The lifeblood of social media platforms is that they have democratized information and communication. For LinkedIn in particular, the idea was to democratize networking and career building.
None of this implies that everyone knows how to use platforms like LinkedIn very well, which is why Karen Yankovich is looking to democratize knowledge.
Yankovich, founder and CEO of Uplevel Media, a digital marketing firm founded in Toms River and with an office in New York, will present “Leveraging the Power of LinkedIn: An Interactive Workshop,” at the Princeton Chamber on Friday, February 23, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Cost: $35. Visit www.PrincetonChamber.org.
Yankovich grew up in northern New Jersey with educator DNA in her blood. Her father was the superintendent of schools in West New York and her mother was a school secretary. It was not a surprise to her that she went to school to be a teacher, and she earned her bachelor’s in education from Trenton State College (TCNJ) in 1980.
But, Yankovich says, she “decided on a better route” for her life. She had small children and found herself in sales and, later, IT at Verizon. When the kids reached high school age, she figured it was time to expand her professional horizons, so she took some online classes in marketing.
“I found out that was my sweet spot,” she says. Online marketing blended her “geeky IT stuff” with her educator blood and she soon found herself answering questions among friends about how to stand out and use the Internet for business building. Things really clicked when she realized she could charge people for her knowledge.
“When people start throwing money at you, it changes things,” she says.
She founded Uplevel Media in 2000. For most of the time between then and now, Yankovich blended traditional and online marketing into her services. In 2012 she moved to be a fully digital marketing business, concentrating heavily on getting people to properly use LinkedIn.
To get the word out about herself, Yankovich teaches seminars and conferences and recently started a podcast called Good Girls Get Rich — which, of course, she promotes through LinkedIn. She also leads free LinkedIn workshops (www.FreeLinkedInWorkshop.com) several times a month to let people in on some basic, usually common-sense tips about using the platform.
All that to make an important point about using LinkedIn: There’s no magic. It’s just talking to people. It’s just connecting with people. When Yankovich says she wants to liberate people’s minds about using LinkedIn for business building or job searching, she is really trying to get across the point that “everybody can do this.”
Start with 20. There is no single formula for LinkedIn success, Yankovich says. But that also makes it a lot easier to get somewhere than people often think. An easy start to building connections is to, well, ask.
Start by making 20 connection requests a week. “That’s not even a half-hour a week,” she says. Click the little connect button and see what happens. Often that will be nothing, Yankovich admits, but connections will start coming through. By the time you’re six months in, you will have way more connections than you think.
Once connected, keep talking. Making connections is a needed first step. The more eyes on your profile, the more people you have a chance of getting through to more people. But knowing people’s names is nowhere near enough. Yankovich puts out short blogs and videos, promotes workshops, and just plain chats with people because that is what keeps everyone aware of who she is. It is another common-sense step, but one a lot of people simply do not think to do.
Finding the right people to connect with isn’t rocket science either. Think about the old saw that asks you what you would do with yourself if you had all the money you wanted. This venerable old exercise is meant to get people thinking about their passions in life. Or, as Yankovich calls it, “their sweet spot,” that thing they would do even if they didn’t get paid for it.
Now apply that principle to LinkedIn. Think about the kind of job or life you want, if you could have whatever you want. Then connect to the people in that world. Surround yourself with people who do what you want to do, Yankovich says. Put yourself in their presence and talk with them. That, she says, is how businesses get built and relationships get made. You’re far more likely to get closer to the life you want if you’re among the people who are already living it.
But keep in mind that nothing is etched in stone. Humans do have a tendency to think things are permanent. Yankovich says that an important thing to remember in building your online personal brand — i.e., the you that you want everyone to see —can actually change as you need it to.
More important than consigning yourself to one permanent path, she says, is taking a good look at what you really want before you set out making connections. But if you adjust and tweak as you go, that’s fine.
Own who you are. One other nagging human tendency Yankovich sees a lot is that most of us don’t like coming off like we’re blowhards, and people often resist talking themselves up.
Building connections and a solid network on LinkedIn, though, isn’t about bragging, Yankovich says. It’s about owning who you are and what you can do. And when you start putting your accomplishments and achievements on paper, read closely — all that is telling you the stuff you need to tell other people.
Standing out on LinkedIn is about defining who you are, Yankovich says; about telling people what you can offer them. You can’t, for example, just say that you are a financial planner and expect everyone to be impressed.
“So are 2,000 other people in New Jersey,” she says. “But if you say, ‘I’m a financial planner who helps women over 50, now I’m listening.”
Standing out, in other words, really is as simple as telling people what you can do for them that is different (and better) than what everyone else is offering. Just remember that last part, Yankovich says.
“People don’t want to know what you can do,” she says. “They want to know what you can bring to their business.”