LinkedIn offers a unique opportunity for people and brands to communicate in a more deliberate and intentional way. Michaela Alexis has successfully helped entrepreneurs and small businesses make waves on LinkedIn that resulted in business growth as well as building a smart network of like-minded, relevant people and opportunities.
LinkedIn has so much more to offer than as just a place to park your resume. The newest LinkedIn Live feature offers endless possibilities including showcasing your products or services, utilizing your personal profile and company pages to best attract the right people, host your blog, as well as a place to publish content and build a following that knows, likes and trusts you.
Rich: Hailing from Ottawa, she is currently one of North America’s most in demand speakers on topics related to LinkedIn and personal branding. Her journey started in March 2016 when an article she wrote about landing her dream job went viral on LinkedIn. Since then she has replicated that success with dozens of articles, receiving millions of reads, featured on the likes of CNBC, success.com, Buzzfeed, Inc., and more.
Over the past decade she has managed the online presence of more than 100 high profile brands, built her own personal brand with over 130,000 followers on LinkedIn, works with Crowne Plaza as a social media expert in their Meeting Mentor program, and recently co-wrote a book called, Think Video – Smart Video Marketing and #Influencing. Welcome to the show Michaela Alexis.
Michaela: Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited.
Rich: In your bio you talk a little bit about how you got started on LinkedIn, but fill in some of the details for me. What made you write the article, why did you post it to LinkedIn, and how much of the vorality of the post was planned, and how much was just happenstance?
Michaela: Great questions!
Rich: I like to put seven questions in a row just to see if you’re paying attention.
Michaela: So it’s definitely not an overnight thing at all. When I started on LinkedIn it was in 20016 so I was about a month away from my 30th birthday, and I was in that age where I was thinking about my parents at 29 and they had the big house and had started their family and had stable careers. And I’m looking around like I’ve just been laid off from the company I was working at I didn’t have anything figured out or was close to any of those things. So I was kind of in a little bit of an existential crisis.
So the day after I was laid off I went on LinkedIn and I sent a message. Do you know Scott Stratton?
Rich: Yes, he wrote the UnMarketing book.
Michaela: Yeah! So I sent a message to Scott – and I want to preface this by saying this is a few years ago and so I hadn’t created anything or been posting on LinkedIn – so I had no idea if he would actually respond to me. But I asked for some career advice just based on my experience. And not only did he respond, but a couple days later he sent me this huge box from Amazon filled with writing and marketing books.
So I started combing through each one of those books and started writing on LinkedIn, almost as a way to kind of pass the time but also stay fresh on my skills. And I started to notice that my posts were gaining a lot of traction, and my first article went viral in March 2016 called, How I Landed My Dream Job In Two Weeks. It really bothered me, actually, because I had been in marketing for about 7 years at that point. And I had done the fancy infographics and the pretty white papers, and this article that took me about half an hour to create – I had put in some memes, it was totally unpolished – and it was really more of an update to the people that had kind of been following my job seeker journey. I was flabbergasted that that was the thing that went viral.
So I did what any marketer did and I worked backwards, why was this the thing. And it turns out that it was conversational, and it was helpful, and it was authentic. And that was exciting for me because at the time Linked In was still considered a very conservative platform, and everybody was telling me that there is a personal and professional self. And yet this article that was by all means not a professional article, and yet people were gravitating towards it.
I started to do a little bit more research and I looked at the Top 3 article topics on LinkedIn for the year prior, and #3 was self-esteem. So that was really exciting for me because I felt like there was this gap in the market of all these topics that people didn’t want to talk about like fear of failure and rejection, and how to choose between different jobs, and job interviews gone terribly wrong, and reporting harassment in the workplace.
Nobody else was really talking about it so I might as well talk about it. And it just kind of steadily grew from there and I just really instantly fell in love with the community. The intentions of people online were to grow and connect and share experiences, and I found it to be the polar opposite of what I thought it would be.
Rich: So Michaela, I know you are up to date on all the latest tools on LinkedIn. I’m wondering if you can share some of your favorites with us, and maybe we can start with LinkedIn Live.
Michaela: Yes. This is so dorky but I get so excited about new features on LinkedIn that you actually gave me goosebumps to be able to talk about this.
Rich: Are you sure it’s not the Ottawa weather?
Michaela: Yes, also the Ottawa weather. So LinkedIn Live is super exciting. It’s not really a hidden gem because I feel like everyone knows about it, everyone seems to be talking about it at least in my world. It’s currently being beta tested in the U.S., so “whomp whomp” for us Canadians. So I haven’t had a chance to actually play with it. But it’s something that people have been requesting I feel since video first came out 2 years ago now. So it’s really exciting that it’s finally here.
So I’m already scheming about all the different ways that businesses and professionals can actually use this new feature. I think that’s where people struggle; do you post the same content that you would post on Facebook Live or Instagram Live? And to me there’s a few different ways to use it that I think would work really well for the platform.
So #1 is doing a Q&A or a product and service tutorial. So that’s more on the professional side but I think that’s a great way. If you’re already running tutorials, why not try it with LinkedIn Live, I think that could be really interesting. Open Houses for real estate agents, why not try doing an open house and make it on LinkedIn Live and answer questions for people that can’t be in person.
Livestreaming events and conferences, I think that one is a no-brainer. I think that one’s going to be really huge, I think that was one of the reasons that people were really pushing for LinkedIn Live. Hosting interviews with industry professionals, I think that could be really interesting.
One of my favorite ways – and I’m already thinking of this – is doing an AMA, so ask me anything. I think this would be really powerful, I’m thinking for authors and speakers and experts to really show off what you know. And I think for myself as a speaker, I’m already planning to use LinkedIn Live to basically run my Q&A session after keynotes. Because what I find is there are people that will ask questions, but there’s also a whole bunch of people that aren’t really comfortable asking questions in a live group environment, so I think that would be a really cool way to introduce a new feature and also give more value to the people that come and see me speak.
Rich: So I am less familiar with LinkedIn Live, I’m certainly familiar with Facebook Live. For those people that are familiar with Facebook Live, if you haven’t seen LinkedIn Live, how similar are these two products in terms of functionality?
Michaela: Extremely similar. And from everything I’ve heard from the product teams at LinkedIn, they’re really modeling a lot of the features on Facebook for LinkedIn. Granted there’s probably not going to be as many emoji’s and filters and all of that stuff you would see on Facebook, but the format of it is very, very similar.
Rich: So you’ll be able to see people commenting on your video so you’ll be able to take Q&A while you’re there.
Rich: That’s one of the biggest things, I think.
Rich: Cool. And do you know if they’re able to save these recordings so people can play them back later?
Michaela: I have seen on Live newsfeed that it shows somebody was Live and you can watch that recording, I don’t know how long it lasts, but I know that I have seen it in my newsfeed.
Rich: Alright, we’ll have to check that one out. So I’m a big fan of LinkedIn and I’ve been really reinvigorated by the platform lately, but I’ve always wondered why a business social media platform has such lame company pages. Especially compared to something like Facebook which really has more consumer facing. What’s going on there, and are there opportunities for improvement on these pages?
Michaela: Well I mean there are so many opportunities for improvement, absolutely. For those that don’t know, I think it was in November of 2018 they announced they used to be called LinkedIn Company Pages, now they’re called LinkedIn Pages. Similar again to Facebook Pages. And they have announced this makeover that has already introduced new features, bit it will be introducing new features throughout 2019.
There’s a couple things that I want to say about LinkedIn Pages. Number one – and this is kind of a hidden feature of this whole thing – is that you can use LinkedIn Pages whether you are a massive enterprise or you’re a solopreneur. You don’t need to be a registered business to start a page. And some people might wonder why you’d want to do that.
Rich: Oh my god, I totally can think of a bunch of reasons why you’d want to do that. But go on.
Michaela: Yeah. So the reason that I started was definitely when I started working solo, and then I ran into this issue. So I had this big following on LinkedIn but I had two different segments to my audience. So I had one segment that was following maybe because I was a career blogger and I would share these inspirational and motivational stories. And then on the other side I have people that were following me because they wanted to learn more about how to use LinkedIn.
And so I basically came to a crossroads where I’m like, I’m going to alienate one part of my audience whatever I post. So I looked at LinkedIn pages and I’m like, maybe I could use it as a person. So originally I started posting LinkedIn training videos on there, and then once I started to see all of the opportunities and the new leads and prospects that were coming in, then I started to add more content on there. So I use my LinkedIn Page – which is actually called Michaela Alexis – to share my LinkedIn training. So my videos, my checklist, any webinars I’m hosting. And what’s really nice about that is that it’s not focused on any particular service or product. So it’s not called “The LinkedIn Lab”, or “LinkedIn Lowdown”, or anything like that. It’s called “Michaela Alexis”, which allows me to pivot depending on what I’m focusing on that month.
And so that’s something that people don’t really know, they think about it as a small to medium sized business. Which by the way, I spoke recently to the product lead of LinkedIn Pages and he verbatim told me that their focus this year is on small to medium sized businesses, and particularly helping them to grow organically. And that to me is so exciting because their focus has really been on the enterprises, getting people to focus their recruiting efforts on LinkedIn. And now they’ve really shifted their focus to the small to medium sized businesses and trying to get them to post more, because as you mentioned there’s so many lame company pages that are out there. Most of the clients that I have don’t actually know that they have a page, which is always really funny to me, but there’s definitely room for improvement and it’s really nice to know that a platform that you’re planning to grow on is dedicated to helping with that growth.
Rich: That is good, because really the only argument I could make for a company having a business page and putting in the energy behind it was for improvement. That seemed to be the #1 focus of Pages, and they played around on and off for a little bit for years, but I’m glad to hear that they’re going to put emphasis on small to medium sized businesses.
But as you mentioned, like for me, we’ve always had a LinkedIn company page for flyte new media but we’ve never had one for The Agents of Change. And I’ve always been like, The Agents of Change is more of a brand than it is a company. We’ve funneled all the stuff through flyte new media, but now I’m like no, it totally makes sense. And I’m just launching this other thing – because I’m not busy enough – called Fast Forward Maine, which is going to be podcasts and in-person workshops for growing businesses in Maine. And again, it doesn’t fit under flyte new media, it really does deserve its own page. It’s funny, I’m glad you brought this up because it was one of the things I was going to research, which is do I need to incorporate or something like that to be able to get these pages.
Michaela: No. And it’s really exciting to me because, so on your personal brand I’m guessing some people might be wondering why wouldn’t you just use your personal brand if you have a bigger audience there. Well one of the reason that I prefer company pages is that you can essentially have your professional portfolio on there. So if you go on to the page you can scroll back and you can look at all the materials, you can watch the training videos, and find that information.
If you are posting something through your personal brand on LinkedIn, most people don’t even know that you can go into somebody’s profile and look at their recent activity and then find posts that they’ve created. So essentially you create a post on LinkedIn, and unless you attach it somewhere on your profile, it’s dead within 3 days. And so what I really like about LinkedIn Pages again, is the fact that that content is always there and it’s always visible.
Rich: It’s too bad it took them so long to get going on this, but I’m really glad they’re making it a focus now, because it is a great platform and to be honest I’m really tiring on Facebook and all the political stuff – especially here in the U.S. – and I’m just not seeing that on LinkedIn.
Michaela: Well I have some really exciting news for you if you’re interested to hear a little bit more about LinkedIn Pages.
Michaela: I have some very exclusive information – and I talked about some hidden gems – there’s a few more that exist now and I’m also going to talk about some that are coming down the pipe but they haven’t actually even been announced yet, which is really exciting.
Rich: Oh my.
Michaela: Yeah. The first one is you have “content suggestions”. I’ve spoken to some people and they already have this feature, some people do not. So if you have it and you go to your company page and you sign in as an Admin, you’re going to see a tab on your page that says, “content suggestions”, and it will actually say “new” right beside it. It’s essentially really a lifesaver for companies that curate a lot of content because what it is is a collection of articles and blog posts that are trending currently with your audience.
So it shows which articles are hot, what the engagement rate is, so you can scientifically choose what kind of content you want to share. And that’s super exciting because you can share it based on your employees, so if you’re a big organization and you have a ton of employees then you can share content that’s trending with them. You can share content that is trending with your followers.
If you still have an audience that is very small, my suggestion is to not use your current audience but to use the option for all LinkedIn users and then segment from there, so you can choose their industry, company size, position, etc. But that just gives you a larger sample size to work with. So that one’s really cool.
The other ones I mentioned don’t actually exist yet. So I again spoke to the product lead for Pages, and #1 – and this should be coming up in the next few months – is that you’re soon going to be able to invite all of your LinkedIn connections to follow your LinkedIn page. So very similar to Facebook pages, which kind of makes me laugh every time I mention it because, it’s about time. But it’s fantastic, and it’s really important because when you think about those companies that have individuals in the company that have these big networks and these big personal brands, that’s a really great way to grow the company page.
And the other thing is that it really reinforces the idea that you should always be working at building or nurturing both your personal brand and your corporate brand. Especially now that they’re starting to combine the two of them. So that one’s an interesting one and you should see that in the next few months.
And then the second feature that I’m really excited about personally, is that brands will be able to host their blogs within their company page. So again that’s one of those features that’s about time, but there’s a lot of companies that the CEOs are hosting blogs on another medium or external sources, or they’re hosting a blog that’s on their website. And you should still be doing that, but now you have the ability instead of trying to drive traffic to your website, to house that information in those blog posts on your LinkedIn page itself. Which is really fantastic because it really gives you the ability to answer all of the questions, address all of the concerns that potential clients might have so that you can close then through that platform.
Rich: Now you may not know the answer to this but on Facebook Pages there’s a separate app that you can use called “Pages”, does LinkedIn have a similar app, or is it just the one LinkedIn app?
Michaela: No. So it’s interesting that you mentioned that. So they’ve been trying to combine everything on one platform, the reason being, LinkedIn Groups used to have their own separate app. There’s some people that actually really loved that, but for the most part, people hated it. So they spent a lot of time over the past year of combining everything onto the one mobile app. Which is fantastic because they’ve introduced features like now you can actually post on your company page on the mobile version, which surprisingly did not exist before. If you wanted to post something on your company page you’d actually have to use your desktop. Which is a big deterrent for a lot of companies and why you see people not posting that much.
So their push right now at least has been trying to combine all of the new features onto one platform. That might change, I know that they have LinkedIn Events and that might either be becoming a separate app or already is a separate app. But for the most part they’re really trying to combine everything.
Rich: To be honest, I prefer a combined app as long as I’m able to update my business page. I hate the fact that on Facebook I can’t use Messenger until I open up a separate app and then I have to go back to the original. It’s ridiculous.
Michaela: Yeah, I think they do have an advantage. There’s a lot of people that talk about LinkedIn and how they’re late to the game, and they absolutely are late to the game. But part of me wonders if that’s strategic to look at what works and what doesn’t work for other platforms, and try to integrate that into their own. They seem to be very smart about the things they’re introducing.
Rich: Yeah. So let’s shift off of Pages and let’s talk about what’s going on with LinkedIn Pulse these days?
Michaela: LinkedIn Pulse has not been thriving for a real long time. And it’s hard for me…
Rich: Maybe you should just share what LinkedIn Pulse is.
Michaela: So LinkedIn Pulse is essentially the blogging platform for LinkedIn. So if you were going to share a blog post on LinkedIn you would use LinkedIn Pulse. It’s very similar to Medium, in fact their form heading is identical, you can copy and paste from a Medium blog and post it onto LinkedIn, which most people don’t know.
And that used to be LinkedIn’s bread and butter. When I started in 2016, that’s how I would go viral. You would post something on LinkedIn, they actually had a community team that would be looking for new articles that they could add into, and support, and boost. And that’s how people would go viral.
Part of that was also the fact that when you posted an article or a blog post on LinkedIn, your entire network was notified. So somebody like me, say I have 10,000 followers, well every time I’m posting there’s 10,000 people that are notified that I’m posting. So that was a huge advantage.
They seem to have shifted gears, I know that they became really focused on LinkedIn video for a very long time, and that’s really been their main focus. And then they shifted more into LinkedIn Groups as well. And now they’re bringing it back. I think it’s really interesting because again looking at what’s worked for me and what works really well for Medium is the ability that you can subscribe to certain blog series.
So I’m sure that some people listening have probably seen that people are creating either a weekly, a bi-weekly, or a monthly series, and we might have got in your in-box where so and so has created a series. And then it asks you if you want to subscribe. And that’s because they’re trying to put a little more attention back into LinkedIn Pulse.
People create great articles, the content that’s out there is phenomenal, and so it really does deserve a little bit more attention. But that subscribe button is going to be a game changer to so many people that are really trying to become a thought leader in their field and prefer writing over video, because you’re going to be able to have people follow the content that you’re creating.
So I think that’s really exciting. I haven’t been able to use it yet but I’m really looking forward to probably creating a monthly series. I think that’s more attainable. But I’m really looking forward to, because again my audience is so wide at this point that it would be great to have 5% of that audience tuning in every month.
Rich: Absolutely. What are some of the other things going on that we should be aware of that LinkedIn has for tools?
Michaela: Yes. There’s a few of them. I’m a little dorky about it because I get so excited about it, a document upload feature. So if you post on LinkedIn you have the option now to upload either a PowerPoint, a Word document, a PDF, and I feel like there’s one more that I’m missing, but those are the main ones. So I love this feature and I got so excited when this feature was introduced for a few reasons, and it’s only been around for a few months, so not a super new feature but not old yet.
So as a marketer I love the idea of creating downloadable content that was branded with my information, I think that’s really exciting. So when you create a document you upload it onto LinkedIn, people can full screen it, and then they can download that document, they can share it with their friends and they can send it to other people. So I really like that.
And a second thing is it was really starting to become monopolized by text, and video, and photo. That was all that you saw. And so the document feature really allows you to create content that stands out in a sea of sameness.
And then lastly LinkedIn pushed their newest features, so you have an algorithmic – I don’t even know if that’s a word – but an algorithmic advantage to post documents as opposed to video or text or photo. And in fact one of the very first documents that I posted was a LinkedIn profile checklist. And I have been using this checklist for about a year and sharing it online. And that checklist reached almost a million views, which is phenomenal, right?
Michaela: It’s recycled content, it’s been used before, it wasn’t anything I created that was new. And there are so many fun ways to use the document feature. You can share a checklist or a worksheet like I did, you could do a “how to” guide. I did a “how to” guide, A Guide to Passive Aggressive Emailing, and that went over really well because it was funny and it was interesting. You can convert an infographic and share it as a PDF. Or imagine you’re a speaker, you can share your keynote presentation.
So the options are really endless, I actually created a blog post with some of those examples at Social Media Examiner a few months back. So anybody that’s interested in uploading documents could probably go and find that article because there’s some really good examples in there.
Rich: Michaela, is there one tool that you wish LinkedIn would come up with that they haven’t rolled out yet if you were in control of products at LinkedIn?
Michaela: Well, I mean the things that I need are probably a little bit different than others. I do really hate the idea that you’re capped at 30,000 followers. That one’s a really tough one, and here’s why. Originally with LinkedIn they had this idea that people had maybe 500 people within their network. And it was supposed to be that you had a very small group, it was almost like a rolodex. And then over time they’ve introduced these features – so things like LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn Video – and so the relationships are changing. And so I know that there’s going to be people that are listening and saying there’s no way that you can know 30,000 people. But our world is changing and so relationships look different. Maybe I don’t know that person but they know me through my writing.
So they’ve introduced these features but then they still have some of those original features don’t really work for the platform. So that one’s a big one. I think also having more options to categorize different messages for your LinkedIn inbox, that’s one that just drives me bananas. Most people get a lot of messages on LinkedIn and some of them are business related, some of them are form old co-workers, some of them are spam, some of them are sales pitches, and so it would be really nice to be able to categorize them. So I think that’s a big one.
I’d really like to see a lot more features with LinkedIn Pages. I think that there’s a lot of room for growth, I’m really excited about the blog post feature. I know that they’re also working on ways to integrate LinkedIn Pages or LinkedIn Groups into Company Pages, very similar to what you see on Facebook. And I think that’s a really great way for companies to be able to build community within their brand. Because right now those options don’t exist.
So those would be the biggest ones. I think one that people don’t really use a lot that I really love is the LinkedIn voice messages. I think I might have actually sent you one, I’m not sure. I do it quite a bit. But that is really interesting. There was a lot of flak when they first started saying that they resembled voicemails. I do not think they resemble voicemails. They’re really easy to send off, they’re really easy to receive, and there’s all sorts of different ways you can use it. I love using it when I connect with somebody for the first time, because so many people are just sending those text messages. I would so much rather get a voice message from somebody, I think it makes it a little bit more personable and it really stands out in a sea of other text messages.
And then I also really like using it when I go to an event and I meet somebody for the first time. It’s so easy when I’m in my car – and it only works on the mobile version – so you go into the mobile version, you go to the message, and you record it. I don’t know about you but I find it a lot easier to record a message than to type. I’m just a slow typer so I get a ton more done when I use a voice memo feature.
And then I also really like using it as a nudge. So if you’re sending off a proposal or you have a business meeting with somebody and you want to follow up, again, it’s a lot more personal to send a voice message versus and email or a text based message. And that’s one of those things that are really underrated and it’s a really powerful tool.
Rich: I’ll have to check to see if you left me a voice message on LinkedIn. I would say that I would rather leave somebody a video recording because it’s more personal. I know that sometimes when I see a friend’s birthday pop up on Facebook I’ll actually not respond on Facebook but I’ll send them a little video if I have their text number.
Michaela: I love that.
Rich: In ten seconds, fifteen seconds, you can make somebody’s day.
If I were changing some things on LinkedIn, I’ll tell you there’s two pet peeves I have. One is, I don’t want people congratulating me on my work anniversary any more. I don’t even know which one, I have like 17 work anniversaries. It’s a button, you click it, there’s no love there.
And I complain about this and people say I’m an old curmudgeon, it’s true, but I want them to not tell me about people’s birthdays on LinkedIn. I never want to be wished a “Happy Birthday” on LinkedIn. Facebook, fine, but I don’t know, there’s just something about LinkedIn, I’d rather not have that. Again, probably just a curmudgeon, I’m just going to put it out there.
Michaela: You can actually change that for your birthday, you can turn off the feature so that nobody sees it. I’ll show you.
Rich: I must have because, to be honest, I don’t get those birthday wishes. But I just see, like, “Hey, 4 people in your network have a birthday. Wish them a “Happy Birthday””. No, I will not!
This has been great, a lot of new tools I’m sure people didn’t know about, and I’m sure they’re going to want to follow you. So Michaela, where are we going to send them?
Michaela: Well definitely LinkedIn. So if you want to learn more about LinkedIn training, I have all sorts of freebies, all sorts of goodies, so you can follow my company page, and that is Michaela Alexis, which is very confusing because it’s the same name as my name. But you can also follow me at LinkedIn/MichaelaAlexis, I think, now I need to look at my URL, I never even thought about it. But you can just look me up, “Michaela Alexis” on LinkedIn. Or on my website, which is mickealexis.com, you can access mu LinkedIn Profile Checklist, my free LinkedIn course, I have all sorts of goodies there as well.
On Instagram I love to share the “behind the scenes” of everything that I’m doing, you can find me there at Mick Alexis, and on Twitter at @MickAlexis, too. So “yay” for getting all of the URLs the same.
Rich: Very cool, and of course we’ll have a link to all those things in the show notes as well. Michaela, thank you so much for coming on and telling us what’s going on now on LinkedIn.
Michaela: Thank you so much for having me, this has been so much fun.
Michaela Alexis loves helping people and small businesses use LinkedIn to show their authentic selves, and helping them shake things up in a more creative and deliberate way. Check her out on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, and take advantage of her advice and free resources.
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.