EPISODE 556: Grow a Large, Engaged, Authentic Audience on LinkedIn with Liz Leiba and Judy Schramm

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast was sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and featured an interview with Judy Schramm and Liz Leiba. Apply for their upcoming course “Grow a Large, Engaged, Authentic Audience on LinkedIn.”]

Find Judy on LinkedIn. Find Liz on LinkedIn.

JUDY’S TIP: “One of the things that I see is lots of times, women in particular are reluctant to put themselves out there on LinkedIn and in social media in general. Part of that is the haters and the trolls, because we all know that women are so subject to haters and trolls, and that they can be absolutely awful. But you can’t make a really big difference in the world without taking some risks and without putting yourself out there. When you have the courage to take that big step and say, “I’m going to do it,” it can be worth it.

LIZ’S TIP: “Just get started. People get analysis for us when it comes to LinkedIn. They think about posting, they debate, they craft a post, they’re editing it, everything has to be perfect. The more that you practice, the better that you become. It could bring you the world if you just get started with it.”


Fred Diamond: We have our good friend, Judy Schramm, with ProResource. She’s been on the show before with her team. She’s done a lot of work to help the Sales Game Changers Podcast get out there. We’re also going to be talking today with one of her partners, Liz Leiba. Liz is a pretty incredible LinkedIn user. She has over 135,000 followers. She’s gone up from 7,000 in 2022, and she’s adding about 1,000 followers per week. She has close to 54 million impressions on her comment. Hundreds of thousands of comments, almost 16,000 shares. She typically gets a very, very high engagement rate of nearly 5%.

Judy and the team, you’re going to be launching a program with Liz as your partner. Today’s show is different. We’ve done some shows on LinkedIn from the social selling aspect. Today we’re going to be talking about just how to be more magnetic on LinkedIn and how to really have a real killer, not just profile, but presence. Today’s not about the profile, it’s about your presence. Judy, get us started with what’s going on, and then we’ll quickly get to Liz and talk about some of the things that she’s done to really get to that amazing performance on LinkedIn.

Judy Schramm: This is so exciting for me because so many people, especially in sales, have mastered how to have a really compelling LinkedIn profile. They’re active on LinkedIn, they’re building their network, doing so many things right on LinkedIn. But the question that I get asked over and over again after that by people who are already deeply knowledgeable about LinkedIn is, “How do I get more engagement? How do I get more people interacting with my posts? How do I build my audience?” Liz and I are teaming together, I am so excited because Liz has utterly mastered how to do that. She has grown her audience massively. It’s absolutely so powerful. She has this dynamic presence where she’s very active on LinkedIn. She gets people who are so interested and so compelled by what she’s saying that they just eat it up.

What I’m thrilled about is that I have actually been able to talk her into doing a program where she’s going to share her knowledge with other people. The program is designed for people who are utterly passionate about a particular topic. Now, it might be the business that they’ve created, it might be a product they’ve invented. It might be a cause that is really dear to their heart, like Lyme, Fred, with you. How do you get people to pay attention to you and to engage with you so that you can create a movement that helps people solve problems in their lives, make a difference in the world? We all talk about making a big dent in the universe. Well, Liz is the one who knows how to do that, and she’s going to be sharing it.

Fred Diamond: Liz, I’m excited to find out, first off, what is your position on LinkedIn? Like Judy had just alluded to, I run the Institute for Excellence in Sales. I basically do six, maybe seven posts a week, and at least four of them are on sales. Something to do with business to business sales, either women in sales, or sales leadership, whatever it might be. I am also personally touched by Lyme disease. I actually wrote a book called Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know. I devote at least one out of every five LinkedIn posts that I do to awareness of tick-borne illness, and it’s definitely raised my profile in various places. Tell us about you. What is your position? How did you grow? Not just logistically how did you grow, but who are you on LinkedIn? Let us know that, and then tell us, how did you grow this massive audience?

Liz Leiba: That’s such an amazing question, and it’s something that I get asked a lot. I’ve done a lot of media with New York Times, and Forbes, and Time Magazine, and it’s always coming up like, “Whoa, how did this happen?” It really happened by accident, but there is a way to be intentional and purposeful in doing it. That’s why I was so excited and thrilled to join Judy in sharing this knowledge. How the journey started for me was that I am a veteran educator. I’ve worked in higher education for about 20 years, and as I was sharing with you before, I started in the admissions department and then worked my way into a faculty role. Did faculty, taught for about a decade, and then also became the Director of Instructional Design and Innovation for a career college here in South Florida. That pretty lengthy career in higher education.

I literally really wasn’t using LinkedIn per se for career growth. It was really just for networking and connecting with other people, just learning more about instructional design. Since I came from the faculty side of it, I really wasn’t necessarily a trained instructional designer. I started working as a faculty member and wanted to transition into developing curriculum and was happening to just do some networking. 2020 happened and it was like, “Okay. New Year, new me.” Then Pandemic, and then George Floyd’s murder. I started to feel very insulated. I was home, wasn’t necessarily connected with my coworkers, and just really started posting about everything that was going on. Some of the emotional wellbeing and mental health issues that we were having because we were sheltering in place, and how people felt about the protests that were going on around the country, and my profile on LinkedIn started to become one of a social justice advocate.

I’ve always been someone that’s very passionate about marginalized individuals, whether it be students, I worked as the editor of the newspaper for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I’ve always had this passion inside for, how do we make sure that all voices are heard? That was what I started to talk about on LinkedIn in 2020. How do you leverage your voice? How do you make yourself heard? To be honest with you, I really didn’t have a strategy. I more wanted to just get that message out there that as an educator, I felt like it was my role to educate, to really talk to people, and that message just started to resonate. People started to follow the posts, people started to engage with the posts. People started to really thank me for expressing how they were feeling and for being a voice for people that hadn’t felt heard before. That’s literally what I’ve done.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that for a little bit. Let’s dispel some myths, or let’s confirm some myths. A lot of people think LinkedIn should just be about business and business improvement, et cetera. You just talked about how you grew your presence by talking about social injustice, et cetera. Like I mentioned, one of every five posts I do is on Lyme disease. I don’t own a Lyme clinic, I’m not a Lyme doctor, I have a book, but all the proceeds are going to charity. I’m trying to get the word out about this horrific and horrible disease. Liz, why don’t you go first, and Judy, you could chime in, about using the platform for whatever’s appropriate?

Liz Leiba: I think whatever’s appropriate is whatever touches you. I think sometimes for me, when I was talking about social justice, it does intersect with education because we’re thinking about how to serve the community, and that is students oftentimes that are first generation, students that maybe haven’t been served properly in high school and now they’re transitioning into college. There were things that were related to my career that I talked about, but I think that there definitely is a myth, and things have changed a lot since the pandemic, that LinkedIn only has to be business oriented. What we’re seeing, obviously since all of us have been sheltering in place, a lot of us are working from home now. Even now that the country’s opened up, we still are seeing that we’re doing a lot of Zoom calls where we’re interfacing with people more online than we ever have before, that people see there’s a blurring of the lines between work and between some of the things that are happening in our personal spaces. Whether it’s raising children, whether it’s navigating taking care of elder family members, whether it’s navigating anything that’s happened in the workspace, it also is blending into that work from home environment. I think LinkedIn has become a place that’s become more open to talking about issues that not necessarily are only relegated to the office space, because our office spaces are now our home office spaces.

Fred Diamond: Judy, what do you think? Then, Liz, I want to ask you about the famous LinkedIn algorithm. Every day I see a post on how to figure it out. I just did a post last week that had 30,000 engagements, and then the next day I did a post, the same exact concept, had 3,000. I don’t know how this one particular post sprung up to 30,000. But, Judy, what are your thoughts on what Liz was just saying about LinkedIn as a platform? For the people listening to today’s podcast or reading the transcript, how should they be thinking about using LinkedIn to move their agenda, career, whatever it might be, forward?

Judy Schramm: When we design a brand for an executive, we do branding blocks that are around work, for sure, because that’s what’s paying the bills. But we also look for them to have a cause and share something personal. The interesting thing is that LinkedIn is a human-to-human network. It’s about personal connections. Although the goal is business for most people, the personal connection is built on understanding what motivates that person and creating trust. When you have a cause, something that you are truly passionate about, that really has meaning for you, like the Lyme disease, like racial injustice, that helps people understand who you are and that builds a closer relationship. What we see when we do LinkedIn for our clients is that very often it’s these personal posts, these heartfelt posts, that get the greatest engagement. It’s an important part of building your personal brand.

Fred Diamond: Liz, before we talk about the algorithm, I just want to follow up with something that Judy just mentioned. Again, I do one out of every five posts on Lyme disease to bring awareness to a disease that affected my family personally. I get no pushback. When I do sales posts, I get 0.0 pushback. I don’t have any haters, I don’t have any trolls, but I’m out there with the Lyme disease, I’m vulnerable, if you will, but no one’s going to be anti-Lyme disease. The topics that you’ve grown your presence with can be controversial, right? I have to imagine that you’ve come across haters, and trolls, and et cetera. How has that journey been?

As a follow up, now you’re here, now you have this presence that you didn’t have two years ago. People are looking at you in a way that you probably never imagined that people would be looking at you, in the hundreds of thousands. Tell us about, again, the haters and trolls, and then about you being up there. How does that feel, and how do you handle that? Because if people who are listening, if we’re telling them, “Hey, create this magnetic environment for yourself,” that’s not for everybody.

Liz Leiba: That’s a really good question. The haters and the trolls, I think because racial equity, social injustice, even sometimes thinking about LGBTQ issues, which I post about, mental health and emotional wellbeing, some of those tend to have been taboo subjects, but we know with everything in terms of the focus on social justice and equity in the country over the past two years, that those are issues that really affect the workplace. Definitely it’s something that needs to be spoken about, and some of these issues, emotional wellbeing, mental health, we’ve all seen how sheltering in place for two years has affected a lot of people and the stressors. I do get trolled, I do get people that push back on some of these issues.

I got some advice from a mental health advocate, he works out of California. His name is Maagic Collins, and I will never forget this. He just said, “You want to educate people, and a lot of times people are pushing back and you’re trying to give them facts. You’re trying to dispel some of that pushback.” He said, it’s almost like the analogy of put the mask on yourself first, “You really want to help people, but at the end of the day, you really have to maintain your own emotional wellbeing and your own mental health.” A lot of times the trolling and the things, the pushback, I just understand that everyone’s coming from a different place and space. It’s just like the classroom, not everyone is going to be able to be an A student. It’s just like, “I want to help everybody, but I have to be mindful of the bandwidth that I have for everybody.” I just look at it like that. I just look at it like, “Well, those are the breaks.”

Sometimes you’re going to have a student sitting in the back of the classroom on their phone, and it really doesn’t matter how much you do, that person may be going through something and they’re just not able to commit to learning at that point in time. I look at trolls the same way, haters the same way. That person’s not open right now. It’s not my job to educate everyone, and I just try to maintain my own mental health and wellbeing as much as I possibly can.

As far as how people look at me, I think that I definitely would never have imagined this two years ago. I’ve been interviewed by major outlets all over the country. I’ve been able to have a podcast with EBONY Podcast Network. I’ve been interviewed. I’ve had a CNN op-ed piece, I’ve written for NBC. I’ve been interviewed by New York Times and Forbes. I’ve done a lot of things that I didn’t ever think I would do. It definitely does bring a whole level of attention that I didn’t think that I would have. But I also know that it’s an amazing opportunity. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to leverage my voice. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to inspire other people. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to also help other people feel seen and heard. I embrace it because I know that even though it’s something I didn’t expect and I didn’t really anticipate, it’s something that I love the opportunity to help people. I’m a helper at heart, just from being in education, so it’s always my goal is to, how can I use what I have to help other people get better? Just like I would do in the classroom, “Okay. I have this knowledge. What can I do to help you get better as well?”

Fred Diamond: Judy, a follow up to you based on what Liz just said. Judy, here it is. We’re doing today’s show in the fall of 2022. You would think by now that everybody who’s going to be on LinkedIn is on LinkedIn. They’re not. You’re doing this program, you constantly find new customers, CEOs who have the need to have a deeper presence. They’re probably not going to get to Liz Leiba’s level, if you will, but they’re going to reach out and participate in this program because they want to make their voice more heard, and they want to have a deeper presence. A couple of answers here, what is the value for a CEO to strive to have 100th of the success that Liz has had?

Judy Schramm: What I see with CEOs is that they are passionate about their business. You don’t grow a business without passion. It’s too hard. You have to have that drive in your gut that gets you over all the hurdles. You have to be passionate about your cause. You have to be passionate about your solution, about your customers. There is actually a lot for founders and CEOs to work with. Now, are they going to have the same success that Liz has had? We don’t know. But there are CEOs who have extremely large audiences. The thing that I want to mention in particular is that one of the things that I see is lots of times, women in particular are reluctant to put themselves out there on LinkedIn and in social media in general. Part of that is the haters and the trolls, because we all know that women are so subject to haters and trolls, and that they can be absolutely awful. But here’s the thing, like Liz said, you can’t make a really big difference in the world without taking some risks and without putting yourself out there. When you have the courage to take that big step and say, “I’m going to do it,” like Liz did, it was not pain free, right, Liz? But it was worth it, right?

Liz Leiba: It was definitely worth it. When you’re thinking about working with CEOs, thinking about people that are leaders, thought leaders in their industry, they’re passionate about what they stand for, they want to make sure that people embrace that message. They know that their brand is important, their product, their service, whatever. They’re trying to help people to understand the importance of what they’re bringing to market, what they have to offer, all those people are on LinkedIn. All those people, if they’re not on it, they should be on it. Sometimes they’re on there, but they’re not posting, they’re not engaging. There’s a ton of opportunity to connect with people that you don’t know that you would have the ability to reach. You’re not going to have on Facebook, you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with your family and friends, people you went to high school with. The ability to connect with leaders and people that are really movers and shakers in society in the world globally is on LinkedIn. There’s a ton of opportunity.

I shared a story, Fred, with Judy about a CEO for a major technology company. We all used their products. He had looked at my profile a couple of times and I just reached out and I was like, “Hey, do you want to do my podcast?” I had an education podcast at the time, it was way in the beginning of 2020. He was like, “Sure.” Later went on to actually fund a scholarship fund that I had at established at Spelman College for $25,000, which I was thrilled by that, because if not for that interaction and engagement on LinkedIn, I never would’ve even met this person.

This idea that we don’t want to put ourselves out there, the first thing he said when we connected was, “I am a fan of your content.”

We are not going to be able to make those connections, and as a woman, it is difficult to put ourselves out there. A lot of times we’re hesitant, we don’t want to bring that attention to ourselves. But Judy hit the nail on the head, the opportunity, the growth, the ability to leverage your career and skyrocket your career beyond a doubt, it’s way worth it, even if you count some of the negative interactions. I would say by far, the negative interactions are minuscule compared to the amount of opportunities and doors that have opened for me since being active on LinkedIn in the past two years.

Fred Diamond: When people ask me, “What is one thing you would suggest that I do to become better or more successful at sales?” I always say, “Become an expert in your customer’s industry.” First thing I would do is become an expert in an industry, and then you become trusted, et cetera. LinkedIn is a great way, and I don’t see a whole lot of salespeople doing this. Salespeople should be talking about some of the things, and I don’t mean repost your company’s press release. I mean you should be writing about things to show that you really understand the challenges that your customer’s facing.

Let’s talk about some of the things that people can do. Again, we talked about it briefly before, the A word, algorithm. People are always wondering, and it’s a mysterious thing. Liz, tell us some of the nuts and bolts that you did to get to that level that salespeople listening to today’s podcast can also do?

Liz Leiba: It’s an amazing question, and I get this question a lot myself. The algorithm, “The algorithm is blocking me. The algorithm might hold me back. I have to post at a certain time. I have to post certain types of content. Is there a magic formula?” I always tend to tell people, just post from your heart. I know that probably sounds, I don’t know, “That’s a little bit vague, how do I do that?” But I would say that authenticity really rules at this point, especially on a platform like LinkedIn. I think that the people that use LinkedIn are more savvy. I look at it like a sales relationship.

If we think about the analogy of a sales relationship, we start out by engaging with other people’s thoughts. Like listening, what are you looking for? You listen really more than you speak in the beginning of that sales relationship, building that rapport. I think a lot of times in terms of the algorithm, people feel like, “I have to post content between 10:00 AM and noon. I can only post that time of the day. I can only post a certain type of content.” Really a lot of that mythology I found, I’ve done about 1,500 pieces of content over the past two and a half, some odd years, and I found that for the most part, there are certain things that the algorithm on LinkedIn does prefer. They were pushing at one time polls. Polls really were highly ranked on the algorithm, for example. A lot of that has to do with dwell time.

If something has a high amount of dwell time, like a poll, then typically it will do well. But if it’s not a very well written poll, then it’s still not going to do well because the savvy LinkedIn user is like, “Do I like eggs or do I like bacon? I’m not going to participate in that.” You also have to take a lot of this stuff about the algorithm with a grain of salt. For me, I found that when I was the most successful, I just posted every day. I just posted consistently. I showed up, I engaged with other people’s posts. I didn’t really have a strategy as far as what type of content. I just felt as though authentic content that I knew would resonate with my followers because I had been already engaging with those followers. It’s almost like being a salesperson, again, when you think about pain points. If you’ve talked to your client, then you know what the pain points are. You’re not going to go in there and start talking about something and the client’s like, “I didn’t even ask for that.”

It’s the same thing when you’re developing content on LinkedIn. If you’ve already been engaging in the comments of your followers, people that are in your industry, you know what people are talking about. It becomes easier to craft a message that was going to be well received. A lot of times people say, “It’s a great content, I put it out there and it was crickets.” But is it great to people that you’re trying to target? Because if you’re putting out random content that you feel is great, it’s just like me as a salesperson. I was telling Judy earlier, if I’m selling a car and I’m talking about horsepower, but that person has a child, a toddler, they might want to know, “Can I put a car seat in the back?” Then you’re not going to be on message for that person. You really want to think about how to target that audience and be aware of what’s important to them as well.

Fred Diamond: When most people think of LinkedIn, they do think of it as a business network. Not just, monetize is the wrong word, but it’s like, “What is the purpose of LinkedIn?” When I’m on Facebook or Twitter, it’s different. It’s just whatever to show people things I care about, or celebrate a child, or acknowledge my sports team, or a comedian that I like or something like that, or a restaurant that’s local. Talk about you and this level, because people who are listening, they’re probably saying, “Gee, that’s great that she’s achieved this level. She’s had so much interaction. She’s a winner at LinkedIn, but has it helped her achieve her business goals or career goals?” How can you answer that question, Liz?

Liz Leiba: I think it goes back to opportunities. For me, the opportunities that were presented were things that I didn’t even know about. I think that’s another untapped or untouched, it’s something that we don’t really even think about in terms of LinkedIn as well. Sometimes you have the ability to make sales or you have the ability to create businesses that you really wouldn’t be aware of if you hadn’t tapped into that market. I think for me it became social justice and advocacy. I started Black History & Culture Academy, which is a subscription black history platform that literally came out of the idea that a lot of people were in my comments and they were saying, “I didn’t learn this. I never took a black history class. This isn’t something that was required when I was in high school.” I have about 200 subscribers on my platform now and I’m converting 16% of the visitors that come to that platform because of the fact that I saw an untapped market and I was like, “Wow, I do this for my job. I create curriculum, I develop online classes for my job. I can have my own business where I create an online platform and people can go in and take short module courses, very short little distance learning courses about black history and culture.” That’s been really successful.

The same thing with the podcast. I love journalism. I went to a school for journalism, but I happened to go into education. I teach writing, so I teach creative writing, but higher education was really my field until I was approached by EBONY and they asked me did I want to host the podcast, and I was like, “Sure.” Media is actually my first passion, my first love. That actually became a job opportunity and an ability to create a platform that I didn’t even know about because they saw my branding on LinkedIn. I think that yeah, there is an opportunity to use your brand and leverage that brand not only for thought leadership, so people could know, “Hey, this is the go-to person,” but also to find untapped particular job opportunities or business opportunities that you didn’t even know or weren’t even aware of as well.

Fred Diamond: Judy, I want thank you for introducing us to Liz. Liz, this has been fascinating. Congratulations on your success. Judy, congratulations, of course, on all of your success with ProResource. You’ve provided tremendous value to CEOs and business owners that are looking to utilize LinkedIn and other social media to take their business and their lives to the next level. Good for you both. Judy, once again, thanks for all the help you’ve brought to the institute over the years. It’s been extremely appreciated and we’re grateful to have you into our network. It’s time for final thoughts. You’ve given us both some great ideas. Judy, give us one specific action item people should do right now after listening to the podcast to take their sales career to the next level.

Judy Schramm: If you’ve got a lot out of today, if you enjoyed listening to Liz, you need to come and listen to the two LinkedIn lives that Liz and I are doing, where we talk about this program. It’s a yearlong program and you are going to have so much opportunity to work directly with Liz and hear from her and really dig into the nuances of what it takes to build a massive audience, a massive engaged audience on LinkedIn. We’re going to put those links in the show notes.

Fred Diamond: Liz, how about you? Bring us forth, you have so many great ideas, give us one more specific action people should do right now to take advantage of LinkedIn, to optimize it in ways that they’ve never thought they could.

Liz Leiba: I think just get started. That literally would be my call to action. I think sometimes people get analysis for us when it comes to LinkedIn. They think about posting, they debate, they craft a post, they’re editing it, everything has to be perfect. I would say just get started. Just like anything else that you do, the more that you practice, the better that you become. I would say the first step, I always encourage people, it’s just to start. Don’t stand in your own way and just take that leap of faith and you just never know. It could bring you the world if you just get started with it.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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