Storytelling on LinkedIn with Ash Rathod
How does one go from 1,000 to 22,000 followers on LinkedIn in 11 months?
We asked Ash Rathod how, because he has done exactly that. He's gone from a silent lurker to building a unique personal brand on LinkedIn. A personal brand built on the power of storytelling.
But he wasn't always convinced LinkedIn was the place. He started out thinking that LinkedIn was a stuffy B2B networking event for job seekers. But his first post, a very personal post, accidentally went viral. That changed his opinion and triggered the start of his LinkedIn journey.
We sat down with Ash to hear his story. A story that talks of consistency and the results it brings. In these 11 months, he's built a personal brand from scratch. He has grown his business because of it. And he has made connections he now counts as friends.
A chance post and a new LinkedIn life.
LinkedIn happened accidentally to Ash. He could never imagine how a social media platform could make such a direct impact on his business. He didn't foresee how personal branding took him from being just another agency owner to a thought leader.
He has shattered the belief that there is no room for "personal" on LinkedIn. His unique storytelling content highlights the power of the person behind the professional. After all, people buy from people. Here is Ash narrating his LinkedIn journey.
Who was Ash before LinkedIn?
«I was running my creative agency, focusing on my client portfolio. I didn’t even think about the importance of personal branding until I started to ‘dabble’ on LinkedIn.»
What did you think of LinkedIn before you started creating content there?
«I would log on once in a blue moon. And when I did, I was the ultimate ‘lurker.’ I didn’t comment or engage with content other than the odd, ‘Congratulations' or DM people I used to work with from years ago. I saw it as a job-seeking site and felt I didn’t have any need to spend time there. With my team in place, I wasn’t looking to hire anytime soon either.»
What got you started on LinkedIn?
«So I posted something that was totally unrelated to my business and unrelated to work. It was a therapeutic post about my Vitiligo. My skin started to change a few years ago and it affected my confidence and mental health. I didn’t want to speak to anyone about it so I decided to post my thoughts. That post blew up. It generated over 80,000 views and I was blown away by the number of people who sent me so many heartwarming messages. People started to connect with me and told me how inspired they were about my story. It was overwhelming. From that day, my perception of LinkedIn changed completely.»
Why didn't you start earlier?
«I think I would have started a lot sooner if I realized LinkedIn wasn’t what I thought it was. I really thought it was an old stuffy B2B networking and a job seekers forum. I thought it was all corporate and formal and a place where I couldn't really be myself. How wrong was I!»
Did you ever feel like an outsider? Did LinkedIn have a role in changing that feeling?
«Although I’d worked in the corporate world and with some great corporate clients over the span of 20 years (which I still do to this day), I never saw myself as a corporate kind of guy. In that way, I always felt a little bit of an outsider. And I felt that was what LinkedIn was; more of that corporate club. My first post that accidentally did well was very personal. It's that what changed how I felt. I felt I could be more myself even in a business setting.»
The beginning: New kid on the LinkedIn block
What would people think? One of the most common reasons people don't create content on LinkedIn is self-doubt. Ash's story is proof that when you take that first step and stay consistent you find your tribe of people who cheer you on and motivate you to keep going further.
What did you want to achieve when you started on LinkedIn?
«When I started, I quickly realized how impactful 1300 characters was (as the limit was back then). In terms of how it helped others and me forge some amazing relationships and create new business opportunities. It quickly dawned on me how I could spend more time here having fun and making money!»
What was the hardest part when you were just starting?
«The hardest part was getting over the fear of people’s opinions. And actually, once I started posting more and attracting an audience that really cared about the things I wrote about, those fears went away fairly quickly. We often tell ourselves stories that are not always true. I certainly fell into that trap.»
Did you see success right from the start?
«Actually no. My posts were up and down after my first major post and I was a little disappointed. I thought every post after that would be the same... I was still experimenting and didn't have a clue what I was doing. All that changed when I started to get really intentional. I slowly became obsessed with trying to crack it. So I kept on testing and testing… And ultimately for me, it came back to the way you write and connect with people. I have a huge interest in storytelling and it’s what I specialized at university. I just applied all those techniques on LinkedIn. And it worked!»
How big was your audience when you started? How big is it now?
«I had under 1000 followers when I started and I have over 22k followers now.»
How long did it take?
What have you achieved by being active on LinkedIn?
Connections: Met some awesome people I can call friends.
Business opportunities: I created a course on how to grow on LinkedIn using storytelling. I started coaching Solopreneurs with their positioning and content creation and I started earning monthly recurring revenue because of the time I invested on LinkedIn.
Confidence: As cheesy as it might sound, it’s really changed how I look at things and how I feel about myself. I am more comfortable projecting the real me to the world out there. Writing daily as I have done for the last 11 months has helped me grow so much on a personal level.
Skills on LinkedIn
What's the #1 skill that has helped you in creating impactful content?
«Storytelling. Storytelling is not just about copy. To tell a great story, you don't need to be the best writer! You just need to understand some structures and how human psychology works when we tell and receive stories.»
What's the most overrated skill people think they need to get started on LinkedIn?
«Wow. What a great question. I think it’s more of a mindset thing vs a skill. The imposter syndrome, the idea that you need to be the best in your field to create content. And honestly, that's just not true. Anybody can create content. The best thing you can do is to bravely put your opinions out there.»
What was the biggest mistake you made when starting out?
«Not having clear goals. That was probably my biggest. Once you have a clear idea of the audience you want to target, how you can help them by bringing value to them, content creation gets much easier and your tribe begins to grow.»
Your content is so unapologetically you, were you always so confident? How can someone else get that kind of self-belief?
«Not at all. I constantly worried about what others thought of me. And I think it’s quite a common thing. Especially when creating content. It’s something I help my clients with today. It’s human nature to worry about other people’s opinions but the more you write for the right people, the less you care about what others think.»
Building an Audience. Being a creator.
Success on LinkedIn is often measured by the number of followers one has. But what's more important is the quality of our network and how engaged they are with our content. Ash has built a tribe of people around his content who he now calls friends. He talks to us about the secret behind building an Interactive Audience.
Is there a specific mindset that's helped you in building such an engaged audience?
«Really get to know the audience. Inside and out. Ask questions in the beginning. Pick up on what makes them tick. Really go deep on their pain points and engage with them as much as you can. When you give people time, they will keep showing up.»
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 1 year back?
«Keep going and you will see results. That’s a given. The early days might be smaller results but they get bigger. Just remember this is a long game. Expect the dips and embrace them.»
Do you have any content creation frameworks that can help someone get started?
«I do. I call it my 6P framework and it helps with positioning, content ideas, and how to formulate posts. In its simplest form, it’s a storytelling arc that has a character who needs something and is taken through some ups and downs to get what they need.»
Why should someone with a stable 9-5 corporate job build a personal brand on LI?
«It opens up so many opportunities. Content on social media platforms is the new resume but better. Even if you are not looking for a new job, it raises your and your company’s profile so it really is a win-win. People get to really know your personality vs just what you are capable of. And that really matters.»
Who shouldn't build a personal brand on LinkedIn?
«I don’t think there is anyone who shouldn’t. And that’s the beauty of it. It’s never too late.»
The role of data and what the numbers say
We at Shield are lucky to be a part of Ash's journey on LinkedIn. He has been using his data to understand what works and then do more of that.
Why do you track metrics for your LinkedIn data?
«For me, it informs my future strategy. I want to know what works and what doesn’t for my audience. I also want to optimize my growth rate. And data allows me to do that.»
What metrics are important to you and why?
«Anything that helps me to know when to post, how long to wait, and insights into what’s working and what’s not working. Shield has been a godsend when it comes to this and more.»
What kind of averages were you getting when you just started ? And what kind of averages do you get now?
«I would say I was getting an average of 400-500 views before I started becoming more intentional. And maybe a handful of comments and likes. Now I’m getting around 30,000 views per average post and 300 likes on average and over 100 comments per post.»
Let's talk consistency. How consistent were you the first 6 months of being active on LinkedIn? How consistent are you now?
«I actually was consistent very early on. As soon as I realized the power of LinkedIn, I made a point of creating content regularly. I post pretty much daily although it’s not sustainable for all and also not necessary. I really enjoy it so do it daily.»
What's your most "viral" post ever?
«My most viral post was the one that kicked off my journey. It did well the first time but I reposted it again recently and it did 900K views.»
«I spent too much time trying to create posts on the back of a successful post. It had 400 views. I felt like calling it a day after that. I’m glad I didn’t.»
Creators are the future
When you start creating content, the opportunities you unlock go so much beyond getting that new job or finding those new clients. Ash has used his content to build a brand presence for himself.
Why is content important?
«Marketing starts with building awareness. And content not only kick starts the customer journey but features throughout it. Especially on social media, it allows you to engage with people directly. Unlike the old broadcast or one-way advertising. If you want to find and get your message to others, content is the entry point.»
Does content drive business?
«100%. Directly and indirectly. Since I started being more active with my content, I have increased my agency revenue and created a new recurring revenue stream through my digital course and one on one consulting. This would not have happened if it wasn't for the content on LinkedIn.»
Why is LinkedIn the place to be?
«I think mainly because for those looking to network for work or business it’s by far the best place for organic reach social media platforms. It’s why I spend most of my time here.»
Sources of inspiration
Your top 3 favorite people on LinkedIn
«I have a huge passion for mental health and social media so Steven Bartlett is a big inspiration. I love Dave Harland. His content just puts a smile on my face. And of course Richard Moore, he ‘properly’ introduced me to LinkedIn and is a master of converting leads to sales on the platform.»
Your top 3 podcasts
«I love My first million by Sam Parr and Shaan Puri. My friend and mentor Chris Do has a great podcast: The Futur podcast. And Steven Bartlett’s The Diary of a CEO.»
Your top 3 books
«The Brand Flip by Marty Neumeuier, he's another mentor and teacher of mine. The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. A must for every storyteller. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy.»
And that's it folks. A sneak peek into how Ash is building his personal brand through powerful stories, one story at a time.
Make sure you Follow Ash Rathod on LinkedIn for more on Storytelling, Content Marketing and LinkedIn growth.