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leveraging LinkedIn with Dee Boswell-Buck

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LinkedIn is known for being a professional social media platform that can help you find a job and make stronger connections with individuals in your industry. However, it’s also a great place for nonprofits to make new connections or do prospect research, or find people who can help or volunteer.

In today’s podcast, Dee Boswell-Buck, Digital Marketing strategist and consultant of Boswell-Buck Creative, will talk about how nonprofits can leverage LinkedIn to advance their mission and grow visibility online.

Myths that Dee wants us to walk away from:

  • LinkedIn is only good for job seekers: LinkedIn is also a great way to build a business, share your content, connect with individuals who are aligned with your organization, start a conversation and move those conversations off of the profile.

  • You can’t create meaningful connections on LinkedIn: If you are looking to build your online network, LinkedIn is a great place to start. In building meaningful connections, you have to be genuine with your message and engage intentionally with your audience.

Dee’s thoughts around leveraging LinkedIn

  • Optimize Your Profile Choose a great image for your profile picture. Include some important keywords about what you do in your banner or headline. In the summary section, highlight keywords about how you help, what your skills are, or other relevant services you offer.

  • Build genuine connections With LinkedIn, you can make connections with individuals within your industry or who share similar interests. You can engage with them by learning more about them before you send personalized or intentional messages.

  • Be active and consistent Dee suggests sharing content in your profile at least four times a week, by sharing relevant posts, and spending time to engage with your connections.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

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“we get onto LinkedIn and we compare it with other platforms. Like I'm getting followers on Instagram. I'm getting followers on Twitter. Nobody's following me on LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is not about followers. It's about like making connections and yes, there are uh, different things that you could do with your platform. You could turn your LinkedIn profile to like switch on the creator mode button, and then that way more people are seeing what it is that you share. But at the end of the day, when you're on LinkedIn, yes, you are to share content, but, you know, keep in mind that it's a great way to build the business, to connect with more individuals, for your nonprofit and to when I say making connections, not just hitting that connect button, but actually making connections, getting those conversations and moving those conversations off of the profile. ”

“There's no set of rules, but you want to spend time on LinkedIn where you're actually engaging with those who you have connected with, or, you know, when you're surfing through engaging with posts that you like, because when you are engaging on content of others, and even if you're not connected with them, then that opens it up for others to connect with you. ”

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership


Cindy W.: Have you ever looked at your LinkedIn profile and thought, oh my goodness, I am totally underutilizing this platform. That's how I feel. And so I invited today's guest to talk about how we can leverage LinkedIn for us personally, but also for our nonprofits. You know, whether it's making new connections or doing prospect research, or finding people who can help you with pro bono things.

LinkedIn is an amazing tool if you use it well. And so that is what we are diving in today.

I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And you're listening to The Small Nonprofit podcast where we bring you practical and down-to-earth advice on how to get more done in your small nonprofit. You are going to change the world. And we're here to help.

So today's guest is Dee Boswell-Buck and she is a digital marketing strategist and consultant of Boswell-Buck creative. She helps businesses and organizations and people use the online space strategically to get found, get connected, and drive traffic to their websites. So today with Dee we are covering all things, LinkedIn.

Dee welcome to the podcast.

Dee B.: Thank you so much for having me, Cindy.

Cindy W.: I'm really excited about this conversation. I love the story. You told me that I want you to tell our listeners that basically LinkedIn. Told you what your job was going to mean? It told you what your skill set was and how to, uh, how to change your work. Basically, they're somewhat responsible for your career pivot. So why don't you share with our listeners a little bit about you and how you ended up leaning into LinkedIn, uh, and now you teach other people how to do that.

Dee B.: Yeah, for sure. So, I'm a digital marketing strategist, and my company's called Boswell-buck creative consulting. And what I do is help business owners connect with their ideal clients in the online space. And the bulk of the work that I do is. Through social media management. And I love LinkedIn because LinkedIn introduced me to the world of social media management. And basically what happened was, you know, in 2013, I was on maternity leave. I was bored and a little lonely and I started a mom group and the mom group went from one to 400. By the time I returned back to work. And that happened within eight to nine months some of the questions that the ladies would ask me or the moms would ask me in the group, would ask me questions. Like, are you in PR, are you an event planner? Because we always had a lot of people showing up at the mall to walk the strollers. And we started to have a lot to have vendors reaching out to us. But I was, I let them know that I was a supervisor at a distribution center where I wore steel-toed shoes.

There were forklift trucks going by, and I was really proud of, everything that I did with this mom group. And what I did was I decided to update my LinkedIn profile before going back to work. It was a very boring profile. And I went in and I started putting things in like PR because they said I was in PR and event planning.

And I also had for this mom group, a Twitter account, a Facebook account, and I made a website all on maternity leave And a couple of days later, what happened was that when I checked my LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn started showing me jobs that had to deal with community management. Social media management.

And I Googled what all of this stuff was. And I remember saying to my husband, oh my gosh, people get paid to post stuff. And it was that simple. I did some more, some more, research, and I discovered that there were courses available. So when I returned back to work, um, I waited a few months later and I went back to, I went to night school for over two years, I paced myself, and then I became certified in social media management. Couldn't get a job at my nine to five. And I decided to go all-in at the age of 47 to start my own business.

Cindy W.: I love that. Like that is the brilliance of the algorithm and, and, you know, feeding you up things that are custom for you, but of course, none of that would have happened if you didn't have a good profile.

And I want us to start by talking about because we're talking about non-profits and similarly you say you work with business owners and I feel like there's some blurring of, you know, very often we think of LinkedIn where we're looking for a job, right. It's like, okay, I need to get my LinkedIn profile all up and ready because I'm going to start a job search.

But you're working with people who aren't looking to move jobs, they're looking to enhance their profile to grow their business, or for a lot of people, it could be, um, in the nonprofit space, it could be connecting with others, uh, developing opportunities for partnerships. I mean, there are so many different ways and I'd love for you to sort of debunking some of the assumptions we make or myths that we have about LinkedIn as the job search tool.

Dee B.: Yeah, I'll I have a lot of myths to debunk about LinkedIn. So, I mean, LinkedIn did start off as being that platform where you can look for a job most definitely. And I think because of that, um, many people feel that. You know, you're being judged when you're on LinkedIn. And I like to think of LinkedIn as an online networking event.

So it's not just about getting a job, but you know, for your nonprofit, if you're a business owner, it's a great way to connect with others. And actually, it's a bit of a time saver. So I think about when I used to go out to a lot of networking events in person and I really enjoy them, but they take a lot of time and you have to get ready for them.

You got to set up a table, whatever the case is. But on LinkedIn, you know, you have a, you have a really great profile. You have an up-to-date picture. You have a headline that really describes what it is that you do, how it is that you help others. Well, all of the words that you put into your LinkedIn profile, they become searchable. So if somebody is looking for somebody to help them, and they're looking for keywords that you have, well, then your profile helps you to show up in front of those that you can help.

Cindy W.: Yeah. I think that's great. And it really is about connection and the power of LinkedIn. Like I, I'm a fundraiser by, I guess, by trade. And so, you know, anytime we're researching, uh, Potential donors or anything like that. I always include LinkedIn. Like, are there connections where do those exist? And, um, I want to, I'm debating what we should talk about next cause I have two so I'm going to let you pick one is about just how to build your profile, but on the idea of connections, the other pieces, how to reach out, well, let's start with building our profile because you probably want to do that first. I'm assuming that's your priority. So how do we build a profile that is not, as you said, boring and just the like super generic, not interested, kind of piece in something that actually showcases both you and your organization?

Dee B.: So in our conversations, you're probably gonna hear me, um, have a lot of analogies. So when I think about building a profile, your profile. You know, it allows you to stand out in front of your audience. So when you get started on LinkedIn, you want to have a strategy, and that strategy you think about who is it that I want to connect with on LinkedIn?

Where, how is it that I want to grow my company, my nonprofit, my business on LinkedIn. And again, I'm going to talk about networking. If you go out to a networking event in person, you probably have done some research about whether or not. The individuals that you're going to be networking with are going to be in alignment with your brand.

And how is it that you want to show up for that networking event? So you probably are going to talk about your two best offers. You are probably thinking about who it is that you want to meet. Maybe you want to find the perfect VA or the perfect administrative assistant. And you're going to go there with your business cards and you're also going to come there.

You're going to go to that networking event and you're going to be dressed appropriately. So you've done your research and that's just the same with your LinkedIn profile. So your LinkedIn profile, you want to make sure that you've got. You know, you've got a great profile picture. That's up to date. I always advise my clients to have a picture where you're like looking into the camera and you're smiling.

When you go out to a networking event, you're going to smile and actually, uh, more people will check out your profile when you are smiling in your picture, in terms of your LinkedIn banner, you want to make sure that you have, you know, have some great keywords in there that talk about what it is that you do, or maybe you've got a great podcast.

That they could tune into. You can have those words on your banner, your headline, like I said, everything in your profile is searchable, but your headline, those could be some great keywords that really stand out when somebody gets to your profile and that first line of your headline, every time you engage on LinkedIn, that first-line is going to show up.

So for me, I believe my headline says that I helped. I help you connect with your clients in the online space, something to that effect. And then it speaks about everything else. Whenever I'm engaged on LinkedIn, it's my little business card headline that is there as well. And in terms of there's an area for your LinkedIn summary, um, previously a lot of people would write it out like a resident or a resume.

And on your summary, you can do a little bit of bragging and then also. Speak in there about how it is that you help your business owner. So use all of those characters' spaces. I think it's about 2100 characters go up to 1800, be very descriptive. And then there's also about your skills. Um, the skills are some keywords there that when someone is looking for a specific service, then that will help your entire profile to stand out

Cindy W.: That's so great. I love that you use the networking analogy. Back in the day, I used to work at a women's shelter. This was many years ago, and I would be invited to attend these networking events that were just like, go around the circle. Give your elevator pitch exchange cards. And so I have this like, um, funny feeling when you describe that of like, I know exactly what you're talking about, but I used to go in and I think the strategy piece that you talked about is so critical because everyone around me and I think a lot of nonprofits would relate to this on LinkedIn.

Everyone around me was like selling their Stuff. Right. They were businesses and products. And I was like, please give us money or come volunteer. And it was it. I felt like. And not out of place, but just a little bit. I couldn't figure out why it was there. I couldn't figure that out, but I was always invited to go.

And so it clicked for me that people are looking for opportunities to give and get involved in these spaces. And I think that that's really important to remember as we think about the strategy. Now, your non-profit can have other strategies with LinkedIn, but I don't want to discount that because, um, I think very often we shy away from that in a networking space, but people are looking to get involved and to give back and to build that into their professional space.

So I just want to add that. Let's talk a little bit about how to make new connections online. So we have an amazing profile. We have our strategy in terms of, let's say it's to building a base of support for our organization. Uh, and maybe we've identified some people we want to connect with. How do we do that in a way that's like, not spammy because I got a lot of spammy LinkedIn requests?

Dee B.: That's true. Well, before you start connecting, uh, I would recommend that you share, uh, you know, two or three posts onto your, you know, on your personal profile. Um, and those posts could be about what it is that you do. Behind your business or your nonprofit or those posts could be some articles that you are very interested in.

You might've found them from an online newspaper. And then that way, when you start to connect with others on LinkedIn, then they are going to see what it is that you have been sharing. And I mean, I don't think anyone ever addresses this, but when someone can connect with you on LinkedIn or when you're going to be connecting with somebody on LinkedIn, they're going to take a look at you before they hit yes I do it all the time. Right. It's like, okay. Um, this person just connected with me.

Are we going to be in alignment here? I think they're going to try to be, very salesy and whatnot. So I go through, I do take a look at their profile so that, you know, you want to make sure that you you're sharing some content first. So before you do connect with somebody, do a little bit of research on the individual. And what I love about LinkedIn is that you can search for the type of person that you want to connect with. Maybe you want to connect with somebody who is a vice president in a certain sector, or you want it to connect with a real estate agent in a certain area where you can do that search on LinkedIn, and then you, you, um, choose who it is that you want to connect with.

And then you could do some research. So you come up. What I tend to do is that sometimes I'll come off of LinkedIn and I'll take a look at that individual's website. I'll see what their blog posts are like. And then what I do is I will, when I connect, I always send a message while I'm connecting and it could go along with like, hi Cindy, I'd love the opportunity to connect with you.

That blog post that you just shared the other day on LinkedIn, really resonated with me. I mean, who would have thought, and then nice to meet you. So just something very short. Short and to the point, but it lets that individual know that you're interested in what it is that they do.

Cindy W.: I love that my friend, Jess Campbell also has a similar strategy. And it's so I think I know when I get those requests as I have, I've had people randomly be like, I love your podcast. I just listened to the episode. Let's connect. I am going to say yes, but I've had people the two times I say like I do decline requests. One is if it's just. Oh, we have a lot of people in common.

Yeah. Okay. So, and then two, uh, there's I find maybe this is just like people in the insurance or, um, space, but they're just like very, I don't know. There's something about that. Someone's teaching them an approach. That's just like, let's connect. I'd love it. It has to be done. This is where I'm getting, like, it has to be genuine.

I have had people reach out where it's like, oh, I love to connect your workloads really interesting. And I'll be like, oh, okay. Like, do I, don't see non-profit on your profile. So maybe your volunteer or something like that. Sure. I'll connect. So I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and then there'll be like trying to sell me insurance.

You don't care about my work. Don't start with the line that was telling me my work looks really interesting cause that's not what you care about. So I think that authenticity piece, and I think you explained a really beautiful way of, um, framing that as. like Yes. Do your research and be meaningful with it.

Dee B.: Yeah. And I mean, I've received those very first connection requests with the DMS and I scan it and I'm like, why are these three paragraphs? And it's usually, they're like right off the bat, they are selling to me. And I mean, you don't have to respond to every request. I usually just delete those requests.

Cindy W.: Yeah. It actually took me a while. I used to, as a business owner, I used to be like every request, every request got to say yes, but you're right. You don't need to, um, I want to talk a little bit about, cause we've been talking about using our personal profiles for businesses and nonprofits and you know, as a business owner, I get it.

Like I that's a place to be, but for a nonprofit, how do we delineate between. Like, do we even have a nonprofit page? Do we post anything on, the organization's page? Is it all just personal within our role at the nonprofit? How do we think about those two pieces and where should we be spending our time and energy?

Dee B.: I would say, you know, I feel that a lot of the magic happens in the personal profile. So I think for everyone, non-profits everyone, you know, you want to do a lot of the engagement in your personal profile. Um, you're, that's what you're sharing the content. If somebody is doing a search and they come across your content because they were searching specific hashtags, or maybe someone they are connected to is connected to you.

And now that gives them that, that gives you the opportunity to be seen. Well, they're automatically going to go to your profile as opposed to your business page. So I would say that in terms of if I were to give it a percentage, I would say use like 95%, 90 to 95% on your personal profile. However, your business page.

I always think that that's a great idea because it does give you, it gives you credibility. So update that business page a couple of times a week. And why I say that you want to do your personal profile first is because of your business page, you're going to invite people to like the page. So the magic needs to start in your personal area.

And then as you start to invite individuals to that, to your business page, it's going to, you're going to feel Good about inviting the individual and that person's going to feel good about accepting that invitation to follow your business, your business page on LinkedIn

Cindy W.: Okay. So you mentioned updating that business or organization page a couple of times a week, which brings me to a really important question. Like how much time should we be spending on LinkedIn?

Dee B.: That one's a, I don't know if I would say that there is a certain amount of time. Um, I mean, we're so connected to our devices and whatnot, and as a social media manager, I'm very connected to my device and I'm trying to find ways, to disconnect. LinkedIn is one of my favorite profiles, my favorite platform.

So I tend to spend more time there. So in terms of putting numbers there. I say, maybe I can tell you about how often you should show up on LinkedIn. So if you're going to share a post on LinkedIn, I would say a good number is about four times a week. I wouldn't say share content seven days out of the week.

Because sometimes it could be a little bit too much if you're going to just, if you're going to show up seven times a week, then there are so many different ways that you so many areas that you can show up on LinkedIn. You could show up by sharing those two posts on your business page. You can share, uh, uh, great blog posts in the LinkedIn articles.

Now we're down to three and then you're sharing like four times on your personal profile. And when you're sharing, I mean, that takes. That covers the time that you're sharing on LinkedIn, you also want to take some time on a daily basis to engage, not necessarily the weekends, or you can have your down days.

There's no, there's no set of rules, but you want to spend time on LinkedIn where you're actually engaging with those who you have connected with, or, you know, when you're stuffing through engaging with posts that you like, because when you are engaging on the content of others, and even if you're not connected with them, then that opens it up for others to connect with.


Cindy W.: Let's talk a little bit about what that engagement looks like. Right? Cause we all know we can hit the thumbs up button or what have you, but how, I mean, I want to bring it to me. I see this sort of two pillars, but maybe there's more one is just our own general network and building that, but going back to the.

Intentional connections that we've reached out to. We said, I love your blog post or article, you know, let's connect. They say us, how do we engage with those people as well? That's a little bit more focused, but then also what other engagement do we need to think about?

Dee B.: Yeah, sorry, you didn't send me because I don't do this with everyone. So, you know, I send that DM out and then there are some individuals that I'm very interested in learning more from. So I came across somebody's profile on LinkedIn and. I wasn't looking for this individual because I know what my client's avatar looks like, and that person was not individual.

However, in my business, I want to have more of a focus on diversity and inclusion. And what had happened was that somebody's profile came up and I'm actually, one of my connections are connected to him and he is in charge of diversity. Equity and inclusion at a major gym that's in the greater Toronto area.

And I was like, oh, he runs that. And this is something that I'd like to know more about. And I, what I did was I connected and I just said to him like, wow, you know, I checked out your profile and this is something that I'm really interested in, in. You know, moving forward with, for, for my business and how it is that I can help my clients with it.

So I'm really, I'm very glad that I connected with you and I hope to learn a lot from what you're sharing on social on, on LinkedIn. And then he responded back and it was very genuine. I was really excited. And he, he responded back with nice to meet you. And would you like to have coffee over zoom.

you know, and, and I said, yeah, that was, that would be great. You know, it's kind of busy right now, but, and I sent him some dates cause I didn't want it to be that, oh, he actually responded back. And now I'll say later, I actually gave him some dates. Like, let's meet on zoom, you know, on this state and in this state. And I do have some spots available in the afternoon. So, sometimes it's, I do want to engage or I want to like have real conversations with individuals and, I don't know if I went off on a tangent, but

Cindy W.: yeah, no, that's, that's totally helpful. I think using the platform to, to engage more deeply and then. That's more targeted in terms of a general engagement. Like I've seen people who will they'll share posts and they will tag a bunch of people. They almost like want them to respond to that post, which I never do. So if you ever tagged me in a post, I'm sorry, but I'm not responding when you tag me, but how do we.

In, I would almost call it a reciprocal relationship. We still want to engage with other people's posts because we obviously want that for our own posts too. And part of it is the quality of content, but part of it is just showing up for people online. So any tips on how to just, you know, it could be a rabbit hole, you could go down and engage with like every single post and read all the articles and, you know, make thoughtful comments, but we can't do that for everything. So how do we build, how do we show? Meaningfully for our network online. Um, without it just taking all of our time. up

Dee B.: Yeah, it can be a bit much so I would advise, or, you know, some of the things that I do is I say to myself, you know, I'm going to connect with 10 people. This month. 10 is a number that is a manageable number.

So I'm going to connect with 10 people over. the next four weeks. And I have, I literally, I write their names down. So, Cindy Wagman, I'm writing their names down because I know that I want to be more aware of what Cindy and these other nine individuals are sharing on LinkedIn. So I've got that nice, manageable number.

I'm taking a look at their profile because I'm engaging more than the algorithms are showing me more of their content as well. And, um, and then, you know, as I'm able to engage with those individuals, I can even start to move those conversations from the posts that I'm engaging with, into their DMS, where it's like, wow, like that post that you just share.

Oh my gosh. Or that was too funny for instance, but you, because I have. the Engagement happening with those individuals, then I'm able to take those conversations off of the platform. And I mean, I, after, I mean those 10 people, maybe six of them are not really going to be responding. And then I just move forward to adding like another six to make it, bring it back up to the 10 again.

So I would say that that would be the best way to do that.

Cindy W.: I love that advice and I'd never thought of the algorithm. Taking that behavior and sort of making it even easier for us to do that. Um, but yeah, the more you engage with those people, the more they're going to show keeps showing up in your feed and being that deliberate and targeted, I think is so strategic.

So that's fantastic advice. Um, I feel like we covered a lot in a very short period of time. Um, you know, we, we talked about how do you manage your own personal profile and where your organizational profile intersects with that, and then how to build that network, show up for people, uh, and engage online so that you actually have.

Deeper relationships. And we even talked about how to connect with cold people, which is, I think I'm awesome. Is there anything else that you've seen nonprofits or nonprofit professionals do? Uh, either really well on LinkedIn or any mistakes that we should absolutely avoid, uh, before we wrap up the conversation.

Dee B.: I think I could focus on mistakes to avoid, um, you know, we get onto LinkedIn and we compare it with other platforms. Like I'm getting followers on Instagram. I'm getting followers on Twitter. Nobody's following me on LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is not about followers. It's about making connections and yes, there are. Different things that you could do with your platform. You could turn your, your, you could turn your LinkedIn profile to like switch on the creator mode button, and then that way more people are seeing what it is that you share. But at the end of the day, when you're on LinkedIn, yes, you are to share content, but, you know, keep in mind that it's a great way to build the business, to connect with more individuals, for your nonprofit and to. When I say making connections, not just hitting that connect button, but actually making connections, getting those conversations, and moving those conversations off of the profile.

Cindy W.: Hmm. Yeah. that is so helpful. And I personally am going to try to show up a little bit more on LinkedIn. Um, I'm struggling with all of all across all social media these days. But yeah, I definitely think that for our sector, it's often underlooked, and underdeveloped, but there's so much amazing potential to build that community. As you said, it really is about the connections and it definitely. Um, from what I've seen, I think a little bit more of a two-way street with people, right? You're not just like posting a cool Instagram pick to get lots of likes that you're having conversations and being seen as a thought leader or a leader in your sector. So can I actually make yeah,