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How LinkedIn Can Benefit You As A Business with John Espirian
Episode 10816th March 2020 • Your Dream Business • Teresa Heath-Wareing
00:00:00 00:59:34

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This week’s episode is another interview, this time with John Espirian. After hearing John speak about LinkedIn at a local conference, I knew I wanted him to be a podcast guest as I was able to learn some valuable tips and tricks from his talk and as someone who has been in the industry for a long time, it’s always so refreshing when that happens. With lots of actionable advice when it comes to LinkedIn, this is definitely an episode for those that have been looking to maximise their profile.

  • The simpler your message is, the more people will remember it and take action.
  • When it comes to LinkedIn, you need to trial and error what works best.
  • Even if you talk about a variety of different topics, you need to ensure you have that ‘one thing’ that everyone knows you for. This should apply to all social media platforms.
  • Invest in relationships as much as you possibly can. Although you need to put sales content out, building relationships is much more important when it comes to LinkedIn. Whether it’s publicly or using direct messaging.
  • LinkedIn doesn’t just have to be for those that are B2B.
  • You have a smaller reach on LinkedIn so the organic reach is better than any other platform.
  • LinkedIn posts have a lifespan of around 2-3 days.
  • If you write an article on LinkedIn they will be indexed by Google. You should be aiming to create both short-form and long-form content on your platform
  • Don’t put links in your post right away. Post your content, wait a few seconds and then edit your post to include the link. This is known to give your post much more reach.
  • Document posts are more likely to be boosted by LinkedIn, so make sure you’re using these every now and again. If you use document posts, you need a clear call to action.
  • A great statistic to monitor is how many people are visiting your profile page, as this is a one big sales page for you and what you do. One of the best ways to do this is to switch to follow first.
  • When writing your headline you should follow a 40, 60, 20 rule in terms of characters. The first 40 characters should be interesting, the next 60 should be informative and intrigued. This will get more people to click through to your profile.
  • Don’t use more than three hashtags. Make them a mix of personal brand hashtags and popular industry hashtags. Put them at the end of your post.
  • Tag yourself at the end of your post for up to 28% more visibility.
You have to be in the conversation long enough for people to start remembering your name. You can’t just start posting on LinkedIn and expect it to work. You need to show up and have clear branding.
  • Introducing John Espirian – 04:59
  • Becoming Seen as A LinkedIn Expert – 12:30
  • Investing in Relationships - 20:30
  • Why Should You Bother with LinkedIn? - 22:56
  • The Basics of LinkedIn - 24:53
  • How to Ensure Your Posts Are Seen – 30:00
  • Using ‘Follow First’ – 39:50
  • Other Important Points to Consider – 45:19
Transcript below


Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How are you? How are things going? At time of recording this episode, it's a very rainy February day, so I'm hoping by the time you're listening to this, it's kind of mid-March and the sun might be shining. Let's hope so. I am desperate for the spring to come and to have some nicer, warmer weather. That's why, in Episode 100 when we talked about we wouldn't want to move to the States. That's one of the reasons. Wouldn't it just be lovely to wake up every day and the sun to be shining? Honestly, I think it puts us in such a better mood, so much nicer mood. Okay, this week's episode is an interview. It's with the really, really lovely John Espirian.

John and I had followed each other on social media for quite some time, but we met properly for the first time at Cambridge Social Day when I was keynoting Cambridge Social Day and he was speaking there as well, and he talked about LinkedIn. I love it, and I don't know about you, but I love it when I do an episode of the podcast or when I meet people or I see people and they teach me something. Because, obviously, I'm in this world a lot. I do a lot of stuff in this world. I know lots of it. Obviously, or otherwise people wouldn't pay me. You wouldn't pay me to do the academy and you wouldn't listen to the podcast, so I obviously know lots and lots of stuff, but I do enjoy learning from people and them telling me things that I don't know. This is exactly what John did.

John describes himself as the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter and author of Content DNA, formerly a Microsoft Mac MVP and director of The Society of Editors and Proofreaders. Gosh, that's a mouthful. And John writes business-to-business web content to help clients explain how their products and services and processes work. Basically, he's a technical copywriter. Now, that in itself is a hell of a skill. Well, first off, copywriting is a real skill. Then to be a technical copywriter so that not only to do you have to understand technical elements of things, but you then have to translate it into a language that basically anyone can pick up and read. That is a phenomenal skill.

What John has done, that is his business. That's what he does. However, in order to prove and show how he is good at writing technical copy, he's been putting together content around LinkedIn and it's really helped him stand out. He uses LinkedIn as his platform, so he's not, although he's very well-known as a LinkedIn person, John's long-term aim is not to become the LinkedIn king. His long-term aim for his business is to keep doing his technical copywriting and to grow his business that way, but he's just using content and LinkedIn as a really good tool in order to get that out there. John knows some amazing hacks and tricks that he uses on LinkedIn and, like I said, things that I haven't heard before, so I had to have him on.

He is relentlessly helpful and is a super, super lovely guy, so I think you're going to really enjoy today's episode. I would highly recommend, and obviously I'll link to this in the show notes, but I do recommend that you go and follow John on LinkedIn just because he does put so much content out there and some really smart, clever things. A bit like me, we test things. I did the five day challenge. By the time this episode comes out, it's done, but by the time I'm recording it, I haven't even started it. The whole point of doing anything is I can then come back and tell you what worked, what didn't work, how to do it, how not to do it, how not to waste time, how to do it efficiently, how to get best results. That's basically what John does.

He does that for LinkedIn. He tests his own things himself. Then he'll write a very well-written and straightforward blog post on what that is and how that works and whether you should do it. Like I said, highly recommend that you go and check him out on LinkedIn. But obviously, first, take a listen to this brilliant episode with John.


Introducing John Espirian


Okay, I am so excited to welcome today's guest to the podcast. Welcome, John Espirian.

Thanks for having me, Teresa. Really excited for this one.

No worries. I'm excited because you and I have been in each other's worlds for a little while now, and you have a very unique presence on social media so you're very easy to spot in terms of your graphics and things. We've been at some events, but we really got chatted at Cambridge Social Day, didn't we?

That's right.

Because we were both speaking there. John gives the coolest stuff away in terms of content that I just had to have him on and had to have him talking about all things content and LinkedIn. Before we jump into that, John, just explain to my listeners, if they haven't heard from you before, who you are and how you got to do what you do now.

Okay, so I am a content writer. I work in B2B. I've been doing that independently for about 10 years, but before then, I was a software and hardware tester. I was the guy who was poking and fiddling with stuff and trying to work out why it was broken or why the manuals weren't as clear as they could've been. When I got made redundant from that job, I took that main skill that I had, which is understanding how stuff works and explaining it to people so that they don't feel stupid and putting that into writing. Yeah, it's been 10 years independent now. That's what I do. I work on websites and some social media content to help people explain how products and services and processes work. That is my service.

I need to explain, John. That, honestly, would be my idea of hell. I'm so sorry. You obviously have a brain that I don't have because the technical side of stuff I would really struggle with, but also, as these guys know, because they listen all the time, I don't like writing anyway. Doing that, is it quite niche? Are there many people doing it?

Yeah. It can be. I mean, there are a million and one copywriters out there, but there aren't so many who focus on explaining stuff as opposed to just selling stuff. I'm not really interested in the world of influence and selling. I'm more interested in explaining because the best feeling in the world for me is when someone's furrowing their brow going, "I don't get this." Then you tell them something and they go, "Why didn't someone just say that to start with?" I love giving people that realisation. It really helps them. Then I become the person of interest for them because I explained other stuff. They see what I'm doing and then maybe some of them hire me to write content for their website, and all of their customers suddenly understand what's going on, so that's cool.

I think that's great because in every industry, and in this industry as well, in the marketing industry, there are people who make a living out of confusing people because they like the fact ... Do you know what? Having done a marketing degree, and I can say all the fancy words if you want me to, but people don't know what you're talking about. Therefore, I am very much like you, John. My aim is that I teach people in a way that makes perfect sense to them and their business. Actually, I think there's a lot of people out there who like the fact that they sound like the smartest person in the room. Just explain to me, so if someone hires you as a copywriter and they have a tool or a system that you've never used before, how on earth do you work it out to then tell other people how to use it?

Well, that all starts with interviews. I get in front of a subject matter expert. Thank goodness for Zoom, so I don't actually have to go to people's factories and stuff like that anymore. I just ask them questions until I just break them psychologically. I say, "Why does it do that? How does this work? Why is that important? Who cares about this?" If I was trying to explain this to my grandma, what's the long and short of it? We just keep asking questions until you get to the root of what value they're putting into the world, and in what way it would be best to express that given their personality. Once we've got that, we just try and make it as simple as possible.

These people who do try and obfuscate, they hide through complex language, that isn't the root to influencing anyone or helping anyone. All the stats show that the simpler your language is, the more understandable it is, the more relatable it is, and people will actually see you as being more intelligent if you keep your language simple. We can see this. To be honest, we can see this in the world of politics. The simpler your messaging is, the more people will remember it and take actions. It's all about just keeping things simple and clear, not trying to have too much ego, and just talking the way that real people talk, even though we're talking about techy things. We can still explain things in a simple way, and that's what I've found that I'm reasonably good at.

That's really cool. I think you do what I suggest other people do, that you ask the stupid questions.

Yeah, exactly.

Like whenever I'm speaking, whenever I'm doing anything, teaching, coaching calls, it's like there's never a stupid question because I could be saying something ... The other thing is, often in our own businesses, we're very much wrapped up in it and we forget that people don't know the really basic stuff. We forget that people don't necessarily know the terminology for that thing, or the word for that thing. Actually, having someone out of that industry all together, like you, trying to make sense of it, you're able to go, "Well, hang on. You just said that. I don't know what that word means," without any feeling of, "Oh, I should." Because we've all done it.

I worked in corporate world for a long time, marketing corporate world. I used to sit in meetings and think, "I don't even know what half of them are saying." I was so embarrassed because I just thought I would look stupid. I was sat there with my marketing degree like I should know what they're on about and I didn't have a clue. It's like I didn't want to ask the question, whereas now, like you said, I think it's all about being totally and utterly, "Hang on a minute. What do you mean by that? What is that?"

Yes, exactly. It's called the curse of knowledge. We think that everyone else understands things on the same level that we do. We forget that we might be experts in the subject, and marketing is a good case. Someone bangs on about the four Ps and no person in the street has any clue what that means.


Yes, if you can just get over that and understand what the other person is thinking, which is, "Make it simpler for me." No one ever complained, really, that something was too simple and easy to understand.


Keep honing your message to make it easy and quick to understand, easy to remember, then you'll be onto a winner.

I think I have this very, slightly mean-sounding, but I swear it comes with love and affection where I say that people online are a bit stupid and a bit lazy. What I mean is you've just got to write for the lowest denominator. Do you know what I mean? It's like, if you're writing for that level and you're assuming everyone is that, then you are catching as many people as you can catch. Whereas if you're writing for a certain level, and especially in our own industries, who am I writing for? Other marketers or other people like me, or am I writing for my customers? I think that's such a good point.


Becoming Seen as A LinkedIn Expert


Tell me how you got from doing that to doing all the stuff you do on LinkedIn and the coming scene as a LinkedIn expert and that sort of thing.

Well, I was late to the social media game. I didn't really have any kind of social media presence of any note until about 2014. Nothing worked for me for a few years. I tried every different network you could imagine. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. You name it. Eventually, I don't know, a kind of light bulb went off and I thought, "Well, I'm trying to target people who work in B2B. Where would be the best place for me to hang out?" It's kind of a head slap moment. Obviously, LinkedIn would be the place. That coincided, luckily for me, with Microsoft buying out LinkedIn at the end of 2016 and they've changed the user interface, they've changed the algorithm.

Yeah. They made it much nicer.

At that time I thought, "Let's just dive into this thing." I'd already studied content marketing, so I knew that this idea of building a body of knowledge in one place, answering people's questions would be a good long-term play. I never really liked that, so I thought we'll do this organically. We'll do it without ads. We'll do it with a really long-term plan for building authority, and so I started posting content about LinkedIn, which is what I was learning about at the time. How can I use it to promote my business? Because my business often involves working with clients who I can't name for privacy reasons, I couldn't talk about my clients. But what I could do is express my ability to express how stuff works, and so I used LinkedIn to explain how LinkedIn works with the subtext being, "Well, if I can explain how this works, maybe I can explain how your remote control works or HR process or whatever."

What happened was precisely nothing. I didn't get any kind of engagement. I didn't really get any followers, connections. I certainly didn't get any work from it, but because I'd had this long-term vision that building it would pay off in year two or year three or maybe even year five, and I'd seen other examples of people who'd done the same thing. No one is an overnight success. I thought, "Well, let's stick at this." After about month nine, I managed to get an article published in Social Media Examiner, which got me quite a bit of exposure. Then things started to happen. People started to say, "Well, look. Maybe this guy does seem to know what he's talking about. Let's connect with him. Maybe he could do some writing for our website." It kind of snowballed from there, but yeah, in the first nine months or so, absolutely nothing.

I just want to pause on that for a minute because of the fact that we've just had this conversation and we were talking about the podcast and we were talking about consistency, and I have said a number of times that month nine was the month for me where suddenly it all kind of blew up. Maybe that's a magic number, maybe it was just a coincidence that you and I both had that. But I love the honesty of you saying, "I did this and nothing happened," because I think there are too many people out there who think, "I do a tweet and everything happens." The other thing is sometimes they listen to people like us who have been doing this for some time. I put something up on LinkedIn the other day and one thing I'm going to be doing now going forward is I'm going to be promoting more about the academy in terms of what we're doing in the academy in order to try and encourage people to come and check it out and come and join and come and be part of it.

I put a post saying, "Academy members, here are the dates for Facebook Lives that are going to happen. The first one is happening this Friday and it's going to be about ..." We're recording this, by the way, at the beginning of 2020 and it's going to be about content planning for the year. Or not so much content planning as campaigns. We're talking about campaigns. Anyway, put this post up on LinkedIn, immediately had someone comment on it, she goes, "How do I get access to these?" I don't know this person. I've never met them. Of course, I was able to then go back and say, "Great. These are part of the academy. Here's the link to find out more. Let me know what you think or whatever." People will hear that and they'll think, "Oh, brilliant." So they put a post up and nothing happens. It's like, you've got to remember that I have been doing this consistently. I've been building my contacts on there consistently for years. That's why you and I now have successes like that. I think people think they can expect that within the first five minutes.

Yeah, that's right. I get increasingly more questions asking, "How can I get the levels of engagement that you're getting on your post?" I will say to them, "Look back at my posts in 2017 when I got two comments on a post if I was lucky. I'm saying the




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