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Supporting image for LinkedIn’s Creator Mode: Building Your Thought Leadership – Kate Paine
LinkedIn’s Creator Mode: Building Your Thought Leadership – Kate Paine
Social Agent

Are you looking to build your authority, your audience, or generate more business online? LinkedIn’s Creator Mode is the latest offering from the platform that you can leverage to accomplish these objectives and more.  LinkedIn expert Kate Paine shares all the details of this tool to help us decide whether Creator Mode is right for you. 

Rich: My guest today is back for a second time. She is the founder and CEO of Standing Out Online. She helps executives and entrepreneurs stand out online so they become a recognized authority in their marketplace and respected asset to the companies and clients that they represent.  

She uses her journalism and marketing background to tease out her client’s compelling stories and help position themselves as experts or thought leaders both online and off. She’s also a LinkedIn expert and uses the tool as a powerful personal branding platform.  

Today, we’re going to be looking at an underutilized feature of LinkedIn, Creator Mode, with Kate Paine. Kate, great to see you again.  

Kate: Thanks for having me again, Rich. It’s so much fun to always be with you. 

Rich: I feel the same way. So let’s just dive right in. So Creator Mode, what is it exactly? 

Kate: Well, so a few months ago, LinkedIn came out with Creator Mode. And when it first came out, it was a little bit of a nothing burger. We were all excited. All of us LinkedIn geeks were excited to have Creator Mode because we were told it was going to do all these things. And when it first came, all it allowed you to do was to add five hashtags, which would show up underneath your name and headline at the top of your LinkedIn profile. And, they weren’t clickable. So it was like, oh, okay, cool. So basically, it’s the topics that you talk about that you would post about, and then you would use hashtags in your posts. So that’s all it was.  

But then it has it has morphed and evolved thanks to Microsoft. And so now Creator Mode is a feature that you can choose to turn on. Everybody has it by now, it’s defaulted to off. And if you choose to turn it on, not only do you get the hashtags, which we just heard last week via rumor, that they will become clickable. But you also get instant access to newsletters, LinkedIn live, and now LinkedIn audio, which is social audio similar to Clubhouse. So some of these tools that they’re giving you are great ways to get traction on LinkedIn.  

Rich: Okay. So why do you feel that Creator Mode is important? And is it important for everybody? 

Kate: It’s a great question. I don’t think it is important for everybody. I mean, if you’re the type of person that just wants to have a kick ass profile and be able to have a really good digital footprint, but you’re not one that’s really maybe engaging on LinkedIn very much, then creator mode may not be something that you’re even interested in. And you don’t care about having those five hashtags in your intro card. And you’re not going to use LinkedIn live or LinkedIn audio or newsletters. But if you are somebody who is putting out a lot of content and you are somebody who wants to get extra visibility on LinkedIn, then turning on Creator Mode is a really smart. move 

Rich: Okay. So are there any downsides that you see to Creator Mode?  

Kate: The one downside that a lot of people are kind of in a similar feeling about this as I am, is that one of the things it does is when you turn on Creator Mode, it automatically turns the connect button to a follow button. And so some people don’t like that because they would rather still have the connection. Because that first level invitation only connection is more meaningful. And following just means that people will get notified when you post something, in theory and what LinkedIn says. So some people don’t like that.  

There is a way you can still connect with people if it goes to follow, but it’s hidden and LinkedIn doesn’t teach people how to do that. It’s super easy though. So if you go to someone’s profile and there’s a ‘follow’, but you want to connect with them, right next to the ‘follow’ button, there’s a ‘more’ button. And if you click the dropdown shows up and it’ll say ‘connect’, and you can still go through the connection process. But that is a downsize because people don’t know the two-step process, and people still want that meaningful connection. 

Rich: Yeah. I turned on Creator Mode and that was one of my regrets and I decided to just let it roll anyways. But I agree. It’s like I would like to have the option of doing Creator Mode, but make it obvious that I’m looking to connect with people, not just that I want to position myself as a thought leader and you should follow me because of it. So that is a problem. Maybe in a future edition they’ll remove that or allow us to switch it back, at least. 

Kate: Exactly. And the other kind of downside, but it might be changing, is that those hashtags you do add, the ones that you also want to include in your posts – because LinkedIn’s saying that since you turned on Creator Mode, we’re going to highlight more of your stuff, we’re going to serve you up more – those hashtags haven’t been clickable. But we just heard through, I read a blog from some fellow LinkedIn expert last week that there’s a rumor that those are going to become clickable, which we always kind of thought they would be, but it’s been a while.  

Rich: And I guess I’m on the fence about making them clickable. I mean, on one hand, yes, hashtags by default are clickable on every platform. On the other hand, you work to get somebody to come to your profile. They see a bunch of links at the top of the page, they click them, and then they’re gone. So I guess they should make it in a way that it either opens up in a new window or maybe that we have control whether we want them to be clickable or not, or however we want to do it. But it would be nice to have those options for sure.  

You mentioned that for everybody it’s now available, but it’s not on by default. So if somebody’s listening today and they want to play around in Creator Mode, what are the steps they have to take to turn it on?  

Kate: So what they would do is go into their personal profile page, scroll down just a little bit from the top part, and there’s a box that used to be called ‘dashboard’, now it’s called ‘resources.’ And right there at the very top, it’ll say ‘Creator Mode off ‘, and you literally turn it on. It’d be good to know in advance what five hashtags you want to use, maybe it’s four hashtags for the content you post and then maybe your own branded hashtag. 

Like my hashtag #StandingOutOnline is my branded hashtag. And then get those loaded and then you’ll have instant access to LinkedIn live, LinkedIn newsletters, and now LinkedIn audio, which I just got last Friday.  

Rich: Okay. Before we move on to some of those sexier topics, you mentioned the hashtags. Talk to me a little bit about the benefits of them, whether they’re clickable or not. How does this tie into our content topics? How does this tie into how we want to position ourselves on LinkedIn? 

Kate: Well, according to LinkedIn, having these hashtags and turning Creator Mode on together as LinkedIn says, we will see you as we see you like through the algorithm. We see you as a LinkedIn creator. And so if you are a LinkedIn creator and you’re turning on Creator Mode, then in theory, you’re supposed to be having your content seen more, served up more and that’s supposed to be the big benefit.  

Rich: Okay. So before we do this, I’m assuming that we want to really think through what are the five topics – or if one’s branded, the four topics – that we think we’re going to be speaking on the most, that we want to position ourselves as thought leaders on. So for me it might be #digitalmarketing, #SEO, #WebDesign, whatever it is. And then I also need to kind of make a concerted effort to be talking about those subjects on a regular basis. Otherwise, those hashtags aren’t really serving me.  

Kate: Correct. So you need to have a plan. We need to have a plan for all of this. And when we get to talking about the other tools that you can use, where you can really gain traction and influence, you have to have a plan for this. So no, really put some thought into those topics that you will consistently post content about and make sure that those are aligned. And then when you do the actual post, pick two or three of those hashtags that you have that you put up when you set up your Creator Mode and make sure you’re using those. Because that’s where the alignment is supposed to happen. But you know, having a plan for your content is always a smart thing to do. As marketers we know don’t just be throwing stuff up there without some type of a content marketing plan. What are you trying to educate people about? What types of things are you trying to impress upon them? What are you wanting to build awareness about? What are the outcomes? Know what those things are, and then make sure that you have a theme for those. 

Rich: Have you ever done any research into how popular certain hashtags are or how active they are? I’m just thinking as you’re talking through this about, I’ve been told that #digitalmarketing is a pretty active hashtag, but are there other ones that maybe I should be including instead? Or is there a tool that LinkedIn even gives us so that you’re aware of, so I don’t want to put all my eggs in a basket that no one else is looking at?  

Kate: Well, there’s a person who does a lot of LinkedIn hashtag research. His name is Andy Foote, F O O T E. Follow him on LinkedIn. He’s kind of considered the LinkedIn hashtag sort of guru, even though I hate that word. And he is very funny too, but he puts out a lot of information.  

But what you can do is when you want to test a hashtag, before you put it into your content, you can actually go into the search box – which is up in the upper toolbar of your LinkedIn profile – and type in #LinkedIn. Okay, I’m just picking that because that’s a hashtag. And then when it drops down, as you type in the hashtag, if it’s sort of in LinkedIn’s library of hashtags, it’ll show up in the dropdown. Click on the dropdown hashtag, which is the same one you typed in, but click on the dropdown. And when you do, a whole feed will show up and at the top, it’ll show you how many people follow that hashtag. 

So for #LinkedIn, there’s over a million people that follow it, but everything in that feed for that specific hashtag that you select, everything in that feed is pertaining to that specific hashtag. So that’s really helpful to know. You can also see what other people are posting using that hashtag, but you can also see the number of followers for that hashtag. And even if it’s a low number, there’s an opportunity there for you, too.  

Rich: Absolutely. But the other thing that I’m thinking is you could also do a little bit of research. Because maybe you’re going to go with hashtag LinkedIn, then also you might see some other related search terms or hashtags. Go check them out. And even if #LinkedInTips is a smaller one, maybe that’s a really good one for you if you’re doing #LinkedInTips, for example.  

Kate: Absolutely. I still am a big believer in even the lesser used hashtag, there’s still opportunity there, you know? Instead of always picking the one that’s the most popular or the most followed. Because a lot of people still think in the word in the framework of SEO and keywords. And so going with the most popular is the most competitive. And so sometimes that lesser used term can get you more visibility and more traction to. 

Rich: Absolutely. Right. And a lot of times with hashtags, both on LinkedIn and everywhere else, I often think of going with that broad, narrow, and branded approach to hashtags, so it’s a good thing to keep in mind.  

Kate: Yeah. So the other thing I’ll just add onto this is there is kind of a magic number of number of hashtags to use in your post, and it’s between three and five. So like Instagram is 20 and 30, LinkedIn is 3 and 5. And also the way the algorithm, at least is our understanding, the way the algorithm reads the hashtag. So if you put them in your post, whether you put them in the sentence or you stack them at the end, doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter, you can do it either way. But whatever your first two and three are the ones that are seen by the algorithm first. So make sure those hashtags are prominent.  

Rich: Okay. You consult with a lot of business leaders on their own LinkedIn strategy. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, “I don’t know if I want to turn on Creator Mode, I’m not creative.” Have you heard that? And what do you say to people who don’t feel creative?  

Kate: I hear that all the time. So, you know, and I think that you and I being marketers, we also know that content creators mean our people who are creating content to inform us, educate us, entertain us. So no, it’s not about being creative. It’s about creating content that is unique and interesting and compelling and serves your audience.  

So always, you know, for me, I always kind of envision my network whenever I’m creating content for my posts, especially on LinkedIn. People know me as a LinkedIn expert. And so a lot of people follow me because I’m going to update them on the latest whatever, or I just got LinkedIn audio or whatever. So they follow me in that sense to see what I’m putting out. People are going to see you as that go-to resource, whatever your industry is, that’s the type of content you should be putting out. See yourself as a creator, as a conductor, as a connector, putting stuff out that is helpful and unique. Because not only LinkedIn likes it, but Google likes it, too.  

Rich: Okay. So when you are consulting with people around Creator Mode, how might you recommend that? We use it to build our audience, our network, or achieve other objectives such as generating more leads in business? 

Well, that’s where we  

Kate: Well, that’s where we get to the sexy part. That’s where these other tools come in. So LinkedIn live is just that, it’s live video. Not to be confused with how you do Facebook Live. LinkedIn live is not where you pick up your phone and hit live and walk down the street and do your video. When you use LinkedIn live, you actually have to create a LinkedIn event for it and schedule it.  

You also need a third-party app like StreamYard, or Restream, or Switcher. Even Vimeo is one, and I can’t think of the fifth. You have to pick one of the five, and you usually have to pay something for it, because that is the app that gives you access to LinkedIn live. And the cool thing about it though, is depending on the subscription level you get, you can then concurrently broadcast to three or four platforms at the same time.  

So when I do my live Coffee with Kate show, I am going to my Facebook personal, Facebook business, my LinkedIn personal, and YouTube. So I go to four concurrently. So that’s cool about LinkedIn live, there’s so many things you can do with that.  

LinkedIn newsletters is a great way if you already do a blog or you do a newsletter, repurpose that as a newsletter once a month, you can do it twice a month. You can pick every week if you want, you have to pick one. And the newsletter feature is awesome because when you create your first newsletter, LinkedIn automatically sends out an invitation to subscribe to your LinkedIn newsletter to all of your first level connections. They do it for you. And by the way, you have to have a minimum of 150 followers in order to be able to use newsletters. 

Rich: All set. Excellent. And are we doing these newsletters from our personal profiles or from our company?  

Kate: You can do both now. But again, there would be a strategy. So if your personal brand is whatever it is, and your voice and your number of connections and followers is bigger from your LinkedIn personal, I would suggest you do it from your personal page. But it all depends on you and your positioning. If you have a LinkedIn company page and you have a bigger company, the cool thing about doing the newsletter from the company page is that you could have admins. Because you have super admins that you can make through your company page, and they could be creating the newsletter on your behalf. 

So it depends on which kind of strategy you want. Do you want it to be your voice? If so, you do it from your personal. If you want it to be the voice of the entity or the company or the organization, then you may want to do it from the company page.  

Rich: All right. We talked about newsletters. We’ve talked about LinkedIn live. You mentioned LinkedIn audio, which I guess is a knockoff of Clubhouse. So how does that work exactly?  

Kate: So I’m super excited about LinkedIn audio. So back when Clubhouse was really popular and I was kind of really active in it on December 2020 through February of 2021 listening, I was in a lot of LinkedIn themed rooms, of course. And what was cool is when I was in those Clubhouse rooms is you could see a lot of people from LinkedIn corporate in there. So we had heard that LinkedIn’s social audio was coming even before I knew about Clubhouse. So I think they’d been working on this for some time, but they were obviously trying to get intel and doing R&D in those Clubhouse rooms. 

So it’s been in beta for about six months. And it was with a very small group, only like 100 to 200 LinkedIn creators. And so I got to go into some rooms as a guest and kind of see how it was. Now, if you are a Clubhouse or a Social Audio fan, you know in Clubhouse you could click on someone’s picture and be taken to a little bio that looked kind of like an Instagram bio. When you are in a LinkedIn audio room and you click on someone’s picture, it takes you to their LinkedIn profile. And there’s a lot of depth there. It’s not just a little three sentence bio with a bunch of emojis. So that piece is huge. I haven’t started my own yet, because I literally just got access last Friday, but I’m actually doing a test with a fellow LinkedIn expert from the Netherlands this Friday.  

Rich: Excellent. So where are we going to see these? Because I haven’t seen anything about this. I know that you’ve been talking about it for a little while, but if I go to LinkedIn, do I see it in the feed? Do I get an invitation from you? If you know you’re going to be doing one, how is that going to work? 

Kate: Well, similar to LinkedIn live, if you’re going to do a LinkedIn audio event, you actually have to also create a LinkedIn event. So that’s really important to know. So for people who are connected to you, they would get a notification that you’ve created a LinkedIn event for an audio. And then you can invite people, too. You can invite people from your network to come into your audio event.  

The other thing is that LinkedIn is not doing very well right now, but hopefully they’re definitely working on it, is there’s no directory or list or something where you can go to see what’s on. So if you go into that ‘My Network’ button, where you usually get your invitations for connections or people you may know suggestions, if you scroll down, they’ll say ‘LinkedIn audio events that might interest you’ and you can click see all. But it’s going to be kind of based on your keywords, I think, to see what’s there. So it’s still hard to see. What if somebody’s doing something in a completely different industry, and you’d love to know about it, but you can’t see it.  

So a lot of us who are talking about this online, we tag LinkedIn help a lot, or we tag LinkedIn people that we know and say, “Hey, I hope you’re going to come up with some kind of a more user-friendly directory so that we can learn more about these audio events”. 

Rich: Makes sense. There’s also something about the LinkedIn profile video cover story something. Tell me about that.  

Kate: Okay. So it was originally called Cover Story, which is so weird, because it doesn’t describe at all what it is. It’s actually a LinkedIn profile video. So where your little photo is on your LinkedIn profile, whether you’re on mobile or desktop, you can actually create a profile video. And they just changed the name, so it’s now profile video. You gotta wonder how these people come up with some of this, right, like cover story. To me it almost meant like banner image.  

Rich: Well, and that’s what I’m wondering. So what you’re saying is the video itself is playing in the little round profile photo or in the banner above it?  

Kate: Nope, it’s playing right where your profile video is. So for those people who have taken the time to create a 30 second video. And if you want to create it in LinkedIn, you can only create it in the LinkedIn app on your mobile device. And you can record it there. It can’t be over 30 seconds. You can also create a video and upload it. It has to be a vertical video, by the way. And you can upload it from desktop if you want to. But most people do it right from the app on their phone.  

Rich: But the screen is round? 

Kate: Yeah. So, well it’s round. So if you went to my profile right now Rich, you’d see my profile video in the upper left go from a static image to a three second silent moving image. Which says, oh, there’s something there, there’s a video. So it makes people click on it. When they click on it, it opens up a vertical image. It almost looks like Instagram, and you can see and hear the video. So the tip on that though is don’t just say, hi, I’m doing this, I’m this. Kind of tell people who you are and how you help them. You know, don’t just do the typical bio, I’m the CEO and founder of Standing Out Online, blah, blah, blah.  

Rich: All right. Makes sense. All right. I’ll have to check that out.  

Kate: And it can’t go over 30 seconds. And also the other thing that they just changed, we’re not sure how this is valuable, but you can actually see the number of views. There’s a little counter that shows, but it doesn’t show who watched it.  

Rich: All right. Well, it sounds like there’s some stuff that’s already there for Creator Mode. It sounds like there’s some stuff that’s a little rough around the edges in Creator Mode, but hopefully they’re working on. And some things that are kind of brand new. And so we’ll just kind of have to wait till it all shakes out.  

But this is definitely interesting stuff. And it sounds like if you are serious about thought leadership, growing your authority through LinkedIn, that this is something that you should turn on and start experimenting with for sure.  

Kate: And the other thing is, people don’t realize this, you can turn it off. So, you can turn it back on. So it’s not once you commit to it, that you can’t go back to what you were doing. So it is important to note that. 

Rich: Awesome. Kate, if people are interested in learning more about you or maybe they’re interested in hiring you to help them with their own LinkedIn, where can they find you online? 

Kate: Well, certainly on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/KatePaine – P A I N E. Or through my website, standingoutonline.com 

Rich: Excellent. Thanks so much, Kate. Always a pleasure to see you. 

Kate: Thanks so much, Rich. I really enjoyed this. Thank you. 

 Show Notes: 

Kate Paine is a secret weapon for business owners – she leverages their personal brand and helps them stand out in the marketplace (as well as teaching the benefits and tricks to using LinkedIn to help with this). Check out her website and connect with her on LinkedIn. 

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.