The BusinessMakers Radio Show

Episode #468: J.D. Gershbein

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Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. It's guest time on the show, and I'm very pleased to have with me J.D. Gershbein, the LinkedIn catalyst. J.D., welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.

J.D.: I'm honored to be here, Russ. Thanks for having me.

Russ: You bet. Tell us about being the LinkedIn catalyst.

J.D.: Well, after a time, I learned that with so many people out there in the space now talking about LinkedIn and helping people - individuals and companies with the site - navigate it, etcetera, it became a situation where I felt sparking them to action was really what I was doing. Because it's our own take, in the end, that's going to determine our outcomes on the site. Some people just needed a little push, just a little bit of a reaction to get going. And that's catalysis.

Russ: Alright.

J.D.: So I decided to brand in that way, I guess.

Russ: Alright. Cool. And just to set the record straight too - you're not a LinkedIn employee.

J.D.: I am not. I'm not affiliated with LinkedIn in any way.

Russ: But you do make a living off of your expertise in LinkedIn?

J.D.: I'm a business consultant. I'm a business psychologist that uses LinkedIn as a vehicle to drive transformational change with those I coach and consult with.

Russ: Okay. So take me back to the beginning, when it dawned on you - "Wow. I like this. This is my expertise. There's a good way to do it, and there's a not so good way to do it."

J.D.: You know I've been doing it eight years full immersion, Russ. I never, ever thought that the work I was doing back then was going to be heroic in any way. I was very adaptive. Kind of a principle that's part of my platform is: we all have to manage change. All social media is about managing change.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: And when I saw this - and I was bound to see it anyway - it was right at the start of the recession, and I was competing for work, like a lot of people in marketing communications. And this dovetailed perfectly with what I was doing. I was writing website copy at the time, doing marketing collateral - brochures, annual reports, whatever I could write for companies, who didn't have the budgets to pay me. So I saw this thing at the right time, and I approached it very optimistically. Never let a negative thought enter my head as I went through it.

Russ: That's good.

J.D.: Just saw the good in it right away, saw how this thing could drive business, and how it could be powerful and make an impact.

Russ: What's interesting about it, to me - you mentioned social media. And social media's all around us. But generally speaking, when people talk about social media, they mention Twitter and Facebook. Now granted, when you get into the corporate world, there's a lot more registered users in LinkedIn. But how does it compare? Where does it fit?

J.D.: I think there's a lot of stress out there now. People feel like they have to be out on these platforms. They must, or they will not survive.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: And they have to be on all of them.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: But we're really taught now, in social, to be where our people are, our customers are.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: You don't have to represent on all of them. You can if you want. But then there's more management and more wear and tear involved. But LinkedIn is LinkedIn. It is where business people live. And if you're going to represent - from a professional standpoint, as an individual, a company, an enterprise, an organization - you have to be on LinkedIn at this point. It's almost a red flag not to.

Russ: Okay. For business people, besides those that have actually not gone in and set up an account on LinkedIn - so I'm talking about the people that have - what is the biggest mistake they seem to make?

J.D.: Well, there are a number of mistakes, a litany of mistakes. And I prefer not to dwell on the mistakes. Because they're not truly mistakes; they're just maybe errors of omission.

Russ: Okay.

J.D.: I think we're taught now to complete this document called a LinkedIn profile. We're taught to build and manage and leverage professional relationships. And that's easier said than done. So I think that you have to learn what you're doing, before you actually make mistakes. So my attitude, my approach is really to get people onboard with the concepts, the underlying principles as to how people connect, why they connect, what motivates business people today. Because the motivations are what is really going to drive your outcomes on the site. And just kind of get into the framework where it's all about putting your best foot forward, representing yourself, raising your self-belief accordingly, that you can do the work. I think LinkedIn is set up for everybody to achieve prolifically on the site. Those who want it can expect positive outcomes. Those who neglect it or naysay it or are skeptical - they get what they deserve as well.

Russ: Okay. Okay. So I think I'm okay with my LinkedIn profile. But I'm not active in sort of the feed mechanism of LinkedIn, like I am on Facebook. I have a BusinessMakers Facebook page. It's very active. How important is it to be active on the LinkedIn feed? And what are some tips you'd give us about that?

J.D.: You can have a great LinkedIn profile. But if you're not evangelizing it or attracting attention to it, you pretty much exist as a billboard out there in cyberspace. It's the interactive space. And by that, I mean the combination of what's happening on the homepage, the feed - the activity feed, as you say.

Russ: Right. Right.

J.D.: How you communicate internal and external to your network, and how you participate on not participate in the LinkedIn groups that will really drive your ability to communicate on the site. So when we talk about subtle shifts in conversations or starting conversations with people - everything in social now is about the conversation -

Russ: Right.

J.D.: We're really talking about the interactive space, and about reaching out and following up and circling back and posting and sharing content and liking and commenting. So there's this whole externalized component. It's okay to internalize. We can be LinkedIn profiles that just exist on the site. But to really leverage it, in the way that I think was envisioned by the founding fathers of LinkedIn, we have to start talking. We have to start reaching out and communicating with other people.

Russ: Tell me the pros and cons of the paid subscription versus the free subscription.

J.D.: Well, the con of the paid subscription is that you actually have to part with funds that you have. You can't keep them. You have to pay LinkedIn for the privilege of using the site, in a way that you can't for free. As I've noticed, through the years, the features that are more desirable, for us to really thrive on the site, now come at a premium. And if you're going to leverage the site, when you make the conscious choice that you're going to want to perform well and really reap the benefits, then you have to make the decision to pay. And, again, I don't get a commission off every sale I make for people who want to go to the premium program.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: But you'll discover you'll hit a wall very quickly, that you wish you had certain privileges. And you see LinkedIn taking you to the upgrade page more and more often, and you think, "Boy, I really could use that feature. I'd like to see everybody who's viewed my profile," or "I'd like to have more search filters available." And that's when the time to make the upgrade really presents itself.

Russ: And there are several levels of the upgrade. Right?

J.D.: Absolutely. And there are several different outcome driven levels as well. You could be a job seeker, a business developer, or just the regular business person - entrepreneur. There are ways to get value and benefits out of each of those programs. It depends on the tradeoff and how much value you attach to what you're doing.

Russ: Right. Well, give us a value of a subscriber that's a job seeker. What could they do by being a paid subscriber, as opposed to a free subscriber?

J.D.: Well, you're going to get insight into more information. You're going to just get more available to you. You're going to be more receptive to seeing who's viewed your profile. A lot of the overlap benefits are what drives the paid programs. For me, the tipping point was very easy. I wanted to see everybody who was viewing my profile, and I also wanted more information on third-degree connections, which were taken away from me. So the benefits to a job seeker are really from the research end. They're able to really get deep into the connections that they would need to make to drive into companies.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: And they have more search filters available. They have more - greater access to those who have viewed their profile, greater access to job listings. It's just the more easy navigational platform.

Russ: Okay. And when you said you learned more insight into the third-degree viewers, and it was taking away from you - meaning it was free in the beginning. And then that part moved into the paid category. And that motivated you to go ahead and become a paid subscriber.

J.D.: Yeah. Back in the day, LinkedIn was set up where you could do anything you wanted to accomplish on the site for free.

Russ: Right. Right.

J.D.: But nowadays, it's clear that LinkedIn is a publicly held company that has to produce revenue streams. And it's their sandbox, and they decided that they wanted to make certain features, that we once had free, now a paid platform. And we appreciate that. Because we want them to be revenue driven in their model system. It helps everybody.

Russ: Sure.

J.D.: But it's what we're getting. And when people feel that they do get a fair tradeoff for their money, they will see the need to upgrade. It's really something that they will make on their own - the determination on their own.

Russ: Okay. Well, what about setting up discussion groups and even company sort of LinkedIn pages, and bringing everybody together? How important is that?

J.D.: The company presence on LinkedIn is extremely important. LinkedIn has made changes prior to our taping. Weeks before this taping, they had removed the products and features tabs of LinkedIn company pages, which came to the consternation of the user base. Because they felt that they had something very fair and very robust stripped from those company pages. And it's still important to maintain a company page. We do this now through showcase pages, which are available on the site to showcase features. But they've also - as we sit here taping today, were in the middle of a systematic rollout of LinkedIn Publishing, which is a dedicated blog platform that will soon be available to every LinkedIn user, and give every user the ability to create content and publish content in the form of a blog right there on LinkedIn. So companies that were using these products and features tabs to really market internally and externally can now have more of a community outreach through people who can create specific content towards those products and services.

Russ: Really cool. I really appreciate you sharing all this. As you know too, J.D., this is a business show, and people are always interested in the business of our guest. You're a consultant. Are all of your clients hiring you to give them LinkedIn advice? And do you work for individuals and companies?

J.D.: You know I don't have a target market.

Russ: Okay.

J.D.: Sometimes when I tell people to focus on their target market, I should take a page out of my own playbook. But I work with opportunity oriented individuals in companies, who wish to explore the revenue generating potential of LinkedIn. I could be with a job seeker one day and the executive of a Fortune 500 company the next. I seem to be able to bridge all gaps and understand that if there's a market, if there's a transaction, if there's a buyer and a seller, if there is a connection to be made, I can help anybody on LinkedIn, regardless of their industry, regardless of who they serve.

Russ: Great. So if people watching right now want to get in touch with you, they can find you on LinkedIn quite easily. Is that the only place you're going to insist that they connect with you?

J.D.: Well, interestingly, it leads us to a great piece here on the LinkedIn profile. I have always visualized the types of outcomes that I've wanted. I subscribe to the power of visualization. So I transferred that to my LinkedIn profile content. And I'm pretty much set up for research on the profile page. And these days, it's almost a kneejerk reaction, Russ, that people are going to the LinkedIn profile before they're going to check you out on the website.

Russ: Right.

J.D.: In fact, even before a name search on Google, and because of LinkedIn's advantageous position with Google, your LinkedIn profile URL is going to come up very high in search. So I just said, "Okay. I know the eyes are coming here first. I'm going to make this thing really spectacular." And I did. I built out my profile page to what I feel is an exemplary representation of what I can do for folks. I speak to their pain points. I know why people call on me. I know what they're trying to accomplish by accessing me. And that's all laid out on my profile. So the conversations that I get into are warm. People kind of know - they kind of get this feeling as to what I do and what I might be able to do for them.

Russ: Right. Well, J.D., I really appreciate you sharing your story with us today.

J.D.: Happy to. Thanks for having me.

Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with J.D. Gershbein, the LinkedIn Catalyst. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio, seen online at, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.