LinkedIn for Higher Ed: A Guide To Success - A Conversation with Daniel Alfon

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How can Higher Education professionals leverage networking tools like LinkedIn to bring more awareness to their universities? To discover more about this and learn some actionable tools, I sat down with Daniel Alfon to discuss ways to build your LinkedIn profile to highlight your business. 

 

Daniel Alfon is the author of the book "Build a LinkedIn Profile for Business Success: An Ultimate Guide." Daniel joined LinkedIn in 2004(!) and publishes articles, interviews, and exclusive content about advanced LinkedIn strategies to clients and subscribers around the world.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. And if you'd like to listen to our conversation, you can do so here:

 

Ian Evenstar: There we go. Okay, awesome. Hello, this is Ian from UNINCORPORATED, and I'm here with Daniel Alfon today to discuss his ultimate guide to building a LinkedIn profile for your organization's success. Whether you're a department chair, VP, or provost, Daniel has a lot of great actionable advice for you when it comes to building your LinkedIn profile to elevate the standard or the perception of your organization. Daniel is the author of the book Build a LinkedIn Profile for Business Success: An Ultimate Guide, and he actually joined LinkedIn in 2004. That seems like ages ago. Since then, he's published articles, interviews, and exclusive content about advanced LinkedIn strategies, and he's here today to share his expertise. Daniel, welcome to the show.


Daniel Alfon: Yeah. Thank you very much for having me on the Higher Ed Happy Hour.

 

IE: Ah yes, our pleasure. And you're calling in from where? Remind us.

 

DA: Calling in from south of Tel Aviv, Israel.

 

IE: Wow. And it's evening time, from what I know.

 

DA: It is, and we share a lot of things with California, including the weather, so we're...

 

IE: That's right. That's right. Well, I appreciate you taking the time here at this late hour for you. What was it initially that drew you to LinkedIn? I mean, we're going all the way back to the, almost the social media stone age of 2004. What was it about LinkedIn that caught your interest?


DA: That's a great question. I think the person who sent me the invitation, there were no social platforms back then. I simply trusted that person, and I was curious about it and I was always interested in networking even before LinkedIn. I think networking is probably the single most important key trade that we need to nurture and improve; we may move from one part of the country to another, we may pivot from being provost to being something else, but our network and our networking is important. And I decided to start playing with this new concept and I haven't looked back. I'm very happy I did.


IE: Yeah. Yeah, we are too. And obviously, that's led you to continue to think about the platform and leverage the platform, and guide others using it. What do you think it is about LinkedIn in particular that makes it so effective? You mentioned that networking is key and that you have to nurture relationships. I'm imagining that's part of your answer, but what is it about LinkedIn that makes it maybe most effective when it comes to networking?


DA: I think when people Google you, your LinkedIn profile will be top of the list for most people, including our audience here, so we need to manage it well. And if you consider the importance of LinkedIn, it has close to 1 billion members, and since you hit record, hundreds of people have joined LinkedIn, Ian. Every second, two people sign up. So we need to make sure that our profile is aligned with our objective, and you don't have to spend a lot of money on it. You just need to think about it and maintain a professional visibility for your college, for your school, and for your organization, and for you as a person.


IE: Yeah. Yeah. And I want to ask you a little bit about the differences between the individual profile on LinkedIn versus the organization's profile. So we'll maybe just hold that for a moment, but I want to address something, maybe it's a concern, or certainly, something I've heard working with a lot of universities, which is, "Well, so and so dean or so and so vice provost, they don't need a profile." Right? "Because it's all spam. If they're going to build anything on there, it's not really going to help us." What would you say to that critique or that concern that it's really not worth your time to build out a profile, say if you're a vice provost or a dean?


DA: Sure. If you're not interested in students, then I would agree.


IE: Okay. Good answer, which of course, they are interested in students. Right? So beyond that, walk us through how it helps connect with students, perhaps.


DA: When you're considering enrolling in university, one way to do it would be to see the faculty and to hear from other people about that specific school or that specific college. And if we tie it back to the question you just asked, LinkedIn is a special platform in the sense that our individual profile, Ian, is more important than the organizational page for most people and for most organizations. And that's something that senior administrators have difficulty understanding because they think that only the page, the college page or the school page, should post things, and they are almost out of the equation. But most students and most LinkedIn users follow very few pages. The natural action is not to follow a page. When I look at your own profile, you follow very few pages but you have thousands of followers and connections. And the same proportion is likely to be right for anyone visiting or checking their own profile or their own page.
So the page has to be professional, and maybe we could dive into that, but you, as an individual, you need to work with your individual profile and your individual account in order to make people understand why you have the best work in the world working for that college.


IE: Yeah. I think that's a great point. What I heard was that people connect with individuals. They don't connect with companies or organizations, or if they do, they're less likely to connect at scale with the individual schools or organizations. They're more likely to connect one-to-one. That seems like it's just kind of natural human nature or common sense, which is why I think I'm so surprised that people wouldn't want to build out their profile. And I know that you've provided some guidance around building out your profile. You mentioned that you should treat your profile, and we're talking about the individual profile, I believe, but treat that profile as if it were a website, not a CV or a resume. What does that mean? Treat your profile as a website.


DA: Excellent. I'm very happy you're asking that question because when we think of our audience here, then if our interest is to have more enrollment and more students, then the fact that we joined that university in 2017 or 2018 is not important. And by that, why is that? What do I mean by that? When people visit your own profile, a simple method you could use is to ask yourself, who is your ideal reader? So if you're in charge of admission, the ideal reader could be potential students considering your school. If you're an agency manager, then the ideal reader may be a higher ed professional who could work with you. But simply defining who your ideal reader is, is the first step. And then if we could add to this call a number of provost and deans and enrollment officers or chief of operations, what action would they like their ideal reader, say the potential students, to perform after they visit our profile? What action do you think they would like us to perform?


IE: Yeah. Usually, to go on to view the website or possibly even to get admissions information.


DA: Excellent. And the question we ask now is, are we helping those people understand within a few seconds, how to do that, and why should they do that? And in many cases, the profile is done. It contains no information. In some cases, that happens because the manager or the higher ed education professional still thinks of LinkedIn as a place for them to post their CV online. But the truth is, if you're not looking for your next opportunity, you should have more students attracted to your enrollment process, and that means you probably have a lot of great information on your website. How about selecting the best pieces of content from your website and highlighting them on your LinkedIn profile? It would take you really, literally less than two minutes. No one wants to work that hard, and we can simply highlight the information we'd like people to see when they visit your profile.
And what I mean by thinking of a profile as a website is that if Ian, we have our ideal reader, potential student, and the action we'd like them to perform, to go and visit the website, then we need to see whether we are managing that conversion. And that conversion is based on the fact that we provide the right information in the right order that helps people, that helps students understand and grasp within five seconds why they need to read some more. When I look at your profile, what I see on top is a banner with a great quote, "Learn from success, not just failure."


IE: Right.


DA: So, how much time did you invest in uploading that banner?


IE:30 minutes at least.


DA: Okay. Fine. Was it worth your while?


IE: Well, I mean, this is a very personal question, but yeah, for me it was. I mean, it's a mantra or a distinction, I think, that kind of defines me as a brand, as an individual brand.


DA: Excellent. So whether they like it or not, our audience is a representation of the school's brand, and what they could simply do is use the banner in a way that would attract the potential student. So it could be an image of the school, it could be perhaps the graduation ceremony. It could be maybe a quote that they like. It could be something else. I'm not advising them to copy that quote, but the possibilities are endless. And that, whenever they upload a banner, people are likely to say, "Okay, let me try and read a bit more about it," and then they're likely to scroll and see the information. And if you featured information about alumni or about why our school or our college is right for you, then they're likelier to convert eventually. So our website, our profile, needs to convert our ideal reader. If the ideal reader is a student, we want to have them discover the admission and the enrollment process. That's the objective of a profile; not to do anything else, from my perspective.


IE: Yeah. That's really helpful, and the way that you describe it, from the perspective of, considering your audience. Make sure that those reaching your page, you're providing value in the terms of content or just in the language, in the messaging that you use. And make sure you have a call to action; several CTAs, perhaps, that are driving to that next step, which is part of that nurturing process that a website largely is trying to do as well. At least the good websites, of course. There are some websites that stand in the way. But the way you've described that journey of landing on an individual page, getting some quick information that resonates with you, the reader, or the prospective student, and then having some clearly identified next steps, that's super helpful and very actionable. I don't think many people are thinking of their profile in that way or in those terms.


DA: Thank you for rephrasing this. It doesn't have to be hard.


IE: Yeah. Yeah, it's true. Do you find that there's still a need to have the CV and the resume and the experience and all of that built out? Because oftentimes, we'll be working on a new campaign or let's say a redesign for a website and admissions page, for example, and they'll want to leverage and put faculty biographies and resumes and papers right up front. And it seems in that sense, within the academic setting, that having a really built resume, published paper, CV, et cetera, that could actually be helpful. So, are you suggesting that we treat it like a website but also have this information, or exclude that information entirely?


DA: I wouldn't exclude it. I think we don't have to make a choice, really, because, let me remind us of something. Conversion is likely to happen on our website, so perhaps we could think of LinkedIn as the top of the funnel. Okay? In marketing terms, that can make more students discover the process. And for the process itself, as you indicated, they would go elsewhere. That's fine. But if we manage to increase the number of potential students who we would like to enroll in our school to discover that page thanks to LinkedIn, then we're good. I don't think we need to hide information on our website. I was only suggesting adding, to even using some of that information in our individual profiles. For example, there is a publication section on LinkedIn, and even if you published dozens of papers, maybe the faculty members could select maybe three or four and that could show some credentials on LinkedIn.
Now, I know if you go to the university's website you will find that information, but it makes a lot more sense to find the best pieces of content that are likely to make someone discover the enrollment process and show them that information within the gated walls of LinkedIn.


IE: Yeah. That's great. That's great. So obviously, some clear ways. Just by focusing on the profiles or getting profiles established at a minimum for your leadership team within your college, university, program, division, or what have you, that is a great first step and certainly will help your college or university leverage LinkedIn to increase enrollment. Are there other ways folks can use LinkedIn in order to help increase enrollment through LinkedIn?


DA: Okay. Let's perhaps suggest two or three quick ways. When I was looking at some universities' websites, I noticed that they have a very professional presence on LinkedIn. They have a page, that shows all sorts of videos and content, but their own website doesn't link to that. So, it boils down to deciding whether LinkedIn works for you or not. You don't have to have a presence on LinkedIn, but if you have, don't hide it. And one other thing we can touch on is the fact that when... I saw a recent post today from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Science, and it has a beautiful photo of a recent graduate with her mom. And if you consider the demographics of LinkedIn, then of course the students are one of the fastest growing segments on LinkedIn. But my guess is many parents are on LinkedIn.


IE: Yeah. Certainly.


DA: And they're also stakeholders financially and emotionally in this process, so they could also discover your content and feel more engaged by showing first-generation American or first-generation student with her mom or with her dad and generally highlighting students. And alumni is one of the greatest ways you could get positive feedback from people. And simply running the search and seeing who mentioned your school is something that could take you maybe a minute a day, and that enables you to react and to react fast in a timely manner. Again, this week, Anijah Lezama, who's a USC 2022, just posted on LinkedIn that she's graduating from the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. And she tagged the University of Southern California. There are beautiful images there, and in the comment section and the like section, there's also a share by the Director, Communications, Culture, Learning & Development at USC.
So if you are able to discover content that refers in a positive way to your school, highlighting that will take you a couple of seconds and it's a great way to recognize the contribution of your students. It's one thing for us to say, "We're a great school." It's something else if a graduate says so. And we need to highlight them. And don't just toot their own horn but also leverage other people's contributions.


IE: Yeah. Well, this could be also a way for universities to kind of tag-team the effort, to partner together. If you have different units say within your department, each of the units, they can share in the news, or thinking about university structure where you have the president's office and they're kind of curating posts from graduation, from the various academic units or the various schools, and kind of amplify the message. So I think that's a great piece of wisdom there. It's a little bit of both brand building or branding, right? Where you have to establish these profiles and you have to establish these pages. And then it's a lot of ongoing communications, right? Treating it as if it's a media channel and engaging with posts, resharing posts, curating what you're putting out. But if you don't have say a communications team to manage your LinkedIn, and it's hard to make that initial investment from the branding standpoint, how would one get started? Let's say we're launching a new college LinkedIn profile and it's something that they haven't put into their strategy yet. What would be the first thing you'd recommend to get started?


DA: Wow. Okay. So there's a famous graphic that deals with communication and communities, and the general assumption is that for 1% of people share or do the active work, shall we say, 9% comment or like, and close to 90% on LinkedIn are lurkers, so they will consume the content. They could mention that afterward and say, "Yeah, I like what you did," but they never show any public... anything showing that they actually read it. So, identifying the 1% and the 9% I think is key. When you interviewed in the Higher Ed Happy Hour the HubSpot specialist, Amanda, with her seven steps, I like the way she mentioned the 1% and the people who are engaged, and she need not forget them or not to disregard them. So when you recognize a champion, between you and me, maybe that all the champion has done was saying or commenting or liking or doing something that's not too much of an effort; still, if we manage to highlight that and to recognize them, and recognition is one great driver when you don't have a budget.
Obviously, if you have a budget you can do many things, but recognition is also a very significant, intrinsic factor that would make people do it more. So if I worked a lot and no one seems to acknowledge that, I'm probably less likely to do it a second time around. But if you tell everyone, "Hey, look at this," then I feel sort of rewarded, and perhaps I would do it the second time. And that could enable some people who are lurkers to say, "Okay, I'm going to jump on that train and do my, maybe my baby step and just commenting about it." And try to build a community because alone, it's very difficult to do.


IE: Mm. Okay. So, did I hear you correctly? You're suggesting that to model the behavior or just start recognizing people on LinkedIn is a way to kind of initiate your LinkedIn strategy, to get started on LinkedIn?


DA: If you're launching a new school, then your first class could be, you could create an unlisted group on LinkedIn for that class. And by that, I mean that only the student themselves would be admitted to that group, and that would enable them to play in sort of a sandbox where they can ask questions about the admission, and because you are launching a new school, there's no 80-year tradition that they could check with people. So that also enables you to highlight those potential students on LinkedIn, or wherever you like. LinkedIn is just a tool. It's not the only tool in town, but it has a lot of capabilities and it should be part of your arsenal when you're trying to engage with students, alumni, graduates, and potential students.


IE: Oh, wow. You just uncovered a new layer to our conversation, which is the operations side. If you're launching let's say a new program, you could run your program, the group, as an unlisted group on LinkedIn and kind of feed that into your course design or curriculum design. Wow. A lot of great advice there; some really specific examples of how colleges can use this. You've written about the five myths of LinkedIn. Can you tell us what those five myths of LinkedIn are?

 

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DA: With pleasure. The five myths, the first is something we mentioned. Our profile is often more important than our page. We haven't touched on the others so I'll mention them briefly. The quality of our network is often more important than the quantity. We did mention the way that our profile could behave or look like a website and not as a CV. And the last two are that content, and not advertising, is what will bring you engagement, views, and traffic; and time is probably more useful to spend on LinkedIn than dollars. If you only opened your LinkedIn account, if you signed up and you pay for a premium account, you can't really appreciate what you've been offered. And the time to consider paying is only once you see what's under the hood and you really understand the LinkedIn algorithm, the way the LinkedIn algorithm works, and the LinkedIn code if you'd like. And a mistake I sometimes notice is that the person who's managing the presence of the college on Linkedin is not very familiar with the platform. So for example, they would not tag faculty or outstanding alumni, and that's a pity because tagging them in an authentic way will drive engagement a lot more because they would be instantly notified. And so, train the person who's managing your LinkedIn presence or find someone who knows the platform better than others, because LinkedIn is a bit different from other social media platforms, I'm afraid, and the logic is a logic of its own.


IE: So I'm just going to repeat those because I have questions about each of them. Well, maybe not the first two that we talked about. But number one, profile pages are more important than the organization page, and we've gotten into that quite a bit. Number two, I think I've heard various inflections, but the quality is more important than the quantity of your network. So, it's not a numbers game. It's maybe about the depth of the relationships, not the breadth of those relationships. Number three, your profile should function like a website, not a CV. Number four, please, please give value through your content and don't try to sell us with a bunch of sales speak or offers that we don't care about. Give us quality content. And number five, put your time on LinkedIn, don't spend money on LinkedIn. And I think those five myths or directives if you will, are great. Those are great.
Let's talk about quality real quick. How do we know that, or maybe we have a sense that, the quality of our relationships isn't maybe as deep or nurtured as it could be on LinkedIn? How do we reinvest there? How do we develop quality over quantity? It's a, might be a difficult question but I think your ideal here of quality over quantity is understood, but how? Tell us Daniel, how?


DA: With pleasure. I think you need to ask yourself a simple question. In five years' time, would you like to be the most connected or the best connected? And Ian, either way, could work. I don't have anything against quantity, but what happens is that faculty and enrollment managers and most LinkedIn users simply, they're afraid to make a choice because instinctively they want both quality and quantity. And our job is to tell them they're mutually exclusive. You can't have your cake and eat it. You can't, because the minute you start accepting invitations from people you don't know, then that trust element is diluted. And if you only stick to people you know, then the extent of your network is not going to be very large. And the worst connection strategy is starting by having a quality network of a few dozen people you know well and deciding you need some exposure and you end up having 200 or 2,000 people and you think that that's exposure, but exposure happens on LinkedIn when you have 20K or 30,000 connections.
So that actually you have very little of either because very few people will be exposed to the content that you've shared. And along the way, you managed to pollute the quality of your network, because if I see an outstanding faculty member and I see that you and I share a mutual connection, and I look at that person's name and I say, "Who's that person?" Then they're looking at our profile and saying, "Who are you?" So, you need to make a choice. You can't have both quality and quantity, and the best way to do it is to simply ask yourself, in the long-term, to try not to veer. If you're going for quantity, go the whole way and do it not only when you're looking for more revenues or something else, but do it on a consistent basis. Or the other way around, you stick to people you know well, and that could also work for you. You'll get referrals. The word of mouth is going to be a lot better. Either way could work. I haven't found a way to combine both. If I find it, you'll be the first to know.


IE: Yeah. Okay. I'll take you up on that. Maybe that's our second edition of the book. Yeah. I mean, that in itself is great advice, to make a decision upfront. Are you going to spend time nurturing a smaller audience, or are you going to spend time building an audience? With the trade off that, hey, you may not get to everyone and you may not be able to connect with everyone at the same level. I think that's, makes a lot of sense. And it could be specific to the goals maybe for the program, right? So maybe at a smaller kind of microcosm of the university system, maybe it is more about the quality, especially if it's a small program with a small enrollment number versus a larger college where it's trying to reach as many prospective students, families, parents, et cetera. So, maybe it's kind of dependent on the scale in which you're operating within the university setting. Would you agree with that; it could be case by case?


DA: I think it's a great guideline. Yes.


IE: Yeah. Okay. Well, being the guru of LinkedIn, I'll take that as a compliment. I am adding guidelines to the guidelines. I love it. So regarding content, because this is obviously something that resonates really strongly with myself and UNINCORPORATED, we are firm believers in content marketing as a primary strategy. We call it a give-get; you have to give value before you can extract value or get value in return. But we always get this question, okay, we're going to produce content. It's going to be keyword friendly, it's going to resonate with the empathy of our reader. But how often? How often should we be posting? How often should we be showing up on this platform?


DA: Okay. So I'd like to draw our attention to the fact that in order to have an overall strategy as a college or a university, there are three LinkedIn components you need to think about. One is the page, the second is the faculty or the individual profile, but there's a third element we haven't discussed so far and that's a group, a LinkedIn group, a LinkedIn community, that could also be part of your content strategy. So if I look at the USC Berg master students in Alamo, I see a group that has thousands of members, and that could be a playground for you to post as often as you'd like because people who have joined that group are basically saying, "I'm interested in networking with my alumni," or, "I'm interested to learn more about this." And as a page, I think as often as you have good content, you can post it, versus as an individual, Ian. If you share five times a day, at one point or another, even if it's great content, some people are going to be, that's going to be overwhelming for them and they're not going to engage with that content.
But the page itself, you can have as much posting as you have quality content. Based on your content agenda and the time of day you're posting, tagging people, and having a decent amount of visual elements or videos highlighting alumni and faculty, there's a way for you to build metrics with great content all year long.


IE: Nice. So again, I think your mantra of quality over quantity in some ways applies here as well. Don't just be resurfacing articles that aren't relevant, and won't be overwhelming your audience with a lot of content, especially at the individual level, but focus on those key pieces of content. Obviously, you need to stay structured and disciplined about publishing on a regular basis though, correct?


DA: Yes. Consistency is key. And if you assess and audit the content that you have, or that you know you're going to produce in the next quarter or before school starts, then try to think whether once a day would be relevant, if it's a new school or if faculty is relatively small, or three times a week or whatever works for you, and try to stick to that. If you do, it's much better than forgetting about LinkedIn for a whole month and then posting five times a day, because most people are going to visit LinkedIn when there is a trigger, okay? You send them an invitation request, they are going to check you out and accept, and then maybe they'll do something else. So instead of putting a lot of hours into one day, try to separate it and share even if it's once a week. If you can stick to it once a week, do it. And then if you find that you have excellent quality content and you can do it twice a week or three times a week, that's fine, but try not to have peaks and famines for too long, because it's not going to work for you, I'm afraid.


IE: I will take that. I will take that as direct, actionable advice yet again. Don't have feast and famine when it comes to your content schedule. That's great. That's great.


DA: There's a seasonal element because the enrollment happens in certain months. So you know coming ahead that these two months are going to be less active, so what sort of content is evergreen? And instead of adding that to this week's edition, we could simply keep it for lower or less engaged time. It's a question of preparation.


IE: Yeah. Do you have any perspective or opinions on the number of hashtags or how you're maybe calling people out or tagging people with your posts? I know it's quite tactical, that question, but I'm just curious since we're talking about publishing and posting.


DA: Very roughly, I think I would stick in hashtags to three hashtags. I think more than that is probably too overwhelming. It doesn't look really natural in most cases, and not hashtagging at all is not a good idea. In terms of tagging people, I would be a bit more cautious because what happens is that if I, as a page, a college page, I share a post and I tag Ian and a couple of other managers or people, and they don't engage with that content, then LinkedIn is likely to throttle and limit the amount of people who are going to view this, because, by tagging, we actually say, "Hey, you should see this, and everyone should see that." And maybe the first time you do it, you have to make sure that you're tagging the right person. It's challenging because if you have a James Brown, LinkedIn will show you thousands of people and you don't want to tag the wrong person, no offense.
So you have to be very tactical about it, and ideally, if you're not sure, try to reach out to that person and say, "At 9:00 AM Pacific Time, I would like to share that piece of view with that quote on LinkedIn. Would that be okay with you?" Most people will say yes. And then you say, "It would be great if you could comment on that or maybe like it or share it." My guess is that most people will happily do that. If you tag 10 people and none react, then you're in trouble. So don't try to attract superficially, if something that is not related to the content, by newsjacking something that's not relevant to your school.


IE: Thank you for that. I'm glad I asked that question because I actually learned quite a bit there in that response about tagging and kind of the, not only the ethics behind it but also the mechanics and how you can leverage that. I think for us, typically when we post and we have a tag, we'll obviously, it'll be well tagged and accurate, but what we're not doing is maybe reaching out in advance and giving that person a heads up so that they can maybe more proactively go and search for it and then comment on it, versus just having it catch their attention and then hoping that they come back and respond. I think that's also really good advice.


DA: Thank you. I think when you see that person's activity on LinkedIn, you would usually know. And the more active they are, the less you have to guide them. But if that person has never been tagged before, or if they don't really use LinkedIn that much, then it could make sense for you to delay it a bit and have them on board.


IE: Yeah. And just also thinking about the university setting, this is a place where you can have co-conspirators; people within your department, or adjacent schools within a college. They can be partnering with you on the tagging and commenting as part of that overall strategy, so leverage your partners and leverage people that are in your network within your college or university ecosystem.


DA: Right. If a couple of people interact within the first say hour or two, then the LinkedIn algorithm will recognize that share as being more newsworthy and will gradually show it to more people. You don't want to do it too often, but if you're able to drive more traffic and more engagement in the first 60 to 90 minutes then your views are likely to spread even faster.


IE: Yeah. Great. So as we look to close here, I just want to ask you about kind of two ends of the funnel, if you will, the connection funnel or the life cycle stage that happens on LinkedIn. One is, of course, that first touch, right? Where you choose to connect and reach out. So I'd love to hear from you your thoughts on, what's the perfect introduction or maybe the best connection strategy? How many per day, for example? And then I want to get back to, once you've connected, how should you be communicating with that person? Should it be through LinkedIn mail or messages, or should you be moving toward getting their email address? So let's talk about connections first, but I also want to ask you about just communication standards in general on LinkedIn.


DA: Okay. There is one quick thing you could do. If you visit someone's profile and you see that they share great content, and you don't want to necessarily connect with that person because your idea of connecting came from your wish to see their content, then there has been a way for 10 years to follow that person's public shares, and that's something that easily done within two clicks. So if you connect only with people you know well... My feed has probably 80% of people I haven't connected with, but I see their content because they're sharing interesting, high-quality information that I want to see. And that could also actually be for someone who does want to connect the first step, because what would that mean?
It would mean that you would be notified in real time when that person shares something, and maybe you would have something meaningful to contribute to the conversation. And then when you send an invitation request later, the person is likely to recognize you and accept that invitation and take the conversation gradually outside of LinkedIn. One blog post I wrote once was, if you don't want the person to read your message, message them on LinkedIn.


IE: Right. Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Guaranteed to ignore that message.


DA: It's clunky. And usually, when you connect with someone after they accept your invitation request by going to their contact info on desktop or mobile, you'll see the email address that they provided. And moving away from LinkedIn to email for faculty and for most people would be a lot easier to reply to. It will be easier to search. And if you ever try to find a message within LinkedIn when you have thousands of connections, it's quite daunting.


IE: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And there's so much spam now too, right? It's like, it's hard to stand out in the message panel between all the spam; the disingenuous connections, and people trying to take the next step with you. It's hard. It's almost a full time job for us just to filter through the messages and find any relevant info.


DA: There's a way, it's a bit hidden but there's a way for you to actually reply to invitations without accepting them. So what you could do is have two sentences, saying, "Thank you very much, Jane Doe, for requesting to connect. Can I be of help to you or XYZ or your company?" And usually, they would not reply. But if they do reply and they say, "Hey, we are launching a new program next year at US whatever and we'd like to speak with you," then you would obviously engage and speak with them. So you could reply to those incoming invitations and simply assess whether it's a bot or it's an automatic message, or this could be contributing to your career or your business or your enrollment processes.


IE: Yeah. That's great. So, two more questions. One is just about the future of LinkedIn, and how future proof is this platform? Is it something we're investing in now and then ultimately we're going to need to migrate to another platform, or do you think it's here for a while?


DA: It's a great question. And every quarter, I have a calendar invite with myself asking LinkedIn with a question mark; should I still only specialize in LinkedIn? And I think at one point, if you look back on MySpace or FriendFeed or all sorts of systems that were here to stay, then something happened. When something happens to LinkedIn, I think we will see it coming because LinkedIn has a network of, again, close to 900 million users, and I can't recognize, when we're recording this, a major community that is likely to have that impact on recruiting and business networking pretty fast. But there are all sorts of niche communities for doctors and academia, and maybe the death of 400 needles; maybe at one point, LinkedIn will wake up and see that some of those communities have attracted important segments of LinkedIn's users. But right now, it will take time for any platform to overtake LinkedIn. I don't think that's likely to happen anytime soon.


IE: No. Unless Elon Musk maybe turns his attention toward LinkedIn. We'll see.


DA: When Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, I tweeted "The end?" with a question mark. And LinkedIn hasn't changed that much, so maybe even Musk will not touch LinkedIn that much.


IE: Yeah. Nice. So a topic for a different day, I'm sure. So anything else to leave the listeners with? You've given us a lot of actionable, practical advice and direction, so thank you for that. Anything else you'd like to share with the listeners?


DA: My pleasure. I'll just mention something that... I gave a LinkedIn workshop recently to a college, and what happened was that they had all sorts of career webinars for their students; their postdoc and master's degrees. And due to COVID, because everything went online, they decided that they would open it for everyone. And that means that potential students, who never had the opportunity to see faculty and mingle with students, had the opportunity to log in from their homes and see what is it like to be part of that school. And I think that's when COVID hit and we needed to figure out how to deal with this, it's not necessarily a problem. It's a challenge, but in some cases that can enable us to have even more reach and attract even more people to our school because everyone can jump, whether they were in the East Coast and they were considering California. Now it's a lot easier for them to visit and to have happy hours or office hours with faculty or other students.

 

IE: Nice. Thank you. What's the best way to stay in contact, or if someone wants additional info? I'm assuming connect with you on LinkedIn, but what else?


DA: You can always try that.


IE: Yes.


DA: Danielalfon.com is my website. It has lots of articles and a monthly newsletter and content, and guides and all sorts of things, so it's probably the most comprehensive place to go. And I really appreciated our conversation today, Ian.


IE: Yeah, likewise. This has been a lot of fun and I've learned a lot, too. So thank you for your time, your expertise, and your words of wisdom. David Alfon, ladies and gentlemen. Have a wonderful afternoon or evening.

 


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