How do you create a head turning and engaging post? Gaetano Nino DiNardi, the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva, spills his secrets to having posts that can help you grow your LinkedIn network. Host Ben Baker and Gaetano produced a post with over 400,000 views between them. Today, Ben shares the mic with him as they talk about how Gaetano’s posts became Ben’s most popular content. Don’t miss this episode as Gaetano reveals his formula to earning more followers.
Thank you to my incredible audience for coming back week after week. You amaze me. The conversations I get, the emails I get at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com, ask me the questions that you have. It floors me every week and the insightfulness of this audience, so thank you for being part of this audience. We're doing something a little different. I saw a post online and quite innocently I said, "This is cool. I like this idea. I'm going to share this." This ended up being the number one trending post that I've ever had in my life times 10. We had 256,000 people view this post. I've got the originator of this post. The guy who created this post online, G DiNardi. G, welcome to the show. We’ve got to get into this because this post blew up. I don't want to talk about the post itself. I want to get into the why because of the why, what and how is far more interesting than the fact that you said you got 180,000 views on this. I got 256,000 views on a repost. All I did was share it but it's amazing to me looking at this and then going, "Psychologically, why did this particular post go so well?" Let me give you a little history.
What he said was simple. He says, "If you want to be valuable to people and you want to appreciate your own time and value your own time at the same time. When people send you an email or they want to have a conversation, say send me a question, what I'll do is I'll create a five-minute video or three-minute video or a one-minute video of response and I'll email it to you and I'll post it online as well." Not only does the person get it who asked you the question, but if you post on your website and your social media or whatever, there's going to be 50,000 to 200,000 people that have the same question that you're going to be able to add value to. I thought this was a great idea because you get many people to say, "Can I have five minutes of your time?" Those 5 minutes turn into 10 minutes, turn into 15 minutes, turn into 30 minutes. You so much more succinctly can sit there and say, "Let me create a video. If it answers your questions, great, if not, come back to me and we'll have a conversation." It's so much value-add for people that I thought it was a great idea and this thing blew up. G, welcome to the show. Let's talk about this.
Thanks, Ben. It's a definite pleasure to be a guest on your show. I appreciate that. I never thought this particular post would get the engagement and response that it did. Here it is, we didn't know each other previously and it led to us connecting and now here you go. I'm on your show. I'm going to get exposed to your audience, so when people think about, "What's the ROI of LinkedIn marketing? Why should I invest time in building a personal brand?" There's a compounding spiral effect that we'll talk about and this is one of those outcomes.
Let's get into the impetus for why you put this post out there in the first place. Before we get into dissecting the who, what and why. The question is what were you thinking when you put this post out there? What drove you to write this post in the beginning?
The opening line of the post is the best way to handle, “Can I pick your brain?” in 2020 is to respond with this. The reason why I thought differently about the question of, “Can I pick your brain?” is because I get that question a lot. I'm sure you do too Ben, and I know others do. First of all, it's a hugely relatable thing that everyone in business has experienced. The awkward yet you don't want to be a jerk by saying no question of, "Can I ask you for free advice? Can you give me free advice?" Everybody wants free advice. Here's the thing. The people that asked me, "Can I pick your brain?" I realize they want to know the same things. It's a lot of the same people asking the same kinds of questions. I've been watching Gary Vee a lot lately and when people watch Gary Vee, they get caught up in the excitement and the wow factor of his content. What I always try to do is I try to say, "What is he doing that I can somehow apply to my business strategy or my personal brand strategy?"
If you notice, one thing he does is he has phone calls. He takes phone calls from ordinary everyday people and he records them and he publishes him giving advice to people. I'm like, "He's got a million people asking him for advice." He has a great idea with this by taking that concept and instead of saying I'm going to answer your question in a vacuum, I'm going to publicize it, reuse it, gain viewership, gain a personal branding, notoriety, recycle and repurpose that content. We're in a content age.
It’s also at the same time not having to answer the same question 500 times because he's answered it once. He's recorded it and then put it out there. That information is now out there in public.
You save time. When people ask you about something, you record it once, it's out there in public domain, the next time somebody asks you that, you can send them a link. If you notice Gary Vee's content strategy, he's never posting himself explain an answer to the same question. It's always a different angle or a different topic. He's compiling our content library for free by doing this. Back to the original question of why did I decide to post about I can pick your brain? It was something that I noticed I keep getting asked about it. I know most people dreaded that question. They're like, "Somebody wants free advice from me." Others in the comments of this thread have said, "Why don't you send them a link to your consulting page and have them pay you for an hour?" I could do that. When it's a college kid, am I going to take money from a college kid? That's not right. That's where this whole thing started. I won't explain my tactics of how I said you should handle pick your brain yet, but that was the starting point of it. Why I decided to do it was because of that reason.
I love that because it's not only valuable for personal but for businesses as well because every company has got people to deal with, customer service, customer experience, challenging phone calls, tech support or whatever. How many of these companies are recording these conversations in a way that doesn't divulge the information of the person on the phone and be able to sit there and say, "We're getting the same question over and over again. If we created an explainer video, that was well done and answered the question effectively and posted on our website, it would allow people to have the answer without having to clog up the customer experience line with the same question 1,000 times." It's a matter of sitting there going, "Do it once and do it well." It may cost you $10,000, $5,000, $15,000 to do it. The amount of money that you can save by utilizing the time of those people for the new questions that haven't been answered before, the money keeps pouring in. It makes nothing but sense.
It's the gift that keeps on giving and there are so many use cases for it. You record answers to those, you repurpose them into FAQ content. The blogs, support pages, it’s a product, you name it. The repurposed content is not solely limited to brand building. It has multiple business applications and this is the point that made us start talking about it. When you think about it deeper, then there are many ways to get business value out of this.Creating digital collateral allows you to cash in on a favor with your LinkedIn network. Click To Tweet
I get it and my comment back was one of the greatest pieces of advice I've seen online and it comes at the end. Your comment was, “The best way to handle can I pick your brain in 2020?” It’s a great opening line. Mine was this is the best piece of advice I've seen for a year and it came right at the end of the year. We pick people's interest. I rewrote that five times before I posted it. In a way that said, "How can I write this in such a way that I can grab people's attention?" That's important because it's like the newspaper business, it's all about the headline. It's all about the subject line. It's all about how do you get people's attention? How do you keep people's attention? The combination of your opening line, my opening line, that it sits above the fold. It's what people see when they're scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook in 100 miles an hour and we all do. We all sit there with the wheel on our mouse going, “That's interesting.” For me, it was like, "This guy has created something that is definitely worth sharing. I want to make sure most people I know could do it." I figured 500 or 1,000 people see it. If 1,500 people saw it, I would assume that's a great post for me. The best posts I'd ever done up to this point was 25,000 people. It was extremely controversial. People took sides and it went nuts. I thought that's the biggest post I'm ever going to have. This thing hit 25,000 views in an hour.
You sit there. I looked at and I thought something was wrong. You look at it and you go, "What?" The bigger question is the ‘why?’ For something to go viral is great, but the important thing is what does it do for you once it goes viral? That is something that may be immediate, measurable or it might be something. In my particular case, it could be six months, one year, two years down the road before I see the cash out of it. Quite honestly, my views on my profile didn't go up dramatically. The number of new people that connected with me didn't go up. It wasn't hundreds or thousands of people then all of a sudden wanted to connect with me right away. What it did was it started some interesting conversations. I thought that was where the value was for me is I sat there and said, "This created some interesting conversations and it got me talking to people within the organizations that I would never have seen before." We took a look and we said that it was IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Ernst & Young and a whole bunch of different organizations, 300, 400 or 500 people from any of these organizations. All of a sudden, you're seeing eyeballs of people that never would have seen your stuff before. They're sharing it amongst their friends. The question is, what do you see? When you see something like this, what were your thoughts when this thing started going through the roof? What did you think the value was going to be to you in the short-term and in the long-term because of that?
The most obvious objection to this is you're producing content that has nothing to do with your company brand or your company products. What's the point? That's what the purists, the traditionalist will tell you. What I will say back to that is who do you know that talking about their company brand and product day in and day out that's getting engagement and that's getting a lot of attraction by doing that? I don't see that. For example, the company I work for, Nextiva, we sold business voiceover IP and we sold CRM software, Live Chat and survey software. A software that enables you to manage your customer experience, make sales and do support. It's for sales teams, support teams and business owners. We have a mobile phone app, we have a digital fax and all these products. The problem is that who do you know wakes up in the morning and says, "I'm going to browse through my LinkedIn feed and I want to see some information about business VoIP now."
I'm going to look for it. I need to go looking for business VoIP stuff.
I need to look at my business VoIP like, "Business VoIP is going to make me want to stop scrolling. Ten reasons why I should move from my legacy CRM to a CRM in the cloud or why I need digital transformation. Those are going to make me want to stop my thumb." I don't think so. I do a post about brand and I do a lot of product storytelling stuff. What I'm trying to get people to understand is that there's this concept called signal-to-noise ratio. I try to keep my signal-to-noise ratio at 5:1. What that means is for every one brand, product, feature, or I need the value from my network, I counter that with at least 4, 5 posts in a row that have nothing to do with me gaining value from people. That has nothing to do with me promoting a webinar, promoting a feature or this or that about the company. I try to maintain at least a 4:1 signal-to-noise ratio. Because what you don't want to get pinned as you're growing your network as a guy or a girl that wants to promote stuff, extract value and do things that are convenient for them but don't necessarily provide advice and different ways of thinking to the community. The reason why I believe this post is as good as it did is that it offered a unique and outside-of-the-box viewpoint on a hugely relatable topic. This is not a topic that many people have posted about. I couldn't remember any ‘Pick your brain’ posts.
If you look at LinkedIn, what you see a lot of is your typical sales versus marketing stuff, cold calling versus cold emails, best things to do with social selling, leadership, the ten ways to wake up before 4:00 AM and start your day with huge amounts of energy. That's a lot of sales content because you have mostly salespeople on LinkedIn. You see a lot of the same regurgitated stuff over and over again. Ways to hit your quota before the month's over. Ways to hit 100 cold calls in a day without wanting to take a baseball bat and crush your head open. The point I'm making is that there's a lot of sameness. LinkedIn has started to see a bit of a sameness effect.
If you can think of something hugely relatable and unique like the ways to handle can I pick your brain, which is one of the most common problems in business with a unique viewpoint on how to deal with it? You're automatically going to stand out more. Back to the final question of what is the real value of this? The next time I post something about like, "I'm doing a webinar with a couple of other people in the industry that are senior leaders at their companies." For example, I'm doing a webinar with the VP of marketing at G2. We're going to discuss 2020's best growth strategies. When I post about that, I'm going to get people to engage with that post and go sign up for that webinar. I don't post about sign up for my webinar all the time.
I'm already starting to get pinned does a guy that often will give value but will not extract value often. When I do have an event like a webinar, I am trying to promote a blog post or an eBook. If I am hiring, that's another big one. If I put out tomorrow, "I'm hiring growth marketers to join my team, remote positions available." I can guarantee you I'm going to get 8, 9, 10 respondents to something like that. The idea is to create digital collateral so that when you need to cash in on a favor, you can do that with your network because most of the time, you're giving value. It's like a bank account.
It's creating credibility. I'm with you as well. I work on a 7:1, 8:1 ratio, but I get exactly what you're saying is that I want to make sure that the vast majority of what I'm putting out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, whatever is value-added content that helps other people whether it's the stuff that I'm sharing. It's comments that I'm making on other people's posts, it's original content that I've developed, I want to make sure that it's designed to get people thinking and it's designed to get people looking at their lives and how they can make their lives better. I'm not a big believer of the listicle but that's another story altogether. You're right, when you do go to the well and you sit there and say, "I've got a brand-new course online. Our course is how to retain employees through leadership. It's online. It's at Courses@YourBrandMarketing.com." When I do that, you're getting 1,000, 2000, or 3000 people looking at that post and watching the video. I've got a new two-minute video that has over 1,000 views. You're getting that people looking at your stuff going, "he's already given me a bunch of value. He's already put stuff out there that is not for him, it's not waving his own flag. It's adding value to the community at large." When I do and raise my hand and say, "Could somebody please pay attention to me? I got something that I need to talk to you about." People are paying attention. I love that and you were banging on.
That's the name of the game. When you finally come out with that course, they're going to say, "Ben is a guy that has helped me before by being thoughtful, helpful, respond to comments, get good discussion threads going, seen as someone that's credible and cares authentic. I'll give this course a look. Why not?"
How deep do you go into the comments? My attitude is I respond to every single comment. If somebody says something to me and pings me in a comment, one way or the other, whether it gets physically pinged or they add my name to the question, I dove through the comments and did my best to answer every single one. If I miss one, it's because I've missed it. You do happen but you've got 50, 60, 80, 100 comments, you are going to miss 1 or 2 of them. I want to know what your thoughts are. Do you answer every single comment? Do you respond to people? I try to get people talking amongst themselves within the content of the comment.
Yes, I do. I respond to every single comment. In fact, all 300 of these comments on my thread I responded to, I missed a few that trickled in late, there's 4 or 5 here that I didn't respond to. I do respond to every single one. If it's a second-degree person that comments, I add them to my network and I personalize it. I say, "Thank you for your comment on my posts about how to deal with picking your brain. I would love to stay connected." That's it. You get the inbound too. When you get a post like this that goes nuts, I did happen to get a few hundred connection requests out of this. When I see somebody that is in an adjacent space to my business that would be a good person to add, I go and do that. Here's a perfect example. The latest comment was the Senior Vice President of Sales at iHeartMedia. That's a good person to know. I happen to be outside of my daily work with marketing. I happen to be a music producer and songwriter, which a lot of people don't know. I also have a podcast called the Musicians in Tech Podcast.
Now, I'm connecting the dots. Not only can this guy help me with ideas I have around music production, maybe getting licensing deals for songs, and getting songs in a playlist on iHeartMedia and etc. The way to ice break that is to get them as a guest on my podcast. He's a credible name, a senior-ranking person at a credible company that's relevant. These are how the dots are getting connected. I've committed to this process. I've been doing this now for two years straight. Three posts a week every week, sometimes more. I try to keep it Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we can unpack why that is. I do respond to every comment and I do try to connect with every second-degree connection that leaves a comment on my threads as well.
That's awesome that you do that because social media and what most people don't realize about social media is it is social. It's not about stalking, whether they say 5% of people that are on social media create original content. Over 90% of people just look. They don't post. They don't like. They don't do anything. They look and they read. They read voraciously. They don't even sit there and hit the like button. They don't even sit there and put interesting comments. It floors me because the reason to be on social media, for me, is the engagement. It’s how you connect with people, how you build this. I am a big believer of I take people that I meet on social media and I said, "Let's get on a Zoom call or why don't you join my show? Why don't we pick up the phone and have a conversation?" and get to know these people. There are some interesting things.
If you get this iHeart guy on the phone or you get them on your podcast, you can get to figure out why my iHeart account isn't working as well as it should be. That's a different conversation altogether. This is how relationships are built. I think that a lot of what the reason why this post did go viral is that you and I were both on there responding to people as they were commenting. I don't sit there and say, three days, a week or a month later, I'll go back in there and look at the comments. I'm looking at them on an ongoing basis, especially when you realize that a post is hot, when there's real engagement with it. It doesn't matter whether it's 300, 500, 1,000, 1,500 views or whatever, your post is engaging as you make it. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. You've got to strike when people are sitting there going and they're passionate about it.
Here's the thing. If you don't respond, a couple of things happen. People stop engaging in the future because they pin you as someone that never engages. They say, "He never responds. Why should I bother engaging at this time?" No matter how good the post is, that's one. Number two, you look like a jerk. That's plain and simple. Number three, you miss out on an opportunity to grow your network. If you have a simple one or two comment exchange with someone that is a senior-ranking person at a legit company, you lost out on the opportunity to add that person to your network potentially. Finally, I would say you got to make it a habit. One way that I do this more productively than most people is I do it on my mobile device and I talk into my microphone to answer. I use voice to text to comment.
I've got a few people that have started doing that with me and I like it.
I do voice to text in the comments. I will tell my iPhone what to say in the comment. It'll type it out as I speak it automatically. I don't have to thumbs or nothing. I'll do it while I'm on the treadmill or something like that and I'll go through it after work. I'll do them all in a row until I answer them and then I'll check back in later the next day or a few hours later. I try to do it all in one shot so that I'm not constantly checking nonstop. That's how you get the post to grow faster. That's what you’ve got to do.
When you said you do voice to text, there's a new feature out there on LinkedIn where people can leave you a voice message. I thought you were going with this is that you were leaving the voice messages for people instead of typing back to people. That's the next range of technology because it's not something that they're reading, they hear your actual voice. That's even more engaging.
You have to be connected with somebody in order for that to happen. If they're a first-degree connection, you can leave audio DM, which is cool. It saves time, it's a little more personal and you don't need to be stationary in order to do it. You could be walking, you could be on your way to getting a coffee, on your way to your next meeting and drop somebody a quick audio note. It's fantastic.An engaging headline makes you want to learn more, piques your interest, creates curiosity, but also outlines the problem. Click To Tweet
All of this is evolving and all the rules are changing and the people said they're going like, "The algorithm, it's keeping me from only getting 10% of my people looking at my thing." It is what it is and none of us can control this. The best thing that we can do is to be engaged with the people that are engaging with us. That's the lesson that I've learned from this. The more we can engage with the people that engage with us and not be worried about does your post see 10,000, 50,000, 100,000, a million people, whatever the quality of the people that you're connecting with. What are the relationships that you're building? What's a trust level that you're building?
Nothing more to add to that. You nailed it, Ben.
Is there anything that you saw within this post that brought us together that was a lesson learned for you? What are the lessons that you took out of this thing to sit there and say, "I could do this again, I could do this better, I could do this differently?" We may never get 250,000 views again. It may never happen again. What are the things that are the takeaways that allow you to be more engaging in a better friend to the people who aren't there in social media?
One thing I learned through this post is that there is a formula that works. This formula is perhaps the best formula ever. I never had a post go this viral. The only other post I had that went more viral was a video of me at the mall cold pitching random people in real life, which was hilarious. There was some comedy to that which drove a lot of the engagement. With this one, here's the formula. An engaging headline that is thumb-stopping or scroll-stopping, it's an engaging headline that makes you want to learn more, piques your interest, creates curiosity, but also outlines the problem. If you can state the problem, that is step one. My first line did all of those things. It created curiosity and it stated the problem in one sentence. The best way to handle can I pick your brain. Automatically, people know there is a problem, there's a solution coming to this problem, it's a problem that they have, it's hugely relatable and it's got my attention. Space, respond with, tell me what you want to know about and I'll make a five-minute video about it. Send me your top 2 to 3 questions and I'll answer them. What you've got is a short amount of time, it didn't take them a long time to see, problem, solution, right there.
The next phase here is why. The next line was, “Why is this such a genius move?” You're going deeper. You're explaining the logic behind why this is a great solution. Problem, solution, impact or why. The bullet points create the supporting argument as to why this, you should do this. Point one, you help someone without getting stuck on a call for an hour. That's a big one. People don't want to get stuck on a call for an hour. Two, you don't come across as a jerk for not wanting to jump on a call, so reiterating the language that people are used to seeing, pick my brain, jump on a car, picking, jumping.
It's the action words that people could visualize.
Using action words, continuing deeper into this. The next line was you get to boost your credibility automatically. Your perception as trusted advisor blossoms. People wouldn't be asking to pick your brain if you weren't legit. Making them think positively about negative connotations like the idea of can I pick your brain has always had this negative thing but spinning it to a positive saying if you do this the right way, you can become a trusted advisor and boosts your credibility. The last couple of lines of it was you get an excuse to create content, you can use it on LinkedIn, repurpose it on YouTube. It has all these benefits that come along with doing it that people don't think of. The last line was the comment section will become a treasure trove of awesome advice. An additional benefit that you wouldn't get if you "jump" on a call. The formula is problem, solution, outlining the benefits and spinning a negative into a positive. If you can have a surprise factor, a spin factor, clear, concise problem, solution, bullet points. There's not a lot of big blocky chunks of text in there. You can read this, digest it and get it within 10 or 15 seconds. That's the formula. I'm going to keep thinking about ways to do more posts like this because I know this formula now works.
I love it. G, thank you for being part of the show. Two questions. One, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
The last question I ask everybody as they roll up the door, they get in their car and they drive away. What's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
After they get in their car and drive off, I hope they remember me when they're going to do their next LinkedIn post. I hope they say, "That guy made a lot of good points about the formula to a great post and ways to respond without using a lot of time." Maybe try something from this conversation that you didn't think about before. What's one thing you can try, one of the key lessons or takeaways that you can apply to your personal brand strategy on social media. Hopefully, put it into action and see how it goes. Hopefully, it has a positive return for you. Think of me as the guy that helped you start getting a more positive return on your social media efforts and activity every day. That's what I would hope for.
G, this has been a masterclass on LinkedIn. I appreciate it immensely. Thanks for being an incredible guest. Thanks for being part of the show.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you, Ben. Have a great one.
Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker and Outreach.io.
Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter - he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged.
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