Looking Back on LinkedIn's Amazing Year and What's Ahead in 2021: Liam Darmody

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

LinkedIn's 2020 was stunning; more than 60 million+ additional users and its emergence as a truly social platform featuring content, connections, and conversations.

Like a lot of people, Liam Darmody jumped hard into LinkedIn last year. You only have to look at the 530+ posts that he published to understand his enthusiasm.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, Liam and I talk about how and why LinkedIn changed last year, how he approaches the platform from a content and connection perspective, and how LinkedIn will develop in 2021.

It's a high-level, strategic conversation about a platform that many people discovered or rediscovered and, in the process, saw amazing ROI.

If you're on LinkedIn, check out Liam's recently launched LinkedInthusiasts! page.

You're listening to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers insight, tools and tips from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches in twenty five minutes more or less. Linkedin has had quite the year, emerging as an engaging social platform that drives content, connections and conversations and shedding this reputation as a place for head hunters and job seekers. So how did this happen? To find out, I reach out to Liam Darmody, director of revenue operations for homestaff. Liam has established himself as a leading voice on Linkedin and as important a go to resource for people looking to capitalize on Linkedin. Given linkedin's wrote this year and how people are using it, I wanted to connect with limp look back and, as important, look forward. Welcome to marketing spark. Happy to be here, thanks for having me. First have you holidays, so I hope you're enjoying some time off before we get back into it next week. I am indeed same to you. I have taken the week to just kind of decompressed from craziest year ever and take it in and then prepare for the upcoming year, which hopefully will be much better. Can't really be worse. Right exactly? Well, if you both of us are half full kind of glass, whol kind of people. So hopefully it will be a better, better, happier and healthier year. So you and I spend a lot of time on Linkedin. It's been awesome this year and we're going to talk a lot about the platform and how it's evolved and how to get value out of it. But before we do that, when you're not on Linkedin, and it seems to be like you're on it a lot like I am, what's Your Day job? I've been in the technology startup seeing here in Washington DC area for pretty much my entire career. I graduated from college here in two thousand and five, started out as a recruiter at a startup tech firm and then went to work for a few different startups in the area and I've always kind of been the sort of Jack of all trades, master of none, so to speak, which is a good thing for a lot of startups because things change so quickly and you know, it's always kind of a moving target and you need people that can be agile and, you know, really adaptable. So that's kind of how I got into the role that I'm in now. I've evolved sort of over the years to be in revenue operations. Currently I'm working for a company called home snap, which is a real estate productivity tool for agents realtors. Were responsible basically there for aligning sort of sales, marketing and customers success and customer support teams, kind of like a project management functioned within the organization too. Great, great company, phenomenal culture. I love it there. You know, we're we had a bannery year this year and we're looking for a really great year in two thousand and twenty one. So that's that's been really exciting for me. Operations is a passion of mine because I like solving problems and I like people and I like communicating and collaborating, and that's really what operations is mostly about in my experience. So linkedin to me has been a very interesting place. Now, prior to the end of April, when I lost my job due to the pandemic, I didn't spend a lot I'm on Linkedin. It was a place where I would go from time to time, maybe if when I was looking for a job or just poking around. It wasn't a place where I look for content. It certainly wasn't a place where I had lots of connections, but most of those people I had met a conferences or had they were friends and things like that. When I was footloose and fancy free from an employed perspective, there wasn't many places to go. So for whatever reason I decided to check out linkedin. I got hooked. Like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time there and have really seen the benefits and as someone who liked me, spent a lot of time there and focuses on best practices and really how to get value out of it. What's your take on how linkedin has evolved this year and how and why has it become a social network? Because in many respects I think that Microsoft, which owned Linkedin, has to be surprised by how linkedin has grown and how people are using it. For sure. I mean I think, you know, there's so many stories of companies that are in the digital space that this was a banner year. Right. Bringing people together and having people you know relate to one another is something that if you if you have a platform that enables that, it's a really good thing. Two Thousand and twenty was a good year for those companies. You know, I...

...think was Microsoft surprise perhaps. I think there's always I sometimes say that linkedin kind of has a bit of an identity crisis because, you know, you've got this platform that was created in two thousand and four, so it's been around for such a long time. You've got seven hundred million users on the platform, but a fraction of those users are monthly active users and and even smaller percentage, you know, single digit percentage of users are creating content on the platform, and so there's this weird sort of stigma associated with linkedin where you're not supposed to post on there, you're not supposed to show emotion. Right, it's a professional network, you know. It's just put your resin part your resume on there and make sure that you stay in touch with people that you've worked with. But linkedin has has sort of coined the phrase join the conversation for some years now, and I remember when I first heard it I was kind of like what doing the conversation? What conversation? There's nothing right, nothing happening on Linkedin. But now it's really starting to sort of take stride right and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that people genuinely are becoming a little bit more comfortable showing their personal side in a professional, most social network, the fact that we are all hunkered down for the most part, you know, networking, and I mean I loved nothing more than being in the office and the Banter of the office and running into somebody in the coffee room or the kitchen and going to lunch with people, and all of those things that make the professional workplace somewhat personal and enjoyable are gone right like. You just can't replicate them really, at least not as not as effectively. To me it makes a lot of sense that a lot of people have sort of found linkedin and sort of discovered oh well, we can have those types of conversations, we can have those interactions with people on this platform and and really kind of get some of that water cooler banter. One of the things that I find interesting is the number of conversations member of connections and conversation stations. So the fact that you and I are doing this podcast is a direct correlation to our activity on Linkedin. We've connected, we comme at each other's posts, we go back and forth a lot and people's willingness to be engaged and, as important, to have conversations is really impressive. Like I've reached I probably had more than a hundred conversations this year via Linkedin as a result of Linkedin. It's been amazing, let's say. I've talked to people all over the world. But what I do wonder about is what happens when, hopefully soon, covid fades into the background and we start to go back to the office, even in a hybrid kind of way, when you do get that interactions with with your fellow employees, when you can go to events, do you think that what we're seeing on Linkedin today will continue? It's almost like we given each other permission to connect with each other virtually, and I think that's one of the most impressive things that's that's a good question and I know a lot of people are sort of thinking about it right now. Personally, you know, I sort of. I think about all of the other industries that have been impacted by technological advancements and the Internet. Right once people have a taste of what it's like to use linkedin in the way that you and I have this year, traditional networking just doesn't necessarily make quite as much sense. Right. It's a lot more labor intensive. You go to a networking event and you see maybe two hundred people and you walk in you're like, okay, well'm here for two hours, I can probably have a dozen conversations and of those dozen, maybe two or three turn into something that makes a lot of sense. And then you have to sort of think will who do I want to talk to? And you're scanning the room and it's just it's an old school approach, right. It's an INEFF and leave it to an operations guy to sort of figure out like that. That's inefficient. Right. You look at other companies, are other industries. Right, when you know, you started to be able to do online banking, people were terrified of online banking, right. They didn't want to have their details on the Internet. And and now, you know, when's the last time you went and saw a bank teller or you know, used an ATM hailing it. You know now that Uber exists. Hailing a cab with your hand just doesn't make sense. It's just why would you have to wait for somebody to drive by you and pick you up? Right? And I think that that networking is kind of like that, right, and and to take it a step further, linked in is essentially like the world's largest networking event. Right. It's seven, three hundred and sixty five, if you want it to be it. It has no geographic limitations whatsoever and...

...you have the added advantage of being able to learn a little bit about somebody before you decide to reach out and introduce yourself, and that is something that you don't get at networking events really, and that is where I think the real value lies. It is that you can sort of curate your own network and you can expand your network globally. Right. And as you continue with the work from home, that the fact that so many companies are comfortable with people working from home now, or maybe not comfortable but have to deal with it, means that you want to have a global network. You want to have more people that are in interested in the things that you are in different places, because geographic location no longer matters as much. It's not as limiting as it once was. So that's kind of I think people will continue to do it, especially younger generations, right. I think that's the other thing you've got. You know, people that are in their twenties right now going into the business world. They're used to living their life online. They're not used to holding back. I think that will actually drive a lot more conversation on the platform and utilization and I think those who participate are going to benefit but a bunch and those who do not are going to maybe regret it a little bit. The Oh, the one thing that struck me as before covid. I'm a marketing consultant and I have to do a lot of prospecting and meet with people, and the amount of time and energy that I spent meeting people for coffee. So you got to you got to get there, you got to do the coffee meeting and maybe it works out and you have a great hour long conversation, or maybe you're twenty minutes in and you're realize that it's not going anywhere or this isn't really a good connection, and then you got to come all the way back and it's two or three hours out of your day. And now I think about it and I do wonder whether I'll ever have a coffee meeting with someone again, unless they're a really great prospect and unless I gu's really somebody about a meet because we can do that, we can get this connection, we can really establish relationship. So a couple questions for you. Just shifting gears in terms of terms of how you and I use linkedin is a how long have you been active on Linkedin, and we can define active in different ways, and what's been your approach this year? Do you had you have you had sort of a strategy or has it just kind of evolved as as you've gone through the year? So I've been on Linkedin as long as I can remember. Really, I think I don't. I think it was created in two thousand and three and I probably was on it no later than two thousand five or two thousand and six. I suspect that I was probably on it in college, definitely in two thousand and six, but active the way that I am now only this year. You know, a lot of that stems from the fact that I I spent a lot of time on linkedin. I had my wife and I had our daughter in two thousand and nineteen, so about a year ago. She's born. In November I was at home and I was thinking, you know, I keep seeing all this content on Linkedin and I want to learn more about why this trend is happening and why people are taking to Linkedin, and so I spent a lot of time on the platform in that month kind of just absorbing and learning, and then in January my sort of resolution was to one of my resolutions was to just become a bit more active and build a personal brand. Right, you start hearing this term personal branding right, it's a big buzz word right now, certainly on the linkedin network. So I wanted to learn more about it and see if I could sort of take a cracket establishing one. I went all in and I sort of fell out of love with with facebook and Instagram, kind of just post pictures for my family to see, my my kids and whatnot, but linkedin was a place where I was genuinely finding meaningful information, you know, not just Forbes articles, right, like people thought leaders, people that you know. You've got Gary Vander truck posting stuff on Linkedin all the time because he's talking about how massive the organic reaches on that platform. You know, that's where he's sort of go to find information about things you're passionate about, and I think for people like myself, you know, that's really useful. Right, I want I want to be learning about things that I'm passionate about, things that I care about, and I like the professionalism element of it because it sort of is self regulated, because people don't want to see people don't want their employers to see them being jerks online, right, that's and and, yeah, and so there's a there's an element of you know, it levels up the content a little bit. Now, that's not to say that there isn't plenty of Click Baity spam content. That's that's permeating the platform, but for the most part,...

...you know, you just unfollow people or you know, you can get rid of that stuff, and so you can really curate your feed on Linkedin to be pretty relevant to topics that you care about in people that you care about, which for me, was really, really beneficial this year strategy wise. You know, I coined a phrase, which is which is pace equals growth, and that's patients, authenticity, consistency and empathy equals growth on Linkedin and and, you know, putting out content not overthinking it too much, right. I think that was something that I struggled with a lot in the beginning. What are people going to think? And and not having to worry about dealing with likes and things like that. Like it's so you see all these people that are getting hundreds or thousands of reactions and you're like, I want that to happen to me, but you have to have patience, right, it has to happen gradually and you have to kind of establish the things that you care about and establish your voice, and so that's very much with two thousand and twenty has been for me. It's a been a bit about finding out, you know really, what are those things that I care the most about from business standpoint? And for me it's it's emotional intelligence, it's leadership and empathetic management. You know that, the human and human resources and and it's it's personal branding and linked in connection and connecting with other people. Those are the three things that I kind of have honed in on myself this year and all of my topics in some way, shape or form. The content that I create relates to those I've posted. I think five hundred and thirty five posts in in a year, which doesn't feel like that much, but I kept I guess it is, and it's just, you know, it's really I say, it's like replace Netflix and chill like. Sometimes I'm just linked in and chill, or I'll be Netflix and chilling and I'll have linked in on in front of me and I'm doing two things at once and sort of digesting content. So it's become a hobby for me this year and that's what on about it. Yeah, and I think what's interesting to me is the content creation side, and you mentioned the fact that you've posted more than five hundred times. From the outside looking in, for a lot of people that's astounding. They're like you. You spent that much time, you wrote that many words for a linkedin. And when you're in the midst of it and you're having these conversations and you're posting things that you don't really like, sometimes you snap something off and sometimes it's a big thing. And I just find Linkedin to post on linked to relatively easy. Now, keep my mind I'm a writer by profession. I spent fifteen years as a reporter. So writing two hundred words in a per linkedin post is pretty easy. I mean it's you know, I can breathe and writewo hundred words. Now, whether those words are any good, that's something that other people can decide. The content creation inside of it is really interesting to me because you've got people like Dan Sanchez that advocate that you've got to post every single day, and not only that, you got to post more than once a day. That's a lot of work. I do curious about your approach to content and and what you think about how people should approach content overall, because if you're not really into linkedin and someone says you got to post every day, that can be pretty intimidating. You know, at the end of the day, I think it's really about not overthinking things, right and and it's hard because there's that stigma associate with. People think about linked in differently than they think about facebook or instagram or snapchat, right. You know, back in the day people would post multiple post to facebook every day and they wouldn't think twice about it. But there's all this pressure on on people to create the right content or content that their employer approves of or whatever, and so I think that that is a big piece of it. Right you want to be able to figure out what you I call it finding your why right, like why are you trying to be on Linkedin? What are you trying to accomplish? What are your expectations? Do you want to be a thought leader in your space that just, you know, is constantly cranking out content related to that and then getting followers? Do you want to just showcase how you think for potential employers to get more familiar with you, you know, if they're interested in learning about you? Do you just want to have a place to go and digest information? That's okay to write. There's no right or wrong way. I think that's the thing. Right like it depends on what your goals are and what your expectations are. And for me, what I noticed is that I start it to use linked in as a as an infotainment source. So I would learn information on Linkedin. I'd learned different perspectives about business and things that I care about. I'd learn from other people and that sort of ended up...

...getting me entertained and then, as I was on here, you know, engaging with people's content. You know, the comment section of a person that has a large following is typically a pretty fun place to be. You can see all sorts of different perspectives. It's literally like a conversation. Right, I kind of view each post on Linkedin is it's like little micro networking event, so to speak, or micro conversation, and and and that leads to inspiration, right. So you start thinking about I like to, I like this topic, and then I'll just have my running list of notes and it's like, I'll write about this some day or I'll write about this some day. And because Linkedin has that like, try not to overpost. You know, there's all that speculation about the algorithm and whether it dings you if you post to meet times, Etcetera. People think, okay, well, once a day, maybe twice a day, but not too much more than that. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea. You're able to sort of think about. Okay, well, I'm going to build a backlog of things that I want to post about as the inspiration hits. I always advise people to really understand what their why is. Find your why, find your inspiration, find your voice and then find your tribe. Let the rest take care of itself. That's great advice. One of the things I want to ask you about is the biggest lessons that you've learned about linkedin this year. For me, it's about conversations, because I think there's such a focus on connections and building up that connection count and it figuring out whether I should accept connections or who I should reach out to. The thing that I learned that's sometimes gets lost within the whole linkedin growth phenomena. It's a fact that turning connections into conversations and it's a simple act of reaching out to somebody like you and saying, Halium, I'd love what you're doing. I love the kind of insight that you're offering about how to use linkedin. Would you be open to a conversation? What has amazed me this year is people's enthusiasm and their willingness to talk, and I have yet to be turned down by anyone. One person turned me down and I knew that person and I was totally surprised. I was like, well, this is not the way that the game is played on Linkedin. My lesson anybody is will yeah, boo, exactly. Don't be satisfied with connections, because connections are are just one way to play the game. It's about the conversations that delivers value. So I'm curious about some of the big lessons that you've learned this year from from being on Linkedin. Yeah, I mean with you completely on the conversation piece. Sometimes it feels like linkedin is the dating site. Is the wrong analogy, because that's the antithesis of what Linkedin should be, even though some men or people forget that that's the case. It is an opportunity to find and meet New People and and develop relationships with people that you never would have known it existed otherwise. Right. I think the phenomenon is that we're no longer limited to our little bubble of who we come across, boss coincidentally, in our own geographic sphere. We now have the ability to say, Oh, I really like this person's like mark marks content really resonates with me. I'm going to connect with him. So I see it more often and then we have a conversation about some stuff and we go back and forth in the DM's and like it's like a friend finder a little bit. And and I think that in the same way that when dating APPs started, people were like, Oh, I don't want to be online dating, online dating, no, I'm not going to do that. That's pathetic, but Bah, Bah Bah. But now like nobody would think of going it good doing it the other way. It just the Internet helps you connect with people better. You know, linked in is helping you network and build a connection with people in a different way and I think as the world continues to evolve into a place where physical location matters less than skill, ability and relationships, that's going to be a pretty powerful thing for the platform. The lessons that I've sort of learned are that people want to be people want to connect, people want to converse, people want to relate to other people. Some people don't, but you know, most people want to have those conversations around topics that they're passionate about. You can't really get that on other platforms right because there's a discovery element that doesn't exist on the other platforms so much. Right on facebook you're kind of connecting with people that you know and like. You have the facebook groups, which are phenomenal. Actually like their groups or their groups functionality is way better,...

...in my experience, than Linkedin's. You know, you are able to find people, you know, you find your tribe. That's that's sort of the coin. That was was the phrase that was coined by Brian Shulman, who's like the video king of Linkedin. It's right, right, you find a little tribe of people that you you like to talk to and engage with and you enjoyed their content and they enjoy yours, and that's really great. I get some on the flip side of that, you know, I think you I've learned that Linkedin is a business platform and there are a lot of people there to do business and a lot of people who are there to do business may just be putting content out or having a persona that there they know is going to generate revenue for their business, but that's not necessarily their intention, or that they're not necessarily there to be super authentic, or they're just there to sell right, they're not there to really make relationships. So it all depends that, that on how you go about finding people and relating to people and conversing with people, and I'm identifying what they're true authentict authenticity and their true intentions are. Yeah, and I think that's the thing about Linkedin for people who aren't on Linkedin yet, which is I mean there's seven hundred and twenty million people who have linkedin accounts, not to say that all of them use it on a regular basis. You really have to going back to your your why, why do you want to use it, and to figure out like how do you get value from linkedin? Get the most out of the time that you're going to expand on it, whether it's an hour or day or once a week or a couple days a week? I also wanted to ask you about something that you launched recently called linkedin enthusiasts. I guess you're up in your game or you're expanding your game or you're moving into new areas. Maybe you can talk a little bit about what is this thing that you've created and why did you do and where do you hope it will go? So you know, linked enthusiasts is a is a basically a page that I created for people that are passionate about the platform, like I am, and there's a lot of people like that out there. And you know, I think for me personally, Linkedin isn't the only thing that I want to be talking about every day. Right. That's not my identity. I care about start techt startups, I care about revenue, operation, sales, marketing, customer experience, like all those aspects of business matter to me a lot, and what I found myself sort of thinking about was, okay, well, how much time do I want to spend talking about Linkedin on my personal profile page versus a page that's dedicated just to linked in. All of those things come into play right you know you I'm not the kind of person that creates content ahead of time. I write down ideas when I have inspiration, but I don't create an editorial calendar. I know people that sort of sit down a Sunday and just bang out all their copy for the week. I can't do that. I'm not. I'm not that way. And so, you know, I sort of got to this point where I was saying, we well, how am I going to actually talk about the things that I want to talk about without feeling like there's an opportunity costs associated with it? If Liam Darmody is more than just linkedin enthusiast guy, that's wholium darmody is right, but linked enthusiasm is part of my part of my hobbies, part of my passion, and I think that's why I carved it out separately so that I could post more stuff about linkedin without necessarily taking over my entire profile as just the linkedin guy like that's not who lilium darmody is, just a piece meal. The ironic thing about writing about Linkedin is that people love commenting and engaging on Linkedin and that you tend to get caught in this is it's like a self fulfilling prophecy. If you want engagement, you post about linked in and around and around it goes. One ask you one last question. Early this week I talked a little bit about where I thought linkedin would go in two thousand and twenty one and most of it was focused around monetization, because I think Microsoft Linkedin has a huge opportunity to extract more revenue from from this business as the platform grows and some of the things that they'll that I think they're introduced. I think video is a huge opportunity for linkedin. I think I think analytics for personal accounts is huge opportunity for them to add value and maybe monetize it. And curious about how you think the platform will evolve this year and whether monetization will be something that it will pursue and whether you expect maybe enhance functionality. I guess a lot of people there's a lot of things that a lot of people would like to see. I mean, I do think that there's going to be a lot of evolution. If you sort of think about it, this new path of Linkedin. It's like being a...

...start start up with seven hundred million users and you're trying to engage as many of them as you can and you're trying to build as much engagement on the platform is possible, when you know the platform wasn't really originally created for that. So your your entire user base is not really accustomed to that purpose for your platform. So there's definitely going to be a lot of involve a lot of focus on increasing engagement on the platform. You know, the prompts that they have when you when you you know, get a message from somebody, things like that, like they want to have people on the platform engaging on regular basis. So I think you're going to see a lot of things like that. I have to also give a shout out to Andy Foot, who is, you know, Mr Linkedin sights. He is a phenomenal linkedin trainer and he had a post recently that was like his predictions for the for the next year. He's put a lot, a lot of thought into the platform for probably a decade. He's got a lot of great insights. I think monetization will absolutely be a part of it. Linkedin as part of Microsoft. The monetization is going to be important, for sure. How they do it, I don't know, and I think there's definitely plenty of avenues in which they can sort of squeeze more revenue out of the platform. For sure, I hope that they are able to maintain the integrity of the communication and the relationships that are on the platform, because I think that's where most companies that are in the social space fail, that they sacrifice the authenticity of the platform and the relationships in exchange for the AD revenue. And so I think maybe the fact that linkedin has been around as long as it has and is part of a much bigger organization that has sort of a longer timeline and a longer runway will give them the unique ability to approach that really cautiously, take it the right way and make sure that they're balancing keeping people that are interested in the platform engaged and also making money at the same time. Here one final obvious question. Where can people find you online and home snap as well? So linkedincom in, link to Liam is my url for my profile, Liam DORMANDYCO DOT COO is my website, just a personal website. And the linked enthusiast page on Linkedin is where I'm going to spend all my time nerding out about linkedin going forward. Awesome. This has been a great conversation. Like you, I'm totally all in when it comes to Linkedin got I've seen trementous R why this year and anybody who's not capitalizing on his potential is missing down on something really amazing. Well, thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you joined the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes or your favorite podcast APP. For show notes of today's conversation and information about Liam, visit marketing spark Dotcola blog. If you have questions feedback. Would like to suggest a guest. Want to learn more about how I help beedbe companies as a fractional CMO consultant advisor, send an email to mark a, marketing sparkcom. I'll talk to you next time.

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