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How to amplify your expertise on LinkedIn? Interview Stacey Ashley

How to amplify your expertise on LinkedIn?

Who are you and what is your Story?

I’ve been leading for nearly 50 years now. I led my very first team on stage at the age of six, and have been leading ever since. During my professional career, I spent time in telecommunications, IT, and finance. I led my first professional team at the age of 23. And the teams just got larger and more impactful from there.

I spent a significant amount of my career leading large change and transformation programs, both in Australia and overseas. Since starting my practice about 15 years ago, I’ve been working with some of Australia’s most well-known brands to create even more leaders who can effectively and successfully lead change and transformation. Some of these brands are ABC, AccorHotels, ISX, University of New South Wales, Jora, and CSIRO.

I’m a leadership expert. And I’m obsessed with leading possibility and creating the opportunity for leaders to be leading in possibility, to build the essential foundations of leadership. There are too many leaders getting caught up in the foundations of leadership which is preventing them from stepping up into their leadership where they can flourish. I put leadership and coaching skills into the hands of as many leaders as I can so they too can be leading in possibility.

I’m a four-time International Stevie Award winner, including Coach of the Year 2019. I’m a nine-time Telstra Business and Women’s Awards nominee, Amazon bestselling author, and was named in the 2018 Global LinkedIn Top Voices. I typically speak at conferences, consult, coach, and train to enable more leaders to be leading possibility.

How often do you use LinkedIn?

I typically post a variety of content on LinkedIn a couple of times each day. Once a day I endeavor to get in and see what other people are posting and I engage by commenting and liking. I also write a regular weekly article for the Pulse section of LinkedIn. I do have access to LinkedIn Live and so I try to go live often. Unfortunately, I’m a little bit hampered at the moment because you need a 10 megabit upload speed for LinkedIn Live, unlike some of the other platforms. And what I’m finding is that regardless of the internet provider I’m using, I often don’t get that upload speed. And so, I’m going live on other platforms, but not as much on LinkedIn, which is a shame, but I do try to do it as much as I possibly can when the bandwidth is available.

How to stand out on LinkedIn?

I think it’s about visibility. And that is about posting your own content and curated content consistently. Having a variety of content such as written, video, and audio is really great. Also commenting and being interested in and starting conversations from other people’s content is absolutely essential. I think the thing that makes the difference is you actively engaging with other people and inviting them to engage with you. I notice that when I am focused on other things and I’m not as present on LinkedIn in terms of my active engagement, that things like views and that sort of thing decline, and so it’s the regular engagement and activity that make the difference.

And of course, sharing your story — that’s what people are interested in, so do more of that. While it is a professional platform, you do need to let some of your personality and your flavor show up because that’s what people are interested in. People actually do business with people.

How can we maximize our LinkedIn profile?

Well, here, I have to say, I’m not a LinkedIn expert. I’m someone who has had some luck, I think, with LinkedIn and also been given some good advice from people who are LinkedIn experts. So, I think the first thing about maximizing your LinkedIn profile is to use all of it. Use all the characters in your headline. Use all the characters in your summary. Have a great professional headshot. Make sure that you set up a LinkedIn banner that represents you and what you’re all about in terms of the type of work you do, or the area that you’re focused on, or the difference that you make. In that way, people can get a really quick understanding of who you are and what you’re focused on.

And then, again, filling out all the sections of your profile. Make sure that you do have recommendations. Ensure that you do have information about your work and your work history. Check that you’re using keywords. LinkedIn is a search engine, so make sure that you will show up in searches by using words and terms that people are actually searching for. If you’re working on projects, put that on there. If you’ve published, put that on there. It’s kind of follow the bouncing ball. Really make sure that you complete your profile and then that you’re active.

How has the way you use LinkedIn changed over the last couple years?

It’s changed in the amount of activity I do on LinkedIn. I’m posting more regularly, generally twice a day. It’s also changed the type of content I put up. I’ve been doing videos for a long time but I probably do more videos now than I have historically. Obviously, I’ve got access to LinkedIn Live, so that’s been a nice game-changer over the last 10 months or so. And I think that I’m a little more proactive in terms of connecting with people I’m interested in learning from.

When I became a LinkedIn Top Voice, the advice from LinkedIn was to actually change from a Connect button to a Follow button on your profile. And so, I have done that and I have a lot more followers now — people who are not connected to me, rather they follow me. And I think the other thing that’s changed is just using the new features as they come out. Things like LinkedIn events, LinkedIn Live, the use of documents. And most recently with the new Stories function, I’ve been posting there too. And this is an opportunity to do a little more of the behind the scenes.

One of the big things for me when I connect is that most of the time, I do send an audio message to thank the person for connecting. And so, that’s been important. I think having a personal touch is a real key to LinkedIn.

You write and edit your own profile on LinkedIn, is it a trustworthy place for information? 

Again, hard to know. I’m not an expert and I’m certainly not a security expert. But I believe that by and large, it is a trustworthy place for information. And you get to choose what you put on LinkedIn. And so, think about what information you want to make publicly available. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s a public platform. You don’t have to pay for it. So, just be clear about what you’re comfortable with and then put that out there.

For me, I’m running a business and so I want people to know about me. I want my information to be available. I want people to see what I do and a bit about me and my content and that sort of thing. And so, I’m very happy for it to be up there. And as someone who’s been on LinkedIn for over 10 years, I think it’s been good so far.

What makes a LinkedIn profile look professional? Can you give us some tips?

Again, not being an expert, but I think that a complete profile is really important. Make sure you’ve actually filled out all the sections. Have a professional headshot – not one of you and your dog or you with your kids, unless that’s part of your business and your branding. Update the banner so that you don’t just have that blue background. Use professional terms throughout your profile. Get some recommendations and endorsements.

How important is it to have recommendations from others on your profile?

I think this is essential. It’s social proof. And the evidence shows that that is really important for people when they’re looking at who they want to know, who they want to work with, who they want to collaborate with. If they’re looking for a provider of services or products, then social proof is essential. It’s a bit of a game-changer. If I’m looking at multiple people and someone has got lots of recommendations from people that I can actually find out who they are and what they do, then that’s really powerful.

Are you actively using LinkedIn to share and engage with your high-value prospects?

Absolutely. LinkedIn is such an amazing and powerful platform to be able to share your message, to reach out to a bigger audience, to connect with people that you may not otherwise be able to connect with.

So for me,  content sharing is essential, but also reaching out and connecting with people who might be interested in what I have to offer, or I’m interested in what they have to offer— that activity goes on all the time.

And it is about offering value whether in the form of whitepapers, other free resources,  or opportunities to attend complimentary or paid events.

It’s also about connecting people with each other because they have something that they can share or can offer each other. And so, yes, that’s just part of how to leverage the power of LinkedIn.

How to create a strong personal brand?

I think that that’s our journey. Firstly, it’s about being present. It’s about having visibility. It’s about having clarity too, about what is your personal brand? What’s the message that you want to share? And what’s your purpose behind that? What’s your story? And sharing all of those elements. People want to know you, they want to know your story. They want to know “why should I be interested in you?” “Why should I trust you?” “Why should I work with you?” “Why should I invest my time in you?” And so, I think being present and sharing your story is such an essential part of building a strong personal brand. And I think being on your message is also key.

How to build a broad AND relevant LinkedIn network?

Historically, I think I wasn’t that great at this and so I’ve got some random people in my network. But now, I’m pretty clear about who I will connect with and who I won’t. I mean, there needs to be value for both of us in that process. And so, I’m actually quite selective. I do obviously, want to connect with people who I can support or I’m interested in their work, or great colleagues. I also connect with people who might be interested in what I do and where I can really share great value to them. And I connect with people who I can learn from.

It is about having clarity about who you want and need in your network. And then how you go about that will be determined a little bit by the decisions you make there. But obviously, you can choose who you reach out to. You can choose who to connect to from those who approach you. But I think it’s a proactive process and it doesn’t just happen. You actually need to invest effort and energy and focus into it to get the network that you want to have on LinkedIn or the leads from LinkedIn.

I think it’s everything that I’ve already talked about. You need to have the presence. You need to have the profile. You need to have the activity. You need to have the engagement to create visibility. And you need to offer value. And when you’ve done all of those things, then yes, you can reach out to people and see how you can help them. But you need to have a conversation. You need to have a relationship. 

What is your process to generate quality leads from LinkedIn?

People want to work with people that they know, like, and trust.

If your first message is, “Hey, do you want to buy something from me?” Then obviously, that’s not going to be very effective with most people.

So, I think for me, it’s about the genuineness of creating a relationship and offering value. And then understanding what it is that people really need. And when you understand that, then you can determine whether there’s something that you might be able to do to help. And that’s the conversation that you want to be having.

Of course, you need to have your profile optimised. You need to have the social proof in place. And you need to be consistently offering value and connection.

What is the best way to engage with your audience?

I think the best way to engage is to start conversations. To comment, to ask questions, to listen to what people have to say. That’s one side of the coin. And then the other is, of course, to offer great value and invite people into the conversation that you’re having on your posts or your video, that sort of thing. And so, commenting and liking and asking questions and appreciating the contribution of others. And then offering incredible value to your audience.

How do you create content to add value and amplify your expertise?

I think the big thing here is to make the commitment that you’re actually going to create content to add value and amplify your expertise. That’s one of your goals and that’s what you want to do. Then you need to have a process that makes that happen with consistency and frequency. I write a full article every week and I have time in my diary to do that. And I capture ideas about that content or what might generate a good article just from experience, from client comments, from questions on my posts, from interactions with people.

I keep a folder of all of those ideas. So, I’ve always got something that I can offer. And then an article may generate multiple individual posts where there are components of that. I’m always trying to develop my own thinking. And so, I generate a lot of concepts and models and ideas. And so, that also adds to my content when I’m creating programs and I’m trying to answer questions.

For example, at the beginning of COVID, I generated a whole lot of content around helping leaders to lead through uncertainty and turbulence when they were also facing personal uncertainty and turbulence. So, how do you show up as a leader in that space? And so, I wrote a whole series of articles. And then I turned that into an ebook. And then I offered a number of webinars, which I was inviting all of my LinkedIn audience to come and share as well.

I think it’s about always wanting to be able to do that and then actually being really proactive about the creation process and committing to doing that with regularity so that you always have a pipeline of content ready to post. And that becomes a key function of what you do, of your business and work process. If you want to get the most out of LinkedIn, then you need to invest in it, and creating content is one great way of doing that.

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