A few weeks ago we spoke to Andrea Zoellner on how to implement a good Instagram Strategy. Well, another social network that seems like a hidden gem for content is LinkedIn, so I’ve brought on Cara North to talk to us. Cara is in the eLearning space, and we definitely talk about that, but I also wondered how she always seems to be trending on LinkedIn! So we talk about the smart way to build your network, add shareable content, and maybe even make a few worthwhile connections.
Intro: A few weeks ago, we heard from Andrea Zoellner on how to implement a good Instagram strategy. Well, another social network that seems like a hidden gem for content is LinkedIn. So I brought on my friend Cara North to talk to us. Cara is in the eLearning space. We definitely talked about being in the eLearning space as we are both there, but I also wondered how she always seems to be trending on LinkedIn. So we talk about the smart way to build your network, to add shareable content, and maybe even make a few worthwhile connections. I learned a lot that I’ve already started implementing and seeing results on, so I know you will too. Definitely be sure to listen to this one. It is a good one.
Joe: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, how did you build that? Today, my guest is Cara North. She is the principal consultant at the Learning Camel. Cara, how are you?
Cara: I’m great. How are you, Joe?
Joe: I am doing fantastic. Or fantastically maybe. I’m trying to lower the impact of my New York accent by calling you ‘Cara’. So like Cara. Like the hard “a” in the middle. But it sounded weird to me. Anyway, Cara and I met at Learning DevCamp a couple of years ago, right? Was it 2018, I think?
Cara: Yeah, I think it was. Yeah, Salt Lake City. It was a great conference and really enjoyed your session. That’s where I first learned about this tool called LearnDash. That was really neat to see that in action.
Joe: Awesome. I think I went to your talk as well but you were like all over social media. It was really great to connect with you there. So I’m glad that we managed to stay in touch. Today, on top of eLearning, you do something that eludes me, and I’m really curious about it. But we are connected on LinkedIn, and you always seem to be trending in the eLearning, hashtag or space, or whatever. Whatever you share happens to be trending. So I do want to talk about that. But first, why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Cara: Sure. So I’ve been in the learning development space for pretty much my entire professional career. Like a lot of people, I fell into it. My husband always struggles with telling people what I do for a living. He often says, “Oh, my wife makes those computer trainings, the eLearnings.” Then people usually groan, and I’m like, “No, my stuff doesn’t look like that. I promise.” So I know there’s a lot of garbage out there and it’s got a bad reputation, but I assure you, there are people trying to change that perception of it.
I just actually recently left my job at a higher education institution, moved into a corporate learning development role and leadership position, and really loving it so far. So I’m still in my onboarding phase. This is week three for me, but it’s been really great to get back into the corporate space. My total experience, I’ve been in higher ed, I’ve been in corporate. Before I did higher ed, I was at Amazon for a few years and really enjoyed that as well. Very lucky. I love my formative experience at Amazon. I think it made me better for various reasons.
I’m also finishing out my PhD currently in Learning Technologies. I am a PhD candidate, so I survived the hell called candidacy. Hopefully getting that done and hope I’ll be done with my dissertation by the end of this year, and I’ll have that doctor title, which will be pretty cool. But I’ll still be Cara for most people. But if you’re a jerk, you won’t call me Dr. North. Because it sounds like a villain and I really like that.
Joe: Dr. North does sound like a villain. That’s awesome. I know you have an affinity for villains because you had a cat. Did the cat pass away?
Cara: Yeah, unfortunately, he died a couple of months ago.
Joe: Yeah, I’m sorry to hear that. But his name is Pop Tin, right?
Cara: Yes. Yeah, I do love villains. I don’t know why. I think because they’re just misunderstood. There’s a lot of layers to villains. Maybe that’s why I like them
Joe: for sure. We’re going to do a quick nerdy sidebar here, listeners. My daughter is three and she loves Darth Vader and she loves Count Dooku. She just loves the villains. I just read “Dooku: Jedi Lost”. I don’t know if you consume the Extended universe stuff but…
Cara: Love the “Darth Maul Book”. I haven’t read “Dooku”, but I do have the “Darth Maul Book”.
Joe: Nice. It made me a little bit sad for the Count. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled interview. So you recently left higher ed. I feel like we took very similar paths. I was self-employed after I got my master’s, but I was in higher ed for a few years and I really loved it. It was a growing experience for me, but I feel like there’s a point where you’re like, “Something is different in me now, and I need to find a different path.” So I got a job in corporate world and agency. Anyway, I feel like we have a very similar path there, and that’s pretty nifty.
But you are in the learning development space. I want to maybe clarify exactly what you do there. Because when I say I’m in eLearning or online courses, I think that’s a little bit different maybe from what you do. I create my own courses, and I sell them. Or I create courses for LinkedIn Learning, and they’re part of the membership there. But what you do is a little bit different from that, right?
Cara: Yeah. So mine is primarily focused on…Well, previously in higher ed, it was on that education aspect of the academic facing part of the organization. But now that I’m back in a corporate role, it is for multiple reasons. One, and the one that I love the most, and this is why it gets me really excited, is I build out skill matrices and career development journeys for people.
For example, you started a company, you’re brand new, and you’re like, “I really like it here, and I’d love to stay, but gosh, darn it, I don’t know how I’m going to grow,” then you could have this plan in front of you to tell you exactly what it takes to get to the next level of your job, how to move up into management and how to continue to grow. And then you look back and you’ve been at the company 10 or 15 years, and you’ve really enjoyed your own personal journey growing. So that’s one thing that I hope to do in my new role.
Then other things that I do is I really look to solve the performance needs of the organization. For example, how does somebody learn how to do something the quote-unquote, “right way” at that organization? How does somebody continuing to be safe at that organization where there’s no bodily harm to themselves or someone else? And what does that look like?
Then, of course, the third, everyone’s favorite, is the compliance piece. So the legal piece of it. What are the things that that organization has to have people go through? What are kind of those annual compliance things that they need to do? That’s always the one I think that gets the worst reputation, but they don’t have to be so dry and boring I feel like. I see a lot of times it’s the same thing every year. So how can you look to continue to grow the content and make it to where it is something that is not as boring.
Because what I see a lot of these compliance courses, Joe, and I’m sure you’ve seen them too is they start off “Welcome to this course. Here’s the learning objectives of this.” Talk about a snooze fest. That’s even before you fight to get into that learning management system. I mean, that’s what a seven to nine click system a lot of times just to get to the blasted course. And then you open it up and you’re explaining this grand reveal and it’s like, “Blah blah blah blah blah.” Then of course you can’t move forward. You have to wait. It is a pain. It’s no wonder people don’t like learning and development for the most part, right?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly. Again, being in higher ed, I had to do some of that compliance training. Like keeping data secure and things like that. There were just the things like, I know this, but I can’t fast forward. I can just do the assessment. And it’s so dry.
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And now back to the show.
Joe: The audience for this podcast is mostly technical people or small business owners that are probably looking to educate their clients on how to use this particular product or service, but solve the performance needs of the organization. The second kind of bullet in your list of responsibilities includes training employees and making sure they do things the right way. What is that like? Because there’s a whole process. Like you need to figure out what the right way is and you need to figure out where the employee is in their journey or whatever. Can you give us a high-level overview of what small business owners can do in their own organization to help onboard either contractors—which I know I hire mostly contractors—or full-time employees?
Cara: Sure. I think the first one is to really—and I hate to say this—think of training as a last resort. So training isn’t this magic bullet that’s going to fix everything out of the gate. It is a big investment if you’re going to do it right. So think of it that way. This big training package, if you will, isn’t always the right answer. So I would probably caution with that.
But a high-level overview, a couple of things you want to do, to me, the central heart of it is, what is it that you want them to do with it? What’s in it for them? What is the information that they have to have and how is that going to make them a better contractor? How’s that going to make them be more successful in your business? Once you outline that, then I feel like you can kind of make the decision where you want to go next.
But I’ve seen oftentimes, especially in this compliance world, Joe, specifically, there’s not a lot of “what’s in it for me?” It’s just basically, “Here, we’re going to give you this firehose of content that legally we have to do. And then you’re going to take this assessment that’s written really poorly that you can probably guess the correct answer if you haven’t even paid attention to this point. And then we’re going to make you sign a little sheet here saying that you finished it. But once you finish it, then that’s it.” There are many ways to think about this.
For me, I really advocate I think for the human on the other side of it. I think a lot of times, learning and development professionals specifically forget there’s a human being on the other side of whatever it is that we’re building. So really think about how do you make it simple, concise, and as close as you can get to giving them that information in their moment or flow of work is critical. You don’t have to make it all verbose. You don’t have to make it this big, complicated thing. Simple, concise training is some of the hardest stuff you’ll ever do. Because there’s a refinement there. And you have to really determine what is it, they absolutely need. Mapping it back to those objectives as performance objectives of what it is in it for them, if you can do that, that’s great.
But here’s another sidebar. If you have all this, and you’re like, “I did all this work and look at all this great stuff I have,” don’t throw it away. Keep it. Put in a junk drawer. Put it in a file. Put it in a Dropbox. However, you organize your business. Keep it aside. And then as people are continuing to grow or whatever, then you can see if they need that ancillary information, and then you can kind of drip it and get it in, again, their flow of work. So I think that would be a high-level overview. Perfect World. No red tape, no bureaucracy of what that would look like. I know that makes it really clean and easy looking, but practicing this in the real world doesn’t look like that it’s often very messy.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. I love two things you said there. What’s in it for me? I think a lot of employers or people who are contractors just think, well, the what’s in it for the employee is that they’re getting paid. But studies have shown that at a certain level it doesn’t matter what they’re getting paid. They have to enjoy the work and what they’re doing. I love that.
Then, deliver the information at the moment they need it. When I was onboarding at my job in higher ed, I had like two weeks of training or onboarding where I would just sit with a different employee every day and they would show me something in their process. I didn’t know. But when it came time for me to actually do it, I had to ask whoever it was again. I basically just knew who to ask.
On the other side, when I worked at my agency, they trusted me enough to throw me into the deep end on day one, where I was like doing a project for Disney on day one, which is crazy. They were just like, “Here’s our process. Here’s some documentation. If you have any questions, let us know.” But I was trained a lot better, right? Because I was like, “All right, well, I’m now trying to do this. How do I do this?” They didn’t just like walk me through a screen share of setting up the environment. They had me do it.
So I think that that’s really important, delivering the information at the moment they need it, because that’s when they’ll remember it. “Learn by doing” it’s something I say all the time. Awesome. So that’s great— training employees, the compliance piece.
Before we get into my big LinkedIn question, because I do want to set the stage a little bit here, you are a wealth of knowledge. You’re going for your PhD—something I thought about doing but then I decided as a self-employed person I don’t need a PhD right now. The Master’s was enough for me. But I think that making learning material interesting is such a big challenge. When I taught at the University of Scranton, as well as being in the IT department, we had a class called Computer Literacy that every freshman had to take. It was like from a textbook, like the stuff that was written in like 1994, and I was teaching it in 2014.
One of the other teachers said to me a couple of years into me doing this, like, “Oh, well, CompLit is pretty much on autopilot now.” And I’m like, “CompLit is the most work I do because I’m trying to give them interesting, relevant current events. And not like, ‘here’s how you convert from decimal to binary.'” So all of that preamble to say, what are some things that you can do to make some of this compliance stuff and the information that they really need to know interesting to consume?
Cara: Oh, great question. A couple of things. I think the first is, again, remember that there’s a human there. So make it relative to them. Especially when it comes to compliance or whatever your business needs is for the trainee, put them in a situation that they’re going to face in that organization. So I’m a big advocate for stories and scenarios of placing the person in the work environment and being very clear who they are in that environment.
You are a web developer, you are a practitioner. Whatever your people are, put them in that environment and give them opportunities to apply that content in a work setting. Again, because it makes it a little bit more sticky for them instead of just reading about it. And a peeve of mine, Joe is seeing these big scenarios with it sounds like it’s a reality TV show. It’s got all these different names in it, you’re digging through, and is like, “Well, what should this person do?” “I don’t know.” Like, are they feeling salty today? Are they going to have a little meltdown? Are they actually going to do the right thing? It doesn’t matter. So putting them in it, I think really anchors it.
Another thing too is surprise people. I think that especially learning and development content, a lot of times does get a bad reputation. There’s kind of this preamble of there has to be a next button in it and all of this stuff. Surprise them. One of my favorite examples and I love it so much, one of my mentors, his name is Mike Taylor, he used to work for a utility company and had to do a compliance course on phishing. So he inherited this big PowerPoint of all these things about what to talk about to stop people from clicking links in the emails they shouldn’t be clicking or whatever.
So he took this information…
Joe: Real quick. To be clear, you mean like email phishing?
Cara: Yes, of course. I mean, I would like to make a course on real phishing, yeah.
Joe: Yeah, right?
Cara: Yeah. Case in point. So he inherited all this stuff, good stuff, good information, not throwing kind of the baby out with the bathwater. But he started the course off instead of “Welcome to the course on phishing,” he started off with a question: Hey, you want to spend someone else’s money today? Then you click “yes” or “no.” And then if you hit “no”, it’s like, “Well, for this purpose, say, “Yes.”
“Have you ever wanted to go on this big dream vacation?” So he sets the scene. They introduce this character named Shady Grady. And so then it’s the same information, but it’s flipped. And you’re seeing the information from the perspective of, why does this happen? Well, it happens because it’s easy to get your information. People throw things away. People are careless with various things. People don’t read things carefully. So it’s easy for people to get away with it. But you’re still getting a lot of those safeguards in there but it’s just from a different perspective. And it makes a little bit more memorable and engaging than, “Oh, you need to do this, you need to do this.”
When you have this fluid story in it, I think that that makes it really powerful. So don’t be afraid to shake it up a little bit, do something a little bit different because those are some of the most memorable experiences. He showed me, gosh – when was it? Four or five years ago. And I still remember it. I still remember the shirt the guy had on because I mean it was a perfect character that he picked to personify this Shady Grady. He had these big rings on and everything. There’s something to be said about having this sense of humor with it, that you can ground it in something that makes it a little bit more exciting.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. A lot of people will tell public speakers like, “Start with a story. Bring the watcher the listener into your world. Don’t just start off with a definition of phishing because it’s super boring.” I think that’s really great. Again, just to bring it back to some of my classroom experiences, we would have class discussions all the time. There were times where students would ask me to follow them on Twitter. I would point out why they shouldn’t ask me to follow them on Twitter. One of my students tweeted like, “Oh, missing CompLit class today because the Starbucks line is long. #sorrynotsorry.” So the next time she was in class, I brought this up. And I was like, “Let’s talk about social media today.” And that was engaging content.
I think that’s a really, really great piece of advice, whether you’re creating training documentation for your product, whether you’re training employees or doing some sort of compliance stuff that you have to do. So I think that’s really great.
A focus of Season 9 of the podcast is creating good content to help small business owners develop their business and generate more leads. And social media can be a grab bag for that. But on top of creating content for learning material, you’re also very good at sharing content. And this was the reason I reached out is because you always seem to be trending on LinkedIn. This is so weird. Listeners, when I said this to Cara in the pre-show, she was very shocked and thought it was funny. And I want to ask her about this.
Cara: I’m still laughing.
Joe: Yeah, right. But you’re so consistent. Every time I look at my notifications, it’s like, “Cara North is trending in eLearning about this.” Do you have a strategy or are there things that you do that seem to work when you’re sharing specifically on LinkedIn? Because I feel like LinkedIn is a different beast from like Facebook and Twitter. And then there’s the Instagram story strategy. But you can probably get some pretty good leads from LinkedIn, because that’s where mostly professionals are hanging out. Can you tell us a little bit about your process for deciding what to share on LinkedIn and how you do it?
Cara: Sure. I will have full disclosure here. I actually was kind of a late adopter to the professional social media game in particular. I actually got Twitter in 2016 because I went to a learning development conference and heard that that wasn’t one of the number one professional development tools. And that was a big community of people that are in my same profession that were on it. So I put a lot of my stock in Twitter for the past, gosh, I would say probably up until 2018. Then I saw what was happening on LinkedIn, and I was like, “There’s a lot of great content here. I think that this is something I need to also add into my social media portfolio.” I would say now I put more time and effort into LinkedIn than I do Twitter for the most part.
So a couple of things. Let’s see. With LinkedIn, I am, let’s see, very kind of…I’ll start off with I’m more particular about my LinkedIn garden than I am on Twitter. When I say that, I mean, if someone’s connecting with me, I want them to be in the same profession as me or something at the peripherals. So I love connecting with students that are getting ready to start this as a career. I love connecting with teachers who are looking to again, maybe transition into this as a career.
I actually love connecting with other creative professionals just on the fringes. So folks that are really creative with like building graphics, content, marketing, etc. Because again, I kind of feel like that’s on the periphery of what I do. But easy way for me not to connect with you is to say, “Hey, I saw your profile. Let’s hop on a 15-minute call.” No, my time is valuable, and I don’t want to just call anybody. I’m really particular on who I talk to on the phone personally. Anyway, I digress.
So that’s I think the first step, Joe, is you have to know who you’re building, who are your connections, who’s your core audience. On my Twitter, it’s more of a… It started off like that, but I ended up…You know, I’m a huge Animal Crossing player so I have Animal Crossing people. I’m Carolina Panthers’ fan. I have Carolina Panther fans on my…So it’s more about me as a person. Even though my profession is a sliver of who I am as a person, I feel like my Twitter is more kind of hodgepodge. Whereas LinkedIn, I’ve been very intentional of I want it to be very profession-focused. So that was my first step.
Second step…Oh, go ahead.
Joe: I have a quick follow up there because I’ve been trying to tend to my LinkedIn garden similarly. I have two questions about connecting with people. Do you need to know the person personally? Have you had to have met them or worked with them in order to connect with them?
Cara: Me personally, I’m not a snob about that. I’m fine with if I don’t have a personal connection with them. Because you just never know. That person might be able to help you or share a job or do something that helps you one day. So that does not bother me personally. I know other people may feel differently. But for me, if I don’t personally know you, that’s not a deal-breaker.
Joe: Got you. That’s good to know. Because I mean, I was getting so much spam for a while and I was like, “That’s it. LinkedIn is like Facebook.” But I don’t think I’m doing it right. So I’m definitely going to take that advice to heart.
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And now back to the show.
Joe: Do you connect with people? Do you look for people to connect to or do you generally just let other people connect to you?
Cara: Oh, yeah, I totally connect with people, especially if they’re somebody that, you know, one of my connections has commented on some of their stuff, and I’ve seen that they are great about putting out their own content. Or specifically, because I have a huge bleeding heart for people trying to get into this profession, I’m extremely biased, but especially now with everything going on. I feel like it is the hottest time ever to come into learning and development.
Unfortunately, another little side soapbox, I feel like there are people that are trying to take advantage of these new folks, and they’re getting bamboozled. “Sign up for my course where I promise you a job and you don’t get a job because [unintelligible 00:29:59] bucket.” So I really want to try to safeguard people generally from finding these people. Again, if you’re new, how do you vet these people? I mean, how do you know? You see that they have a LinkedIn profile, they may have this fancy title that they self-gave themselves or whatever. I mean, how do you know a lot of times?
So for me, especially, if I see students or new people posting—I want to get started in instructional design—I do. I connect with them and just send them a message, “Hey, I see you’re new here. I’d love to try to help you in any way that I can.”
Joe: Oh, that’s such a great strategy. I’m going to steal both of those things because I think that’s great. Because, I mean, we’re both in it to help people. I think obviously, for both of us, at least. I think keeping my guard up, I’m a little too suspicious of people. Anytime somebody connects to me, I’m like, “Oh, what do they want to sell me?” But I think I need to let my guard down a little bit. I love both of those things. We’ve handled who you’re going to connect to people. Now you are going to make a second point that I very rudely interrupted. But I’d love to hear that now.
Cara: The second point is I do think there’s something to be said about being consistent. And the easiest way for me to be consistent is I use a tool called Buffer. Buffer basically helps schedule out various posts. And the great thing about it is I can use it with my Twitter and my LinkedIn. Now, I need to get back in the rhythm. I kind of dropped off being consistent because as focusing on going through my PhD candidacy. But I do plan on picking it back up.
But essentially, my routine when I get up in the morning, and I’m sure this is probably going to be the exact same for several of your listeners, Joe, I’d say whatever it is that you do for a living, you’re probably very passionate about it. So one of the first things you do is when you wake up, you’re getting ready, you’re kind of moving around, you’re checking your LinkedIn, you’re checking your Twitter, you’re checking your Facebook, you’re reading about things that impact your profession.
For me, one of the easiest things to do to get started on a consistent strategy is if you’ve read something somebody post, or you see a great article about something from a source you trust or whatever, instead of just reading it and be like, “Wow, that’s really cool,” share it. Easy way to curate content. So if it’s something that has struck a chord with you, the easy way is to share it.
There are a couple of different options. If you just want to get started, then with Buffer, you just get the URL, and then you can schedule it. And the thing I love about Buffer, Joe, is it will suggest times based on your followers of when most people are on. So I think that might be part of my secret sauce because it will automatically select those times for me. Then I just trust whatever it says for it to be scheduled out. I don’t know if there’s actually a magic number there. Some people may say, “Oh, you need to do x amount.” I don’t know. I mean, I’m definitely not an expert. This is just my own little process. But if there’s a lot of value on one day, I might spread that out over two days. So then I might hop over to the next day, and go ahead and schedule one or two things.
Couple things for when you share, you can just share it as is with nothing. You can share it with a little bit of your own commentary. The nice thing is, especially on LinkedIn, you got a lot of real estate when you’re adding in a post with a link. I want to say it’s about 700 characters or something like that I think your real estate.
Joe: Wow, that’s like a blog post.
Cara: It is. I mean, you have a lot of real estate. Again, that’s just me spitballing here. But you do have a lot of real estate to work with. So you could say, “This really made an impact on me. These are my big takeaways.” Then put a call to action in there. “Hey, this is why I got out of it. What did you get out of it? What are the things you liked about it? Does this make sense to where you’re at? Is your process any different? Is your process the same? I’d love to hear about it.”
And then what happens is if you put it and they take the time to read it, it struck a chord with them, then guess what? “Yeah, you know what I agreed with this, but maybe this is not the way or this is…” And then guess what, then you get the engagement. And then the more engagement goes up, then more eyeballs that come on others’ feeds and it says, “Oh, my second connection commented on that. Let me see what that is.” And then it continues to snowball and continues to snowball to when you’re trending and Joe Casabona says, “Hey, you’re trending.”
Joe: That’s awesome. First of all, I love Buffer. I will link to that in the show notes, which you can find over at howibuilt.it. I’ll also link to a video that I made about automating shares to Buffer. However, that’s mostly for Twitter. It sounds like you might want to take a little bit of extra time here to curate the right content for LinkedIn and put a call to action. Man, I love that. Because I never do that. It’s very obvious. But if I share my podcast episodes on LinkedIn, for example, and I just share it and I don’t say, like, “What did you think? What’s your struggle with starting a podcast?” How come you’re not trending on LinkedIn?” Whatever the call to action could be? And I think that’s a really great idea that you probably will see less of on Twitter, for example.
Cara: Twitter don’t have room a lot of times. You have to do a thread a lot of times to get to that level of detail. Again, I think that’s why LinkedIn you do have those bigger engagements.
Now, another thing that I’ve heard, and I think there’s still some debate about this, that people have told me and I’ve seen other people do this, where they will write out and have all the stuff in the description of the post, but then it’s like link to whatever in the comments. The reason a lot of times people do that supposedly is because the LinkedIn algorithm liked that better and said that they would…because I guess the rating system was comments are above likes, or whatever your emoji is—is above shares. So I think comments are kind of king. At least they used to be. Again, don’t know what the current makeup of it is.
Now, personally, that is not a strategy that I do because Buffer, I can’t really do that. So I have to kind of put it all in that one little piece. I do see that other people do that. So if for some reason maybe you don’t want to do Buffer, or if you are experimenting, you might also try that. Again, just do it as a quick little pilot test. Maybe put out one post one day with a call to action and put out another post the other day with maybe another call to action and link to comments and see what works best for you. You don’t know until you try it.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. With the caveat that the algorithm can change all the time, right? I think I’ve seen YouTubers more recently as we record this explicitly asking for comments. Like comments help the algorithm. So definitely, I’ll link to some resources in the show notes on how to stay on top of social media algorithms if such a thing exists. Now, I do have a question about two things that I’ve been trying to do because they were recommended. And that’s hashtags and tagging people. Naturally, when I see the notification, Cara North is trending on LinkedIn, it’s usually for some hashtag. What’s your hashtag strategy?
Cara: Oh, that’s a great one. Again, just based on what I’ve seen, I think that you get punished if you use too many. The number that I’ve heard floating around is like no more than three. And if you do more than three, it kind of deludes and it’s like, “What are you doing? You’re spamming the crap out of people.” So for me again, because I know the people I’m connected with, I know eLearning is definitely one that is going to be hashtag. So typically, my two main ones are eLearning and instructional design.
Now, because of everything going on in the world, I’ve really tried to make an effort to share any job postings that I’ve seen. Because I think that’s really important. My best friend and podcasting partner lost his job during all of this. And if it can happen to a brilliant designer like him, it can happen to anybody.
The other one I’ve been putting in is #jobs or #careerdevelopment or hashtag whatever. I kind of that third one as a floater, Joe, as a rule. I’d say my two main ones I’m consistent with our instructional design, and eLearning. But that third one, I usually float it to try to be a little bit more specific for whatever it is that I’m sharing.
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And now, back to the show.
Joe: Again, I think that’s probably another thing that I do wrong. I’ll do like five or six, you know, just whatever topics I think…or variations on topics too. That’s the other thing. There’s like “podcasts” and “podcasting,” and “podcast host”. And I’m like, “Well, I guess we’ll get a trending for all those.” Too many hashtags. On Instagram, if you see too many hashtags, it’s like a turnoff for me. So I don’t know why I thought LinkedIn would be any different.
I’m asking about tagging people specifically, because LinkedIn is always like, “Hey, five people have seen your post. Maybe try tagging somebody in it?” Do you tag people a lot? Or are these previous tips the ones that seem to work best for you?
Cara: Great question. So I just want to follow up and say one other thing about the hashtag and then I’ll answer the tagging question.
Cara: So if you’re not sure about the hashtag, you should be able to search it before you post. That’s another great tip. Don’t waste your kind of hashtag real estate on a hashtag that doesn’t really exist or have much traction. I recommend do your homework, see what hashtags maybe fit you and your business, and then go ahead and implement them. But don’t just post one or just make one up just fingers crossed it’s going to trend. You need to check to make sure that there is a following of that hashtag before you do it.
Joe: Right now, actually, a follow up to that follow-up. You use Buffer, but the LinkedIn interface recommends hashtags. Have you seen that? Would you still say like search before you post because who knows what the LinkedIn algorithm is recommending like maybe just the last person to share used the hashtag or whatever?
Cara: Oh, great question. So typically before I put it in, Buffer already knows what those hashtags are. So I do look for that third floaty one. Before I schedule it in Buffer, I will have already done my research on LinkedIn and what that third floating one is going to be in where it can have the most impact.
Joe: Nice. Awesome. Thank you. Cool. All right. So tagging people. Tell me about that.
Cara: Tagging people. All right. This is another way I feel like you can definitely build your brand of expertise on LinkedIn. One of my favorite things to do is I like to tag people with intentionality behind it, meaning that if it’s something that features them, if it’s something that they wrote, if it’s something that what you’re sharing has something to do with that particular person, then yes. Now if it’s something that I want to recommend for somebody, I might after it posts, put a comment in, and then tag that person in the comment. But again, I don’t necessarily want to spam that person with the post.
A peeve of mine is I get tagged in a bunch of stuff, especially when people write these articles, and then I get tagged in it. And I’m like, “What is that? I don’t even know you.” Then this article has no value to me, but now my name is associated with this. And so now, will people click on your article because you’re using my influence in this?” I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of that.
But my biggest tip for tagging people, and this has served me very well, I try at least a couple of times a week, if not more, just talk about somebody who’s inspiring me and talk about somebody who’s doing good work. Especially people that are new, people who are maybe trying to figure out what they want to do, people that you admire in the business. Say, “Hey, you know what, I really appreciate what this person does, and here’s why I appreciate those people.” You would not believe how much engagement you get on stuff like that, especially when you put a call to action out, this person has been really instrumental in my foundation, who’s that person for you? And boom, here it comes.
The great thing about those, Joe is not only is it targeting that niche of the market that you have, but you’re opening it up for engagement outside of that market because everybody has those people that kind of cheered them on and helped them throughout their career. So then here you get more and more engagement, and maybe more connections you may not have had otherwise.
Joe: Wow, that’s great. So do you attach that to a link that you’re sharing? Or is that like a standalone post?
Cara: It depends. For example, I have a friend who has done a lot of these Articulates E-Learning Heroes’ challenges, and I really have enjoyed watching him grow as a designer. What I would do if I was putting a post about him, about how much he inspires me, is I’d mentioned him, I would link out to maybe his design challenges just because he’s been posting them and then I would maybe put that call to action out there, like, “Who is your eLearning hero? Who’s that person that really gets your creative juices going?”
Again, it’s a feel-good, easy way to not only one show yourself as a professional and appreciating other people just killing it in their craft. But we all need better news right now with everything going on. I am so sick of all the bickering and all like the trolling. LinkedIn is not immune to it. I have gotten some of the most heinous direct messages from people calling me every name in the book for not opening up stuff of my streams and things that I’ve done because I hit registration caps and all of this stuff. It’s like, come on, let’s be a little bit nicer and stuff.
I just think that anything you can do to encourage people really goes a long way because you just don’t know what that person’s currently going through. And just a nice reminder again, it situates you as a professional and somebody who cares beyond yourself. Who doesn’t want to do business with someone like that?
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Care about people. It’s a message that’s been repeated by many guests, especially recently on this show. So add Cara to the list of people who are telling you “make it about the people.” Wow. Well, we’ve been talking for a while now, and this was great. This was so great and concise that I can just lift my notes that I took, and put them into the post—I’ll actually create this—which is super rare. So thank you for that.
I want to end today’s show with my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us? What’s a solid piece of advice either in eLearning or just managing relationships on LinkedIn or whatever that you like to impart on people?
Cara: Oh, okay. I’ll put it in the phrase of what we’ve talked about. And this is a peeve of mine. Please, for everything holy, know that you can update the URL of your LinkedIn. I judge you when it’s your name with all these numbers and symbols and everything after it. So be very, very clear with your branding. So across all social media platforms, I’m caranorth11. That way when people search caranorth11, that’s me. There’s another Cara North that writes trashy romance novels. That is not me. Pretty cool, but not me. All right.
Because of that, I wanted to make sure that people knew it was me. So, an easy way to do that, you just go into your LinkedIn profile, hit edit, and then you can customize your URL. And that can also be fluid too. You can change it multiple times. But I just encourage you, think about your own branding for you and your business. Change that blasted URL, I cannot stand it and I judge you if your URL is this long, convoluted thing. It’s like, what are you doing?
Joe: I’m going to go to LinkedIn right now and check. I’m pretty sure I changed it to Jcasabona because I am the same way. When YouTube wouldn’t let me change my URL from like some crazy long channel number to what it is now which is like just creative courses, I was like dying. I was like please get me to 100 subscribers super fast. So update your LinkedIn URL and more importantly manage your brand online. I think that’s the important part. I’ve got Jcasabona on lock everywhere except for Skype. I’m so upset I don’t know who has Jcasabona. If you’re listening, please. But I grabbed that on Gmail in like 2004 or whatever, when they released it to the general public. And I’ve been using that ever since everywhere online. Awesome.
Cara, thank you so much. Where can people find you? I think you just kind of told us, but where can people find you?
Cara: LinkedIn and Twitter, primarily caranorth11. You can find me there. And I’d love to connect and continue the conversation because I want to hear what you all do. There’s your call to action. So I’d love to hear what are your tips, what have you taken away, what are some tips that other people can grow their LinkedIn presence with? I mean, that’s the best thing about social media. We can all use it for good and learn together and grow.
Joe: Love that. I will, again, link to those and everything we talked about in the show notes over at howibuilt.it. When you connect with Cara on LinkedIn—and do not ask for a 15-minute call—just say I heard about you on howibuilt.it. Well, Cara, thanks. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day.
Cara: Yeah, of course. Pleasure to be here. Thanks, Joe.
Outro: Thanks so much to Cara for joining us this week. I loved what she talked about with the hashtag strategy, tagging people, and adding people to your network. I’ve been really guarded up until this point because I just assumed that people trying to add me to their network were recruiters or we’re trying to sell me on something that I didn’t want. So I’ve been a bit more open about that. Adding more people especially if they kind of gave a good reason for wanting to connect. So thanks to Cara for all of the advice she gave us in this episode. You can find all of the show notes over at howibuilt.it/178.
Thanks to our sponsors for this week. They are iThemes, Lightricks, and CircleCI. Again, that was iThemes, Lightricks, and CircleCI. If you like this episode, be sure to give it a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. And until next time, get out there and build something.