Podcast

Episode: 479 |
Justin Nassiri:
LinkedIn Profile Managed Service:
Episode
479

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Justin Nassiri

LinkedIn Profile Managed Service

Show Notes

Justin Nassiri is the founder and CEO of Storybox Inc, a McKinsey alum, and president of Executive Presence, a company that helps executives become thought leaders on LinkedIn. He has a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the Naval Academy, is a qualified nuclear engineer, and is a graduate of Stanford University’s School of Business. In today’s episode, Justin talks about his business and how he helps executives build a following on LinkedIn. You can learn more about Justin’s company at ExecutivePresence.io or reach out to him on LinkedIn. 

 

Key points include:

  • 05:26: Common mistakes executives make
  • 10:06: Social rules on LinkedIn
  • 15:46: A case study
  • 20:21: LinkedIn content strategies

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

 

  1. Justin Nassiri

Will Bachman 00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m here today with Justin Nassiri, who is the founder of executive presence. Justin, welcome to the show.

 

Justin Nassiri 00:16

Thank you so much for having me. Will,

 

Will Bachman 00:18

also mentioned that Justin and I share a bit of a background, we both nuclear Navy, both McKinsey. So we share a little bit background, we’ve known each other for four years. And tell us about this new company, you’ve started Justin?

 

Justin Nassiri 00:32

Well, I’ll build off of that, because the name comes out of some of our shared roots. You know, in the Navy, I started my career at the Naval Academy. And as we were going through college, and being formed into people who would one day lead men and women in the United States military. One of the phrases that came up time and time again, was executive presence. And I interpreted that to be the actions, the presence, the way of speaking and showing up, that instills confidence in the people who are above you, the people who are below you, the people who are side by side with you, but really being deliberate, and intentional in how you show up, because that impacts, ultimately, people’s willingness to entrust their lives to you. And so, you know, when I thought of what we were doing with executive presence, not only is it about establishing that presence online and making executives visible in a way that helps their company, but also, you know, helping them tell their story in a way that’s really effective and does instill confidence in others. So I wanted to start out by tying that back to our common Navy heritage.

 

Will Bachman 01:53

Yeah. So what does executive presence do it i My understanding high level is it helps manage the LinkedIn profiles for C suite, and companies that are to 20 to 300 employees, primarily. But what is it? What is it that you guys do?

 

Justin Nassiri 02:14

Yeah, it’s exactly that is a fully managed LinkedIn presence for top executives. And we do it in a way that is very authentic, it’s their words and insights, we do it in a way that’s very efficient, it’s just 80 minutes of their time, per month. And we do it in a way that’s measurable, using weekly and monthly KPIs to drive our strategy. And where it’s coming from is that, you know, I’ve seen a lot of companies put a lot of emphasis behind their company profile on LinkedIn. And there’s a lot of reasons to do that. It is, in my opinion, table stakes for companies today to have an active company presence on LinkedIn. But for your listeners, you know, I asked them to think about the last time on LinkedIn that they liked or commented on a company’s post, almost always, were commenting on people. A friend of mine says b2b is now able to hit age to age, it’s human to human. And we work with people that we know, like, and trust. So most of our activity is centered around people either whether we know, or that we admire. But what I found is that most of the best CEOs, most of the most successful executives, they are busy as they should be building an empire, they are building their company. And they don’t have time to share their story story, they don’t have time to run the playbook that it takes to build an audience on LinkedIn. But there’s a tremendous number of benefits to doing so. Namely, it makes it easier to recruit talent, which is a challenge today, it makes it easier to retain talent, because you’re literally broadcasting your company values on a daily basis. It makes it easier to attract funding, partnerships, sales, so many benefits if especially the CEO, but executives in general can be the face and voice of the brand. They can be that Ambassador online in a way that captures attention. And they can use that attention to leverage it for recruiting, fundraising, brand building things like that.

 

Will Bachman 04:30

No, it totally makes sense. And I I totally agree with you that it’s super lame to kind of engage with a company on LinkedIn. I mean, it’s mostly when you see companies it’s usually a sponsored ad. And it’s I mean, it’s, it’s just, it’s not really something that you want to engage with other than maybe to complain about it. But a person Yeah, the CEO of so. I totally agree with with that. What are some of your advice for You know that C suite executives or, you know, listeners this show independent professionals on that? Is it like what is what is the posting frequency what should be posting about? Maybe you can give it walk us through a real sanitized example or hypothetical example of, okay, so a CEO of some kind of SaaS company or some, you know, what would they be posting about regularly.

 

Justin Nassiri 05:26

So, so let me start. Before we get into the tactical advice, and happy to go really far down the rabbit hole on that, let me just kind of share a few of the mistakes that most executives are making, you know, first and foremost, the fact that they’re not present on LinkedIn as one, you know, haven’t posted in a year. The second thing that I’ll see is that they will post monthly, but it’s always of the variety of either, I’m so grateful that Forbes featured me and.dot.or, you know, we just reached this major milestone, or I’m looking to hire X. And there is value to that. But that tends to be about 1/20 of the posts that we do. That’s kind of the the humble brag variety that works well occasionally, but after a while there gets to be a fair amount of fatigue about it, because it’s, it’s, it’s just a fraction better than the company post. It’s very corporate, it’s very buttoned up. And so the third thing that I would say is, when it comes to content pillars, it varies for every individual and their company’s goals. But in general, there’s three that we see that work well in tandem, what one of them is these posts about the company, which is important, that could be origin stories, employee spotlights, major milestones, things like that. But that tends to be 10 to 20% of the overall posts, it has its place, but usually executives are putting all of their emphasis there. The second bucket, which I think is very much underutilized, is any topic on which the author is a subject matter expert, that is them establishing themselves as a thought leader, they are creating a category. They’re sharing insights on their industry, they’re talking about trends they’re teaching, they’re educating, they are adding value for free with no expectation of anything in return. And that is extremely underutilized by most most executives on LinkedIn, which is very disheartening, because CEOs have so much wisdom to share. So many things that they take for granted and don’t realize that their audience would benefit from. But then the third category that is very rarely done is much more of the personal nature. And this is about humanizing the executive making them accessible, oftentimes through vulnerability. And this can be sharing about mistakes made in college grad school, early in one’s career Early in one’s life, and what they learned how that formed them into who they are, that might include hobbies, like cycling, and how that makes them a better leader. But it’s really about showing that they are a person that they’re not accompany, and giving people toeholds to get to know them, and what makes them unique. So that’s that’s a common mistake is that people just harp on the company aspect. And then the last one, that maybe this dovetails into the tactics here. But the last thing is that LinkedIn is a distinct channel, the content that works on LinkedIn, would not perform well on medium or on a blog post, it wouldn’t perform well on Twitter. What really works on LinkedIn is very unique to LinkedIn. And so if one of your aims is to cultivate a following, specifically on LinkedIn, you have to abide by the rules that dominate the platform. And that’s both algorithmically and socially, and happy to kind of go further down that interest. But just take a breath here, so I’m not doing too long of a monologue for you. Yeah,

 

Will Bachman 09:20

no talk about some of those because it is very different kind of content. A lot of the content on LinkedIn, and I’m on there a lot is is very cringy these stories. Like, oh, my dad told me this story when I was young and yeah, or just, oh, you know, or the cop who, you know, like, helps the grandma cross the street. They’re just like these, like very kind of over the top that, you know, on Twitter, people would just, like, tear it apart or, you know, totally laugh, but it’s like, oh, I want to celebrate this because my boss is watching me. So I’ll give this a plus or something. Yeah, so but you But yeah, so go tell a little bit more like what are some of these social rules on on LinkedIn about what content works and what doesn’t?

 

Justin Nassiri 10:06

Yeah, I think I think one thing is, especially if you’re posting, which, you know, we see a trend that people are most successful post five times a week, which is a lot. You can view this as experimentation. It’s not, you’re not trying to find the winning lottery ticket, you’re learning your voice, you’re learning what your audience responds to, you’re almost figuring out how to tell your story, which is a lot of our executives, that’s one of the values we provide is extracting that. So don’t feel like you have to get it right. And and even as you said, like the cringe worthy stories, realize that part of this process is you are building your tribe. And that means there are certain people who will not like your posts. And there are a lot of people who will. So enter in with a mindset that you don’t have to be all things to all people, you don’t need everyone to like you. But the goal here is to be able to find your unique authentic voice, and to share things that are valuable to the audience you want to create. In if that means that some people cringe, that’s okay, that’s that’s the essence of building a tribe is establishing that some people will not be part of that. That’s just part of it. So that’s one thing that I would say, I would say that a couple of just tidbits that have helped a lot of people. One is a lot of people new to this will will write like a solid paragraph. And it’s very, very dense. First of all, algorithmically, LinkedIn will give you more visibility. If more people hover over your post, and even more importantly, click on the See More button to expand it. And so you have three lines of text, to entice people to read more. And this is not about clickbait. But this is about just good storytelling of drawing people in of providing a hook that catches their interest that stops the scroll, and gets people wanting to dive in more. Very often what I see is people are just starting with something that’s either obvious, or not interesting. That’s why the so honored that Forbes featured me is just it’s like we’ve seen it, we’ve heard it, it’s kind of done. But if you start with something that is surprising, you like one of my my more successful posts was that one of the best pieces of advices advice in my company that I didn’t follow didn’t come from an advisor investor, it came from my lawyer. And so it’s it’s kind of, for people interested in entrepreneurship, which is my audience, it draws them in, it’s starting to be something a little bit more surprising, it stands out. Another just tidbit of the social mechanics is when someone comments on your post, that’s an indication to Lincoln’s algorithm, that there is something valuable here. But if you reply to that comment, it does a couple of things. First of all, it’s just polite, you know, someone has taken the time to comment. And so acknowledging that is a great social thing to do. It can lead to more reciprocity, it’s incentivizing that behavior. Second of all, it helps the algorithm because now you have two comments on there. But third, if you can, in some way, continue the conversation, either build on what they said, respond with a question, treat that comment as a genuine opportunity for dialogue of deepening a concept. That’s a way to add more value. But also, if there gets to be this back and forth, your posts will get more visibility. So I just want to be distinct that like there’s a way of viewing all of this purely as gaming an algorithm which there is certainly a component of that. But if the intention of LinkedIn is to spark meaningful dialogues around business related topics, that’s a way to do so is to find people who find your content interesting, and engage them in a dialogue in that comment section that others can benefit from. So those are a couple a couple of thoughts. And one other question that I just get really frequently as the medium of posting photos, text videos, things like that. The one piece of advice I would give there is that the most important thing, this applies to podcasting to investing to exercise, but the most important thing is consistency. So I would recommend to aim for five posts per week. And so if the medium slows you down to that end, you shouldn’t do it. If Video, it takes you a lot of time that you don’t have, don’t start with video, it’s just not going to allow you to be consistent. But beyond that, you know, pick the format that you’re most comfortable with. Some people are great on videos, some people have amazing photos that capture people’s attention. Some people are better at writing, you know, pick, play to your strengths in the way that you find your voice and share your story.

 

Will Bachman 15:25

Yeah. So let’s talk about the service that your firm offers. And, you know, maybe give us a sanitized example of an exact and what you started with how many followers and then what sorts of content you help them post and how this 80 minutes per month thing works?

 

Justin Nassiri 15:46

Yeah, I’ll give you a specific example. I will anonymize it for the clients case safety. But there was a client who started in January with us. So very recently, he approached us with two objectives. The first and foremost was fundraising, he had bootstrapped his company to $50 million. They were doing their first institutional round, he was about 70%, complete, he wanted to get that to 100%, complete. And so part of his intention was to elevate his profile as a thought leader, and attract investment. And then the second point would be recruiting, which would be obviously that the next major thing that they’re focused on, you’re about 100 person, company, and we’re looking to grow substantially this year. So his first post with us got more views than the sum of every single post he’s ever done prior to that, which is about two years. incredible amount of visibility. And, and just for context, I know that we, we are all so steeped in what we’re doing day to day. The truth is, most of your friends and your network, have no idea what you do for a living, they have no comprehension. So right out of the gates, we saw so many people that you hadn’t spoken within years, just excited, they had no idea he had started a company, they had no idea anything so successful. So that activation of the network was was pretty immediate. But the reason I like this example is it’s so extreme that within six days of starting with him, he got an inbound from a billion dollar company in his space, that the subject line, we have this in our case study, the subject line of the email had the word acquisition, and he was able to say, hey, we’re fundraising, and they put $2 million into their rounds literally topped it off to the point that they want it for this $10 million round. So that’s an extreme example of someone wanting to elevate their profile for investment exactly that. But there’s, you know, countless other examples around hiring someone within their network saying, like, Oh, I see what you’re doing, you should talk to x. That same formula works for partnerships for other things. So we always give weekly metrics around things you’ve asked about, like followers, views, likes, shares, things like that. I would encourage anyone who takes this approach, yes, be tracking that. But you have to tie it back to a business outcome, hires, fundraising, partnerships, sales, things like that. And the reason that’s important is, as on any ecosystem, there are short sighted hacks that people take when playing the metrics, there are ways to get a lot of followers who have nothing to do with your business, who will never translate anything. And so make sure that you’re not taking short sighted approaches that will look good on paper and for your ego in terms of likes, or comments or things like that. Pause this concept called pods is a specific example we could talk about, but but it has to serve the greater business outcome. And that’s why we’re really intentional about slow deliberate growth that is 100% organic, without any short sighted hacks.

 

Will Bachman 19:13

How does your kind of 80 minutes per month thing work? So what do you like interviewed the exec and just get a lot of, you know, their their thinking? And then you turn that into some series of posts or how does it work?

 

Justin Nassiri 19:26

Yeah, we are interview centric. So in our onboarding process, we establish their content pillars and really figure out what’s going to resonate with their audience and their goals. And then based on that, to be most efficient with their time most of our clients do not like to write. Most of them have very limited time spent. We use an interview format that plays to that where we ask questions designed to evoke the stories and insights that we know based on their strategy is going to work on LinkedIn. So their time is just about an hour with us a month, where we ask these questions. And then we take care of, excuse me of everything else. We write the posts, we publish the posts, we engage with people who comment, we send out connection requests, we have an outreach strategy. Every post that we do, uses a to use our McKinsey phrase MEC system of tagging. So mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive tags that we apply, that would allow us over time to say, okay, what are people responding to? What’s the length of content? What’s the topic, what’s the intention with the subject matter. And so that allows us on a month to month basis, to set a new strategy to say, Hey, this is what’s working. So we’re going to expand your portfolio of content around this. But you know, we work with a very specific type of person, and that is someone building a high growth company, who does not have a lot of time. And so we’ve really optimized our processes around requiring the minimal amount of time from our clients, and doing things that are brand safe and appropriate for them, that will help them build their following.

 

Will Bachman 21:12

And then are you posting every day on their behalf?

 

Justin Nassiri 21:18

It depends on the client and their strategy. But in general, we start with five posts per week. And that’s every single week, at the six month point, if they’ve hit a certain follower count, we will usually increase that to twice a day. So 10 posts a week. And we generally expand to things like LinkedIn lives for job positions, we can start to start to expand to a newsletter offering. There’s a lot that we do beyond that. But generally, those are kind of follower count gated to kind of make sure they’re hitting certain milestones, before we expand things on their behalf.

 

Will Bachman 22:00

Interesting. And so you really design this around some specific goals, not just like, let’s get lots of followers, but you’re either trying to get funding or customer inquiries, or hiring, you know, of being able to reach more people for job job posts, for example, getting that word out there.

 

Justin Nassiri 22:21

Yep. Number Number one is hiring. That’s like the number one reason people come to us, I would say the second one is, we tend to work with companies that that view themselves as creating a category. And so this is a way through which they can create a category, they can define that they can become one of the thought leaders in that space. And that’s usually tied to fund some sort of funding milestone as well. And then third, I would say is just general brand building, business development, customer acquisition, things like that.

 

Will Bachman 22:56

So are all the posts, mostly around? I guess, you mentioned earlier, some of it will be these personal stories. But is it a lot of, I don’t know, if the company’s in some SAS, like, security space or something? Would it all be related to that topic of here’s, here’s my latest thinking on, you know, this security thing, or reacting to some news event, or, you know, just reminding people that, let’s say, just give us an example it can be sanitized of Yeah. What are the types of things that you would post about every day? You know?

 

Justin Nassiri 23:36

Yeah. So So I want to stress that it is, it is one part art in one part science. So there’s not one strategy that works for everyone. So we will always start with an initial hypothesis. So So one of our clients is hiring in a specific geographic area. And so one out of five of their posts when we started, was about that geographic area, why they love living there, why it’s helpful for people there like just kind of really having them be associated with, you know, Nike, so yeah, Justin, he’s, he’s in Denver. Yeah, he loves Denver. Like, it’s kind of like, what do you want to be known for? So because they were hiring geographically, they wanted to be an evangelist for that geographic area. And then the other tenants of their approach was, are exactly like you said, in their space, which is SAS, how do they teach about what they’re solving for how they share insights relevant to their ideal customer persona and their pain points. So they’re feeding directly to what they know their audience wants to learn about. And then the third component was talking about the culture that makes their organization great. So why would people love working there? The CEOs leadership philosophy, values, stories about specific employees. So that that was the starting point. But over time, in that specific example, we found that the thought leadership piece worked best. So we started to do a lot more of that. And three months from now, that might not be true. So I want to stress that it’s not, there is not one formula that works for everyone. In my view, just like everything, you need to start with a educated hypothesis, prove that out and do that on a monthly basis, because it changes over time, his audiences fatigue on certain topics on things like that. So it really is important to have flexibility in that strategy. But to keep an eye on that pulse to understand what’s working, what’s not.

 

Will Bachman 25:53

That’s, that’s surprising to me, I, I guess I would have thought that the more of the strategies that would be around trying to get customer inquiries or leads, but for hiring, like, I just put a job post out there, you know, I mean, LinkedIn jobs, or indeed are posted on ladders or, you know, somewhere, just put a job post out there. And, you know, rather than trying to promote Boise, if you want to hire someone Boise posted in like, you know, make location equals Boise, and engineers in Boise will find it and apply that I participate. I

 

Justin Nassiri 26:29

would say, though, that, you know, the overwhelming sense I’m getting from, at least the people that I meet with Is it is it is exceptionally difficult to attract really good talent right now. And and that’s especially pronounced in technology and healthcare. But I would say that there has not been a single conversation, the last 50 that I’ve had, we’re hiring is not a significant part of stress for the people we’re working with. And part of that is that, you know, these are companies that are adding 1020 30 people in a quarter like it’s a very high growth situation. But I don’t know of anyone yet who said like, oh, yeah, I posted a job post and I was overwhelmed with great candidates. I’m hearing more of like, Oh, my Oh, my gosh, it is really difficult to get people right now we cannot hire fast enough. And it’s really hard to, to pull people in because they have a lot of great options right now.

 

Will Bachman 27:24

Mm hmm. Okay, interesting. So, what are your tips for independent professionals that are trying to manage their own profile and posting it sounds like post five times a week, and not just the humble brags, but, you know, some interesting takes as well, some vulnerable, personal story, you know, lessons learned, anything,

 

Justin Nassiri 27:51

I you know, very first thing is like, make sure this is even relevant to you. You know, I have been a one person company many times in my career. And I would say a few of those points, would social media really being the top three priorities, you know, oftentimes, it’s much more direct sales outreach, or working with my network or going to in person events. So I’m not trying to evangelize this as a top three priority for every, every executive, I think that you know, you might, you know, I may have talked about this before, but it’s like, I think it’s very often figuring out, what’s the one thing that’s going to make the biggest difference to your company, and then really blowing that out, and that just are not possible at the stage that you’re at. So, so be really honest of if this makes your top three. And if it doesn’t, ignore social media without any shame, or without any regret, like there, it can be an incredible distraction. But if you’re at a stage, or if you’re in an industry, where you believe that any social channel would be a key driver of whatever you’re looking for hiring, fundraising, sales, whatever, I would recommend to be very precise. And so you know, my company right now focuses exclusively on LinkedIn, and the clients we work with, we put all of their effort into LinkedIn. And I think that a second mistake is that people try to be everywhere, and they do a poor job everywhere. Or they try to be all things to all people in end up pleasing, no one. So I would say be very deliberate. Like, depending on your business, you may need to go all in on tick tock or Instagram or Facebook. But rarely do I run into companies where or with executives where they need to be everywhere simultaneously, so be very precise. And I Excuse me, I would counsel to just focus on one at a time and then The third is find a way to be consistent in whatever you do, I tend to be a little bit of like an all or nothing personality. So for me, I will often take a few hours once or maybe twice a month, and write out all of my posts for that period of time. And schedule it out. There’s plenty of scheduling systems. So that way, I’m not having to switch into this creative writer mode on a daily basis, which can be hard for me to do. Whereas I know people who record a video every day, and that’s just their rhythm, and they’re better making it part of their routine. There’s no right or wrong, but it’s like what what will help you be consistent, because I think that consistency is key. And I feel like the very same, you know, for podcasting, it’s like the number of podcasts in the graveyard that have 10 episodes is very many, you know, there’s a lot of them. But there are very few like you will who have gone on for this length of time. And that staying power allows you to grow an audience and to pierce through the noise. And so I would just say find whatever it is that uniquely allows you to be consistent. And one other just tactic there, you know, I use Evernote quite a bit, but I will very often be at a red light, and I will have an idea or a thought, or I’ll be on a sales call and someone will say something I find interesting. I’m just a really big advocate to just make sure you take that second to write down that idea. Because that’s what I’m going to I’m just kind of looking back, I’m like, oh, yeah, there was this conversation. Let me tease something out there. Oh, yeah, I remember this person said this, that made me think about that. So it’s just kind of having that repository of value in your own ideas, say, so when you have the room and capacity, you can go and take it further.

 

Will Bachman 31:55

Yeah, I totally, totally agree with you on capturing the thoughts when they occur to you. I used to do you guys have? Is it bespoke kind of pricing for each person? Or do you have more of a standardized pricing that you could share with us?

 

Justin Nassiri 32:13

We, you know, I would, I would encourage people to reach out we I met the reason I say that is on literally on Monday, we changed our pricing based on the demand that we’ve seen. And just, it’s very important to me that as we scale, our quality doesn’t suffer. So we’re at a point where we just increased our prices, just to give us some breathing room and really sift through people who are really wanting to do this. Yeah, depending on, you know, the people 10 years from the future. Now listen to this podcast, you know, my intention is to certainly find ways to serve smaller and smaller companies, there’s, there’s almost a greater need for this, the smaller the company is you need to make noise. But right now, you know, we tend to gravitate towards companies that have at least seed funding or Series A, you know, it’s several $1,000 A month as a starting point. And so, you know, I always put myself back my first startup story box, I raised $3 million from Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt, first thing they had me do was pay a PR agency $10,000 a month to help us get in all these magazines. That’s, that’s kind of the world that we’re playing. And, you know, not not nearly 10,000 a month, but it is those companies that see the value of cultivating a brand, and are willing to put time and money there. Yeah. And you know, myself as an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t have done that most of my career, I would try to do it on my own. And there’s pros and cons there. But we’re looking for those CEOs and executives who are really trying to make a splash define a new category attract a lot of attention, and are willing to prioritize this. You know, sometimes it’s even a bigger contribution, that they’re spending an hour and a half a month on this, like that could be a really big ask for a lot of our clients. But we want to make sure that they see the values that they’re getting continue to do it. It makes

 

Will Bachman 34:13

sense. Where can people find you online if they want to learn more?

 

Justin Nassiri 34:17

Well, LinkedIn, for sure, just in the series, a pretty unique name, but our website is executive presence.io. And there’s a request form there that gets to us as well.

 

Will Bachman 34:32

Fantastic. Justin Azura, thank you so much for joining. We’ll include that link in the show notes. I appreciate your time today.

 

Justin Nassiri 34:39

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Well,

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