In the latest episode of the Rivergate Marketing Podcast, we are joined by Ghalib Hassam, an expert in LinkedIn personal branding. Hassam candidly underscores the power of authenticity and the pitfalls of spreading oneself too thinly across diverse topics. With a deep insight into audience psychology, he reveals that the cornerstone of effective branding is nurturing trust through personal narratives and distinct perspectives. While he cautions against viewing LinkedIn as a panacea for immediate business growth, Hassam stresses its pivotal role in the broader customer journey. For entrepreneurs and business leaders, he advocates an immediate and strategic engagement with LinkedIn, harnessing one’s unique voice to truly differentiate. Don’t miss this enlightening discussion.
Welcome to the Rivergate Marketing Podcast. In this episode, Grace Clark chats with LinkedIn personal branding expert Ghalib Hassam from Kurogo. Ghalib shares with listeners the importance of paying attention to personal branding on LinkedIn, what outcomes to expect and common mistakes to avoid.
If you could please introduce yourself to our audience.
My name is Ghalib. I belong to a village from Pakistan. I’ve got two degrees in engineering, but right after my master’s decided to change careers because I never wanted to be an engineer, but then I shifted careers to marketing, and now I’ve been working in a personal branding startup called Kurogo. I’ve been with them for almost one and a half years. I absolutely love what I do, and yeah, it’s been an amazing journey so far.
What is your background with LinkedIn?
I was in LinkedIn because I was looking for a job, but when I went on to LinkedIn, I was like, wait – the way I’ve perceived LinkedIn for these past years, and I’m sure that a lot of you people can relate as well – we usually relate LinkedIn to announcing that you’ve got a new job or announcing that you’re looking for a job or congratulating other people if they’ve got a new job. That was basically my idea of LinkedIn, but right after I graduated with my master’s degree, I went to LinkedIn to look for a job, but I saw content from content creators and I was like, wait, this is a whole new world, and I wasn’t aware of it. People are looking for jobs, but in different ways. So, what I did and what I learned was I started creating content to basically build up my digital presence.
I started building my brand, I started talking about what I do, the courses that I did. I left my point of view out there for the audience to react to. Within two months, I landed an internship with an agency that was based in Berlin. I volunteered. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to do some free work for you because I just want to get my hands dirty.’ I wanted to get some experience, and that’s exactly what I did. Within a month, I was offered a part-time role, and then I found another internship. So, I was like, ‘Hey, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to work on LinkedIn,’ because this personal branding agency, they operated solely on LinkedIn. We would interact with other founders or other CEOs of corporations, or any kind of a founder you can think of. We would work with them to help them build their brand on LinkedIn.
So, within a month, I had some good experience and I knew I had a knack for it. I knew that I was good at it, so I was like, ‘I’m going to push myself.’ So, three months later, I landed a full-time role at the current agency that I work at called Kurogo, based out of London, and now, I mean, life’s great. My life has changed drastically. Now, I am working on LinkedIn, talking to multimillion dollar CEOs every single day, helping them build their brand, helping them form a strategy, position them in the industry the way they want to be positioned, the way I think they should be positioned in the industry. And, as a result of that, we are here on this episode as well, right? All because of personal branding.
You kind of touched on this in your history of working with LinkedIn, but put it more succinctly, why do you see LinkedIn as a valuable tool for people to use for their business?
Well, the number one reason that comes to my mind is how accessible other people are on LinkedIn. My perception, or even the people that we’ve worked with, the CEOs and the founders, all of them including me, perceived LinkedIn as a place where it basically made absolutely no sense to be on and be engaging and producing content, right? Content was always associated with whether it was Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram or other social media platforms that we thought were normal to produce content on, but LinkedIn changes that game drastically. When you produce content on LinkedIn, if I’m not talking from a person’s point of view, who’s looking for a job? Let’s solely talk from a business founder’s point of view, okay? If you’re a founder, you want to reach certain people, your target audience is on LinkedIn. Maybe you’re targeting people who have other businesses. Maybe you’re just selling a software, right?
You’re a B2B SaaS. So, LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to reach those people, reach those CEOs, people in the c-suite, and now the next question is, you might ask and people might ask is, ‘okay, they are reachable, but how do you reach them as a business?’ When you are running a business, it’s not just about announcing that, ‘Hey, I’ve just secured funding. Hey, I’ve just produced this awesome result and look at me. I’m so amazing.’ See, maybe in the past even five or 10 years ago, but not anymore. Now people want value when somebody reads a business owner’s content. Okay, number one, they’re going to be like, ‘Hey, this person runs a business. Okay, cool. What do I get out of it?’ The next question they’re going to ask is, ‘let me just see if they have anything on their profile of interest.’
Your content is basically that journey that’s going to take your prospective customer, maybe it’s people that you want to work with from that point of, ‘Hey, I think this business founder and his business is interesting’ to the point where they’re like, ‘Hey, you know what? I want to work with this person.’ I feel like the LinkedIn space is becoming very saturated super fast because now people are catching on. I’ve been working on LinkedIn for the past one and a half years, but now I feel like within a couple of years it’s just going to be too crowded and people who start now are going to leverage it, and people who don’t start now are basically going to be lost in the crowd in the future. So, if you’re a business owner, I would start producing content on LinkedIn from day one, start content from day one, and then slowly and surely work on your strategy, how you want to be. Those things can come, but if I were you, start producing content from day one, just start documenting your journey – as simple as that. Once you do that, you’re going to reach people that you want to reach in ways that you can’t even imagine.
Let’s dive into some common mistakes. For those people who feel like they’re not necessarily a LinkedIn whiz, we’re trying to encourage them to really take advantage of this tool. Let’s start talking about some of the common mistakes we see people running into when they’re using LinkedIn and just a few ways that you’ve seen how to overcome those obstacles.
A lot of people… I know LinkedIn’s a lot about content, but a lot of times people think that, okay, if I just produce any kind of content, it’s going to work wonders for me, but unfortunately, every other social media platform or any to be more marketing specific. If you want to use LinkedIn as a proper channel in your buyer’s journey, there are a few things that you need to take care of, and the number one common mistake that I feel people make and they kind of underestimate LinkedIn is they feel like they can leverage it to the full without giving it time. Time is super, super important for LinkedIn because if you want to create a network, if you want to talk to people that you want to get to, people potentially you want to do business with, you’ve got to invest that time. You’ve got to provide free value, and you basically can’t treat it as like, ‘Hey, I’m just going to show up once a week and then I’m going to disappear for two more weeks with LinkedIn.’
The compounding effect is so important because if you don’t do that, LinkedIn actually limits your reach. So, when it comes to time, number one, you have to give it time in a way that you want to produce content, you want to talk to people. The second aspect of it is, let’s say you’re working with an agency or a company, you’re like, ‘Hey, I want you to help me build my brand on LinkedIn, but I can’t give you time.’ It’s almost like, ‘Hey, how about I just sit in the back, pay you to forge a reputation for me…forging a reputation on LinkedIn, that’s not what personal branding [is] or that’s not what LinkedIn is for. You could do it, but it’s not just going to be authentic. It’s almost going to be like you’re deceiving people out there. We don’t want to do that. So, if you actually want to build a brand on LinkedIn, you want to leverage it, give it time, okay?
Even if you don’t do it yourself, you want to pay someone, you have to give them time too because they’re giving you expertise in the turn of your time, okay, ‘Hey, give us money, give us your information.’ Because, Grace, a big mistake people do when it comes to LinkedIn is they feel like they can have an authentic presence on LinkedIn, good for their business or their personal goals without actually giving their thought process, their point of view out there. Because if I go to Google and be like, ‘Hey, what is a smart building and what is a green building,’ let’s say, and I just Google it and I put it on LinkedIn, guess what? That same information is present on Google. That’s not thought leadership, is it? If it’s from collective consciousness. So, if you’re a founder, don’t make this mistake of not giving time to your personal brand on LinkedIn because it has to come from your thought leadership. That is how you’re going to basically stand out in the industry that you want to target.
The common thing that we hear in our industry is, ‘I don’t have that time. I am so busy. I am so involved with all these projects.’ What are some strategies that people maybe could employ to make time for LinkedIn or make it a little easier to make time?
Yeah, I understand. It’s a valid point, right? Some CEOs, some founders, let’s say they’re running a big company, just sometimes unfortunately, they don’t have time. You can’t get them on a call. Even some people don’t even have an hour in the day, in a week. I personally think that if you’re signing up to building your brand, you have to commit at least an hour a week or maybe once in two weeks, but if you can’t do that, obviously there are certain ways you can basically tackle that. Number one, what I like to do when I know that I’m working with someone who does not have time, I send them prompts, okay, it’s my job to do the research. It’s my job to see what’s happening in the industry, and then it’s my job to basically take that information, like your thoughts on that specific topic out of you.
If I can’t do that over a call, the next thing I can do is I’m just going to list out some prompts, okay? I’m like, ‘Hey, these are the things that I think you should be talking about. I found this. What do you think?’ I’m just going to compile that in a simple Word document or any sort of document really, and I’m going to send that over to you. If you can just answer those on a voice note, it’s literally going to take you 15 to 20 minutes – as simple as that. You can always do that. You can take that approach and then you can basically receive those answers, and then it’s my job as an agency, or if somebody who’s managing your personal brand or your account, it’s my job to take that tone of voice, take that information and craft that for LinkedIn. So, if you don’t have time to get on a call, get your team to send you prompts or the team themselves should be smart enough to tackle that time problem. Basically, they should be the one coming up to you with a solution like, ‘Hey, I’m aware that you don’t have time, so how about instead of making this difficult for you, here are some prompts. Just give us a voice note as answers and then leave the rest to us.’
With prompts – that makes me think of another problem that we hear a lot. So, maybe they’ve taken the time, maybe they even have a prompt, but they’re just not sure what kind of content they should be putting out there.
That’s another excellent point. See what I said in the beginning, sometimes content isn’t enough. You really need a strategy and a direction. The kind of content you put on [LinkedIn] is completely dependent on your end goal for your personal brand. On LinkedIn, if I’m a founder, maybe I just want to be known as a thought leader in this space. It maybe doesn’t have anything to do with business. Or, alternatively, maybe I’m a founder. I’m like, ‘Hey, you know what? I don’t mind being known as the thought leader in the space that I’m working in, but I want to have leads. I want to get business.’ There are certain different ways that you can approach that basically. So, in a gist, in order to know what kind of content to put on, you have to know what your end goal for your presence on LinkedIn is. If you want to get more leads, then you have to have content that revolves around solving problems for your ideal customer, guiding them to that ideal outcome that they want.
As a business owner, maybe you’re running a construction company or let’s say you’re running a real estate company. Then your job for you to basically teach your target audience like, ‘Hey, maybe there are some bad practices in the industry. Maybe they don’t know when a value of a property goes up or down at what instant. Maybe I want to buy property, but I am just not sure that I want to buy from you at the moment. I’m just not ready.’ It’s your job as a founder of a real estate agency or a company to basically teach your audience, help them solve their problems, answer these fears. One of my valid fears is like, ‘Hey, what if I invest money and then I just lose it? What happens then?’ It’s your job as a real estate founder, for example, is to basically help me solve that problem. So, these are one of the ways that you can actually craft a strategy for your LinkedIn.
What I’m hearing you say is, when it comes to making content, it’s really about knowing how to position yourself, and you need to be cautious to not position yourself incorrectly.
Yeah, that’s basically it. See, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. You can’t be talking about 10 things at once, and then people, when they come to your profile, they’re like, ‘What do I know this person for? What do you do?’ You’re talking about one thing, you’re talking about another thing, and then you’re talking about eight other things. That’s just basically confusing your audience. See, again, it comes down to your end goal. If you want to get leads, you have to focus on that sort of content. If you want to be known as a thought leader, you have to focus on that kind of content. But all of that comes from positioning yourself correctly, which ultimately correlates to the fact that you need to know what do you want to get out of LinkedIn as a founder? These two are the most common cases. You either want to be a thought leader, a credible person in the industry, or you want to have more business from LinkedIn, or what you want to do is you want to have a combination of both. So, if you want to do that, that’s how you position yourself, and if you don’t position yourself correctly, you’re just going to be spread too thin. You’re not going to be known for one or two things, and then you’re just going to be another person on LinkedIn, as simple as that.
Can’t be a jack of all trades on LinkedIn, and I hear you talking about authenticity and speaking your truth, and I think that comes back to trust and building trust with an audience, and you’ve mentioned how that’s important. Maybe could you talk about why is that important and how can you build that trust with your audience?
That’s an excellent question because at the end of the day, what I believe is people buy from people. A lot of people expect like, ‘Hey, we’re just going to be like we’re open for business, and if you want to chat to us, Hey, here’s my email.’ It doesn’t work like that. Let’s say if I go out and buy something from a shop, I want to get a shirt. I’m going to go and take or buy a shirt from maybe, ideally, if I know the founder of it, I know who runs the shop even if they don’t manufacture the shirts, but if I just trust that guy, that salesman, and I’m like, ‘You know what? People have good reviews about him, people like him. I trust this guy. I’m just going to buy from that person.’ I’m not going to be like, ‘Hey, how about I go to this another shop that I don’t know or I have absolutely no idea about.
They sell shirts too, but you know what? I am going to completely ignore the person that I trust and I’m just going to go to this other person.’ It doesn’t work like that, so it’s that same selling psyche. Trust is the core element. It’s number one if you want to sell something to anyone. Now, if you talk about this from LinkedIn’s perspective or a founder’s perspective, a business owner’s perspective, how do you build trust? You build trust, not by talking about numbers only. You build trust by showing people who you are as a person. A lot of the times we’ve experienced in the past, founders [were] only talking about their business. That’s great from the business’s point of view, but if you want to sell to someone, there comes a point that you need to be able to provide enough social proof on your personal life that people actually buy from you.
You do that on LinkedIn by let’s say, how did you start that business? We have a founder who started their business from a single room in their dorm and now they run a global business. When people learn about that and when people learn about you talking about some obstacles you overcame in life, not just professionally, but personally as well, there are a lot of things that come into that umbrella. Personal content is so wide. A lot of people, I’m sure as people are listening to this in time, they’re going to be thinking like, ‘nah, I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life,’ which is completely a hundred percent understandable, but personal does not mean that you start talking about your family or your children or your wife or your husband, right? Personal is some stuff that you felt was hard in your life, but you somehow overcame it and ultimately it even made you a better business owner. It helps you run the business better now because now you understand people. Now we understand how to overcome problems, so do not be afraid of giving a slightly personal touch to your content. It never backfires, okay? Because you’re trying to build trust, so building trust from a business point of view is one thing, but building trust as a person is another.
You’ve given these great tips on how to build this brand on LinkedIn, and I think some people might think like you’re saying, ‘one post – I did it… where’s my sale, where’s my return?’ How do you help people have realistic expectations from LinkedIn and how to maybe measure success on LinkedIn?
Look, LinkedIn is… A lot of the time, I tell people LinkedIn is not a magic bullet. If you want to treat LinkedIn as a channel in your buyer’s journey, a touchpoint in your buyer’s journey, you’re going to be able to measure it better. You’re going to be able to know how it contributes to a sale. Let’s say you make that… okay, if you just put out one or two posts and you’re like, ‘where are the leads, right? Where’s the business?’ A lot of people, we’ve worked with some clients in the past and they’re like, ‘guys, we’ve been posting on LinkedIn for a month and where are the leads and we don’t think it’s working out.’ Please understand if you’re a founder and if you’re listening to this, you’re a business owner, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, okay? LinkedIn is always, always going to be a touchpoint in your buyer’s journey because today, the way people buy, they don’t just go to Google and be like, ‘best microphone in my area,’ and they just go buy.
If they want to buy a microphone, they’re going to be like, ‘Hey, you know what? Let me just ask somebody in my network. Let me just, hey, I saw this post on LinkedIn a few weeks ago and this person was talking about these mics and hey, let me just go and see what he was talking about.’ Once they talk to their peers, once they consume content on social, whether it’s LinkedIn, YouTube, even Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is, LinkedIn is always just going to be a touchpoint. At some point, they’re going to be like three days later, they’re going to be like, ‘yes, let me just check out LinkedIn for it, right?’ Maybe they see your post talking about a mic, or maybe you’re manufacturing your own mics. They’re like, ‘Hey, this is interesting. Let me do a bit more research on this.’ So, by the time somebody comes and buys from you, it’s not because your website was ranked number one on Google. It was because you created enough demand through different channels, including LinkedIn that they decided like, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m just going to Google their website. I’m going to go to it. I’m going to buy from them.’ Okay? It’s not 2005 or even 2010 that people are just going to rely on Google.
We are all aware that there are so many places where people gather and talk, and whether it’s… if you talk about a younger generation, it could be Reddit. If you talk about, let’s say an older generation, it could be LinkedIn because that’s where they spend their time, so please do not treat LinkedIn as some that’s sales generator for you, that’s going to ultimately bring business out of nowhere. Treat it as a touchpoint in your buyer’s journey. That is the correct expectation. Do not expect it to bring you tons of business because even in some cases, if you’re lucky, it might do it, but it’s completely unfair to expect it to bring you business. Anyone – this is completely unfair if I speak from an agency’s perspective or someone who’s providing that service for you to expect them to bring your leads out of LinkedIn all of a sudden, so treat it as a channel instead, and you’re going to be happy with it.
Is there any final message or thought that you would want to instill with listeners?
Yes, well, it will be start creating your brand on LinkedIn today. If maybe you’re a business owner, if you are, you should start creating your brand on LinkedIn because you have no idea how we’ve got people generating business from LinkedIn because they’re providing good quality content that comes from their thought leadership. Believe me, you might say something, or the way you do things might be completely different from other people out there in the market, and your unique point of view is what’s going to separate you from the rest of the industry, and that might be your selling point. I always tell my clients like, ‘Hey, be brutal with your point of view because that is the only thing that’s going to make you stand out because with AI and everything coming up, people are generating content, people are generating text, and it’s become too easy.’
So, what’s going to make me stand out? If I’m Ghalib and I’m talking on LinkedIn, my point of view and my life experiences or my experience as a business owner and how the journey has looked like are what’s going to separate me from the rest of the pool. So, my goal or my message to anybody reading this, whether you’re a student looking for a job, whether you want to change careers, whether you run a business and you’re a founder of a large corporation, just try to start and then the rest it’s going to follow. Just start.
We would like to thank Ghalib Hassam for joining us on the Rivergate Marketing podcast. Listeners can find Ghalib on LinkedIn at Ghalib Hassam. That’s G-H-A-L-I-B H-A-S-S-A-M.
Founded in 2009, Rivergate Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency, serving small- to mid-size B2B companies trying to reach technical and engineering buyers. We are passionate about building strategic and data-driven marketing and PR programs to help our clients compete and be found in a crowded digital space against much larger companies with seemingly endless marketing dollars. For more information, visit us at rivergatemarketing.com.