An interview with Judy Parsons

A Conversation between Clare Clifford and Judy Parsons

In my recent interview with Clare Clifford of Sunshine Digital Media I answered questions such as:

  • How often should you be posting on LinkedIn, and what’s the best times to post?
  • Is it better to post as a company page or as yourself?
  • Articles versus posts, what’s the difference?

In my recent conversation with Clare Clifford of Sunshine Digital Media, I answered all these questions.

An Interview with Judy Parsons – The LinkedIn Lady from Sunshine Digital Media on Vimeo.

If you prefer to read, here is the transcription:

Clare: Hi, Judy, thank you for joining me.

Judy: Hi Clare, it’s fantastic to be here. Thank you.

C: So I’ll just introduce you very briefly, but then I’ll let you introduce yourself. I’m Clare Clifford from Sunshine Digital Media and I’m quite excited to talk to Judy because although content and shining online is my thing, she is The LinkedIn lady, and I don’t think there’s anyone who knows more about how to get the best out of LinkedIn than Judy. So, Judy, would you like to introduce yourself – I think I’m going to learn some stuff today I’ve got my pencil ready to take some notes.

J: Thank you so much Clare, that’s a wonderful introduction. So, I think the main thing to say is that I’m an independent LinkedIn trainer and LinkedIn strategy coach so I don’t work LinkedIn, I’m certainly independent, and I only do LinkedIn so I’m not a social media expert at all. My passion is LinkedIn. I’ve been doing this for eight years now, working with business owners to help them maximise LinkedIn, so yeah very excited to be here.

C: Excellent. So we put out a call last week for people to ask some questions to ask you, so I’m just going to start off with those. I think we’ve got seven or eight, so we’ll just see how many that would get through. And also, probably some of them will have similar answers, but I’ll start off with the most popular one, which was: How often should you be posting on LinkedIn, and what’s the best times to post?

J: You’re right that is a very popular question, and actually you can over post on LinkedIn. So, no more than once a day is great. I actually aim to post at least once a week, so actually that’s not that much. Ideally you want to post two to three times a week. And you can over post because what happens is when you post something LinkedIn is testing that post to see how popular it is and it will only get fed out to a certain percentage of your network. So, it’s then looking for how much engagement that post gets so then if you post again too soon, it drops that one and focuses on the next post, so you’ve got to give LinkedIn time to really maximise that post, so once a day is more than enough.

C: I’m going to send that bit to some of my clients.

J: Yeah, I mean you see a lot don’t you. Sometimes people, because they use things like buffer and stuff, they think Twitter I don’t know about Instagram so much but they think you need to post multiple times a day but no don’t, LinkedIn once is fine.

C: Exactly. And what about the best times to post?

J: Oh yes, sorry, that was the second part I missed that. There’s always ongoing research as to when the best time to post is, and you know they still recommend that the best time is in the morning, during the week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but it does come down to your audience because some people having real success with LinkedIn posts on a weekend. And I’ve noticed this as well. 60% of traffic to LinkedIn is from the mobile. I think people, especially during the last year have been on LinkedIn a bit more maybe out of hours as at were as we’re all working from home and things like that. So you do tend to find that posts are working well over the weekend and I think sometimes you might get different people engaging with you at different times or different days of the week. So it’s definitely worthwhile testing. I know for myself that I find that posts work well in the morning for me, I avoid Friday afternoons. Friday mornings I feel you can have a little bit more of a non-work post if you like, you know something for the weekend kind of post. But yeah, it’s all about testing and I still think on a weekend it’s mornings as well.

C: Yeah, it’s interesting because that’s the lowest percentage of mobile users on any of the platforms that I work on.

J: There was I thinking that it was high.

C: No, no, Instagram it’s like 99%, Facebook is in the 80s or 90s as well, so that was quite an interesting fact but I definitely find for me and my clients, very much generalising, but between eight and nine in the morning works well.

J: Yeah, absolutely. Before work.

C: Pre COVID, I think it used to be more half six, maybe half seven, but people are getting up a little bit later at the moment, so who knows, towards the end of the year. So, the next question that we got, which a couple of people asked is, and I really want to know the answer to this because I’ve seen both work well so I’m really interested in what you say: Is it better to post as a company page or as yourself? Because I don’t have a Sunshine Digital Media page so I’m really interested in his answer.

J: That is a really good question. First of all, I would highly recommend you get a company page because it puts a branding on your profile. LinkedIn are really bringing out some wonderful features that are making company pages exciting and, so for me, at one time I would have disregarded company pages, just have it there because it’s another website, it gets you found on Google as well as on LinkedIn, you might as well have it as not because it’s free, and it puts that branding on your profile, but then I pretty much left it and didn’t do anything with it because I’m a solo business owner so I want to drive people onto my profile, so I know I’m going around about here but I’ll get to my point in a minute.

So company pages – what I do with company pages, I always post on my personal profile first because I want to drive people to me, to my personal profile, and what I then do is I also put it on the company page, because as I’m starting to use company pages more and get more followers, again like I was saying about posting on the weekend, what I’ll find is that different people see it on the company page. I might not get anywhere near the same engagement but what I find is that that are different so actually why not? Post to your personal, and then company.

C: And would you post it as two original posts or would you share from personal to company.

J: You can share from your personal to company page. I would never do the reverse. I would never share from the company page to my personal. You always want to make your personal posts, the unique posts. So, you could share from personal to company, or what I do is I just copy and paste the same content and put one on my personal and one on the company page. It can be the same content, it doesn’t matter.

C: Yeah, exactly so that’s good to know. And next question: Articles versus posts, what’s the difference?

J: So, articles are basically blogs, the long form content that you then put on LinkedIn and they appear under the Article section in your Activity box on LinkedIn, and they’re pretty hidden but what they’re really good for is thought leadership. So posts are what we call short updates because you have up to 1300 characters, including spaces, but that’s still a lot of space so you can put a lot of text in a post, as you’ll know, but if you’ve got something that’s 400, 500 or 1000 words long, then that needs to go into an article, and then what I like to do is that you will create an article, and then what I like to do is get as many posts, as many separate posts, from that one article to then drive traffic to the article so if you’ve got like five steps to creating the best content on LinkedIn then each of those steps will be a post in itself, and it’ll drive traffic back to the article, but what people need to look out for is LinkedIn newsletters, I’m very lucky I’ve got LinkedIn newsletters, and this is fantastic because people can then subscribe to your newsletter and it’s really increasing the visibility of articles on LinkedIn. So, definitely do articles. If you’re doing a blog, any SEO people out there will be going no at this but my view is, you do your blog, you put it on your website, you leave it 24 hours to be indexed by Google, then you copy and paste it, put it on LinkedIn as an article and then, as I say, you take the two to five posts from that article.

C: Yes that makes complete sense and if anybody has any questions once they watch this, obviously that makes sense to Judy and I but maybe not for everybody so feel free to contact either of us, Is that OK Judy, just to translate that if needed, But that’s really interesting, and obviously, I get the SEO aspect, but ultimately, the way that I believe the algorithms work on nearly all the platforms and, I’m generalising, is that they want you to stay on that platform so if you’re sending them off the platform, your posts will get penalised, in very basic terms.

J: And that’s very true with LinkedIn. Some people do want to drive traffic to their website and LinkedIn is really good for driving traffic to their website, but when it comes to articles and certain things, my view is that keep them on LinkedIn because that’s where the audience is. I find I get a lot more engagement and you know who they are on LinkedIn rather than getting them off onto my website. It does come back to your ultimate objectives I suppose at the end of the day doesn’t it?

C: Just a quick one: Do you literally go into Articles and press ‘Create article’?

J: So you go on to the homepage of LinkedIn and where it says ‘Start a post’, there is an option then to write an article, so you click on that and it’ll open up a window where you can then copy and paste. You don’t have that much formatting, you’ve got a bit of bold and italic so you know you have much. You can do bullet points, things like that. So article blog, same thing.

C: So people should be looking out for that. Now this is a question actually nobody’s asked this time when I’ve invited questions, but it’s probably one of the questions I get asked when I’m talking to people about overarching content is should your posts be personal or professional on LinkedIn or a combination, how far should you go with being personal on LinkedIn?

J: Let’s get the LinkedIn police out, we don’t want no personal posts, no fun! So, there is a wide range of views on this to be honest. I’ve been on LinkedIn, a long time, since 2006, and LinkedIn has changed a lot in that time hugely, and certainly over the last two to three years, and, you know, having your personality, being authentic, I think is really important. Be you on there. But there is, I think, a fine line between being too if you like Facebooky type content. What’s interesting, and people will say this, is that they’ll put a personal post on there and they’ll get loads of engagement, but their potential useful business posts will get nothing. And you know, I think there’s a couple of reasons for that – personal posts are just more interesting, they’re easy to engage with but the business posts, people treat differently, so what I say is treat your business posts like personal posts and make it more interesting, tell a story or use things that are happening that are topical to create the story and related to your business. I love the Line of Duty, and there’s been some posts on LinkedIn just about Line of Duty, and that really makes me cringe. And there will be some people going, “Well, I know what your problem is”, and, you know, everybody has their opinion, but to me it wasn’t in context. If you can talk about Line of Duty in relation and related it to business in some way in my opinion, There will be other people who go hell for leather. But what I would say to you when you’re thinking about what type of posts you’re wanting to do is this, who is your audience. You could get loads of engagement on your posts, but the idea of a post is there to demonstrate that we know what we’re talking about, our thought leadership, to answer questions, to help our clients resolve their problems, so you doing a lot of personal posts that have nothing to do with what you do, might get a lot of engagement but may not generate any business. I was speaking to a lady, one of my clients, she doesn’t get a lot of engagement on her posts, she’s a membership bodies expert she, she does engagement for membership bodies and stuff like that, and she doesn’t get a lot of engagement when you look at it, she gets two or three likes, six likes, nine likes maybe no comments or anything like that but she gets business from her posts. And that’s what I would say to you, it’s not about whether you do personal and business, it’s about posts that are relatable to your audience and are they’re going to help you raise your visibility as an expert, and to generate leads.

C: And bring value as well. On a client’s post, and my client is a huge Line of Duty fan, I didn’t do it specifically about Line of Duty, but I think on the Monday afterwards it was quite a serious post and I managed to work in “Even the wee donkey” at the bottom and that got quite a lot of engagement, but it wasn’t fully on Line of Duty because that’s not relevant but it was on trend.

J: Absolutely, and on trend is perfect and I’m saying don’t do it, but you relate it to something and make it funny. Just because it’s LinkedIn, it doesn’t have to be boring. Be comedic or as I say be you.

C: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And then I know that bizarrely and I wouldn’t put this on LinkedIn, but one of my best, I think my best performing post ever, is a TikTok video of, it’s not even Colin the Caterpillar, it’s Asda’s version of Colin the Caterpillar and it’s called Bonnie, and I put “Where’s Clyde” or something like that and that’s reached 10s of 1000s of people. It’s got nothing to do my business and I’ve got no value from it, but it was just a bit of something that took me five seconds to do that was a bit of fun.

J: For me that would be a Friday morning post, a little bit of a fun, I would do non-work stuff on a Friday morning. Like I did one about my local park during COVID, it’s been a lifesaver. I’ve never been here eight years, ten years and this is the first time I’ve really appreciated the park that’s on my doorstep, so I did that. But you know the TikTok videos, there’s a chap in Sheffield who does merchandise and I love his TikTok videos because I call them posts that say what you do without saying what you do and he did a post on his softshell jackets, but he doesn’t say “We sell softshell jackets” he was demonstrating it using a TokTok video, loved it, brilliant.

C: I don’t really put mine on LinkedIn, but one I did that did quite well is, I’m a member of The Visibility School where I get pictures taken by Marianne Scott every month and I did a little behind the scenes, what that was like that was a little, a bit of fun and it’s a good thing for other businesses to look at as well because I’m always telling people to be visible so I have to show that I’m doing that as well.

J: Yeah, absolutely 100% and I love that and that would have been great, what a great video to do idea, and I need to come back to you because you’ve reminded me about your TikTok and I think it does worked well on LinkedIn.

C: Yeah, exactly, it does. So when you’re wanting to engage with somebody with post, I tend to just react to it, I’m not a big commenter on posts, I know I probably should be, but what’s the best way to engage with somebody?

J: Like and comment. Yeah, it’s my mantra, like and comment, like and comment but it comes back down to, again, what’s your objective for using LinkedIn, what is it you want to do because commenting on posts is like mini posting. It really help you raise your visibility so if you’re wanting to get in front of somebody who is your ideal client, then 100% you want to be commenting on their posts, following them and commenting. Liking is easy. If I’m posting something, I’d much rather people commented on my post. I love the likes. Please react. But comments are more valuable because LinkedIn recognises that because it takes more time to comment. But the thing is, there’s a comment, and there’s a comment. Yeah, if you comment “That’s nice”, that’s not as valuable as a comment that will go, “I really appreciate what you’re saying there and I think X Y, Z” where you actually add something. So, think about why are you commenting, what is it you want to say, and does it add value to that person and then also you can highlight yourself not only to the person who originally posted but to everybody else who’s engaged on that post.

C: I’m not sure on the rule on this on LinkedIn, but I know on Instagram and Facebook it helps your algorithm and your productivity if the comments are more than four words. So, that’s a rule of thumb that I usually follow.

J: I would say very much the same for LinkedIn. To benefit, if you’re going to comment, I say five words but four or five words. I may see some people’s posts, and they are my friends, and I might put something on there that’s not particularly, I’m going to say informed, but I’ll go, “I really love that, it’s fantastic, hope you had a lovely day”. Do you know what I mean? , I call it like, you know, when you’re passing, “Oh, how you doing”, passing in the street, checking in, but if you want to really make an impression with somebody, they look really important to you as a potential client or they fit that client profile, it needs to be an informed comment. You need to think about it and I think that’s why it’s a bit like mini posting.

C: Another thing is, I get lots and lots of LinkedIn requests. Are there good and bad connections?

J: I get on my high horse about this quite a lot. You have to be so careful with who you connect with on LinkedIn, people sending you inbound connection requests, and I did a post recently actually because there was something on the BBC. They had done a report about MI5 saying that there were these malicious LinkedIn profiles getting, you know, secrets from our government workers and stuff because it’s so easy isn’t it, you get a, especially it’s bad on the mobile as well it’s worse on the mobile as it’s so easy to just go tick, tick, tick, tick, you know, accept, accept accept, and you think oh I’ve got so many shared connections with the person they must be alright, and you know, they’re not, they’re fake profiles, they just want to get hold of your contact details, they want to scam your details, they want to trick you into malicious reasons. I mean, there are people who are putting posts on there for companies and stuff like that and you think it’s a bona fide company. Unfortunately, I mean LinkedIn obviously are doing their best to resolve it, but you need to be so careful to do your due diligence. Anybody who send you a connection request, look at their profile. Does it look reasonable? Have they got a good photo? There are some red flags to look out for, any spelling mistakes, things like that. It doesn’t have to be fully completed but it’s got to have something on there, and just double check the activity as well.

C: Since I went over the 500 connections mark. I’ve had so many more. And I’ve had some quite recently I’ve had to report a couple of accounts to LinkedIn for inappropriate messages, and it’s quite shocked me because I wouldn’t I wouldn’t have expected that from LinkedIn.

J: It is shocking and you don’t expect it from LinkedIn, but there’s people out there will abuse everything I think LinkedIn is no different and all of us need to be aware that there are dodgy people out there but that doesn’t mean to say you know, don’t connect with anyone and I know you might find that you have connected with someone inadvertently but you need to be careful, which reminds me I need to do my post on what my red flags are.

C: I’ll be watching for that one. I’ve got two more questions left for you. One of them is something which we touched on just before the call because it’s one I’ve slipped in at the end. How should product based businesses be using LinkedIn and should they?

J: When I talk to companies, one of the things they say is that, you know, people will create a LinkedIn account because somebody said you should be on LinkedIn. And I think the first thing when people are thinking about LinkedIn… LinkedIn is just another tool in your marketing kitbag, you’ve got all your other social media platforms, you’ve got networking, you’ve got advertising, all the different ways that we can go out and market ourselves and generate leads, LinkedIn is one of those platforms. And so I would say to people, first of all, who is it you want to get in front of, are they likely to be on LinkedIn, is your audience on LinkedIn? That’s the first thing. The second thing is, do you like it, because some people just don’t like it. Conversely, I want to work with people who go, “I don’t really want to be on Facebook or I don’t like Facebook”. I want to focus on LinkedIn so they are for me really great people to work with because that’s exactly how I am, I don’t particularly want to be on Facebook either, I don’t do my business on Facebook, but then there may be some people who love Facebook but don’t really want to be on LinkedIn, so that will be another thought in their process of do I want to be on LinkedIn. And the other thing is I’m a big believer in not spreading yourself too thin and I think, you know, do one platform really well or two platforms really well and leave it with that and then again it has to be, who is your audience, are they on that particular platform? So what I generally say to people is if you are going to be on LinkedIn and just leave it there because LinkedIn can work for you 24-7 as a passive platform. It’s a website for your business, just make sure you’ve got a good profile and then leave it and then focus on the other platforms, but having said that, I mean, LinkedIn is seen as a business to business platform so, you know, it works really well for people who are selling to other companies but that does not mean that your more product based, your more business consumer type of organisations can’t do well on LinkedIn. And there are some examples of people who are doing really well and I think because your products are quite visual as well so you can do lots of nice images, you can create image posts, and they work really well because at the end of the day there’s 31 million profiles on LinkedIn in the UK alone now, that’s a massive number of profiles. 31 million people are still consumers.

C: Exactly. One of the clients I look after, she’s got a ladies boutique, and I would have probably said to her six months ago, probably not, but she’s introducing a colour service, she’s going to be doing people’s colours and wardrobe edits, and I think a lot of professional women, and some men, will be interested in that and like the psychology of colour and what wearing certain colours would represent, so I think that she should be now thinking about getting herself on LinkedIn.

J: 100%. And, you know, just showing sort of the things that you can do and the difference in colour because it is quite visual and you can do some lovely posts, or like you said with TikTok, you know, some behind the scenes videos and stuff like that. So, yeah, absolutely go for it. And there are people like tailors on there, bespoke tailors, ideal for the corporate sector.

C: Once we all get back out of our pyjamas.

J: Yes exactly. Or our tracky bums.

C: I have done that, I have done that.

J: At least I am wearing trousers today!

C: Exactly. And the last LinkedIn question I’ve got for you is about hashtags. Where do they go, how many should we use, and how do you find them?

J: Oh, really good hashtags. You know, LinkedIn is a strange platform, you know they used to have hashtags yonks ago then got rid of them and now, of course, realise that everybody else is using them so they’re back, so they’ve been around for two, three years now but time goes so fast I kind of lose track. But, yeah absolutely so hashtags work in exactly the same way as any other platform in terms of being able to find content. There was some research done by a guy over in the Netherlands I think, with some educational institutions, who actually tested how many, what’s the optimal number. LinkedIn itself recommends up to 10 hashtags, but this research said that between three and nine hashtags per post was the optimal number. So, 100% use hashtags and actually they said that if you don’t use hashtags it decreases the reach of your posts right. I’m not sure if I’ve seen that. I’ve seen posts where they don’t have them and they still do well, so, you know, pinch of salt, I guess, but I always add that at least three just to sort of hit that minimum of three hashtags. But the key to hashtags is using ones that are relevant to the content, so things like #nice, #today, #whatever is not going to work, your Instagram tags are not going to work on LinkedIn. That’s not the point of it at all.

C: That wouldn’t work on Instagram either. People think it will, but it won’t.

J: Don’t listen to me, I have no idea about Instagram. I just see some posts and this is why I said that Clare, I’ve seen some posts with 15 or 20 hashtags just at the bottom of the page. And I’m like, “It’s not Instagram”.

C: Yeah, exactly. Do you put them in your post or like on Instagram – on Instagram it’s recommended that you put your hashtags in your first comment, rather than putting them in your post, just for your post to be neat and to start off your engagement. With LinkedIn, is there anything similar?

J: No, no, your hashtags need to go in the post itself. It can be within the body of the post, so I might put an odd hashtag within body of the post so I might do “#LinkedIn has done this today”. I wouldn’t put, you know, #this #that all the way through, but then the rest just put at the bottom. Three to nine hashtags relatable to the content of the post, and to your audience so I will use things like #womeninbusiness, #businessowners. So I’m also using hashtags that describe my audience.

C: A lot of brands have brand hashtags, would you suggest that they use that on LinkedIn?

J: Yes absolutely, because people can follow your hashtags.

C: I don’t tend to use mine on LinkedIn so that’s something else I’ve learned.

J: And you can ask people to follow it. You don’t know who the followers are of the hashtag, but if somebody follows your hashtag, even if they’re not directly connected to you, they’ve got a much greater chance of seeing the content in your newsfeed, so you may see in your newsfeed things in your feed because you followed a particular hashtag and it’ll say, because you’re following hashtag X Y, Z or whatever it is, so absolutely you need a brand hashtag that people can follow. And that’s very important to do that but when it comes down to hashtags you want to be looking and really doing your research on hashtags in terms of which hashtags have got the biggest followers, and which hashtags bring out the right posts. I have a list of 10 to 12 hashtags, and I’ll always use those same hashtags. Not all of them at the same time but between 10 and 12 and I’ll use between three and nine of those hashtags on every post. I’ll always use #LinkedIn, I always use #LinkedIntips, #LinkedIntraining, #TheLinkedInLady – if anyone wants to follow that, that’s my hashtag. So I always use those kind of hashtags on my posts.

C: I’ve got a set of about 50. On Instagram, you can use up to 32, but I’ve got a set of 50 that I’ve got saved in my notes on my phone that I will use. Obviously, I don’t use them all every time, so the same principle.

J: Absolutely. And so the hardest bit is finding the right hashtags for sure. It all comes down to who is your audience and things like that but there is a Chrome extension. If you go to linkedinhashtags.com and download the Chrome extension. What that does when you go into LinkedIn if you just move your cursor over a hashtag, it comes up with a number in blue, which tells you how many followers there are, so that’s one of the quick ways of identifying the biggest followers.

C: It’s a great tip, hands down. And so, I’ve got one last question for you: When you’re not on LinkedIn, what’s your perfect weekend, or night out or night in?

J: Oh my goodness. Well, I suppose night out, having had so many nights in at the moment. Do you know, I think some of the best weekends I’ve had is where I’ve been away for the weekend, just locally in Yorkshire and you know, we’ve gone walking, we’re staying overnight somewhere nice, it might be camping or it might been a B&B. And then, you know, then done a really nice walk, and then going back to the pub and having that first pint after a good walk. And then, you know, going for a nice meal and just chilling and being in a pub with friends and my other half. Just chilling out, I’m a bit too old to be raving these days.

C: Have you been back to the pub yet?

J: Not inside, we’ve been outside, so we have been outside and when it when it wasn’t raining.

C: That one day when it was sunny and all the pubs were open. Thank you so much, Judy. I’ve picked up loads from that so I’m sure my audience will as well. And if you want to follow Judy on LinkedIn, she’s Judy Parson The LinkedIn Lady

J: And thank you, Clare, I’ve absolutely loved it.