Social Sophistication

A new book offers some down-to-earth advice on how to get the most out of LinkedIn marketing.

If you’re like me, you’ve always been a bit mystified by the alleged “power” of social media.  I’ve heard speakers talk about the importance of social engagement in your marketing programs, and after one particularly persuasive presentation, I rushed out to set up my own LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.  The former attracted a lot of people in the profession who still don’t seem to know who I am, and the latter ended up being a forum for people I knew in high school who seem to spend much of their time trafficking in some very creative conspiracy theories.

In all the articles and speeches telling me how important social engagement can be to my business, I’ve never seen anything that told me HOW to engage on these platforms, and what to expect when I did.

Until now.  I’ve just finished a short (43 page) book on LinkedIn engagement by LinkedIn expert marketer Sara Grillo.  Grillo is not only a marketing consultant; she’s also a regular contributor to the Advisor Perspectives service, and has also taught advanced CFA classes in a previous incarnation.  She wrote the book because she has, over the years, gotten so many (she is careful not to say ‘stupid’) questions about LinkedIn from people almost as clueless as I am.

What does she say?  The book is entitled “47 Financial Advisor LinkedIn Messages and Sequences” ( though it actually provides 54 messages in the text.  I found the messages to be interesting and valuable in themselves, but I also got more comfortable with the whole idea of social media marketing by reading through the general advice that Grillo offered about the social media ecosystem. 

For instance?  I thought I should be posting longer articles and giving people detailed information.  Grillo says that LinkedIn is primarily about communicating with people individually, and my social messages should be no longer than two sentences.  (Anything longer than that forces the reader to scroll too much.) 

I thought that I had to market myself, or deliver marketing messages.  Grillo says that the two-sentence messages, ideally, would consist of a statement followed by, in the second sentence, a question that invites engagement. 

Grillo also says that it’s okay to use emojis (you can get a bunch of them to copy and paste here:, and in general you should try not to sound like a typical financial advisor or pitch yourself or a product.  Your goal in every communication with individuals on LinkedIn is to find out what the other person cares about, has a problem with or generally is interested in.  That may or may not lead to a meeting, but at least it shows that you’re listening.

Grillo says that in all your messaging, you want to be curious, sincere, brief, giving and in general to reflect a sincere intention to make the other person’s life better without attachment to any self-serving outcome.  You should always be, Grillo says, focused on them, not on you.

From there, you learn about message sequencing, tracking your messages (the other party wants to see that you remember what you said in their last conversation with you) and when to drop someone from your list of correspondents.  Later in the book, Grillo offers a number of potential sequences that you can customize to your own style, including a content sequence and a kind of introductory sequence.

So why (you might ask) do you need 47 (actually 54) messages using these simple principles?  Because every person you interact with is different, and the messages cover a wide range of circumstances.  Grillo recommends that you check out a person’s page before you respond to a message, to see what they’re about.  And then the book delves into the actual scripts themselves, which cover everything from asking how the other person found you to their interest in connecting, to simply what’s going on with them.  Is there something they want to achieve professionally? 

There are a few proposed messages for when you meet somebody and want to establish a LinkedIn connection, some tasteful compliments and even jokes that relate directly to the other’s published career.  (To a fashion executive who runs a fashion networking group: “Do you have a fashion group for people who have NO fashion sense?  Can I be the first member?”

There are messages that ask the other person what kind of information they’re interested in in various specific ways, congratulatory messages, and some advice on dealing with “tough cookies” by suggesting that either the other person tell you why they connected with you in the first place or you will stop interacting altogether.  (One of the ten: “I don’t want to be a nuisance.  We’ve messaged about your IRA.  Would you like to talk or should I just quit bugging you?”)

Grillo also covers connecting with centers of influence and reporters, noting that reporters are usually much easier to form a connection with than COIs because they’re constantly looking for people who can be a good resource for them.  She recommends that you adopt the attitude that you want to make the reporter more successful by being there as an awesome resource whenever they need you.  (Very good advice.)

In her book, Grillo says that you should not take these messages literally, but instead customize them to your own communication style.  Reading through the 43 pages one more time, I can see how some of the messages convey what I would basically want to say, but I can see a better way for me to say it based on who and what I am.  That will be true for you as well.

But bigger picture, the book helps to demystify LinkedIn for advisory firms who are still trying to get their heads around the whole social media thing.  LinkedIn is the most professional and business-like of the social platforms, and the least likely to attract all your high school friends who like to trade conspiracy theories instead of make their financial lives better.

I just checked out my own LinkedIn account.  I have 3,175 connections and I have never once interacted with them.  Maybe this is a good time to start.