Monday, June 15th, 2015 | 8 min read
Greasy hamburgers (topped with ketchup, mustard, and pickles only), full-calorie Coca-Cola, and country music from the 1980’s remind me of my mom. The first two played a role in her passing away at 56 early last year, so I try to minimize my consumption of them. But I’ve always liked the country music I grew up on, and right after her death I began to listen to more of it. I was trying to remember her – to stay in touch with a part of her (and a part of me) I thought was lost.
In the process, I was disturbing the people around me. Have you ever seen a 200-pound man bench press a large amount of weight while weeping, Crystal Gale blasting from his headphones?
It disturbs others in the gym. And after a while, it started to disturb me.
I needed a different outlet for everything that was going on in my head. I had originally gone to college to be a writer before I gravitated toward management. So, I took a stab at writing again, and for reasons I’m not totally sure of, I chose the LinkedIn Publisher platform.
I wish I could say my success on that platform was the result of a calculated strategy to build my personal brand.
But it wasn’t. I just wanted to write, so I started writing.
The response has been unexpected. After publishing over 125 posts, I’ve built a fairly substantial following (16,000 people), and my articles get between 800 views and, on a few occasions, more than 440,000. As a result, my network has grown quickly, and I have received consulting engagements, began managing content for companies and individuals, and gotten speaking gigs and additional writing opportunities. The organizations I’ve been affiliated with during this experience have also raised their profile.
It wasn’t the plan, but publishing on LinkedIn, with the exception of getting my college degrees, has been the best professional move I’ve ever made. And, whether you are an executive looking to boost your professional profile, an employee looking to grow your personal brand, or a company looking to turn your employees into brand advocates, here are a few tips that can help you grow your following on LinkedIn.
My second post on LinkedIn was about my experience getting an inexpensive MBA. I didn’t come from a family or an upbringing that had me on the fast track to Harvard Business School, and in that respect, I’m like most other people. By the time I could get an MBA, I was a father of two. I just wasn’t the audience for 99% of the articles on getting your MBA.
So I wrote an article for people like me, and it got more than 20,000 views. This blew my mind. My network grew instantly, and I fell in love with online publishing. I also learned the value of writing to people like yourself. It’s kind of like the idea that a chef needs to make something he or she would enjoy eating.
So, start by writing about what you know for a target audience you understand. It’s a big world, and there are more people like you than you think. That’s your first audience.
Learn from other people, but don’t mimic them. The blogosphere is filled with “7 Great Things Every Leader Does Every Morning” or “The One Word That Will Make You Rich” articles. Really? Great leadership comes down to just seven things? There’s one word that can make you rich?
There is an audience for these articles, but it’s already been found. Go find your audience.
Write about who you are, what you believe in, and what you care about. Write about what you’ve been through, and what you learned from it. If you do this consistently, you will find an audience.
Remember, there’s no such thing as “being authentic.” There’s only being inauthentic, or deciding to simply be yourself. Be you. There is an audience for that.
Here’s the thing: getting through the day can be hard. Even in a job you love, in a life you love, a day can be hard. When people go online and start exploring content, they are escaping that day, if only for a moment. Or, they are looking for information that will make that day or future days easier.
Do they make their day better through a purchase? Usually not.
If you want to drive people toward your brand, inspire them. Educate them. Make them smile. Create content that is valuable in and of itself. Content created to compel a financial transaction will not find an audience. Content created to make someone’s otherwise crappy day better will attract an audience. And, if an audience knows they can rely on you to make their day better, it will drive them toward your brand.
If you look to your employees to become brand advocates, unleash them. Move past any fear, and get comfortable with them writing about who they are, what they believe, and what they care about. The reward far outweighs the risk.
More than anything, expressing yourself on social media through writing is a chance to show people who you are. And people want to do business with real, relatable people.
My life as an online publisher has given me enormous faith in people. Don’t believe the news you see on TV – 98% of people are awesome. I wrote an article about my dad losing his job 15 years ago and his struggle to get back on his feet. That article received nearly 450,000 views and resulted in several job offers for him. It was amazing.
People are awesome.
But sometimes people forget to be as fully awesome as they can be; they forget to do for others as others have done for them. The Golden Rule of the Internet means do for others what you would want someone to do for you.
If someone regularly shares your posts, do the same for them. If they don’t post, thank them via email. Respond to messages. Invest in your network. Even if you never meet them in person, remember that they are real people. If someone takes the time to share something you’ve written, likes it, leaves a comment on it, or sends you a kind email about it, they are actively taking time out of their day to invest in your success.
Invest in their success as well. The journey through life is far better when you have people to walk down the road with you. I don’t think I understood in quite the way I do now that my network of people is so much bigger, and my life so much richer, because I write online. Now it’s time to put in some earbuds and listen to Crystal Gayle, because, although she missed it, I’m pretty sure my mom is telling someone, somewhere, in whatever existence there is after this, that her son once got 650,000 views.
About the Author: Dustin McKissen is a marketing strategist and blogger. His posts receive some of the highest levels of engagement on the LinkedIn Publisher format. He is also a Certified Marketing Executive and holds an MBA and a Masters in Public Management, and lives in St. Louis with his wife and three children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.