Social Media Business Hour Show #55 With Brad Baldridge

SMBH Brad Baldridge

Brad Baldridge is a Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Baldridge Wealth Management and Baldridge College Solutions are affiliated. Cambridge and the Baldridge companies are not affiliated.

In this special episode, Brad Baldridge interviews Nile Nickel about how students can use LinkedIn to get into college.

For a complete transcription of the interview, please see below:

Brad: Today we’re sitting down with Nile Nickel. He’s an expert on LinkedIn and is involved also with a Social Media Business Hour and the founder of LinkedIn Focus so he’s got a lot of great expertise for us so welcome Nile.
Nile: Thanks for having me today, Brad.
Brad: It’s going to be great for us I’m sure.
Nile: Well I think we’re going to find all sorts of new, interesting things.
Brad: Yes. So before we jump into our main focus which is probably going to be LinkedIn, tell us about a little bit about yourself. How did you become a LinkedIn expert? What’s your history?
Nile: Well I became a LinkedIn Expert, I actually call it accidental success. The reason I say that is I had followed social media, I’ve been in technology all my life, literally from twelve, thirteen years old so technology has always been not only my career path but an interest I’ve had. And when all this, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, go on down, Twitter, started to come out, I listened to all the stuff on it and was so sort of ‘ho hum’ about it. But I had a job prior that I traveled around the country and I had a tremendous number of high-level contacts. And I found an opportunity to potentially re-engage with some of those contacts to help me with my business, I thought it was a good mutual opportunity so I started to reach out to a number of my contacts and what I found was that they went really old and cold. I found out I’d done a really poor job in nurturing all of these wonderful business contacts that I developed over the years. I said I’ve got to do a better job of this so I started to look for some of the more current and online things to manage my rolodex and LinkedIn happened to be one of the things I came across. If you look at LinkedIn, everybody describes it as an online resume or an online rolodex. So I said Ok I can start jumping in and looking at that and playing with it. I read everything I could and started playing with it and I found out that it was easy to get shut down doing not only everything LinkedIn told you to do, but even the experts. So I said there’s got to be a better way. I could see potential with this tool, so I started testing. And I tested relentlessly for a number of years and because of my background and being a technologist and IT and all of that I’m able to do some of those things probably a little bit better than most and I found some things that really started to work. So I looked at how LinkedIn was best used, regardless of what the experts or for that matter what LinkedIn was saying. Really just found over the years some great things and started engaging with some clients at their request and found that they were just getting results far above anything they could ever imagine. When that happens they tend to talk and when they talk you tend to get more clients. I’ve had a number of people start following me on LinkedIn and all those experts LinkedIn gods, LinkedIn kings, whatever labels that people have bestowed upon me has been them bestowing it because I just look at it and say “I needed to use LinkedIn for my business and all I did that was probably different was spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do that, testing and evaluating”
Brad: Wow ok. So I guess that leads to the very first question, what is LinkedIn and how is it different? Most people know it’s some sort of social media, but how is it different from what most people are familiar with, say Facebook?
Nile: I’ll probably answer that a couple of different ways. First off, LinkedIn is a professional networking tool. It’s a social media tool but it’s for the professional crowd. That’s the way LinkedIn positions it and very honestly if you look at the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook, you don’t get as much friendly, chatty, where I went on vacation, what I’m doing tonight, here’s the concert or here’s the weekend plans, discussions and photos. It just doesn’t fit the LinkedIn profile.
Brad: So you’re not going to be taking pictures of your breakfast and sharing it on LinkedIn?
Nile: No, no. And if you do, you’re going to die a slow and painless death. But still, nevertheless LinkedIn is just not going to be very useful for you. But what I found is LinkedIn sells themselves and most experts feel LinkedIn as the best place to sort of showcase your background and experience and the term resume gets used quite a bit. I hate that personally because while you have all the features of a resume in LinkedIn, if you treat it like a resume, again you’re going to get very poor results. You also hear it’s an online rolodex for your business contacts and that’s also true. But those are so low on the list of benefits the way I look at it, I cringe when I hear those things. What I look at LinkedIn as is it’s absolutely the best place to sort of put together your portfolio of experience, of interest, of success and the people have partnered with you along the way. When you think about it that way, you start to get a little bit of a paradigm shift about the way you set up things and all of a sudden you’re able to put some things in there you might not have thought to put in your LinkedIn profile before. The value to that is, now I’m talking about what you put in your LinkedIn account, but the real value is, if you do things correctly on LinkedIn to position yourself for your goals, your professional goals, whether that’s getting a job, whether it’s going to college, whether it’s finding new employees, whether it’s finding new business partners whatever it may be, if you sort of align your profile to meet that goal, then what happens is anybody that’s doing a search that might want to connect with you for one reason or another is going to find you anywhere on the Internet because of what you did on LinkedIn. So now it’s translating off of LinkedIn to Google, Bing, Yahoo so on and so forth, which is obviously a much bigger crowd, a much bigger audience.
Brad: So I guess in simple terms what you’re saying is, as an example – why don’t you give us an example. I was going to try and make one up but you can probably do it better than me. Give us an example of how a Google search might find you.
Nile: Let me use my profile and if people want to search my profile for this they can find out. My core business where I spend most of time is called Balance Engines and what Balance Engines does is it’s a cellular reconciliation company and I’m not talking about biology here, I’m talking about wireless agents here, people that sell the Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, are typically independent businesses and they generate their sales records in their store. The majority of the money they make is based on the commission they get for selling the phone plans and they get that from the carrier. Well there’s a problem, it’s like reconciling your checkbook except it’s a lot more complicated and with vastly larger number of records. You have to reconcile basically what the carrier is paying you with the activity you’ve done, and like balancing your checkbook it’s not uncommon that you’ll find errors, not only on your side but the carrier side. Obviously if it’s on the carrier side you’re not getting paid. So that’s my core business. So one of the things that I did, I went out and figured out what people that have that problem are searching for on the Internet to find a solution for that problem. They look for, they search for ‘cellular reconciliation’, ‘commission reconciliation’, things like that and if you were to go on any of the search engines and type in ‘cellular reconciliation’, ‘commission reconciliation’ – generally I will come up in the first, second or third spot if not all three of them and I’m probably going to have the majority of the first page of the search for those terms.
Brad: When you come up, are you coming up as your LinkedIn profile?
Nile: LinkedIn is what has given me the ability to come up in those positions and there are technical reasons for that. I could go into the technology of it, why it works and all that but the simple fact is that it works and the interesting thing is it works somewhere between four and twelve hours after you implement the correct strategies, so it’s very, very fast as well.
Brad: Wow ok. So let’s try and pair LinkedIn to college a little bit. If you’re a parent of a high school kid that’s looking to go to college or maybe you already have a student in college, is LinkedIn a tool for the college student and/or the high school student?
Nile: Well you know there’s two different questions there and if you don’t mind we’ll split them apart because it’s very different for the high school student than it is for the college student. The answer to both questions is absolutely, positively yes and if you not only want to save a little bit of money, but substantially save a whole lot of money and go to the schools you want to go and get the job you want to get, LinkedIn is absolutely, positively today one of the most important tools that you should be using to do that. And let’s talk about the high school students for example. When I coach parents and high school students on what to do, first off I talk about understanding and having a strategy when they start their freshman year in high school, so we’re talking young. That doesn’t mean if you’re a junior or senior that it’s too late to jump in and do this, but the earlier the better. What you want to do, is as I said, LinkedIn if you think about it is a place to showcase your achievements and accomplishments. So as you’re going through high school, colleges look for a lot of things, they look for a well-rounded student. Are you involved with social activities? Are you involved with philanthropic activities? What sort of things do you do extracurricularly? In addition to that, what sort of projects did you undertake in high school? The more of those things that you start to record and start to build, the better it is. I know for example when I was in ninth grade, the freshman year of high school, the band played for the president. That’s sort of a neat thing so to be able to put that on a project’s list or a list of things I’d done, which is certainly things I can do on LinkedIn, as a college recruiter looking at that they say “That’s fascinating – one not only that they did that, they were in touch with politics and the climate, that they posted it here.” And as you start to post more and more of those projects, more of those accomplishments, maybe you took some AP classes in high school, it’s certainly going to be on your transcripts and all of that, but was there anything interesting through that process. Did you have guest speakers? Did you take field trips to different institutions where you got to meet different people – maybe even alums of the school that you wanted to go to. The more you start to build this whole look at you, focus with what your goal is, the better you’re going to look to any college that’s looking at you, but if you happen to load up with alums on the projects on your connections that you have as a freshman in high school or sophomore, junior, senior – all of a sudden you look a lot different than a lot of other applications that they’re looking at and all of a sudden you’re at the top of the stack.
Brad: Let me clarify a couple of things there because there’s a couple of nuggets that I want to pull out. The first one is you mentioned is when the college recruiter sees that. So the first question is are college recruiters on social media and are they looking?
Nile: I’m going to answer that two ways. First off, yes they are simple terms. But how much? Today you look in the corporate world, 95% of all of the Fortune 500 companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find and recruit people. 95%. If you look at professional recruiters, 85% of them are using exclusively LinkedIn. Why did I go that direction to answer your college recruiting question? Well it started to translate down to college recruiters. If we go back three or four years, about 30% of college recruiters were looking at LinkedIn at all for their students. Today, and when I say today, really starting for the 2014 school year, about 50% of college recruiters were looking at LinkedIn and if the student happened to point the recruiters or administrators toward LinkedIn in their submissions, that number jumped to about 90%. As a matter of fact, starting the 2014 school year, obviously, in the past a bit, in the 2014 school year, there were a number of colleges that allowed you to submit your application and apply directly through LinkedIn. So it sort of gives you an idea of how much college recruiters and admission offices have started to use LinkedIn as a tool.
Brad: So by the time you get to be a college graduate, you’re almost going to have to understand and work in LinkedIn based on what you just told this. Ok so then another practical question is if I’m a parent of or I am that high school student, let’s say I’m a junior, we have a guest speaker it’s a local, maybe they’re doing a career day and it’s a local doctor or lawyer or something and they come in and give a presentation about their subject and I resonate with that person so maybe I introduce myself when the talk is over and then I go connect with them on LinkedIn? Is that kind of what you’re telling us as a potential strategy?
Nile: That’s absolutely a strategy and you want to do that as often as you can. You get that person that comes in and you say “wow I’m really interested, where did you go to school?” You really start the personal questions and you say “listen, I’m trying to get into xyz school for whatever discipline you’re trying to get into and I’m looking for all the people I’ve connected with overtime to at least a connection with that I can refer to when I’m ready to start that college application process. Would you be generous enough to accept a connection from me on LinkedIn?” And in most cases you’ve set yourself so far apart from most of the other students that they’ll say “Absolutely, that’s really a proactive approach” and not only that you’ll stick out with that person. You may be doing this to get to the college you want to get to and have all the connections, but after you get through college we’re talking about earning money so the next things what are you going to do in the job market? Also, maybe you want to do an internship in the summers leading up to college. Well absolutely, positively, these are some of the connections you might find and taking a professional approach that is very strategic is exactly what most employers are looking for and as an intern you stand out above the crowd.
Brad: Right. So let’s say I’ve done that. I’m that high school student, I’ve linked up with some of my high school teachers, some of the colleges I’ve run across, some of the professionals I’ve run across, friends and family, aunts and uncles and all of the other professionals along the way who are willing to link with me, I’m linked with them. What else would I need to be doing because I think there’s probably more. I think you need to be active in some ways, so what else would that student do besides get those connections?
Nile: We’ve talked about the connections and all of those connections are critical, connect with recruiters at fairs, at conferences as well as college alums from colleges you’d like to go, you’re targeting a college, and try to get to know the key people, the department heads and all of that and find the opportunities that you got to meet them face to face, oh and by the way, record that on LinkedIn. If you look at some of the basics you want to do on LinkedIn that so many people overlook. The first thing you want to do, and this sounds counterintuitive, because we’re talking about credentials here and all of your experience like that, you want to get a profile picture, a good headshot. You don’t want it to be something taken with the iPhone and have your arm around somebody that’s cut out of the picture or something like that. You want to look professional even as a student. Everybody understands that you’re 14, 15, 16 years old or whatever it may be, but get a good professional picture. Now why I say that is when people look at a LinkedIn profile, and I find this fascinating I know the statistic, I’ve looked at it time and time again, I’ve tested it, but when they look at your profile they spend 80% of their time looking at your picture and that is your first impression in many cases so make it a good one. Obviously you’ve got your senior pictures that you’re probably going to get at the end of your junior year, beginning of your senior year, then absolutely positively put your senior picture there. Otherwise just get a good headshot. They don’t cost that much…
Brad: Yeah $10 or $15 at Target, Kmart Sears…
Nile: And when you look at what that’s going to save you, because we haven’t talked about how this positions you on what scholarships might be available so that’s an investment, not an expense. The next thing is there’s a big area that is called the summary area and that summary area has 2,000 characters that are available and what you want to do is you want to tell you’re engaging story. Why did you choose a certain area of study? Typically we have real reasons for it and some of them are very emotionally charged, so tell that story. What does it mean to you? How you hope that it will make the world better, or just your world better. But tell a story there, don’t just list facts. There’s a whole big area of the rest of our profile to list all the facts. Tell an engaging story. I don’t mind using one from the professional world if you’d like an example of that Brad.
Brad: Yeah that’d be good.
Nile: I’ll give you an example. I was looking for a data analyst and that’s just a boring, dry job you’re looking at ones and zeroes, bits and bytes all day long, you wouldn’t think it would be very exciting but I came across a LinkedIn profile and it blew me away. Here’s what it said, and this will demonstrate telling a story. It started it out “As a little girl I loved reading Harriet the Spy, as a matter of fact I loved reading it so much I got in trouble by my parents all the time because I’d have the flashlight with my Harriet the Spy book with the covers up over my head reading past bed time. You get the idea of how much I was engaged with spy novels and Harriet the Spy. But can you imagine how excited I am today, going to work every day and solving the mysteries in data. I’m living my childhood dream and I couldn’t ask for more. And then she led into what some of her background was, why she did it and all of that. But that was a story that just drew everybody in. Now can you imagine a college recruiter reading that instead of “I think I’d be good for your college because of all of this…” Why are you passionate? What do you want to do? Why did you choose this area of study? Why did you choose that college? There’s an old slogan in sales that I think is worth applying at the high school level when we’re talking about this: “Facts tell, stories sell.” After all, you’re selling you when you’re trying to get into college these days.
Brad: Right. So I have this vision now and what you’re telling me and again trying to bring it out for what parents might think. If you have a student that let’s say is a musician and they do performances and they get recorded and especially if they’re doing solos and that kind of stuff, LinkedIn might be a place that you can post some of that stuff.
Nile: Oh absolutely.
Brad: As it happens…
Nile: Absolutely
Brad: If they’re part of the Robotics team, a picture and a story of how the robot was built and whose ideas and how the collaboration worked, or our team got a long or our team fought, whatever it is just tell the story.
Nile: Exactly and make sure you list the other team members. Who was the team advisor? You’ve got the picture perfectly.
Brad: Right. You have an English essay you feel like you hit out of the park, go ahead and post it and let other people read it.
Nile: Absolutely
Brad: You’re part of an election process because you’re going for Homecoming King or Queen or Class President, tell the story and your stumping speech. Get it out there because it helps people figure out who you are as a person and some of those connections that you met as a freshman now see that you’re active and every once in awhile pop back and read your stuff and are involved, they’re not going to forget you.
Nile: They’re not going to forget you and you have become a friend to them, you’ve become a connection. You’re not just facts and figures on a piece of paper at this point in time.
Brad: Somewhere down the road, here’s my point, somewhere down the road you’re going to post something like “I just graduated with my nursing degree, I’m looking to work in a hospital does anybody know anybody that can get me connected to this hospital chain or that hospital chain.” That person who’s been involved with your life very tangentially, just a little bit here and there can say “oh yeah I play racquetball with the head recruiter over at the hospital. I’ll give him your name and a plug” and the next thing you know you get that call for an interview.
Nile: Absolutely. And you get into the practice as early as you can in high school and you almost treat this as an online journal or diary of all of these things, the clipping book that we used to save of all of the clippings and programs and stuff like that we’d get from all of the events we did and you continue that through college. We didn’t answer the college question earlier, but what you’ve done is position yourself perfectly to move into the job market.
Brad: Right. So how do things change as, I mean obviously you might I guess when you’re in high school you’re building it with the focus of college recruiting or are you building it a little more generally? Would you suddenly say I’m a junior in college and I need to revamp my LinkedIn because I’m not looking to get into college I’m looking to find a career so everything has to change. Or is the most of the stuff you’re just going to slowly transition and now your posts are more to that fact that I’m about to graduate and I’m going to be looking for a job in engineering, or a job in aerospace or a job in healthcare.
Nile: Yeah and the general answer is yes but if you just stop and think about this as you’re going through college, you’re going to get more focused and more specific. If you’re in engineering and had some projects, some papers and things like that that are engineering based and to the extent that you can share them – and I say to the extent because colleges have a little bit different rules on that and you may need to check with your professor or your advisor – but you want to share as much of that as you can. You may not be able to share anything other than the fact that you worked on this team and this was the goal the team was, although if the college is promoting something like that for research it may be that you can use the link or the college project from the college’s website in your LinkedIn profile. One of the things that we didn’t talk about is through high school you want to pick up as many recommendations as you can. Through college, you want to intensify the recommendations so you want to get more of them. Here’s the beauty of recommendations for high school or college. If you are submitting your application to a college, you have two, or three or five recommendation letters that you’ve put together and you’re submitting with your application. Everybody knows, including the recruiters, that you are going to submit the best ones you’ve got from the highest profile people. However, if you’ve got twenty or fifty of them on LinkedIn, they get to choose the recommendation they’re looking at and not only do they get to choose that, they get to go look at that person’s profile and they look at who that person is connected to. So it allows them to get a much deeper and richer look at you. To look at this whole, well-rounded individual that they’re evaluating and they can’t do that with a lot of other people. So just looking at what they can find, that you’re giving them permission to find they are able to get to know you a lot better and that builds their confidence related to accepting you into their program.
Brad: Right so there’s lots of things you can do. Here’s a question for you that’s a little off the wall. Let’s go back to your ninth grade performance in front of the president – if you’re in ninth grade today and you perform for the president and you’re shaking his hand, is that your opportunity to say “Hey Mr. President I’m going to be contacting you on LinkedIn, can we get hooked up?”
Nile: You know strangely enough there have been some things – I don’t know if any high school students have done this related to the president, but there have been social media things like that from high ow school students related to the president and yeah they’ve got that engagement.
Brad: Do you know if the president actually does have a LinkedIn profile?
Nile: I don’t know, well I guarantee that he probably does but I guarantee you that it’s also probably private, we don’t see it. The question of whether he’d ever use it again is another question entirely. But obviously there’s not going to be that many opportunities like that one but there are going to be a lot of opportunities for the college president or the governor or the mayor or whatever it might be and again it just makes you look all the better.
Brad: Right. It doesn’t even need to be that big. Just the city councilman or the head recruiter at a particular school or the chief engineer at a local manufacturer. All those kinds of people you run into all the time.
Nile: And all of these things from the projects that we mentioned and all of that, what lessons did you learn? Why was it important to you? What takeaways did you take away from that experience? As you tell more of those stories, and obviously you’re going to also put the best spin that you can, you’re going to think about it, but the thing is they get to read more, they get to find more and the thing is none of those things fit on the college application.
Brad: Right. Alright that was a lot of great information. Again, let’s just clarify because I don’t know if we actually covered it but LinkedIn does have some differences as compared to Facebook as well. Can you explain a little bit about some of the unique things you can do with LinkedIn that you wouldn’t be doing in Twitter or Facebook or other places?
Nile: Well again LinkedIn is definitely a platform and it allows you to search in a professional context. In fact, the search function we didn’t talk about at all is something that’s huge on LinkedIn. You can do some of these things on Facebook and all of that but nowhere near to the degree you can on LinkedIn. For example, if you wanted to say that “I want to go to Harvard” and I want to know from the connections that I have or the connections my father has or my mother or the preacher, the city councilman whatever it might be, I want to know who they know that went to Harvard or maybe who’s at Harvard now. Those are the types of searches you can do so that you can actually strategically, and this sounds almost creepy to a degree, but you can strategically target the people that you want to be connected to that you want to say “hey maybe I want a recommendation from this person because this person went to Harvard.” A lot of their former classmates are still at Harvard in administrative or teaching positions so this is an important person for me to get to know. Those are the types of things you do on LinkedIn that you can’t do on any of the other social media platforms.
Brad: Right. So to give another example out there especially for parents to try and understand it is LinkedIn is great for finding connections of connections so as an example, I needed a tree cut down, actually my neighbor did and we’re saying does anyone know a tree service? Well no, nobody knows. So you go into LinkedIn and type in the right words about tree service and you can see who you know who knows somebody in the tree service industry which is what I did. Now once you have that information, you can call your connections, or there’s one of my friends that I know and talk to and he knows the owner of this tree service over there for some reason. So you call your friend and say I’m interested in the tree service and I see you’re friends with so and so, I’m thinking about hiring him and then got a lot of positive feedback “yeah I use him all the time, he’s great” But occasionally you hear things like “Yeah I’m connected to him but I don’t recommend him.” So you kind of get a feel for it. Yes you know who they’re connected to and can kind of build those bridges for you. So a student can do the same thing “who do I know that knows somebody that does or is or involved with…” and once you have those connections you can go back to those. That’s why we mentioned earlier if you had a speaker as a freshman in high school and you were active in LinkedIn the whole time and they still know who you were, they’re no longer cold which is something you mentioned earlier, if you go back to them six years later and said “hey I notice you’re connected to the admissions officer at the college I’m interested in, can you hook us up?” and they very well may do that. I think there’s a lot of great things with LinkedIn and I’m glad we got together because I hadn’t really thought about it before.
Nile: And most people haven’t because most people want to keep there younger students away from, and we’re talking about people engaging with LinkedIn at thirteen or fourteen years old, which LinkedIn recently changed their terms of service to allow that. But parents most likely would have never thought about that, but this allows them to position their student in such a way that can put them at the top of the list and oh by the way, if they’re looking for scholarships, financial aid, whatever it may be they look a whole lot better than most of the other applicants, a whole lot more well-rounded and they’re really interested in having them in their program.
Brad: Well great I appreciate all of the great information. We’re going to wrap things up but before I let you go, can you give us three quick tips, and they can be what we already talked about or they can be unrelated that can help parents and students in high school figure out the college process?
Nile: Sure. One of the things I would say is make sure that you set up a profile, get familiar with it, make sure you have a great profile picture, write a good headline and the headline we didn’t talk about at all but the headline is normally your current position which would be high school student tat xyz high school but you have the opportunity to change that so you could be a student looking to advance to xyz college studying whatever it may be and all of a student you’ll stand out. Also start recording all of this information – the experiences, the organizations, the educational opportunities and success you had, your volunteer experience and the causes you’ve been involved in. All of that type stuff, there’s ten topic areas that you want to focus on but all of those type things to allow somebody to get a full picture of you.
Brad: Alright.
Nile: That was probably more than three but I ran them altogether and went through them fast.
Brad: There you go and I appreciate it. Alright if people want to learn more about you, your businesses, how can they find you and learn more about you?
Nile: The easiest way is to connect with me through LinkedIn Focus which is www.linkedinfocus.com and there’s some free tips there. The only thing that I ask is to just give me your email address and I will tehn send you some weekly tips. I don’t share that information. So completely free and if you just implement those tips, great. I don’t have this up there yet but for a number of reasons I’m getting ready to put a special report that they’ll also be able to download free so it may not be available immediately but within the next few weeks it will be up there where they can use LinkedIn for college applications and what are the top tips and if they’re considering it they might just want to grab that and use it as a resource, certainly they can engage with me further from those sites, there’s some products and all that but www.linkedinfocus.com is the easiest way to get me.
Brad: Ok great. We’ll put all this information in the show notes so you can go to www.tamingthehighcostofcollege.com and look under the podcasts and there will be show notes there. That’s all we have for today, I appreciate your time and let us know when that new product is out there, the new report and we’ll announce that on a future podcast as well.
Nile: That sounds great Brad, I really appreciated today. I hope some parents got some ideas about how they can help their students get into college.