Interview: Susan Johnston, LinkedIn Pro

There are some people you bump into in cyberspace that you just feel instantly at ease with. The Urban Muse Susan Johnston is one such person. I don’t remember how we “met” but I’ve enjoyed watching Susan go from new freelancer to successful veteran in what feels like just a few short years. If you want to know how to do it right, follow Susan.

I was pleased to get a note from Susan a few weeks ago about her latest book, LinkedIn and Lovin’ It Unleash Your Business Potential with LinkedIn (from Rockable Press), offering me a review copy. I took her up on it.

I’m glad I did. In 84 content-rich pages, Susan opens up a world of possiblities via LinkedIn. Every page has something valuable, a new-to-you tip that instantly brings your profile and your presence more impact. I was halfway through and already writing Susan a fan letter. Even if you think you know LinkedIn, you don’t until you read this book. My favorite parts include how to use LinkedIn to find jobs and how to research using LinkedIn.

I asked Susan to share her thoughts about the book, her findings, and her insights with us. Welcome, Susan!

How long have you been using LinkedIn?

4.5 years.

What prompted the book? How did the idea come about?

I’ve written a few blog posts on LinkedIn, and readers seemed very interested in learning more it. There’s a ton of information out there on Facebook marketing, Twitter marketing, video marketing, etc., but not nearly as much on LinkedIn. And there didn’t seem to be a resource specifically geared to freelance professionals rather than job-seekers or recruiters, so I decided to create that resource myself!

What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake people make when using any social media tool?

I’m guilty of this sometimes myself, but thinking about themselves instead of their followers or readers. It’s best if you focus on being a resource instead of trying to constantly self-promote.

The book is a comprehensive guide to using LinkedIn to its fullest advantage. When did it occur to you that LinkedIn was such a gold mine, and why do you think more people aren’t taking advantage of all those features?

As I wrote those blog posts and explored LinkedIn’s features myself, I discovered what a powerful tool it is. Even as I was writing the book, I discovered some very handy tools I didn’t know about. Some recruiters and job-seekers are getting incredibly savvy about LinkedIn, but (with a few exceptions) it seems like freelance professionals are more focused on other tools.

You mention both how to find jobs and how to research using LinkedIn. How much of your own job searching and research come from LinkedIn?

Mostly I use LinkedIn for research, like when I need an expert with a specific area of expertise in a specific geographic area I can do an advanced search to find just the right person. I have a number of steady projects so I’m not actively looking for more. However, I mention the jobs tools for freelancers who might be more proactively searching for clients.

How can writers capitalize on the tools LinkedIn provides?

By keeping your profile current and interacting with other users through, for example, LinkedIn answers or groups, it’s much more likely that you’ll get contacted about new opportunities and be seen as an expert, so I think that’s really key. You get even more functionality out of a premium account, but most of us do quite well with the basic (read: free) one.

What do you think is the book’s most important takeaway?

I interviewed several freelancers and recruiters about how they use LinkedIn, so I hope that readers understand there isn’t one single right way to use LinkedIn. There are lots of different strategies, but almost all of them include being active on LinkedIn, just in ways that make sense for each individual.

Feel free to pick up Susan’s book here. It’s a super resource.

Any questions or comments for Susan?

How do you use LinkedIn or social media tools?

Which social media outlet works best for you?

About the author




  • Eileen September 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Will this book be available on Amazon? It looks like a great resource.

  • Cathy Miller September 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I'm a huge fan of LinkedIn. At one point, I estimated 60 percent of my clients started with LI in one form or another.

    From the start, it was the social media platform I felt the most comfortable with. It's a different animal from the rest. It has changed some from when I started with it. I'd be interested in Susan's take on how it's changed in terms of the social side of it.

    Can't wait to read Susan's book.

  • Devon Ellington September 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Twitter and my blog land me a lot of good contacts and work. I don't use LinkedIn or Facebook. As someone who works under multiple names, LinkedIn doesn't meet my needs at all.

  • Cathy Miller September 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    One of the things I've always loved about you, Devon, is your understanding of what works for you and your commitment to it.

    I totally agree that LinkedIn isn't for everyone, just like Twitter and Facebook are not for everyone. In fact, I think we often lose focus when we think we have to put a ton of effort into maintaining all social media platforms. I am a supporter of go with what works for you.

  • Lori September 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Eileen, not sure, but if you click on the link, you'll be able to order it. It really IS a great resource. I loved it.

    Cathy, I agree. It's a super way to connect with clients and potential clients, especially in the forums.

    Devon, I agree with Cathy. It may not fit you. I don't use Facebook at all for my work. That's my designated play time. 🙂

    Twitter has been a godsend for me.

  • Paula September 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Great idea to target your book toward freelancers, Susan.

    I first came to LinkedIn after writing an article on ways college students can use social media in job searches. My sources were mostly HR types and headhunters who said LinkedIn probably had more value for freelancers than job hunters since we're constantly looking for new opportunities. What they didn't realize is how great it can be for finding sources.

    LinkedIn introduced me to Lori, so of course it's a good thing.

  • Lori September 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Amen, Paula. That's yet one more great thing about LinkedIn. 🙂

    Right now I'm hating on Blogger. For some reason my password -the one I've used for five years – suddenly didn't work today. Google decided I need to use a password I have for something else entirely.


  • EP September 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    The focus on being a resource is good advice. But you can look at it too is a form of self-promotion in the end – and that is a good thing! Interesting ideas.

  • Lori September 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Amen, EP. It's a SUPER promotional tool.

  • Kimberly Ben September 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I recently attended a webinar on LinkedIn to help me maximize the networking opportunities there. I've had a couple of clients initiate contact with me via LinkedIn, so I know it has the potential to be a great way of promoting yourself. I REALLY need to update my profile, and start participating and exploring it more.

  • Lori September 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Same here, Kim. I'm about to hop on one myself. Looks like a great way to connect!

  • Susan Johnston September 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    @Eileen: It's available through the Rockable Press website. Lori includes the link above.

    Totally understand about those who said LinkedIn isn't for them. But I think a lot of people underestimate it, so that's why I wanted to shed some light on many of these features that users may not know about.

    Thanks, Lori!

  • Devon Ellington September 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Switch your blog to wordpress, Lori. You'll save yourself hours of headaches and heartaches.