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How To Build An Uber Successful Brand on LinkedIn And Take It To The Bank, With Donna Serdula

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Raj Girn: My guest today is Donna Serdula, the founder of Vision Board Media and the pioneer of the concept LinkedIn Profile Optimization, having also authored two editions of LinkedIn Profile Optimization for Dummies, no less. I can’t think of anyone more equipped to walk us through the behemoth that is LinkedIn and help us take full advantage of the platform.

Here is our conversation:

Raj Girn: Welcome to the show, Donna. What a treat to have you on to dummy proof us through this powerful yet still quite elusive to many authority and business building platform. Thank you for agreeing to be on on.

Donna Serdula: Thank you so much for having me.

Oh, my gosh. I feel like we’re going to have so much fun. But before we move through some of the questions that I would like to take people on, this journey that I’m going to be on with Donna today, I just want to preface the conversation a little bit by sharing with you all that since 2009, Donna has helped many executives, entrepreneurs, sales personnel and business leaders create professionally branded LinkedIn profiles globally. Now, with over 40 LinkedIn profile writers and professional brand experts on her team, she works directly along with her team, with clients, to make sure that their LinkedIn profile is as unique as they are and fully optimized for authority, building and business success and everything in between.

Donna, before we get into how you and your team do this, can you share how you came on to this niche?

Donna Serdula,
Credit: @donnaserdula.com

I joined LinkedIn back in 2005, so a very long time ago. Do you remember when you joined?

I think it was probably 2008.

So we’ve been on this platform for quite some time. It was established in 2003, making it one of the oldest social networks out there. But when I joined, I remember being promised leads and job opportunities and just tons of riches. And I remember I was confronted with what looked like my resume. So I just copied and pasted my resume into the profile.

And I remember being really excited and waiting for opportunity to hit me. And I just didn’t get any traction at all. It just seemed like a huge waste of time. And I logged off and my life started to change on its own. I got a totally new company, a new position. And this time I was in a really cutthroat, high pressured sales environment.

And that’s what led me back to LinkedIn because I needed to find a way to get past the gatekeeper. I needed a way of really understanding who I was going to be working with and seeing deeper into their their journey, as you know, in their career. But what really cemented everything for me was as I would cold call, as I was networking, I was always checking out who I was going to be meeting with or talking to.

And the only pertinent result that Google would ever pull up was always the LinkedIn profile. And each time I’d look at that LinkedIn profile it never really fed me. It didn’t give me what I needed to know about that person. And then I remember this one day as I was feeling a little disappointed in this profile and really wanting more information, it dawned on me, what does my LinkedIn profile look like? How am I presenting myself?

And I looked and my profile. It was my out of date resumé and it was not aligned to my target audience. It did not tell a story. It didn’t position me for success. If anything, it held me back because it really branded me as a job seeker, as someone from years before. And that was when it all clicked. And at that point, I realized this is something that people struggle with. This is something that even LinkedIn at the time didn’t even recognize that your profile is not your resume.

This should be your your digital introduction, your first impression. It really should be a professional manifesto, which should tell your story, but tell it in a really strategic way to your audience. Well, at that point, everything changed for me. I started to figure out how to optimize and I started to figure out how to almost hack that algorithm to make it work. And I started to find amazing success because it was suddenly colliding with searches.

[Your LinkedIn profile] should be your your digital introduction, your first impression. It really should be a professional manifesto, which should tell your story, but tell it in a really strategic way to your audience.” ~Donna Serdula

And people wanted wanted to work with me at this point. It was in 2009 I decided this is what I want to do. I want to help other people experience the success, experience this sense of empowerment. And I started my business. Back then I would talk about LinkedIn and people would think I was talking about Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. It was a different world back then.

Right.

But it’s really had so much staying power. And LinkedIn is so much more than it ever was. And I’m proud to be associated with it. And I’m proud to help people. We’ve worked with over 6,000 professionals and executives and entrepreneurs. I’ve got over 20 writers on my team.

My Gosh.

Yeah, we’re having fun and we’re doing some really amazing things.

Absolutely. Before I continue our discussion on your methodology, which I’m dying to get into, I want to do a bit of branding 101 with anyone who’s watching, listening and reading this who doesn’t know how brand building and optimization directly impact their go-to market strategy. And I always feel that tends to be especially with my clients.

And Donna, if I don’t broach that particular piece before we go down the road of why LinkedIn is so important and powerful in that regard, they don’t see the importance of LinkedIn, you know? So that’s the piece that I want to dive into next.

My question for you is really simple. Why is branding yourself and/or your company the important first step to client acquisition after product and service development? What’s your take on that?

I think with the world that we live in, with all of the information that is out there, especially in terms of we look at potential clients when we look at prospects. At one time they were they were knocking on our door far sooner in the process. They needed us to help them understand and provide the information and the documentation that they needed.

They’re coming in much later. They’re doing a lot of their own research. They’re doing a lot of their own due diligence before they start to even reach out to the provider or the solution or whatever it is. And I think that’s truly the Internet and Google and all of this stuff that we now just take for granted that we didn’t have. And if you look at that, people are doing the same thing with you. They want to know who they’re going to work with.

They want to understand who you are and what you bring to the table. And you have this ability to shape how people perceive you. You can truly control that perception based upon how you describe yourself. So you need to take control of that message and that story and put it out there in a manner that’s engaging and real and genuine and authentic. But at the same time, strategic.

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

Absolutely. And the one thing that’s really coming to me from how you answered that was just this whole idea that you’re branded regardless, like whether that brand is controlled by you or whether it’s being controlled by someone else. So the decision is in your hands which one of those two it’s going to be.

There’s so much talk about branding, Donna, and so many people get it right. But oftentimes a lot of people don’t get it right. I do want to broach that subject matter as well, because I feel it’s important to truly hone in on why developing and taking the time to develop your brand is so crucial before you put it out there on platforms and start to market yourself.

So I want to ask you this: LinkedIn has really become the forefront of authority and business building today. I mean, we all know that you have got to be on LinkedIn in order for you to get in front of decision makers like never before. And in order for them to take you seriously, you need to also look the part and be very clear on what you represent, which is where the story piece and the branding all come together when you deal with clients that come to you for your LinkedIn services.

Donna, what do you do to help them get that piece right? Because I feel that that’s important before you start putting the LinkedIn piece together. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

To me, the very first part of it is strategy. it’s understanding why are you doing this? Because a person who is on LinkedIn for job search is going to represent themselves and describe themselves in a totally different way than an executive who is doing it for reputation management and thought leadership or for an entrepreneur who is looking for investors. Those stories are all very different and the target audiences they’re trying to reach are very different and are looking for different stories and aspects of that person.

So, the very first part of all of it is understanding why are they on LinkedIn? Who is their target audience? I also believe in digging in deep and saying, if a person was looking for you, what would those words be? What would those keywords be that they’re looking for trying, hoping to intersect with you. Because most people don’t even know you exist. So how can we make it easy for people to find you and present you with opportunity?

So, the very first part is really understanding that with when we do our LinkedIn profile optimization writing services, we have a brand questionnaire that we ask people to fill out. And that’s where we start to really delve in to why are you doing this? How do you do this? What is it that you enjoy? What do you hate? It’s almost like an onion and we’re just peeling back the layers.

But what’s nice in terms of when we do it is we now have this companion, this huge amount of information. We’ve talked to the person and we just we develop it and I think that is a lovely thing. But when you don’t have that, how do you write about yourself? Because it’s so difficult. It’s really hard to write about yourself.

And that’s when you have to really push through that discomfort, that awkwardness and say, I’m going to stay in this moment of discomfort and I’m going to force myself to really think, okay who is my target audience? What do they need to know about me? I’m looking for a job. Who is that? How could I describe myself in the manner where I’m that perfect fit? And then just going through and in a very steadfast type of way, you’ve got to open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Absolutely. All of the above, guys. All of the above. Donna, what is it about the LinkedIn platform that’s perfectly positioned for authority and business building like we all know, that’s why we go there. Among other things as well, once we kind of really start taking the platform seriously. But initially speaking, most people go there to build their authority because if you’re a link to an authority, you mean something in the ecosystem of leads, right? And also to build your business network. So what is it about the LinkedIn platform that is perfectly positioned to accomplish that?

I think it’s the fact that it was built for a professional corporate career purpose. It’s never pretended to be anything else. It’s not Facebook to connect you with your friends and your family. It’s not Tik-Tok where you post silly videos. It’s not Instagram with the images. LinkedIn has its own purpose. And that is, it’s professional, it’s corporate, it’s career, it’s business driven. And when you look at the people who log in daily, these are successful professionals.

They are their leaders. They’re doing it because they recognize the power of their network. They recognize the power of tapping in and really getting almost like this injection of what’s going on, what’s trending in your industry, what people are saying for the professional development piece. It’s huge. So it’s the place to go.

“LinkedIn has its own purpose. And that is, it’s professional, it’s corporate, it’s career, it’s business driven. And, when you look at the people who log in daily, these are successful professionals. They are leaders. They’re doing it because they recognize the power of their network. ” ~Donna Serdula

And Raj, I will say this so often, I’ll hear from a job seeker I need to get on LinkedIn because I lost my job or I think I might lose my job or I want to make a job change. So I better get on LinkedIn now. LinkedIn is a place that you don’t go because you’re looking for a job or because you want to sell.

You go on LinkedIn because you’re curating and crafting a network. And when you do that and you do that consistently and over the long term, the funny thing is you become that person who doesn’t have to look for a job because jobs find you.

I love that. And that’s a very important point for everyone to note. I mean, oftentimes when you’re looking for a job, you think you’re going to find one on LinkedIn. And you’re right, that seems to be the ground zero for why people go to LinkedIn. But there’s just so much more to it than that.

Just as you’ve been mentioning a few of the pieces. I want to ask you this, because it’s coming back into my mind from the beginning of our conversation when you started to talk a little bit about your background, you became involved in the LinkedIn ecosystem at a time when the business networking platform was being a bit overshadowed by social media type of networking platforms.

And this is before the time that LinkedIn made a hard 180 on their networking strategy to include a social element also allowing people to have deeper network connections through some of the changes that they made that allowed them to build their market share back up, where today they are stronger than they’ve ever been, a force to be reckoned with. What did you foresee all those years ago that made you stop and say, I’m going to do this for a living that many weren’t seeing at that time, but in hindsight, we see today?

When I was in more of the corporate role, not the sales role, I had been given a project of developing and working on a CRM, a customer relationship management tool, and a Salesforce automation tool. And having that in my background and understanding how important it is to have that database of clients and the ability to record those transactions and those relationships and those moments. And that always stayed with me. And I remember the day when, and this was back in college, but I remember when I was laid off for the first time, and I remember them turning everything off. You know, my email went off, my address book went off, everything went off, and I was left with nothing.

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

And I had been at that company for four years. And to suddenly to be empty handed was truly a shock. And that stayed with me. Later on when I discovered LinkedIn and not the first iteration of LinkedIn, but, when I moved on and I was in the sales role, I suddenly realized, wait, LinkedIn is something no one can take from me. This is where I need to build and forge relationships and my network because they’re mine and then no one can take that. And I think that played a role. in my belief and my understanding of this.

This is the way to hook my horses to because I really want to provide that security, but also that empowerment to professionals that says, you don’t have to work in a toxic environment. You don’t have to just hand everything over. You can do so much more and you can you can now be successful on your own terms in a manner where the respect is yours. So it was the CRM, it was the database concept. But then you add into it the profile piece, the brand. For me, it was always a no brainer.

Absolutely. So let’s talk about the concept of LinkedIn profile optimization a little bit closer, Donna. You developed this concept and you’re the pioneer of this. And you also wrote two editions of this concept for the For Dummies series. That is impressive. And, by the way, it really does prove that you are the LinkedIn subject matter expert. So I’m super happy that we’re having this discussion with you, Donna. Can you break down the concept high level for everyone of what this is? What is this concept?

Sure. There’s two methodologies at play here. So first off, there’s the concept of the optimization. And that is simply with your LinkedIn profile, you need to know your target audience. You need to know your keywords. And you need to deliberately go through your profile and tell your story in an authentic manner that activates your audience, but also is infused with your keywords. So if a person is looking for someone like you, you’re more apt to turn up.

“There’s the concept of the optimization. And that is simply with your LinkedIn profile, you need to know your target audience. You need to know your keywords. And you need to to deliberately go through your profile and tell your story in an authentic manner that activates your audience, but also is infused with your keywords.” ~Donna Serdula

There are certain areas within the the LinkedIn profile that are more sensitive for you to search than others. So there’s the the headline, there’s the job titles. There’s even the company name field, believe it or not. There’s not only the about section, but the experience descriptions. There’s the skills area. But it’s that deliberateness. It’s that understanding of why you’re doing this and what your keywords are and working them in in a very natural, organic type of way.

And this is what you and your team specialize in doing.

Yes.

So many people underestimate the advantages of being linked to an ecosystem. I mean that it can be used. And I read this in branding, networking, research, intelligence and development. Can you elaborate a bit on how to accomplish this in terms of the tools available on LinkedIn? Because I really feel that anyone that is going to market it for whatever the reason may be, that they need to be on LinkedIn. But they oftentimes do not know how to fully optimize because they don’t know what’s available. Can we talk a little bit about that?

Absolutely. With LinkedIn and that profile, it’s amazing what can happen when you put that effort in and you think in terms of, what do I want? You know, what do I want out of it? Now, with that said, I think it’s important to state, it really depends on how you want to look at this, because you can look at it as an employee and you can say, I’m very happy with where I am, but I really want to be that brand ambassador. You know, I want people to to see who I am. They understand what I do and how I’m helping. So you can craft a profile in that manner that builds your brand, but it supports the company brand. And that can be very powerful as a player within that company.

You could just say, hey, I’m not really happy. And I want to create a profile that aligns me to something different. And when you do that, then the opportunity will start to collide with you. With our clients, we find that 80 per cent have a new job within a year from optimizing their profile. And oftentimes, the reason is they are now suddenly understanding who they are, what they bring to the table.

And other people see that and it’s attractive and they want that. And so there’s no easy answer to say this is how you do it, but it’s one of those things where you have to just get very clear on your target audience and what they need to know about you. You need to know how you want to be found, for what terms. And then you need to sit down and create that profile that positions you that aligns you to that future point.

What have you found, Donna, in regards to the different companies and people that you guys have serviced over the years to be some of the more common feedback about how powerful the platform is? Can you share some of that?

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

So many people have come back and they’ve said what shocks them is when they do make that change, and this is for those people who have been at their company for years, and then they look to see what else is out there, and they’re surprised that they’re making 40 per cent more. Why are they making 40 per cent more? It’s not that we’re these magicians, it’s just when you’re at a company for that length of time, those little promotional increases don’t equal the market. So they’re now finally getting what the market is already at.

Right.

So that happens a lot. What also happens is when you go through the process, you suddenly understand, wait, what I thought came naturally to everybody is actually a strength of my own. That happens all the time. I didn’t realize that this is special. I didn’t. I thought that was just normal enough. We’re able to to really say this is what differentiates you.

This is what’s special. This is your strength. This is a core competency. This is something that we need to talk more about. And and we’re not bragging. That’s the other thing. It happens with women all the time. I’m sure you hear it as well as much as I do.

Right.

But it wasn’t me. It was my team that did this. I don’t want to brag. I’m a lifted by the team that supports me. Yes, you are. And when we tell your story, it is your story and it’s okay. To be specific as to what occurred and your part in it. The nice thing is when you’re working with a writer, we can make that, we can create that nuance where it’s not so aggressive. But at the same time, I want us to be very clear that you were that catalyst.

That you did this, you did do these things. I mean, fact is fact. And I think the key with you and your team, Donna, is the fact that you guys have the art of knowing how to position it so it speaks to the authenticity of the individual and or the company that is putting themselves on LinkedIn. And that’s the key differentiating factor.

It is. I think a lot of people put themselves out there, just this is what I think I do or this is what I do day to day. This is what I do. And it’s saying, let’s take that step back and let’s look at it at a higher level. At a deeper level. And also, when we work with with companies, it’s understanding that there is a certain positioning that’s going to make that person more apt to collide with strategic partners and investors and not just recruiters. That’s the one part. We don’t always have to do it in a job search mode. It’s more of that brand ambassador mode.

Absolutely. You know, as you’re talking, a thought came into my head that I wanted to ask you. It’s this whole idea with people on LinkedIn or just this idea of LinkedIn in general that by default of being on the platform that you’re almost giving permission for people to solicit you, which is very different than being on social networking platforms? Right?

I mean, there’s this is kind of line in the sand between them and LinkedIn in how we feel. Okay, if they’re on their they want to hear from me. So there is this belief that that’s the case. So my question to you is this based on that? What are your thoughts on the nuances around the art of LinkedIn reach out? I feel that this is what decides whether people will or will not be comfortable with the way that you contact them.

It is true. There are people who get on LinkedIn and their thought is, just as I was saying, I need a job. Let me get on LinkedIn, I want to make a sale. Let me get on LinkedIn and let me pray and pray. I am so not of that type of of sales tactic. It may work in one out of every thousand you send. But gosh, the 999 people who have suffered through.

Right.

The mail, it’s horrifying. Here’s the thing with with LinkedIn. There’s going to be people who try to sell you and they try to sell me on Instagram all the time too. It’s no longer just a LinkedIn thing. It’s going to happen. Just as you go to your mailbox and you pull out some flyers, it’s absolutely immense. I think you have to recognize that as those come in, you’re also on the flip side.

Forging a network, creating relationships, educating people, inspiring people, adding value. And on the flip side, you’re being inspired and learning from your network. So are there people out there with obnoxious sales tactics? Yes. It’s also just as easy to hit delete and or hit remove and and experience the warm, beautiful uplifting side of LinkedIn, because I believe in my mind that’s the much larger area anyway with LinkedIn

“Forging a network, creating relationships, educating people, inspiring people, adding value. And on the flip side, you’re being inspired and learning from your network. ” ~Donna Serdula

And that’s the biggest payoff with LinkedIn. And the good thing is that LinkedIn also has this capacity where you can reach out to people that you don’t know. But there’s a way in which you have to follow those rules. So LinkedIn aren’t pretending that people don’t do this. They’re like, we know this happens.

So how do we navigate this so the person sending it and the person receiving it, that there is some sort of cohesiveness, some sort of guideline around it, which I don’t feel like, at least from my experience is available on the social platforms the way it is on LinkedIn. And it’s the difference between having a free LinkedIn account or having a a professional LinkedIn account. There’s certain differences that allow you to communicate in a more authentic manner. What are your thoughts on that?

You know, with LinkedIn and I think this is true right across all of the apps, the networks out there, I always say to my clients, think, if you were in the real world. If you’re in the real world, would you just walk over to that person and say, “Hey, give me a job?”

You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t walk over to a person, say here is my stuff. You just wouldn’t do that. You would start with an icebreaker. You start off with adding value. You’d start off with an introduction and over a period of a few days, maybe even weeks or months, you would forge a relationship.

And then when the time comes you know it’s the right fit. You know and it’s welcome. So that is the way to look at it on LinkedIn as well. When you want to connect with someone but you don’t know them, maybe don’t connect with them, maybe you follow them instead, maybe you pay attention to them. If you hit the bell on the upper right part of the their profile and you get their updates sent to you and notifications and you start to engage with them that way. And then once they know you, because they’ve seen you and they’ve engaged with you, then you send that connection request, right?

And once you have a connection request, maybe it’s a few more touch points. Maybe it’s asking them to comment on an article that you read. Maybe it’s sending them a link to an article that you thought was really fascinating and you’d love their input. Maybe it’s requesting a phone call because you want to learn more about the organization.

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

Right.

It’s these little touch points that eventually create a relationship which then opens those doors for whatever it may be.

Let me ask you this. What’s different about LinkedIn over other online virtual networking platforms?

What’s different? You know, I love the fact that with LinkedIn is business oriented.

Right.

And a person who values their privacy, who really wants to live a life where they’re not putting their nose in places where they’re keeping a sense of distance. LinkedIn is fabulous for that because you don’t have to be sharing pictures of your kids. You don’t have to be telling them what you had for dinner. You don’t have to be saying that, “Oh, I went here and I went there.” That’s not LinkedIn. That’s Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

LinkedIn is a place where you go because you really do want to talk about your industry, about your business, about your career. You want to ask for advice and you want to give advice, and you want to open people’s minds to success and mindset and other things. To me, it’s just this higher level, whole network that is refreshing and it’s still fun. But it’s comfortable. And you never feel like you’re overly getting involved in places where you don’t need to be.

Right. I love that. And I absolutely agree with you that it’s almost like it’s a given that everybody understands that there is a line in the sand that we don’t cross. And that’s what I also love about LinkedIn. And who needs LinkedIn Donna?

Anyone who is in business. It’s not just B2B. I mean, it can be B to C. It’s anyone whose world, their life, their career, revolves around contacts. And and that’s a lot of people. It really is. You know, if you’re in a professional setting and people are going to be talking to you, meeting you, you’re going to be interacting with with people at any point.

LinkedIn is worth looking at and evaluating to make sure that it is worth your time. To me, it really is. It’s for business. It’s for professionals. It’s for those people who have a career that’s going to evolve and travel through numerous iterations.

“LinkedIn is worth looking at and evaluating to make sure that it is worth your time. To me, it really is. It’s for business. It’s for professionals. It’s for those people who have a career that’s going to evolve and travel through numerous iterations.” ~Donna Serdula

Right. And here we have this online virtual ecosystem that has all kinds of people that are there from a professional perspective. So even when you start to go in different directions or you’re looking for different things, it’s almost like this library of resources where somewhere you will find what you’re looking for.

That’s what I find. It’s a great directory, for want of a better word, to hone in and find more than just people’s names and titles and the company they work for. You really get a sense of their personalities the way that LinkedIn has created the extensibility of their profiling, which is something that your company really focuses in on, right?

I agree completely. To me, LinkedIn is a social network. It’s a professional network, but it’s a search engine. It is a search engine for professionals and companies. And the beauty of LinkedIn is so much of it is hyperlinked. So you might say, here’s a person and they went to school with me and they’re on a different trajectory. But let me look at that trajectory. Let me see the different places that they’ve gone to and moved through. And let me open up that company that they’re currently working at.

Now, let me see all the people who work at that company. Now, let me see all of the people that I know who work at that company. And you can start to delve in and dig in and really get a sense of not just where did that, and how did that person, travel through their career, but now you start to get insights as to what maybe you can be doing to trace this similar trajectory. When people start to realize how much they can get out of LinkedIn, just in terms of the business intelligence piece, it really does become this no brainer of why wasn’t I there five years ago.

Right. So for people who are creatives and artists, you know are in that arena, is LinkedIn a suitable network and client acquisition platform for them? Because many believe that social centric platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, which you’ve already mentioned, are more conducive to that genre of professional by default of the media type being more visual.

I think it’s one of those situations where you do need to to understand where is your target audience? You know, the people that you’re going to be selling or servicing or working with, where are they? And if they’re truly on TikTok or if they’re truly on Instagram, maybe that’s where you’re going to put 80 per cent of your effort. But that remaining amount could certainly be shifted to LinkedIn. And and maybe it’s looking at it in a different way.

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

Maybe your target audience is on TikTok and the work that you’re going to be creating is there. But maybe you’re going to find sponsorships, maybe you’re going to find partnerships on LinkedIn. Maybe LinkedIn is where you’re going to do the hiring. And so you can actually look at the different networks and say, all right Twitter is for this aspect of what I’m doing and tech talk is for this aspect. And LinkedIn is going to allow me to network and to dig in a little deeper and do some research.

And with LinkedIn, you don’t have to be posting every single day, right? You can post once a week, you could post once every two weeks and still get a tremendous amount of traction where you still have that personality, you still have that activity. People know that you’re there, but you’re weighing it and you’re making it make sense with how much time you have to give because we still all have to work.

Absolutely. And that’s under the understanding that LinkedIn people have. We all understand that we’re working and we’re not constantly going to be there absorbing or even sharing content all the time. And I guess that also comes down to the quality versus quantity argument as well, which actually is bringing something to my mind that I’d love to also have you tap into Donna.

LinkedIn also is this wonderful library of resources from the professional development sphere that you touched upon a little bit earlier on. Can you share a little bit for anyone out there who perhaps hasn’t really tapped into that side of LinkedIn, what they need to know?

Yeah, well, if you recall, Lynda.com was huge many years ago and LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com. That was the foundational start of their LinkedIn Learning program. And so LinkedIn Learning has really exploded but exploded in a number of ways. One, it’s a place to go for you to stay up to date to increase your own professional knowledge and development. But it’s also a place where if you are an expert, you can create courses and allow LinkedIn to to sell them and distribute them.

So it works both sides of the spectrum, whether you want to acquire the knowledge or you want to provide that knowledge. It is something that if you do not pay for LinkedIn . . . And I think honestly, the vast majority of people don’t need to pay for LinkedIn. That’s one of the number one questions I get when I do my speaking engagements, when I talk to people. It’s always, should I be paying for LinkedIn? And I would rather people not even worry about that because once you start using LinkedIn and you’re really getting value from it, you will know when it’s time to upgrade. You’ll know because there’s certain things you’re going to want that it won’t give you.

Right.

But with the LinkedIn Learning you can subscribe or you can purchase ad hoc. So if there is something that you like, you can click on it and purchase just that one module, that one lesson.

Which is wonderful.

Yeah, it really is. Because if you think about it, knowing that LinkedIn has it within their platform, that’s already giving you that belief, that knowledge, that, all right, this is good stuff.

Absolutely. So for people who are looking to join LinkedIn or reignite their profile. Well, at what point would you say that they should be free versus professional? Like when should that decision be made?

So the best way to look at this is this. When you look at your profile, there’s who’s viewed your profile, right? So you click on this. LinkedIn at the free mode will show you the last five people. But once you start using LinkedIn and people are checking you out, that’s going to start really scrolling, right? So you’re going to find you’re like, wow, these five people. I think there’s a lot of people checking me up. I want to see everybody. I want to see the last 90 days views. So when you want to see more, that’s one sign.

Another sign is when you are really hitting LinkedIn and you’re using it and you’re searching, you will find that LinkedIn will say to you at some point you’ve hit your maximum number of searches for the month. That happened to me on the eighth day of the month, and I had a waiting list of following months to search again on LinkedIn. Well, that’s not going to happen. That was the perfect sign that said, Donna, you’ve got to upgrade. You need to pay more money now. So if you want to you know, if you’re doing it for recruiting, if you’re doing it for sales and you’re really hitting and you’re doing a lot of searches, that will be a really good sign that you want to pony up.

The other sign is when you’re on LinkedIn and maybe you’ve opened up that services page and people are now emailing you and saying, “Hey, I’d love a proposal, I’d love to know what it would take to work with you.” Suddenly you’ll find that you want to be able to reach out to everybody, but you also want everybody to reach out to you. And not just first degree connections, because when you’re on LinkedIn, there’s really only two types of people that can honestly message you on LinkedIn, it’s first degree connections and any group members of groups that you belong to.

Otherwise it would require an email message where a person would have to pay for that. So when you start to say, I want anybody to reach out to me, you’d need to pay for that. You need to turn on the open profile. And there’s a lot of power to that, because if you have that optimized presence and people are looking at you they want to reach out. Let them. You need to let them. And the only way to do that is to upgrade.

Absolutely. So let’s talk about the services at your company. We’ve talked a lot about what the value proposition is for being on LinkedIn. For anyone out there that either wants to optimize or to just start from the beginning. What what is it that they’re going to get at your company?

What they’re going to get from us is a team of people who are absolutely devoted and committed to really understanding who they are, understanding their strategy, understanding all of that good stuff, listening to them, having just a real heart to heart conversation that’s easy. You know, it’s nice when it’s easy to talk to a person. And then from there, we do all the work.

We develop it, we create the content, we upload it. And we make sure before we upload it that you love it. So it’s very hands off in that regard and it’s very hands on, but it’s also very hands off. It’s getting the information that we need and then crafting something that you’ll love. And once it’s done, it’s such a relief because so many people just hate to write about themselves.

They hate to exist within that space. And pretty much any odious task in the world is more attractive than sitting down and writing a profile. So it’s nice to be able to outsource it and get it done and get it done right, and then have that sense of of pride that, yeah, this is who I am, this is what I do. And I’m so happy to represent myself in this manner.

So how can people get a hold of you and your team? Let’s send them somewhere.

Sure. They can visit linkedIn-makeover.com. That’s my website.

I love that name.

Yeah. You know, it’s funny, I registered that domain so many years ago and I’ve always been a little scared that LinkedIn would say something to me about it, but they never have. Ah, the name of our company isn’t LinkedIn makeover. It’s Vision Board Media, which is really our real name.

But it is also a very cool name. It’s very clear what you help people do.

Yeah, to me vision board is all about looking at your future, dreaming it up, visualizing it. And I see us as almost like a board of directors. We’re there to support you and help you achieve that future goal, that future vision of yourself. If you visit LinkedIn-Makeover.com, you’ll see all of our services are listed along with the pricing.

So it’s not like I keep anything from people. I’ve got tons of free tools. I’ve got my LinkedIn headline generator, which is a free tool that people can use to just get started on optimizing their profile themselves. It’s almost like the old fashioned Mad Libs game where you choose a couple of adjectives, choose a couple of nouns, and it spits out a really attractive LinkedIn headline. And we’ve got other tools as well. And I’m actually in the midst of developing a post idea generator for the person who says, I want to post on LinkedIn, but I don’t know what to post.

Right.

Exactly what to post. And we’re going to give you the hashtags to make it super easy and to attract a lot of views to the post.

Is that available now? Is that coming down the pipe?

It’s coming out in maybe three or four weeks. We’re really close.

That’s exciting. All the more reason to want to just reach out and see what could be the opportunity for you depending on where you’re at with your LinkedIn profile and what your goals are. I really recommend that you go hop on over to the website. For those people who maybe don’t want to go down that road you also have the books.

Yeah, I have my books.

Let’s talk a little bit about that. Do you lay out everything in your books the way that you would provide the service, or is it more of a this is what you need to do as opposed to if people work with you, this is what needs to be done and we will do it for you. Am I correct in the differentiating factor there?

It was with the For Dummies books and it was lovely to work within that structure because it’s a tried and true structure. It’s made to really simplify complex concepts. Break it down and put it out there with step by step instructions so a person can do it on their own. And and the book is really a fabulous way.

I also have e-courses as well. You can you can still check out the link to makeover for that. But the book is really a step-by-step guide to understanding how to craft that profile. But even more so, I think a person can get so much out of the book just in terms of their own brand, their own story and how to put it out there in a manner that resonates with their target audience.

I love that. And so you mentioned three things. One is working with you and your team directly. The other is working through the books. The other is, which we haven’t mentioned yet, your podcast ‘Dream Big with Big Dreamers.’ Let’s talk a little bit about that. That’s another way people can tap into the wealth of knowledge that comes from your world. Tell us a little bit about the podcast. I love the name, by the way. I love that you love catchy names.

Thank you. You know, the podcast really was born over 10 years ago.  

Wow, An O.G..

Well, no, no, no. The concept came right before my father passed away 11 years ago. And right before he passed, he confided in me and he said, “You know, my one regret in my life is that I didn’t dream big enough.” And he was a very successful man. And I had a lot of success, a lot of ambition. And I was very proud to be his daughter. And when he said that to me, I was really shocked. In some ways, he didn’t dream big enough. And that was something that really just stayed with me. And it’s been something that I’ve been chewing on.

And I hit my 40s and I started to wonder, did I dream big enough in my life? Because a lot of times the life people lead is the life that they know. And if you’re not out there exploring and talking to people and hearing how others are living and breathing and dreaming, you don’t even recognize where the limit is. And maybe there really isn’t a limit. The limits are more self-imposed.

“A lot of times the life people lead is the life that they know. And if you’re not out there exploring and talking to people and hearing how others are living and breathing and dreaming, you don’t even recognize where the limit is. And maybe there really isn’t a limit. The limits are more self-imposed.” ~Donna Serdula

And so, I decided it was during the pandemic that this podcast would be my way of really thinking of my father and answering that, which was, “Hey, dad, you don’t feel that you dream big enough, so how can we dream big enough?” And let’s talk to some people who really have dreamed big and let’s understand, how did they do it? Why did they do it? And what does it take for other people to do it?

Right. I love that. And I’m assuming it’s available wherever podcasts are available for people to download.

It’s everywhere that I could hit the submit button.

Credit: @donnaserdula.com

Okay. Brilliant. I love that. And the final way to tap into your ecosystem Donna is for people to hang out with you on your social media platforms. Let’s let everyone know where that is. LinkedIn, of course.

LinkedIn. You can also find us on Instagram. @VisionBoardSpotlight is our handle there. I would say those are really the best two. I’m on Twitter as well and I’m on Facebook as well.

Give us handles for all of them. Starting with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is Donna Serdula. We also tweet out all of our completed profiles that are not confidential. At the handle @LinkdInMakeover with no E in LinkedIn.

Okay.

And then where else am I? I’m on Facebook as well as under Donna Serdula and that’s it.

Okay, brilliant. Well, that’s a lot of places. So, guys, let me just recap a little bit here. So we’ve got the website. This is where all the services are available. This is where a lot of free content is available. This is where courses are available. We have got the podcast where you can get insights and motivation and learning from people who have gotten to where we all want to go. You can also go to the social media platforms, which is the other thing. And let’s not forget the Dummy books. Loads and loads of ways that you can tap into Donna’s world.

And I really hope that you guys do. I mean, I really do feel that this last little while that me and Donna have been chatting, there’s a wealth of wisdom and a lot of justification why you really do need to take this platform seriously if business is what you’re doing, if you work for a company, if you are looking to network with people in specific niches and so many other things. And of course, let’s not forget the entire expansive professional development space.

I know it sounds a lot for those of you who haven’t really tapped into the ecosystem that is the behemoth known as LinkedIn. But this is why you need to go and hang out with Donna and at least figure out your ground zero and work your way up to creating your brilliant tree with all the fruit and wonderfulness that it can be.

Donna, as we get ready to close off, is there anything that we haven’t touched upon that you feel that you really want to put out there to everyone regarding the subject matter that we’ve been talking about? And let me just bring that up again. How to build an uber successful brand on LinkedIn and take it to the bank. Your thoughts?

I would say to those who are listening, oftentimes when I mention to people, building that brand and putting it out there, there’s sometimes this feeling of imposter syndrome. They’re not worthy. I really haven’t done anything. I don’t deserve to be out there. And I say to you, don’t listen to that voice. It is not correct. We all have done something. We all have something to be proud of. We all have strengths and abilities and talents. We have a background that we’re going to build upon. Whether you’re starting out or you’re seasoned, there is something to say.

“Oftentimes when I mention to people, building that brand and putting it out there, there’s sometimes this feeling of imposter syndrome. They’re not worthy. I really haven’t done anything. I don’t deserve to be out there. And I say to you, don’t listen to that voice. It is not correct. We all have done something. We all have something to be proud of. We all have strengths and abilities and talents. We have a background that we’re going to build upon. Whether you’re starting out or you’re seasoned, there is something to say. ” ~Donna Serdula

And you just need to exist in that moment where you say, you know what I’m going to think about who I am and what I’ve done and how I help and why I do it. It’s uncomfortable. We want to turn to our mobile device to distract us from those truths. But I really do. I challenge all of you to claim it to know that you’re worthy and put out a profile and and see what happens. I think you’ll be really pleasantly surprised.

What an informative conversation. Donna I feel like my community here has gotten the secret sauce on the power and tools of building an authentic brand on LinkedIn on some level that is visceral. And that’s the goal here. Thank you so much for coming on and dummy proofing the world of LinkedIn for everyone. Thank you.

Thank you, Raj. Thank you so much for having me.

Oh, it’s been such a pleasure. Guys, if you haven’t already tapped into the optimization of presence on LinkedIn, I highly recommend you contact Donna and her team at LinkedIn-Makeover.com. And again, I love that name and I really hope that you got some real value from today’s show and will share it with everyone you know who you feel needs to get today’s learnings.

I also hope that you’ll subscribe to the YouTube channel at The Open Chest Confidence Academy so that you never miss an episode when we drop them every Wednesday. You can also download them in audio format. ‘The Transform Your Confidence Show’ is what you’re searching for on any podcast platform out there. And also, if you prefer to read it, you like to download it, you want to bookmark it, you want to highlight on it like I do, just hop on over to our website, theopenchestconfidenceacademy.com/media/podcast. I will see you next week for another invaluable episode packed with insights that I know are just going to lift you up in wherever the place is that you need lifting up. Just hop on over also to all of our past episodes to read, listen, or watch. It’s all out there for you guys, and I can’t wait to share another insightful episode like this one here today with Donna next week. Take care of yourself, guys.

To contact Donna Serdula: Web, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

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