked about LinkedIn. I love it, and I don't know about you, but I love it when I do an episode of the podcast or when I meet people or I see people and they teach me something. Because, obviously, I'm in this world a lot. I do a lot of stuff in this world. I know lots of it. Obviously, or otherwise people wouldn't pay me. You wouldn't pay me to do the academy and you wouldn't listen to the podcast, so I obviously know lots and lots of stuff, but I do enjoy learning from people and them telling me things that I don't know. This is exactly what John did.

John describes himself as the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter and author of Content DNA, formerly a Microsoft Mac MVP and director of The Society of Editors and Proofreaders. Gosh, that's a mouthful. And John writes business-to-business web content to help clients explain how their products and services and processes work. Basically, he's a technical copywriter. Now, that in itself is a hell of a skill. Well, first off, copywriting is a real skill. Then to be a technical copywriter so that not only to do you have to understand technical elements of things, but you then have to translate it into a language that basically anyone can pick up and read. That is a phenomenal skill.

What John has done, that is his business. That's what he does. However, in order to prove and show how he is good at writing technical copy, he's been putting together content around LinkedIn and it's really helped him stand out. He uses LinkedIn as his platform, so he's not, although he's very well-known as a LinkedIn person, John's long-term aim is not to become the LinkedIn king. His long-term aim for his business is to keep doing his technical copywriting and to grow his business that way, but he's just using content and LinkedIn as a really good tool in order to get that out there. John knows some amazing hacks and tricks that he uses on LinkedIn and, like I said, things that I haven't heard before, so I had to have him on.

He is relentlessly helpful and is a super, super lovely guy, so I think you're going to really enjoy today's episode. I would highly recommend, and obviously I'll link to this in the show notes, but I do recommend that you go and follow John on LinkedIn just because he does put so much content out there and some really smart, clever things. A bit like me, we test things. I did the five day challenge. By the time this episode comes out, it's done, but by the time I'm recording it, I haven't even started it. The whole point of doing anything is I can then come back and tell you what worked, what didn't work, how to do it, how not to do it, how not to waste time, how to do it efficiently, how to get best results. That's basically what John does.

He does that for LinkedIn. He tests his own things himself. Then he'll write a very well-written and straightforward blog post on what that is and how that works and whether you should do it. Like I said, highly recommend that you go and check him out on LinkedIn. But obviously, first, take a listen to this brilliant episode with John.


Introducing John Espirian


Okay, I am so excited to welcome today's guest to the podcast. Welcome, John Espirian.

Thanks for having me, Teresa. Really excited for this one.

No worries. I'm excited because you and I have been in each other's worlds for a little while now, and you have a very unique presence on social media so you're very easy to spot in terms of your graphics and things. We've been at some events, but we really got chatted at Cambridge Social Day, didn't we?

That's right.

Because we were both speaking there. John gives the coolest stuff away in terms of content that I just had to have him on and had to have him talking about all things content and LinkedIn. Before we jump into that, John, just explain to my listeners, if they haven't heard from you before, who you are and how you got to do what you do now.

Okay, so I am a content writer. I work in B2B. I've been doing that independently for about 10 years, but before then, I was a software and hardware tester. I was the guy who was poking and fiddling with stuff and trying to work out why it was broken or why the manuals weren't as clear as they could've been. When I got made redundant from that job, I took that main skill that I had, which is understanding how stuff works and explaining it to people so that they don't feel stupid and putting that into writing. Yeah, it's been 10 years independent now. That's what I do. I work on websites and some social media content to help people explain how products and services and processes work. That is my service.

I need to explain, John. That, honestly, would be my idea of hell. I'm so sorry. You obviously have a brain that I don't have because the technical side of stuff I would really struggle with, but also, as these guys know, because they listen all the time, I don't like writing anyway. Doing that, is it quite niche? Are there many people doing it?

Yeah. It can be. I mean, there are a million and one copywriters out there, but there aren't so many who focus on explaining stuff as opposed to just selling stuff. I'm not really interested in the world of influence and selling. I'm more interested in explaining because the best feeling in the world for me is when someone's furrowing their brow going, “I don't get this.” Then you tell them something and they go, “Why didn't someone just say that to start with?” I love giving people that realisation. It really helps them. Then I become the person of interest for them because I explained other stuff. They see what I'm doing and then maybe some of them hire me to write content for their website, and all of their customers suddenly understand what's going on, so that's cool.

I think that's great because in every industry, and in this industry as well, in the marketing industry, there are people who make a living out of confusing people because they like the fact … Do you know what? Having done a marketing degree, and I can say all the fancy words if you want me to, but people don't know what you're talking about. Therefore, I am very much like you, John. My aim is that I teach people in a way that makes perfect sense to them and their business. Actually, I think there's a lot of people out there who like the fact that they sound like the smartest person in the room. Just explain to me, so if someone hires you as a copywriter and they have a tool or a system that you've never used before, how on earth do you work it out to then tell other people how to use it?

Well, that all starts with interviews. I get in front of a subject matter expert. Thank goodness for Zoom, so I don't actually have to go to people's factories and stuff like that anymore. I just ask them questions until I just break them psychologically. I say, “Why does it do that? How does this work? Why is that important? Who cares about this?” If I was trying to explain this to my grandma, what's the long and short of it? We just keep asking questions until you get to the root of what value they're putting into the world, and in what way it would be best to express that given their personality. Once we've got that, we just try and make it as simple as possible.

These people who do try and obfuscate, they hide through complex language, that isn't the root to influencing anyone or helping anyone. All the stats show that the simpler your language is, the more understandable it is, the more relatable it is, and people will actually see you as being more intelligent if you keep your language simple. We can see this. To be honest, we can see this in the world of politics. The simpler your messaging is, the more people will remember it and take actions. It's all about just keeping things simple and clear, not trying to have too much ego, and just talking the way that real people talk, even though we're talking about techy things. We can still explain things in a simple way, and that's what I've found that I'm reasonably good at.

That's really cool. I think you do what I suggest other people do, that you ask the stupid questions.

Yeah, exactly.

Like whenever I'm speaking, whenever I'm doing anything, teaching, coaching calls, it's like there's never a stupid question because I could be saying something … The other thing is, often in our own businesses, we're very much wrapped up in it and we forget that people don't know the really basic stuff. We forget that people don't necessarily know the terminology for that thing, or the word for that thing. Actually, having someone out of that industry all together, like you, trying to make sense of it, you're able to go, “Well, hang on. You just said that. I don't know what that word means,” without any feeling of, “Oh, I should.” Because we've all done it.

I worked in corporate world for a long time, marketing corporate world. I used to sit in meetings and think, “I don't even know what half of them are saying.” I was so embarrassed because I just thought I would look stupid. I was sat there with my marketing degree like I should know what they're on about and I didn't have a clue. It's like I didn't want to ask the question, whereas now, like you said, I think it's all about being totally and utterly, “Hang on a minute. What do you mean by that? What is that?”

Yes, exactly. It's called the curse of knowledge. We think that everyone else understands things on the same level that we do. We forget that we might be experts in the subject, and marketing is a good case. Someone bangs on about the four Ps and no person in the street has any clue what that means.


Yes, if you can just get over that and understand what the other person is thinking, which is, “Make it simpler for me.” No one ever complained, really, that something was too simple and easy to understand.


Keep honing your message to make it easy and quick to understand, easy to remember, then you'll be onto a winner.

I think I have this very, slightly mean-sounding, but I swear it comes with love and affection where I say that people online are a bit stupid and a bit lazy. What I mean is you've just got to write for the lowest denominator. Do you know what I mean? It's like, if you're writing for that level and you're assuming everyone is that, then you are catching as many people as you can catch. Whereas if you're writing for a certain level, and especially in our own industries, who am I writing for? Other marketers or other people like me, or am I writing for my customers? I think that's such a good point.


Becoming Seen as A LinkedIn Expert


Tell me how you got from doing that to doing all the stuff you do on LinkedIn and the coming scene as a LinkedIn expert and that sort of thing.

Well, I was late to the social media game. I didn't really have any kind of social media presence of any note until about 2014. Nothing worked for me for a few years. I tried every different network you could imagine. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. You name it. Eventually, I don't know, a kind of light bulb went off and I thought, “Well, I'm trying to target people who work in B2B. Where would be the best place for me to hang out?” It's kind of a head slap moment. Obviously, LinkedIn would be the place. That coincided, luckily for me, with Microsoft buying out LinkedIn at the end of 2016 and they've changed the user interface, they've changed the algorithm.

Yeah. They made it much nicer.

At that time I thought, “Let's just dive into this thing.” I'd already studied content marketing, so I knew that this idea of building a body of knowledge in one place, answering people's questions would be a good long-term play. I never really liked that, so I thought we'll do this organically. We'll do it without ads. We'll do it with a really long-term plan for building authority, and so I started posting content about LinkedIn, which is what I was learning about at the time. How can I use it to promote my business? Because my business often involves working with clients who I can't name for privacy reasons, I couldn't talk about my clients. But what I could do is express my ability to express how stuff works, and so I used LinkedIn to explain how LinkedIn works with the subtext being, “Well, if I can explain how this works, maybe I can explain how your remote control works or HR process or whatever.”

What happened was precisely nothing. I didn't get any kind of engagement. I didn't really get any followers, connections. I certainly didn't get any work from it, but because I'd had this long-term vision that building it would pay off in year two or year three or maybe even year five, and I'd seen other examples of people who'd done the same thing. No one is an overnight success. I thought, “Well, let's stick at this.” After about month nine, I managed to get an article published in Social Media Examiner, which got me quite a bit of exposure. Then things started to happen. People started to say, “Well, look. Maybe this guy does seem to know what he's talking about. Let's connect with him. Maybe he could do some writing for our website.” It kind of snowballed from there, but yeah, in the first nine months or so, absolutely nothing.

I just want to pause on that for a minute because of the fact that we've just had this conversation and we were talking about the podcast and we were talking about consistency, and I have said a number of times that month nine was the month for me where suddenly it all kind of blew up. Maybe that's a magic number, maybe it was just a coincidence that you and I both had that. But I love the honesty of you saying, “I did this and nothing happened,” because I think there are too many people out there who think, “I do a tweet and everything happens.” The other thing is sometimes they listen to people like us who have been doing this for some time. I put something up on LinkedIn the other day and one thing I'm going to be doing now going forward is I'm going to be promoting more about the academy in terms of what we're doing in the academy in order to try and encourage people to come and check it out and come and join and come and be part of it.

I put a post saying, “Academy members, here are the dates for Facebook Lives that are going to happen. The first one is happening this Friday and it's going to be about …” We're recording this, by the way, at the beginning of 2020 and it's going to be about content planning for the year. Or not so much content planning as campaigns. We're talking about campaigns. Anyway, put this post up on LinkedIn, immediately had someone comment on it, she goes, “How do I get access to these?” I don't know this person. I've never met them. Of course, I was able to then go back and say, “Great. These are part of the academy. Here's the link to find out more. Let me know what you think or whatever.” People will hear that and they'll think, “Oh, brilliant.” So they put a post up and nothing happens. It's like, you've got to remember that I have been doing this consistently. I've been building my contacts on there consistently for years. That's why you and I now have successes like that. I think people think they can expect that within the first five minutes.

Yeah, that's right. I get increasingly more questions asking, “How can I get the levels of engagement that you're getting on your post?” I will say to them, “Look back at my posts in 2017 when I got two comments on a post if I was lucky. I'm saying the same things, or at least I'm approaching it in the same way, but no one knew who I was then.” You've got to be in the conversation for long enough for people to start caring about you and start remembering your name. A lot of that comes down to having really clear branding, both written and visual. If you keep showing up with that same shape, as I call it in my book, then people will start remembering you. But no one's going to trust you from day one, so just need to be in the conversation for long enough.

Of course, that's a message that's hard to sell because no one wants to wait two years or whatever it is before stuff starts happening for them, but that's what happened for me. It's happened for you. It's happened for countless other people I could name. There's no sugarcoating that. You've got to go through that hard graph. If you're learning how to bake a cake, you're not going to bake a brilliant cake from day on. Keep practising . You'll improve. People will start taking notes of you. So yeah, that's just a really important foundational thing to get right is that if you keep showing up, stuff will happen.

I think you're right. People do ask, “Well, how do I get that? How do I get what you've got? How do I?” As if we've got some magic formula. I think unfortunately, there are some people out there who do make out that they've got a magic formula and there isn't one. It's just a case of being tenacious and showing up every day. Also, what's interesting is I was having a conversation just yesterday about someone saying that now they're focusing on certain things and they wouldn't waste their time on speaking and they wouldn't waste their time on doing these other things that aren't making their business money. I had someone come to me say, “Do you think that's right, and do you think I should do this?”

It's like, okay. I totally hear what these people are saying. I totally hear that opinion and that's totally understandable for them and where they're at, but the point is they wouldn't be where they're at if they didn't do all that other stuff. They wouldn't be in an opportunity where they can go, “Right now, I don't need to do so much of that, and I don't need to do so much of that,” if they hadn't had done it at all. Do you know what I mean? If speaking gets you seen by loads of people, then you might come to a point where you go, “I don't need to do so much of that, or I'm going to be a bit more picky, or I'm only going to do it if they pay me.”

But you can't do that in the first days because you need to take everything, and you can't get to the point of making that decision until you've gone through all that hard stuff. I think sometimes people look at people in a position and go, “Well, this is how they're driving their business forward now. I need to do the same. It's like, yeah, but you're not in the same position as them. You need to be seen. You need to try all these things. You need to realise that was a waste of time, and actually that's good and I need to keep doing this before you can then go, “Now I know what I'm doing.”


Investing in Relationships


Yeah. Even if you do have lots of different activities, I think the most important thing is to make sure that you're known for that one thing, ideally, the one message that you're trying to get across to people, keep it nice and simple. One of the best tips I've got for LinkedIn, and in fact this is really true for any social media, I think, is just invest in relationships as much as possible. There's so many people I see who are just trying to put salesy content or low-value content out, and they don't make any effort to respond either public or privately. Publicly is all the gold happens in the comments section, really, just building your relationships, and also in direct messages.

There's nowhere I can really throw a spotlight on that. It's all stuff that happens behind the scenes, but that relationship building is so, so important because I just lose count of the number of recommendations and referrals I get from who I've helped an I've just stayed in touch with just to be the helpful person in their network. They might not hire me, but they'll know someone who does want to hire me. All of that kind of stuff that happens behind the scenes is really, really important in building successful social media presence for me. I think if you don't put that effort in, you're not going to get very far.

That's the thing. When people talk about content, and as you've mentioned, you've got a new book coming out, which is very, very exciting. Tell us when it's coming out just because, obviously, at this point, I have a vague idea when your podcast episode is coming out, but I don't know the exact date. Tell us when the book's coming out so they can keep an eye out for it.

Yes. The book is Content DNA and it's coming out at the end of April, going to be launching it at ATOMICON in Newcastle.

Which is exciting.

I think the 28th of April, so yes.

Yes. I'm speaking there and it's going to be very exciting and it's going to be a good event, and it was brilliant last year. Yeah, again, like you said, you're doing this book. You did a whole book on content. Sometimes I think people just think, “Oh, I've got to get content out there,” and they forget that this is a two-way conversation. They forget that, “What if that person how do I get access to this and I hadn't responded?” Well, I'd have just thrown that in the bin. You know what I mean? What a waste of time. The fact is that I responded fairly swiftly. I went back to it, not anybody else. Again, someone tagged me in a post. I'm speaking at another event and they were like, very, very kindly said, “I'm coming because Theresa's speaking.” Again, I could've just gone, “Oh, yeah. Great,” and just not don't anything with it, but immediately went back. I was like, “Thank you so much. I'm so grateful that's the case,” because that's the whole point. It's a two-way thing. Isn't it?

Yeah. That's right. No question.


Why Should You Bother with LinkedIn?


Okay, okay. Let's talk about LinkedIn. Let's talk about some of these tips because, first of all, I want to say why are we bothering and should it only be business-to-business people?

I don't think it needs to be only business-to-business people. I've seen product-based B2C services do really well. Florist people selling shoes. All sorts of stuff can do well on LinkedIn. LinkedIn's underlying financial model really relies on them getting big corporates and people paying for LinkedIn Premium. That's different to Facebook and other places where it's becoming more pay-to-play because it's just the whole platform is free and, therefore, you need ads to boost your content. That same thing doesn't really apply to LinkedIn. Also, LinkedIn is a smaller network, which means, right now, organic reach on LinkedIn will trump every other social media platform, possibly TikTok, you could argue, but I don't think you'd likely find many customers there, I would guess. LinkedIn's organic reach is fantastic. People quality of discussion there tends to be a lot better as well. If you want to engage an audience, that's where you're more likely to have civilised discussion, which if you look at any popular tweet on Twitter, for example, that tends to descend into horribleness pretty quickly.

Yeah, it can do. Yeah.

It doesn't really happen so much on LinkedIn. Its search capabilities are really good, so if you want to go and target people specifically, build your network, it's fantastic for that as well. I've just found that engagement levels and organic reach potential for content creators is fantastic on LinkedIn and that's where my posts are getting a lot of success. That's why I recommend that, and it can work B2B and B2C.


The Basics of LinkedIn


Fab. In terms of posts, obviously LinkedIn, because it is different. You have two options on LinkedIn. You have a post and you have articles. Can you just explain the difference between them and should I be doing both? Should I be doing one? What's the deal with that?

Yeah, so I think you should be doing all sorts of LinkedIn content sharing. Posts are short-form content. They can be up to 1300 characters. They will appear in the feed, the main feed that you get when you load LinkedIn. They tend to have a half life, if you like, or an exposure potential of maybe a couple of days. They tend not to last much longer than that. But that is much, much longer than you see on other social platforms. On Twitter, it might be 15 minutes and then you'll never see that tweet again if it doesn't pick up and fly. So that's good. LinkedIn articles will get you far fewer views, but they're good for building authority. They're indexed and on Google, so they've got an SEO potential. They can be up to 100,000 characters long, so you can really go into a lot of depth. I mean, very few blog posts would ever be that long.

I think it's good to have a mix of short-form posts, which would be the majority of your content, and the longer-form articles for people who really want to dig in and be sure that you've got the expertise that you're claiming to have. Your latest article gets featured on your profile as well, so if you've got one really killer subject that you want to draw people's attention to as soon as they look at your profile, it's good to have that logged in an article. Of course, as I say, there's the SEO potential. Although, having said that, within the last few months, Google has started to index short-form posts as well. That means that the first line of your LinkedIn posts could be seen as an SEO title. You might want to write your first line as if it were a headline of a mini blog post because there's a potential for that getting picked up by Google. That's a recent change.

Can you give me an example of how that might look in reality? If you were going to put a post up today with that in mind, how would that look?

Okay. Well, I mean, I always start my short-form posts within an emoji symbol, but then I would follow with an SEO-friendly title, so it might be something like “Seven Ways to Stand Out on LinkedIn in 2020.” Something like that [crosstalk 00:27:05].

And you would still do that as a post, or would that link to another article or a blog?

If you can get everything done within 1300 characters, it's far better to do it as a post because it means that there's less burden on the reader to have to click somewhere else to take you somewhere else. Also, LinkedIn does what a lot of other social media platforms do, which is they don't like external links. They don't even like internal links, which is weird. It means that if you include a link on your post, that post is going to be flattened by the algorithm. It just won't be displayed to your followers, or very few of your followers. There is a hack to work around that, which has been working for the last two years, which is you make a LinkedIn post without including your link. You post it, you wait a few seconds, you edit it, you insert the link. That's called the write, post, edit method.


It doesn't make any sense that that would work, but it does work. As soon as I started making that change about two years ago, my posts containing links got about 10 times the view count that they did before. When I shared it the first time people said, “Well, you've exposed it now. LinkedIn will close this loophole.” They haven't, and it still works now, so that's probably my most effective tip if you're sharing external link in your post.

Because some things you're going to want to, aren't you? Some things you can put in the post. Some things, you'll absolutely want to send them somewhere else.

Yeah. I mean, if you want to try and drive traffic back your website, which ultimately you would love to have the conversation on your own domain because you are in full control of everything that happens then, but you have to be mindful that people are on social media for a reason. They're not on there looking for an exit sign to take them to your site, but if you want to give them that option, this is the best way of doing it because it doesn't impact, or barely impacts the organic reach of that kind of content. That's a really, really important one to get right.

Let me just clarify just to make sure everybody heard this right. So you write your post, you don't put the link in the post, you publish it, you give it a few minutes, you go … Or seconds.

A few seconds.


And then edit it.

Go back in, edit the actual post.


You don't do it as a comment.


You can still do it in the actual post, write, click here and put the link in and it doesn't affect it as badly.

That's correct. Some people would recommend putting it in the comments instead, and I think that's a bad idea because if the comments get busy, LinkedIn does algorithmic sorting of the comments. What was the first comment, see first comment, might become the seventh comment or the 23rd comment. Then you've lost it.

You lost the link.

It's much better to put it in the body of the text. Of course, you can do that through this edit method. On negative of doing that is it doesn't put the preview image in, so if the link was going to generate a preview, it won't put that in.


How to Ensure Your Posts Are Seen


What if you used an image?

Yes. You could make an image post to start with, and that would get around that problem. The other thing from a brand point of view is that, if your domain was in the original post, nice and visible, in the edited version it gets shortened to [inaudible 00:30:23].in, which looks a bit ugly. But the trade-off is a lot more people will see the content, so it's well worth doing. There are some negatives, but it's well worth doing.

Can I ask your opinion on the longer posts? I was listening to Radio 1 because I'm young and cool. If you're not in the UK, it's probably what my teenagers would listen to, but we like cool music. We were listening to that and they said that someone was having a rant about Instagram and why are people writing essays on Instagram because it's not about that, and you shouldn't be doing all this. I mean, obviously, it was not for a business reason, by the way. It was just personalities. How do you feel, though, about having such long post? Because sometimes, I don't know about anybody else, but when I see “read more,” I click it and if suddenly it goes “boof,” like loads of words, I'm like, “Mm-mm (negative). No time for that. Move on.” What's your experience with that? What do you think?

I think the post should be as short as it needs to be to get the point across. It's worthwhile being longer than the “see more” breakpoint, which depending on the kind of post it is will either be three lines or five lines. The reason being is that when you click “see more,” LinkedIn can see, “Oh, there's something interesting in there. Someone's click see more.” Whereas if you'd only written two lines, “see more” wouldn't be available.

They're not interacting. Yeah.

So they can get that impression of how much you've read. Because the thing with LinkedIn view counts is that they're all based on this thing called impressions, which is how's the post loaded in the feed? They can't tell whether you've actually read it. All they can tell is it's been loaded and it could have been read, and that counts as a view. If you're thumb's scrolling at a million miles an hour, you're racking up views for loads of posts. That doesn't mean you read any of them.


That means that view counts can be very, very high, but they don't necessarily correlate to eyeballs paying real attention to the content. This is why view counts for other types of content will be a lot lower, but potentially a lot more valuable. There were two examples here. One is videos. Now, a video view counts only after it's been viewed for three seconds, which might not seem like a lot, but it's longer than a thumb scroll. It means it's coming to your consciousness and you've given some attention.


An article view will be even lower, but they can only be counted …

When they've clicked.

… when someone's clicked.


You can't see an article by accident. You'd have to have clicked on it. As any web copywriter will tell you, the hardest thing to get people to do is to click on something and give it their attention. Article views will be low, and that's why a lot of people are put off by them. Only got 300 views on that, but I got 5,000 on this post. So what? Those 300 people took a conscious action and probably paid attention, or at least a bit of it, whereas those 5,000 people might've just scrolled right past and, okay, it was there, but they didn't really read it. That's something to keep in mind. You can't make a direct comparison between different kinds of views.

Is there a way of telling that, though? If I have put a post up that as a “see more” bit, can I then see who's clicked the “see more?”



LinkedIn can, you can't.


One of the important points around this is one of the content types on LinkedIn that's getting a lot of boosting at the moment, by the looks of it, which is document posts. They're sometimes called carousel posts. You can create a Word document, PDF, or PowerPoint, and you can upload that native as a LinkedIn post. My document posts are getting something like two and a half times the view counts that my normal texts posts are. My normal text posts are doing pretty well, so document posts are getting what looks like a bit of a push from LinkedIn to say, “Have a look at these.”

Yeah, because it is different. Isn't it?

Yes. They're different, but they've got a greater potential to keep you engaged for longer, especially if they're nicely, visually designed with a good first slide. You're clicking the left and right buttons, and you're switching between these pages, but you're staying within the LinkedIn environment to do it. I'm not sending you off to a gated page on my website to get you to download something. Who's got time for that? We're putting it direct into LinkedIn. If you've got things like top 10 tips, great guides, pricing of things, or the kind of thing that you might want to put into an article but you could just as easily format with a nice infographic and some other text into a PDF, that will get loads more views than pretty much every other content type on LinkedIn. Document posts are a bit of a secret weapon and they're getting boosted by LinkedIn, so definitely use them.

Playing devil's advocate then, because obviously we want people on our email lists and, therefore, we want some gated content. In my mind, and you tell me whether you agree or disagree to this, I would do some stuff as PDFs or as Word documents, but obviously, I still always have some that is gated that I want them to come in. It might be that once they've seen a couple of things that aren't gated, that are on the main feed through a document post, that they then go, “Oh, yeah. I know his stuff's really good, and I'll go and get that,” and it might just make them feel more confident to put their details in.

Yeah. My answer to that is two fold. One, at the end of every document post, make a very clear call to action about what you want that person to do once they've got to the final slide. If it's get more of this kind of stuff, go here, that's a good call to action. Also, just test everything. Don't assume that just because, for example, I put all of my stuff out. I don't really gate anything.

Do you not?

I've got one paid LinkedIn thing, and I don't really gate anything else. I go on the basis that if my content is good enough and I can get it pushed out with as little friction as possible, people will come to me because I'm showing them everything. But just because that works for me, it takes a lot of effort by the way, doesn't mean it'll work for you, and so test everything. If you can split test, “This week, I'm going to be pointing people to my website for my signup, next week I'm going to be putting out PDFs with a call to action. The third week, I'm going to be doing something else,” and look at your stats and just see what's working. You can't make split decisions on just one post or two, but if you test it, you will eventually be able to optimise what works for your audience, which won't be the same as what works for mine.

Again, totally agree. When you think about our products and our services, and again, I want people, as you're listening to this, I want you to try and think about what do you sell? What's your service? For me, I'm selling online stuff. I'm selling memberships and courses and 90-day programmes. Therefore, mine is more about numbers because it's as many people in the funnel as possible, as we've talked about before, in order to convert as many people as possible. Whereas, John, in your business, the work that you're doing is much more … No one just buys your service online, do they? They don't do a checkout page and go, “Boom. Here's whatever your costs are.” They have a conversation with you.

Therefore, for you, that is a great strategy because the point is you want them to see how expert you are and then contact you and say, “Hey, John. I've seen this. You're really good. Tell me about your services. Can you help me with this?” Because at the end of the day, what you then charge them for that thing is way above what I charge for an academy member, so I want an academy member to come through the funnel and they don't get very much touchpoints of my physically. If someone contacted me and said, “Can I have a call about whether to join the academy?” Well, that's not how that system works. You know? If I had to speak to everybody personally that joined the academy, I couldn't do it. It wouldn't be viable cost-wise. Again, think about what you're selling online and whether you're selling person-to-person. If you're building high-end contacts, then that's a great strategy. You don't have to need to worry as hardly about email list building as maybe I need to think about it.

Yes. In both of our cases, because we're content creators, we will both benefit from having more eyeballs on our content.

For sure.

Now, there's a couple of things about this. I think the most important metric to measure, if you're going to measure anything on LinkedIn is how many people end up viewing your profile because I think your profile should be your one-stop sales page, really. Where as your content will help and inform your, your profile is there really to sell you, brand you to get people interested in whatever your core service is. Having more people look at your content, if you are a content creator, is obviously the first step to getting people interested enough to click through to your profile.


Using ‘Follow First’


Now, one of the best ways I've found to get those eyeballs on your content is if you make a switch to follow first. I've been talking a lot about this recently because it's had a fantastic result for me.

Explain what this is.

Yes. By default, someone who is not connected with you visits your LinkedIn profile and they see a connect button. They'll connect. They'll try to connect with you. That involves sending you an invitation, or maybe not. Then there's some work on your end where you've got to go, “Well, should I connect with this person? Who are they anyway? Who are they connected to? What kind of stuff do they post?” If you're already creating content and you've got some kind of audience, it would be much better if you could just add to that audience without having to do anything at all, without having to interact at that first point. That would be following, where the other person agrees to say, “I want John's or Theresa's content in my feed and I'll be happy with that as a first point. Now, LinkedIn has a setting in the privacy section which will let you make the follow button primary. In other words, when they visit your profile, instead of seeing the connect button, they'll see the follow button. What was the connect button will go hide into the more menu, so it's still there, but they kind of switch positions. Now, I made this change more than a year ago, and in the calendar year of 2019, it led to me adding 10,000 new followers to my profile.

Holy moly, man.

Now, bear in mind that in the 10 years previous to that, admittedly I wasn't active for a lot of those 10 years, I had 5,000 followers. I added 10,000 followers in one year, and I'm probably going to add, I would expect, 15,000 this year because there's a compounding effect once you start getting popular. If you're a content creator and you've already got a critical mass of connections, I'm guessing around a thousand and you're a regular content creator, you've got something helpful to say or something that you want to share with people, follow first mode is fantastic. As I said earlier, you need to test because what works for me might not work for you, but this has been transformational for me. My stats have just gone up enormously because of this. My profile views now, if I look back to three years ago when I started, they're now 45 times higher.


Right? I was getting about 100 profile views per 90-day measured period. It always goes back three months. It's not 4,500 views in that measured period. Obviously, a small proportion of those people will want to contact me, will want to learn more about [inaudible 00:42:28], want to hire me. That has a direct impact on my bottom line, and follow first has been a big part of that. If you're a content creator, go into privacy section, go into the followers, and click “make follow primary” and give it a try for a few months and see whether that works for you. It's done wonders for a lot of people I know as well.

That's really fascinating. You know why I like this as well? Because I have been to certain people's profiles that are really high, in our industry, like rock stars. Theirs say follow, right? You know how on Facebook you can't friend request some people but you can follow them? It does make it feel slightly more exclusive and slightly more like I'm a bit of a big deal. I'm not saying that about me, by the way. But you know what I mean? It does make you feel that when you're following. Also, and please chip in for any other thoughts on this, but also it makes me feel like I'm not having to invest as much because I'm not making that purposeful connection request, so I think that's genius.

Yes, it is. As the content creator, there's much less burden on you because although people can still request to connect with you, it's an extra click and they might not realise that that option is there. Whereas I was getting sometimes 50 connections requests a day, I might only get about 10 now. It's much easier for me to run my business without having that distraction. Once someone follows you, that button that was follow turns into connect.


In other words, there's a kind of two-step thing. If they follow you and then a week later they go, “Oh, this guy's content is amazing,” go back to your profile, click connect. They already know something about you, so you're more likely to have a fulfilling conversation to start with. I think it's just win-win all around, really. I really recommend this method of trying to build the eyeballs looking at your content lead to good things.

Okay, so we've got some great tips there in terms of doing mix of posts and the articles. When we are doing posts, making sure we go below that see more. Do you know how many characters that is that you've got to get past, by the way, to get the see more?

It depends on the number of lines. Some posts will just show three lines. The other posts will show five lines. It's not really a count of characters. It's more vertical space.


Other Important Points to Consider


Okay, cool. So make sure you use some of those new posts in terms of PDF or Word or PowerPoint. Do that follow first. I'm going to do that the minute I get off this call. What else have you got for us, John? What other things should we be thinking about, considering in terms of in order to get to the point where it's absolutely worth us doing this?

Okay. This might jump back a little bit to something that seems quite basic, but in all of the LinkedIn profile consultations I do, people's headlines are absolutely terrible. I've come up with a three-part formula for writing a good headline. Now, your headline is a 120 characters by default. There is a cheat so that if you're on iOS and only on iOS, doesn't work on Android, if you edit your headline on iOS, you can get an extra hundred characters. That can be useful for SEO purposes. You can put a few extra keywords in. I don't really recommend going nuts with that because if you actually read it, it can be a bit of a mouthful.

Ridiculous. Yeah, yeah.

Essentially, you've got 120 characters to play with. What I suggest is breaking that into three sections. The first 40 characters is the most important because on every view of LinkedIn, you can be guaranteed that the first 40 characters of your headline will be shown, even on the smallest mobile device and you've commented on someone's post and they see your name and they see your headline beneath it. You will always get the first 40 characters. That is your stock cue. That's where you've got to pack in what your brand is, how you're helping people. That's the interesting bit of your headline. The second 60 I call the informative section. That's keywords and supportive stuff that informs what's going on in the first bit. That's the second I is informative. You've got 20 characters left, then. That's what I call the bravery badge, the intriguing section where you just put something a little bit different that is a conversation starter. What you want is conversations. You want them either in public in the comments, or you want them in private through DMs. I put “not a douche canoe” in mine, which a lot of people don't understand what that means.

I have no idea what that means.

It relates to the anti-buyer persona that I've got in my mind, the person I don't want to serve. I've written about this in the book as well.


This 40-60-20, these three I's: interesting, informative, intriguing. If you put that in your headline, that will encourage more people to take note of you. If you can get people to click through to your profile, you've got a better chance of them connecting with you. You've got a better chance of them wanting to do business with you. That's a really important thing to get right, and most people's headlines aren't that.

John, can I put you on the spot and get you to read yours so we can hear how that sounds in practise?

Yes, you can. Let me just pull up my LinkedIn profile so I can get you exactly the right wording. It's “Relentlessly Helpful Technical Copywriting,” so that's the first bit. Then I say, “For B2B Websites, LinkedIn Nerd, Author of Content DNA.” I've got a few keywords in there that inform what that means. Then finally, “Not a Douce Canoe.” I've split it into three. In the talk that I did in Cambridge, I picked out a few examples and showed how other people have been following that method as well.

That's awesome.

That works really well. One other thing I want to say, which is also a relatively basic tip, but [crosstalk 00:48:26].

No, keep going.

The about section of LinkedIn was extended in its character length, so you used to be able to put 2,000 characters in. For reasons that no one knows, you can now put in 2,600. That extra 600 characters could be you expanding on what your core service is, you giving more contact details, or you putting more SEO keywords in that will be found in LinkedIn search. I recommend giving people at the start of your about section, again, we've got this kind of see more thing happening. You get a few lines of text, and then you've got to click see more to see the rest. In those first couple of lines, on those first few lines, you should put your main set of contact details for people who won't connect with you, but they do want to get in touch with you somehow.

Then at the end of that about section, you should bookend it with all of your other contact details. Just assume that people might not want to connect with you, but they still want to send you an email or maybe they want to give you a call or they want to book a 15-minute intro with you. Put all that stuff in. Now that you've got 2,600 characters, there's plenty of space. There's no excuse for not putting that in, and you've got room for white space and short lists, and things that break up the content. You don't want walls of content. That's another important thing to get right. Another tip would be to edit your default profile URLs, so again, this is quite a basic one. But if you go to your profile and you click on “edit public profile and URL,” you'll see that your default profile ends with, for example, John Espirian AB12456, which looks ugly on a business card or on an email.


But you can edit it and customise it just as you can with any other username, so I'd recommend doing that because it looks more professional and looks like you've paid attention the your profile, and your original profile link will still work, so both of them will work just as well.


Let me think. What else? Oh, I've got another useful tip. It's a bit of a weird one, which is, you know when you look at your connections in the LinkedIn feed, you can sometimes see a little green spot next to their name?


That indicates to you that they're online. If you were to send them a direct message or leave them a comment, they'll probably be more likely to respond to you because they're there. They're online right now. By default, that information is displayed only to your connections, but there's a setting you can change so that you can display it to everyone.


For privacy reasons, you might not want to, or if you're working somewhere and you don't want your boss to see when you're online or not, maybe you don't want to do that. For everyone else, especially for entrepreneurs like us who work from home, whatever, you might want to show people when you're online even if they're not connected with you. I've made that change. That's also in privacy, manage active status. There's an option there where you can say, “Let all LinkedIn members see my active status.” I've found that when I made that change, more people were leaving me comments, more people were sending me DMs, more people were sending me connection requests. They go, “I can see you're online. Let's have a chat about this.”


It's just all these little things make people more likely to want to connect with you. It's a very, very simple setting change to make, but it's an extra change for people to get in touch. Again, coming back to what I said earlier, it's all about relationships. If you can get a chance to have a conversation with someone, you'll get further along. Actually, there's one other thing I've remember about the about section. In my about section, I use what I call a secret word. It's not really secret at all, but I put a line in my about section somewhere in the middle saying, “If you've read this far, include this word in your invitation to me,” and I've put a word in there. The people who mention that, I know he or she has read my profile as opposed to going, “I have a hundred new connections to make. Connect, connect, connect, connect.”

Yeah, yeah. I love that.

We don't care about those people.


If we do something that will, again, spark a conversation, show you something, that's an indicator of someone who's more interested in you and maybe they'll be more likely to buy from you.

Yeah. No, I love it. I think this is such good, practical tips that we could all do. Like I said, I love the follow first one. I also really like the bio one. I know I've tweaked my bio recently. In fact, I've written all my actions here, review my LinkedIn because this is what happens, I [inaudible 00:53:02], “Oh, I need to do that. I need to do that.” But yeah, I love those. I think they are brilliant. Thank you so much.

I've got a couple more for you before we finish off.

Go on then.

Hashtags. Loads of people ask about hashtags, mainly because you can come across-

Because it's fairly newish, isn't it?

It's mainly the people who've come across from Instagram who are used to seeing 28 hashtags on every post. Actually, LinkedIn said don't use more than three. They've said that in an official blog post, so don't use more than three. I recommend using a mix of personalised or customised hashtags you've made up for yourself, your brand, and things that are popular in your industry. You get a mix of personal branding and exposure for people who are looking for things like #socialmedia, #contentmarketing, #digitalmarketing. That kind of thing. No more than three hashtags, and put them at the end, for goodness' sake, because it increases readability.

Here's another tip. This one is really hot off the press from a LinkedIn trainer in Australia that I've heard from recently, which is that if you … It's bizarre, but I trust her. If you tag yourself at the end of a post, you have a potential for up to 28% more visibility in your post. Now that just seems nuts, but she has done her due diligence and she's sure about this, so I'm going to be testing that straight away because 28% is messing around there. So yeah, there's loads of these little, weird foibles with LinkedIn that you don't get on other social media. I guess that's why people like me exist is to try and explain how this stuff works and demystify it all.

Exactly. I love it. John, thank you so very much. You've been so helpful. I have to say, in total honesty, it's so lovely to speak to people about platforms when, A, they know it really well. Because I'm a generalist, I get told this a lot. I know lots of things about lots of different things, but I don't go to the effort to understand it as much as you had. Also, I don't know what you think listening to this now, but often when we go to experts, we hear the same things. Actually, you've told me a lot of stuff that I've never heard before and I would say I'm fairly proficient on LinkedIn, so thank you so, so very much. John, I will link up to everything in my show notes.


Obviously, you guys can go there and get all of John's links. I would highly recommend going and looking at his LinkedIn because he's obviously practising what he preaches. For me, I like to see things in the wild. I like to see them being done so that I can get a real example of, “Oh, this is what you mean.” I highly recommend you go and follow and connect with John, go find that secret word, put it in a DM, and thank you so much. It's been a pleasure having you on the podcast.

You're welcome. I've been waiting for this opportunity for ages, so thanks so much for having me. I'm a massive fan of your podcast, may I say, as well.

Thank you so much, John, and we will see you soon. Thanks, John.


Oh, I love that episode. He was such a nice guy, such a nice guy. Obviously, I don't have not nice people on the podcast, but it was just so nice to speak me to him. He's so, very generous with his knowledge and so valuable. Like I said, the stuff that he was teaching, I feel like I haven't heard that a lot previously. He does say some things that the normal LinkedIn experts might say, so yeah. I find that really, really helpful. I really enjoyed it, so I'm hoping you did too. Obviously, let us know. If you're listening to this, then make sure you tag us in on a social media platform. Obviously, you know I love Instagram. But if LinkedIn is your bag, then come and tag me in over there. I'm everywhere, as you well know. I'd love it for the guests as well to see that you've enjoyed their episode, so please feel free to tag John in as well.

Also, because I keep forgetting, I'm picking a review every month and I'm going to post it on my social media and try and tag them in if I know who they are, but keep an eye out on my social media. Everybody who reviews, I'm going to pick one a month and I'm going to send them a little something in the post, just something really nice for them as a thank you for saying such nice things about the podcast. If you haven't yet reviewed the podcast, head over to iTunes, go and put your lovely five-star review with some nice comments in there and you might win this month's little prize. So, Fab. Alright, guys. I'm going to leave you to it and I will see you on the next episode, a solo episode next week. Have an amazing week until then.