Justin M. Nassiri is the CEO of Executive Presence, a social media service that provides a fully managed LinkedIn presence for top CEOs in a way that is authentic, efficient, and measurable. We discuss the benefits of having a CEO who is active on LinkedIn, ways to stay top of mind on LinkedIn, and why managing a personal brand is a full-time engagement.
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Master the LinkedIn Post Framework with Justin Nassiri
Thank you so much for having me, Steve.
Great to have you. And your business is very relevant, I think, for many business to business professionals, if not all of us. And there’s a lot of noise about that. So I’m curious what you’re going to share with our audience today. But before we go there, I’d like to ask of you, how did you even become an entrepreneur running a LinkedIn related business, especially after you have had your fair share of startup experience.
Yeah, it’s a typical for sure. I actually started my career in the US Navy on board nuclear submarines. So I had about five years on submarines where I like to think of that as getting a lot of experience managing and leading a large group of people in a very atypical environment. When I got out of the military, I went to business school at Stanford, and that was really my first exposure to the thought that little companies can become big companies and that anyone can start one. So when I graduated, I started my first company. It was a social media technology. It was funded by Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt. Had a lot of ups and downs on that, sold that company for a modest outcome, and started a second company that was also social media related called Captivate. And the company that I’m currently doing came out of that, because I started to realize, one, that social media is really, really important for executives, for leaders of companies, and that LinkedIn in particular is a great way for them to build their personal brand while also building their company’s brand. So I like to think that I had more or less 10 years of failed entrepreneurship before starting Executive Presence, but through those failures learned a lot about what I want to do differently and have been really excited to see how quickly Executive Presence has grown on the backs of all those learnings.
Okay, so you say that the best Executive Presence grew out of your previous business. So how did that happen? And this is a classic case. I think one of the examples of a business which grew out of another business was Slack, which was, I think it was Grind, which was, I think it was called Grind, which was a video game business and it went bust basically, and the founder knew that, okay, we use the internal messaging and maybe that could be developed into business. And now it’s a multi-billion dollar business. So how did you identify inside the business that opportunity and how did you go about spinning it off?
So the previous company Captivate, the premise was a lot of companies have long form content like webinars and podcasts, and they only get 10% of the value of those long form assets. What we would do is we’d come in and we’d turn a webinar or podcast into a month of social media content. So we’d create content for Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, all of these different ones. Which in retrospect, a lesson there was we were just trying to do way too much. It’s hard to master all of those channels simultaneously. But one of the observations I had was, first of all, when I saw our clients, occasionally, their CEO would post to LinkedIn, and everything we were doing was for their company’s page. But what I observed was, when the CEO posted the content, it got way more views, way more engagement than when the faceless company posted similar content. So that was one insight.
The second insight was, as I was spending so much time on social media, I noticed that there were people on LinkedIn who were getting millions of views every single day and the entrepreneur in me thought, “Wow, if I had a million people looking at my content every day, that’s a huge asset for hiring and recruiting and fundraising and customer acquisition and partnerships.” That’s a massive advantage as an entrepreneur. But the judgment I had was the people getting those views didn’t necessarily have superior expertise or superior knowledge. They had just had a lot of time to build up a presence. And when I looked at the friends that I went to business school with, I thought, “Wow, these people have a lot of knowledge, they have a lot of experience, but they are so busy building an empire, they’re never gonna take the time to share and be present on LinkedIn.” And I thought, “Look, if there’s a way to bridge that gap, to take people who know what they’re talking about, take people who have world-class experience, and then have us do the work of translating their story for social media, that’s a win-win, not just for them, not for us, but also for everyone on LinkedIn, who’s now learning from these world-class leaders.” And so the simplicity is really what attracted me to the idea of executive presence, of it was a very, very felt pain point, but it was not trying to be all things to all social media. That LinkedIn-centric approach really made me realize it was something big.167: Master the LinkedIn Post Framework with Justin Nassiri Click To Tweet
Well, LinkedIn is definitely a really good tool for business to business marketers and seems to be the biggest one. And we’ll talk more about LinkedIn, but what I’d like to learn first is about your framework. So this podcast is always about a framework that the entrepreneur have found in their business or along the way as they were developing, building their company. So what is your favorite framework?
I like the framework provoke, entice, educate, and summarize. And I use this most often with our clients, I use this to describe a method of writing a LinkedIn post, but I think that this same framework works for public speaking, for blog post writing, for emails, for a lot of things. So I’ll put it in the context of LinkedIn, but obviously it applies elsewhere. So what we have found works really well on LinkedIn is the very first sentence needs to provoke. It needs to be something exciting and unexpected because there’s a lot of noise on LinkedIn. So one example, one of my most successful posts started with, “I spent $75,000 last year in order to become a better CEO. Here’s how I spent it. And so that’s surprising, right?” To put a number like that into the thing, like “Wow, that’s a lot of money to invest in one’s professional growth.” That caught a lot of people’s attention. So, the first line, the intention is to stop people from scrolling, to get them to read more.I like the framework provoke, entice, educate, and summarize. Click To Tweet
That leads to the next step, which is entice. And again, in the framework of LinkedIn, LinkedIn shows the first three sentences of a post, and then there’s a “See More” button. And if you can get people to click on see more, you get a huge algorithmic boost, because now LinkedIn says, “Wow, there’s something about this post that people are choosing to read more.” So that’s the next step you need to get. Once people stop scrolling, you need to get them to click see more. So generally, the way that we try to do this is by leaving people on some sort of cliffhanger. In that previous example, “I said $75,000 last year becoming a better CEO, Here’s how:” Here’s how is the entice, because everything I’m saying that’s going to add value, they got to click more to see. One of our clients had a post that said, “I grew up in poverty in India.” Okay, that’s surprising, because this is a billion dollar CEO, that’s surprising, but his entice was, “When I was 13 years old, my father pulled me out of high school.” Wow, that entices me, like I want to know, it’s like a cliffhanger, this is like how good TV is made, they leave you wanting to watch the next episode.
And then the next piece is educate, and I think that’s where most people go wrong on social media, they’re talking about themselves rather than educating. So you really want to lay out and educate your audience. You want to give them something they can apply to their life. That’s the meat of the post. So in my example, I went through, it was like a 500 word essay on every single thing I spent money on to become a better CEO. Why I chose it, how I got value. I did a Vistage Group, this is why I did it, this is what it cost me, this is what I learned. So really being authentic and vulnerable and sharing what helped me to educate others. And then the last piece is summarize. And it’s really important on LinkedIn, but just in life in general, you gotta spoon feed people the takeaway. You need to let them know, what do you take forward from this? So for that post about my investing and becoming a better CEO, it might be something like investing in yourself is the best investment you’ll ever make. You kind of want to stick the landing and give them a clear takeaway. So that’s why I like that provoke, entice, educate, and summarize. I think it works well in meeting with employees one-on-one and public speaking, but obviously it really does well on LinkedIn too.And it's really important on LinkedIn, but just in life in general, you gotta spoon feed people the takeaway. Click To Tweet
Yeah, it’s a great framework. I didn’t know that see more button was so critical. I thought that the idea was to summarize your post so that it always stays above the four that they don’t have to click see more. But actually, you want them to click it, right?
You do, and you can tell there’s a lot of people on LinkedIn who have something valuable to say, but most often I’ll see like a paragraph of text and it’s hard to parse through or it’ll start with something generic. I’m so humbled that Steve had me on his podcast. Like, very generic, right? But if I were to start a post about that and be like, “When I first met Steve, I hated him.” This is why I loved him. That’s like surprising, it’s different. It’s much different than just, I’m humbled to be on his podcast.
Yeah and actually people are not that humble. If they were that humble, they wouldn’t be posting, right?
Exactly, but that’s, I think that the nice thing about that is, because I think we’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs at this point, most are not chest-beating, wanting the spotlight. Most of the people, most of the executives you work with are uncomfortable putting themselves out there in this way, but I think that the antidote to that is to take this as something where you’re trying to help others. And that’s why that educate piece is really good. Because like, let’s just use again this example. Like when I promote this podcast on LinkedIn, I’m gonna mention something about being on the podcast, but I will likely say, “Hey, the best part of our discussion was this, and I learned this, and you can take this away.” So even in my self-promotion, I’m trying to educate people and share like, “Man, Steve said this and it made me think about something new, maybe it will change the way that you think about something.” So every aspect, I’m trying to be generous.
Yeah, I love that. So talking more about this whole idea of CEOs posting on LinkedIn, what is the mindset that CEOs need to have when they post on LinkedIn? You mentioned vulnerability, showing something of themselves, but at the same time, focusing on teaching. And then obviously you want to make sure that people even read your note and have some takeaway. What is the mindset behind that? So how should the CEO think about their social media presence?
There’s four things when I talk to people I want them to know, and it’s almost all about mindset. The first thing for LinkedIn is people matter more than businesses. So if their company posts, it’s a faceless organization. It’s not gonna do as well as if they, as a leader, post. They have their network, they have their friends, they’re gonna make a bigger difference. And most executives don’t realize that. Most executives want to grow their company and they think that they need to do that through their company’s brand. So the first mindset shift is if you want to grow your company on LinkedIn, it’s going to be much faster to do that through the primary brand ambassadors. That’s usually the CEO and others. That’s the first one.The first thing for LinkedIn is people matter more than businesses. Click To Tweet
The second one we’ve already kind of spoken to but it’s educate, don’t sell. Most executives on LinkedIn, they are posting about a hiring position or a major milestone for their company. That’s okay, but that’s propaganda. That’s about 20% of what we want to post about. 80% of what we want to talk about on LinkedIn is sharing what you’ve learned, sharing your journey, and imparting knowledge and helping others. And there are ways to promote your company. Like, you know, I might say, “hey, executive presence is the first success I’ve had in 10 years, here’s what made the difference.” So I’m showing in a way that executive presence is being successful, but then I’m gonna go really deep on failures and what I learned and what I’m doing different so that I can help others. So it’s all about educating, not selling. The third one is LinkedIn rewards original content. And I see a lot of executives on LinkedIn who make one of two mistakes. They either repost, so they take their company’s page and they just repost it. Algorithmically, reposts get about 25% of the views of a normal post. They do not get seen. No one cares, so that’s ineffective.Educate, don't sell. Click To Tweet
The second thing that they’ll do is they’ll post an article, a New York Times article, whatever it is. That also gets an algorithmic penalty. Because what happens when you post an article? I click on it and it takes me to the Washington Post. It takes me to YouTube. It takes me somewhere else. LinkedIn doesn’t want that. LinkedIn wants me to stay on LinkedIn. So they’re going to deprioritize that post. So the third thing to remember is original content wins. That can be photos, that can be videos, that can be text, but we generally advise people to do text because of the fourth point, and that is consistency. Consistency is the name of the game for physical fitness, for your personal financial savings, it’s also the rule for LinkedIn. In our research, we have found that to slice through the noise and be relevant with your network, you have to post two to five times per week on LinkedIn. Most executives post two to five times per year, so that’s a huge mindset shift of going from two to five times per year to two to five times per week.
One quick, to go back to point three, that’s why we love text posts. If you’re gonna post at that volume, doing a video is almost impossible. But doing a text post is very, very achievable. So know that it’s gonna take two to five times per week to cut through the noise. That’s why we exist at Executive Presence, is to help people be consistent and to do a lot of the legwork for them. But the one last thing that I’ll say since you asked about mindset shift, two to five times per week likely feels to you like a lot. You’re gonna say to yourself, “Oh man, no one wants to listen to me that much. Oh, everyone’s gonna judge me for doing this.” The mantra that we give our clients is in service of. I am doing this in service of my team, in service of my company, in service of my investors, in service of my clients. If I show up in this way, I’m gonna get a lot more attention that’s gonna help all of those people. It’s not about my ego, it’s not about that, it’s me tolerating this discomfort because it serves the people that I care about. And that’s a pretty good mental reframing.
I love it. So how can people actually use it? So let’s say I’m a CEO, I’m posting four times a week. I’m texting, posting text blogs basically. And I’m talking about, I’m teaching the area that I’m an expert of, I’m helping people. How do I monetize it? What did they, from that post, to actually be able to make offers and make money?
Yeah, so this is a little bit the way that I imagine people viewed websites back in the 90s, which is, at first it seemed like a novelty and then it became table stakes. Right now we are in the novelty phase of executive branding. It will very soon be table stakes. The first thing someone does when they’re going to apply to your job at your company is they look at the leaders. They want to know who they’re working for. Same thing for clients, same thing for investors. They’re doing the research of the people at the company. So this is something that everyone is going to need to do eventually. When it comes to monetizing, I always tell people when they talk to us of like, “Hey, how do I get customers through LinkedIn?” I almost always end the conversation there and say, “Look, if you really need to make a sale this week, go invest in AdWords. Go invest in something that you know is gonna make a sale.Go invest in something that you know is gonna make a sale. Click To Tweet
LinkedIn is a long-term play, and it hits on everything, but it’s not going to be immediate. It really takes the work of years to build up a massive audience.” So the way that I would say that you approach this is, the first question I ask a potential client is, “What do you wanna be known for?” For me, I want to be known as the person who helps executives tell their stories on social media. If you don’t remember anything else from talking to me, I want you to remember that so that six months from now, when you meet my potential employee or client, I’m associated with that. “Oh yeah, you got to talk to my friend Justin, he’s the guy who helps executives be active on LinkedIn or whatever that is.” So it starts with what do you want to be known for? So with Steve, he might be like, “Oh yeah, Steve, he’s the guy who really uncovers the best frameworks for building great companies.” That’s a great thing to be known for. So Steve’s approach on LinkedIn is he’s gonna be talking incessantly about the strategies that he uses, that he learns, the frameworks that help him. And I’m going to tune in to Steve, I’m gonna follow him, I’m gonna subscribe to his content, because I wanna know that. And I know that every time I see his post, it’s gonna be something that’s gonna help me be more efficient as a business, something that’s gonna help me grow faster, something that other people have proven out so I can just adapt it. That’s a great association.
And if I start following him for that, and I start to getting known him and who he is, 20% of the time he may be like, “Hey guys, I just released this book.” Great, I’ve already built up trust with Steve, I already know him, I already like him, I already believe that he adds value, of course I’m gonna order his book. “Hey guys, I’m doing a live webinar.” Okay, great, but it’s just very seldom, one out of 10 posts, two out of 10 posts are promoting something for that. And I’ll give you a specific example of why this is so powerful. I have a friend I went to college with, and I’ll date myself here, it was 20 years ago. I have not talked into this guy in 20 years. We’re connected on LinkedIn, he saw me talking every day on LinkedIn about how CEOs should be using LinkedIn. He reached out of nowhere and he said, “Hey Justin, love what you’re doing. I’m working for a CEO who should be working with you. Let me introduce you.” Two weeks later, they were a client. I would have never thought to reach out to this friend. I would have never proactively, quote unquote, “sold” to this person. But he saw what I was doing. I was top of mind and relevant and it led to a sale. And I can share a lot of more stories like that, but that’s the new world we’re living in. The buyer journey has changed. This is not about you selling to someone and convincing them. This is you being relevant, people doing their research, and when it’s right for them, they reach out. And the sales cycle happens very quickly, but a lot of it is happening behind the scenes and you’re not even aware of it.
Okay, got it. Essentially it’s brand building, it’s not. Lead generation is brand building.
Yeah, I also, I view it as top of mind relevance. That’s really what we’re selling. Like I want to be relevant on a daily basis. This is nothing new, right? This is Pepsi, Coca-Cola, every beer manufacturer. They have billboards and commercials and all of these things, millions of advertisements so that when I’m in a bar and the guy asks me what I want to drink, I say Corona or Coca-Cola or whatever it is. They’re wanting to be top of mind. That’s the same thing, and why I think this is so important is most people in your audience right now, they have a very powerful network. They went to good schools, they worked at great institutions, they’ve met people, but most people in your network have no idea what you do for a living. We are in the battle for top of mind relevance. You want to be top of mind with your network. This is a very powerful and scalable way to do that.
Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So if I’m a CEO and I want some help with my social media, but I don’t have the time, I don’t know how to even do this, what do I do, how can you guys help me?
Yeah, I’ll start with a couple options. Not all of them are working with us, but I would say the simplest and cheapest is be active on LinkedIn and participate. And so if you spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn each day, you’ll start to notice trends of people who are getting a lot of views. So there’s a lot of great people that you can just see what they’re talking about, how they’re talking about it, and learn in that way is a really easy way to do it. Next over, I would say, is there’s a guy that I really respect, his name is Justin Welsh, and he has a website, justinwelsh.me, I think, or.com. He has a course called the LinkedIn Operating System. It’s 150 bucks, I don’t get any kickback for promoting this, but I just really like it. It’s about two hours of video content. It’s really exceptional. So if you want to invest to do this on your own, that’s a great educational resource to learn a lot deeper than what we talked about today.
Most of the clients that we work with, they’re too busy to learn this on their own and to do all the time writing and all of that. So what we do at Executive Presence is we interview our clients once a month. We do a lot of research about what they should be talking about online, and we just have literally the same type of conversation that Steve and I are having. “Oh, Justin, tell me, what’s three mistakes that no one, you know, that every CEO makes?” “Oh, Justin, what have you learned from one of your clients?” And we just have a conversation, but we record the conversation. So that after that one hour interview, we have a whole content team of writers and editors. They take the transcript, which is your words, your phrasing, your insights, but we just package it in a way that works really well on LinkedIn. A lot of the time, that’s through subtraction, right? Like, right now, I’m probably a little bit too verbose in my answers to these questions, so we wanna trim it down, we wanna use that framework of provoke, entice, educate, and summarize.
So we want to apply some of these things. But when we do that, we’re taking your words and insights and adding them to LinkedIn best practices. You review the content, we publish it, we take care of everything else. It’s a really effective way to get your story out there. But the one thing that I would just add that a lot of people don’t realize is, when you do this, the byproduct is a tremendous amount of data. Because what we’re able to do every month when we meet with our clients is say, “Look, since we last met, you’ve posted 20 times on LinkedIn, it turns out that when you talk about topics A, B, and C,” people love it. People really move towards that. But when you talk about topics X, Y, and Z, no one cares. So, if you happen to be on a podcast, or if you happen to be at a conference speaking or if you happen to be on a sales call, maybe stick with topics A, B, and C. It’s a really powerful way to get a sense of where your expertise is valued and where it’s not.
That’s great. So I don’t have to stretch my self-esteem. I just focus on the areas that the market demands to learn about and then I’m going to be good.
It’s true. And it’s because the alternative is, if you go to a conference, all you have, if you give a keynote at a conference, all you have to go off of is applause, laughter and heads nodding in the audience. You don’t really know what you’re saying is valuable. LinkedIn allows you to atomize that message into small pieces and then get concrete data about what’s useful and what’s not.
Okay, so if my listeners would like to learn more and they would like to test this out, where should they go? What is the next step that they can take? How can they access your services?
So our website is executivepresence.io. There’s a lot more information there, but there’s also a contact form to reach out to someone from my team. Also feel free to connect with me or follow me on LinkedIn. I talk about this stuff incessantly on LinkedIn, so it’s a great free way to learn about what to do and not do on social media. My name’s Justin Nassiri on LinkedIn or executivepresence.io.
Fantastic. So listeners, if you want to improve your LinkedIn presence and if you don’t have time, then definitely Justin is your man. Reach out to him. Justin Nassiri, CEO of Executive Presence. Justin, thank you very much for coming on the show. Any final thoughts that you want to share with the audience?
Well, I really appreciate your having me on the show. And I would just say that I think that we’re in a new era for executives where you need to be really outspoken. That’s why Steve’s got such a great podcast. He’s got a lot of executives who realize they need to be getting out there. Social media is another way. Conferences are a timeless way, but just don’t be afraid to share your perspective. It is very iterative. You don’t have to have everything buttoned up like a New York Times op-ed to post on LinkedIn. Share something, notice what people respond to, share again, and just learn and iterate. You don’t have to have it perfect from the start.
Okay, I’ll do that. Thank you, Justin, for coming on the show, and have a great day.