In this episode of Atlanta Business Radio, Lee Kantor interviews Rachel Simon, the founder of Connect the Dots Digital, about the importance of optimizing LinkedIn profiles. Rachel explains how having a complete and up-to-date profile can positively impact networking and business opportunities.
She provides tips on creating a professional profile photo, compelling headline, and engaging content. She also discusses her experience organizing a successful LinkedIn Local event in Atlanta, which brought online connections together in the real world.
Rachel Simon is the CEO & Founder of Connect the Dots Digital. She helps companies ensure that LinkedIn is working for them as an asset, not a liability.
Rachel works with teams and individuals to position their brand narrative on LinkedIn so they can connect organically with ideal clients, attract the best talent, and stand out as a leader in their industry.
Rachel co-hosted LinkedIn Local Atlanta this week along with Phil Davis & Adam Marx – a networking event focused on bringing your online connections into the real world.
Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- What a LinkedIn Local event is
- About the LinkedIn Local Atlanta event
- Why we should try to meet our LinkedIn connections in person
- How LinkedIn has changed over the last few years
- Rachel’s number one LinkedIn tip
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s New standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories today on the Land and business radio, we have Rachel Simon with Connect the Dots Digital. Welcome.
Rachel Simon: Hi, Lee. Thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: I am so excited to be talking to you. I think what you do is so important for business people and I am sure we’re going to learn a lot. But before we get too far into things, tell everybody a little bit about Connect the Dots Digital. How you serving folks?
Rachel Simon: Absolutely. So Connect the Dots Digital helps professionals to make sure that LinkedIn is working as an asset and not a liability. So what I mean by that is for most of us, when we’re looking to we’re going to meet with somebody, we’re doing business development, we are going to a conference, People are looking at our LinkedIn profile to get a sense of who we are, and we want to make sure that what they’re seeing is going to help us and not hurt us. So when people come across incomplete out-of-date profiles where it isn’t clear what somebody does, what their business is within a company, when there’s a real mismatch on branding across the board, that can be a challenge and perceived as a bit of a liability versus when it’s really dialed in. It is a really powerful asset to help push your business goals and needs forward.
Lee Kantor: Now, is it true or is this a hypothesis on your part that in doing business in today’s world, that people are going to go on to LinkedIn to check you out? Like that’s not something that is so much as a hypothesis nowadays there’s enough data to support that. If anybody’s making a business buying decision at some level, they’re going to check you out a little bit. And LinkedIn is one of the places they’re going to look.
Rachel Simon: Absolutely. I mean, even if you do a Google search, like if I search your name in Google, clearly Business RadioX is going to come up, but your LinkedIn profile is probably going to be one of the first within the first five results. So, you know, Google search engines are pulling LinkedIn into generally some of their top results for people. Now, if you have a name like me, that’s pretty common. It might not be my specific profile, but your point is true where yes, it is where people are going to go to find you or when they’re searching you or your company. It’s going to come up.
Lee Kantor: Now with that understanding that, okay, this is going to be one of the points that will come up when someone’s searching for me, it’s in my best interest to optimize my profile, right? Like this isn’t something that’s like, Oh, yeah, you know, that would be great down the road, I’ll do that. But this, there’s no reason not to optimize my profile for the best possible result. First of all, it’s free and there’s no kind of cost to it. But secondly, like, to your point, it could be I don’t want it to be a negative to me. I don’t want to do anything that’s harming the chances of doing business. I want to have as many positive, you know, points to my name and my business as possible. So why would I neglect this?
Rachel Simon: Correct. And I think, you know what, One thing that’s happened over the last several years, it was starting to happen before Covid and then the Covid years really exacerbated it, is that LinkedIn shifted from the place you go when you need a job? To the place that is a 24 over seven networking event. So think about networking as the the big umbrella and everything falls under that. So whether you are looking to use LinkedIn primarily again to find your next role, to do business development, to be recruiting talent for your organization, to be positioning yourself as an expert and thought leader, everything falls under that broad umbrella of networking. So we have to shift our mindset as to what the purpose of LinkedIn is. So when we think about it as a networking event, when you go to an in-person networking event, you’re going to want to show up ready to talk to people professional, prepared with your business cards, you know about how you describe what you do, how you introduce yourself. And so we want to sort of take that same. Take that from the in-person online and really utilize LinkedIn from that perspective.
Lee Kantor: So what do you mind sharing some advice, maybe some low hanging fruit for an individual who hasn’t really thought about LinkedIn in this kind of proactive manner and maybe just went through LinkedIn one day and go, Yeah, I’ve got to do LinkedIn, Like I got to do all these other platforms and I just like knock it out in an hour. Can you share maybe some basic low hanging fruit strategically to get the most bang for your buck?
Rachel Simon: Yeah. So I’ll give a few high level tips. So number one is you want to make that good first impression. And where we make that first impression primarily is through our photos and our headlines. So you want to make sure your profile photo is current and professional for LinkedIn. Now you don’t have to suit and tie for that photo, but it shouldn’t be something that you would put on your Facebook profile. A lot of times on Facebook, we’ll put our profile photo with our kids, our dog wearing sunglasses, whatever the case may be. So we want a professional looking photo where we’re making eye contact with the camera, you know, kind of upper torso headshot and to make sure that that photo is the settings are correct so that people outside your first degree network can see it. This happens all the time. People have their settings wrong. And so if their profile photo is set to be seen to first degree connections versus public, so that if I’m not connected to you, I can’t see your picture. So it looks like you don’t have one. So your profile photo, your banner image, which is the rectangle that sits behind your profile photo, and that should be that is like a billboard. So when it’s blank, it’s reading your ad here. If you work for a company, it’s great to make your marketing team happy. Ask them for a branded banner image. They will love you, I promise. If you are a business owner utilizing that space to promote your brand, your business, whatever it is that you do.
Rachel Simon: But really taking advantage of that, that banner image and then your headline. Now this is one where people get a little kind of stuck because the default often is title and company. But these days so many company names are unclear as far as what that company does. So the example I always like to say is unless you’re the CEO of Delta, which we we know, we know what a CEO is and we know what Delta Airlines is, you need to really utilize that headline and make it more descriptive based on what is the value that you offer versus what’s your title and your company. So there’s a little creativity that can go into that. And with your headline, the first 40 to 50 characters are the most important. So you want to front load your headline with those valuable words and phrases at the top. So that’s really make that good first impression. And that’s going to. Definitely help as far as the overall strategy is concerned. And then, you know, there’s a lot of components to a profile. There’s a lot of components to understanding who you’re connected to. And then as you get more and more into it, how do you start to create content and engage with people so that you’re showing up in front of the people you want to be seen by?
Lee Kantor: So what’s your backstory? How did you become like a, you know, so proficient in optimizing LinkedIn?
Rachel Simon: Uh, it’s I’ll give you the short story. So I worked in the nonprofit world here in Atlanta for 15 years. I did a combination of community outreach, event planning, and then I transitioned into marketing because I had a personal interest in social media. And I started I launched the social media strategy for the nonprofit where I was working back in the beginning of 2020 ten ish when all the stuff was coming out. I did that for a couple of years, went out on my own to do marketing consulting in 2015 and had the opportunity to work with a client in the health care space here in Atlanta, and they wanted to put in an email to connect with their CEO on LinkedIn. And so I took a peek at his profile just to do my due diligence. And the CEO, who had been in his industry for his whole career, 30 years, he had 12 connections, like one one, two connection. And so I politely shared my recommendation that nobody’s going to connect with him because he clearly doesn’t use LinkedIn. So how about we help him build up his network, just get him to a more respectable number so people would consider Yes, hitting that connect button. And it started this whole strategy of building his network, sharing content. And, you know, fast forward a year later, that company secured eight new clients simply through the CEO’s LinkedIn strategy. And so I realized there was tremendous opportunity in that area and decided to focus my business solely on helping professionals to really leverage the value of LinkedIn. And here we are.
Lee Kantor: So that was your first kind of hint of number one, there’s a need for this. Number two, that you have some skills that can really make a difference and have an impact in a business in a short period of time.
Rachel Simon: Absolutely. And, you know, a lot of it is getting the company, the individual, to see the value. It’s it’s it is a process. It is not a quick fix. Like there’s no easy button for LinkedIn because you’re investing time building relationships that will ultimately lead to business. Right? So think about it as we want to position ourselves through our profile, be connected with the right people that are going to be strategic for what we’re looking to achieve, create, build those relationships through a combination of creating our own content, engaging with other people’s content, utilizing the direct messaging in the right way. And the goal really is then to take those online relationships offline. And that’s where the real magic happens. But it’s a process for sure and definitely a long game that’s worth investing in.
Lee Kantor: It’s interesting you bring that up because a lot of people, especially on social media platforms, one of the attractions is that it’s not in person, that everything happens, you know, on their phone or on their laptop. How important in the business setting is it to at some point create a, you know, an in real life relationship, whether it be in person in some manner, whether it’s a, you know, a zoom call or just some interaction where it’s human to human and it isn’t just kind of anonymous people, you know, clicking buttons to each other.
Rachel Simon: Yeah. I mean, it is you know, we hear this all the time, right? In business, it’s the know like and trust factor. And so LinkedIn is just a tool. It’s just another tool that we can use to build that know like and trust factor so that when you do request that zoom call like, you know, Oh, hey Lee, we’ve been engaging with each other’s content for a while now. What do you think about jumping on a Zoom call or if the person’s in your community meeting for coffee? You’ve already built that goodwill and that trust by engaging in a positive way back and forth. And so it’s a lot easier for that person to say, Sure, that sounds great versus what we see too often, which is you connect with somebody and you immediately get like pitched to death in the DMS with everything that person’s ever done professionally. And hey, let’s jump on a call and you’re like, Excuse me, I don’t know you. Who are you? So that’s the point of it. It’s worth the investment and taking the time to go slow and to build those relationships so that you will get that person to say, Sure, let’s jump on a zoom or Sure, I’d love to meet you for coffee.
Lee Kantor: Yeah, you were sharing advice earlier and that to me is one of the biggest don’t do’s is like, Oh, you want to connect? Sure. And then the next literally within seconds is some pitch to buy my stuff. And yeah, I can’t tell you that. Does that ever work? I mean, that just is so inelegant. I mean.
Rachel Simon: So I’ve I’ve over the years have engaged some people who have pitched me and tried to engage them in a conversation because the reality is most of those interactions are done through automation tools that are like third party tools, which technically break the LinkedIn terms of service. So when you use them, you are putting your account at risk. And so that’s what I’ve I’ve told people that I’m like, I can tell you’re using an automation tool just as an FYI. It can put your account at risk. And LinkedIn has actually been a little bit more strict about those recently. Um, and this one person who was in the financial services industry this was several years ago kind of got back and we had a back and forth and he’s like, Well, I’ve closed blah blah amount of business by with these messages. But what ends up happening to your question is, yes, they may close some deals, but if you’re if they send 100 messages and they get one new client, that’s great. But 99 people have a bad impression of that person. So you don’t know in five years if that is going to circle back around and, you know, maybe you do need those services at that point, but you’re going to remember that like a back and forth that you had and maybe move on to somebody else who has a little bit of a better way that they approach you. So I’m not a fan. I generally will disconnect from people when I connect with them and they pitch me immediately because I’m not interested in that.
Lee Kantor: Right. And the thing that they’re not realizing is if you do swing back around that message they sent you is part of the the thread. So they’re going to see that you did that. I mean, you can’t hide from that anymore.
Rachel Simon: Exactly. There it is. And you’ll be like, oh, yeah, that’s the guy that. Right? So sent me seven messages. Exactly two weeks. Yep.
Lee Kantor: So now let’s talk a little bit about this recent thing. You were part of the LinkedIn local event. What is that and how did you get involved?
Rachel Simon: Yeah, so we we had this great event on this this past week called LinkedIn Local Atlanta. So the short story of LinkedIn Local is that and I shared this at the event, um, kind of like an urban legend. So maybe seven, eight years ago there was a woman in Australia who thought, Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to get together with my LinkedIn connections that are in my community so we can meet in person? And so she put a post up and on a whim before she published it, added the hashtag LinkedIn Local. And some of her connections in other countries. I think somebody was in Canada, maybe someone was in England, in in London. Saw that and thought, What a fun idea. I’m going to do that in my community. And so these LinkedIn local events kind of organically happened and they took off and within a year or 18 months there were like hundreds of them all over the world. So several years ago there were LinkedIn local events here in Atlanta. And, you know, then Covid happened. And this was something, you know, again, I came from the event like World in the nonprofits that I worked in. So I had a lot of experience planning events and I thought, God, I’d love to put one of those together. Like, that’s a personal goal of mine. Then Covid happened and nobody did anything. And this year I was like, okay, this is the year this is going to happen.
Rachel Simon: This year I started doing some research on it and I actually came across some social media properties that were branded out for LinkedIn Local Atlanta spent a lot of time trying to figure out who is the person behind those platforms, you know, who had the who are the admins on these pages. Right. Because it’s very hard to figure that out. And in the meantime, I had tapped two of my LinkedIn friends here in that are local here in Atlanta to see if they would be interested in partnering with me on this, which they both did. So I worked on this with one gentleman, Adam Marks, who’s really connected in with the tech community, and another Philip Davis, who’s a career coach and recruiter. So the three of us worked on all of this. We did manage to find the owner of those social properties and they very kindly allowed us to take them over for them. And we put this really fun event together. We did it at the Buckhead Club and the intention really was take your online network and meet them in the real world. So we had some networking. We had a great panel on sort of innovation trends and technology and AI, and it was amazing. There were almost 100 people there. There was so much energy in the room. Like people absolutely loved it. And our hope is that it’s the first of many for our community.
Lee Kantor: And then so what happened at the event? Was it kind of facilitated or was it kind of a free for all? Yes.
Rachel Simon: So the first hour so the event ran from 6 to 830. So from 6 to 7, it was basically just open networking. So people arrived. And what was amazing is at like 615, I’d say there were already 40, 50 people there. Like people were really ready for this. So people were arriving in that first hour. There was, you know, some food and drinks. Around seven. We started we had about an hour program with a panel. So we had Phil Davis was our moderator. Adam Mark sat on the panel, along with Ali Merritt, who is the managing director at the Atlanta Tech Village, and then one of my LinkedIn friends and connections, Isabella Bedoya, who lives in Greenville, South Carolina. She drove in for the event, but she runs a company called Marketing Pros AI, and that her company is focused on helping professionals really understand how to leverage AI tools that are going to help them with their business. So they we had about a 40 minute panel conversation with Q&A, and then the last 30 minutes was just everybody more schmoozing, more, more eating, more drinking, everybody filing out and having a great time. So the conversation was great. People. We had a photo booth there, which was super, super fun. So it was a combination of kind of like networking party with a little bit of educational component to it.
Lee Kantor: So was this something that met your expectations? Were you kind of blown away or was it something that you were like, Well, we should be doing this more regularly? Like, what was your kind of after you were debriefing, what were you thinking?
Rachel Simon: I was. Pretty blown away, I have to say. I think the three of us were, you know, a tremendous amount of work went into getting making this happen. It’s really hard when you’re trying an event for the first time to get people to commit to it. You know, there were times where I’m like, are we going to have people at this thing? Like it was a little stressful. We had a lot of people signing up at the last minute, which I think is just what happens generally. It’s a busy time of year, which I understand. But what blew me away was just the positive energy. Like people were coming up to me, coming up to Adam and Phil saying I needed this so badly. Like I have missed in-person networking. You know, I met so many great people. We had such a wide variety of professions. It was a really diverse group as far as like ages and the kinds of businesses people run, people from corporate business owners, it was just really ran the gamut. And a lot of people, I think, are ready for more. The beauty is that these events can be we don’t have to have a formula for it. So we sent out a survey yesterday morning to get people’s feedback on it of what kinds of events they’d like to see in the future. And we definitely are planning on making this a regular occurrence now. How regular? I’m not totally sure, but hopefully a couple times a year.
Lee Kantor: Well, congratulations on putting this together. Is this in any way like, does LinkedIn have to bless this since you’re using the name or is this something that they’re like, hey, we’re going to kind of lean into this chaos and let the local communities do what they want to do with this?
Rachel Simon: Yeah, that’s such a good question. So LinkedIn does not have to bless it. Basically the way LinkedIn local events work is that you are allowed to use the brand property, which is awesome because a lot of times, you know, there’s a restrictions on being able to use the full logo you are. Linkedin does let you use the blue in part of their logo, but not necessarily the whole the whole brand. But for LinkedIn local events you can use the whole brand. However, no one person or group can own a LinkedIn local in their community, if that makes sense. So like you could tomorrow say I’m going to do a LinkedIn local Atlanta and brand it however you want to brand it and run your own event. Now, hopefully within a city, they wouldn’t want to kind of co-opt the brand and have a bunch of people running it. But that’s the way it works from LinkedIn is like, No, I can’t own LinkedIn local Atlanta. Nobody can own that in their city.
Lee Kantor: Well, congratulations on pulling that off. If somebody wants to learn more and get involved with LinkedIn Local in the future or get involved and learn more about your service offering, what is the coordinates?
Rachel Simon: The best place to connect with me is on LinkedIn, which should be a no brainer. I’m on there all the time. I like to say that most people don’t have to spend hours on LinkedIn, but I do because it’s my business. So feel free. Please reach out to me, connect with me. I just ask. It just helps me know where people are coming from. If you pop in the message Business RadioX and then I know you listen to the show, but I’m very happy to connect with anybody. We also have a LinkedIn local Atlanta company page so you can search LinkedIn local Atlanta, and we’ll find the LinkedIn page for that for the brand. So you can follow that. And you know, we will we pushed a lot of content out through the company page to promote this event. And we have so many people’s posts who’ve been sharing their experience on there. So we’ve got a lot of more stuff to come.
Lee Kantor: And then if somebody wants to connect with you and maybe optimize their LinkedIn for their business or themselves, what’s a website for that?
Rachel Simon: Connect the dots digital.com. Or again, just reach out to me via LinkedIn and I’d be happy to talk to to you about helping an individual with their profile or training your team so that everybody is looking great and making LinkedIn work for them.
Lee Kantor: Well again, congratulations on all the success and thank you so much for doing what you do. It’s important work and we appreciate you.
Rachel Simon: Thank you so much. It’s been great being here.
Lee Kantor: And I’d like to connect with you to see if we can support your efforts and maybe promote future events or promote your work about LinkedIn, because I think it’s important for people to know and to to do it right with the right people.
Rachel Simon: Fantastic. Well, I will find you on LinkedIn and send you a connection request, and then we can be connected.
Lee Kantor: All right. Well, thank you again. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Atlanta Business Radio.