For 20 years, Gregg Burkhalter had a “dream job” working as a national music marketer and distributor.
“I hung with the stars, day in, day out,” he recollected at Wednesday’s North Georgia Power Connectors luncheon at Taverna Mediterranean Grill in Cartersville. “I thought I was going to retire from this job, but unfortunately, six years ago, that $250 million company went bankrupt.”
At that time, Burkhlater said he was so out of the social media loop that he didn’t even know what the term “networking” meant. But he nonetheless snagged a digital marketing consultant job shortly after setting up his first LinkedIn account about 5 1/2 years ago.
“From day one I had a strategy,” he said. “My strategy was could I build and nurture relationships online like I do in person?”
Apparently, his approach to social media networking was effective. The Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce invited him to their educational academy as their first official speaker — naturally, it was to run a LinkedIn workshop.
In June 2015, Burkhalter decided to officially rebrand himself as “The LinkedIn Guy.” His first two workshop consultations were for a Silicon Valley engineering firm in California and a C-level client in New York.
“My first year, I spoke to 100 groups,” he recounted. “And I was immediately training people all around America.”
When Microsoft acquired the social media network in 2016, however, Burkhalter feared his days were numbered. He recalled getting an email from the tech Goliath’s corporate operations and fearing for the worst.
With a pounding heart, he clicked on the message. Instead of a cease and desist warning, however, it was a request for him to visit the Microsoft Store in Atlanta for a LinkedIn workshop.
Burkhalter’s been doing presentations for Microsoft ever since. Six months ago he trained their sales team at the corporate Atlanta office, and just 60 days ago, he did a regional webinar to train about 45 Microsoft employees.
“If you have a LinkedIn account and you think nobody’s going to notice, those days are gone,” he said. “As we speak, LinkedIn is being rolled out and being connected to every Microsoft Office product … if you’re in Microsoft Office, your profile is going to be easily accessible.”
LinkedIn is different from other social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, in that Burkhalter considers the platform to be the home of one’s “personal brand.”
He described personal branding as what people think, feel or say whenever they see an individual’s face or hear their name called aloud.
“Your brand is not what you say you are, your brand is what others say you are,” he said “It’s not so much what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you.”
As such, Burkhalter likened one’s personal brand to a living, breathing radio station. Whether you know it or not — or even if you don’t want to — he contends that we’re all “broadcasting” whenever we’re out and about in public.
That’s one of the reasons why he said he always wears his name badge on trips to the local coffee shop. “People are listening to your brand,” he said.
Before the rise of social media, Burkhalter said individuals normally lugged around just two items in their “professional toolbox” — their education and their resume. But in a post-LinkedIn society, however, Burkhalter said two professional “power tools” have been added to the kit: personal branding and an “engaged” social media presence.
And those two, he said, could effectively serve as “tie-breakers” for prospective employees.
“If your personal brand is greater than theirs, you get beyond the price,” Burkhalter said. “People will pay for a personal brand, I will tell you that.”
With half a billion people currently using the social media platform, Burkhalter said employers should be excited to see their workers on the network.
“The employees of the company have 10 times more connections than the company,” he said. “You are the gateway for exposure to your company.”
As LinkedIn implements more multimedia features — i.e., services like video sharing, the ability to upload business documents and voice messaging — Burkhalter said the platform is giving users more opportunities to build their brand.
“This is coming soon, LinkedIn Live, the ability to broadcast live,” he said. “I have seen it and I am salivating to this, to be able to sit at my desk and answer questions live as they stream on the side of my screen.”
A personal brand, he continued, is more than just one’s line of work, it’s broadcasting the value an individual brings to the place where they work.
And making a good first impression — online and off — he said, remains pivotal.
“My summary is me, talking about myself,” he said. “You need to make sure your first three lines are so darn good, that if they read nothing else, they know what you’re all about.”