My Interview With LinkedIn Rock Star Mike O’Neil

LinkedIn Rock Stars Mike O'Neil and Lori Ruff
I recently wrote a 5 star review of Rock The World With Your Online Presence: Your Ticket To A Multi-Platinum LinkedIn Profile by authors and LinkedIn expert trainers Mike O’Neil and Lori Ruff (The LinkedIn Diva) who are based in Denver, Colorado. They are both entrepreneurs, expert social media teachers and incredibly warm, friendly and dynamic public speakers and Mike O’Neil agreed to talk to me about LinkedIn, Integrated Alliances, Classic Rock and rocking the world with social media.

Mike, how long have you been a user of LinkedIn?

I joined LinkedIn January 14, 2004 and am officially LinkedIn user #125,841. Someone invited me to join LinkedIn one day and I said, “why not?” It was a year or so until I really started doing much with it.

How long did it take you to become a bonafide LinkedIn expert trainer and all-around LinkedIn Rock Star?

I was probably using LinkedIn a good 2 years before I thought I had passed up most of the other users I knew in terms of what I could do with it. They say it takes 10,000 hours of relevant experience to be an expert. I’ve been an expert for a while now. Still, I am continually learning from trying new things and from others, especially from Lori Ruff. I was just early to the show and that helps a lot, especially in terms of devising broader scale strategies.

What was your profession before you got involved with LinkedIn?

I have always been involved in technology – physical networking with computers, Telecom, Internet and all. I was simultaneously very involved in social networking, running hundreds of B2B business networking events in Colorado over the years. Looking back, it was a logical extension to move into Social Media (although it didn’t really have a name back then).

What is Integrated Alliances and when was it formed?

I formed Integrated Alliances in 2003 after being laid off twice in less than 2 years from technical sales positions with big Internet and Telecom firms. I was in regular corporate America for many years and then, seemingly all of a sudden, I was a burgeoning entrepreneur. I learned a lot about all types of networking over the years and that is what really makes Integrated Alliances so social at the core.

How did you meet and end up working with Lori Ruff?

Lori contacted me on LinkedIn to inquire about bringing the Integrated Alliances brand and LinkedIn training to Charlotte, NC. We were already in a handful of U.S. cities at the time. She signed on to launch IA in Charlotte and came to Denver for her week long train the trainer certification work. I picked her up at the airport and it wasn’t long before she was a full-fledged member of the executive team and very near and dear to my heart. Lori is amazing.

If you could give readers just one valuable tip about LinkedIn, what would it be?

Get a great looking and highly optimized profile before you do much else on LinkedIn. Find a knowledgeable LinkedIn user/friend and spend some one on one personal coaching time together. A coffee shop or a bar works out quite well for this. You pick up the tab.

Tell us about the experience you had writing your first book and what your plans are for future volumes of the Rock The World series?

The big part about writing the first book was actually getting it finished. Without a deadline, it just pushes out and out for years and years, kind of like restoring a classic car in the back yard.

The second eye opening part was the book process and book business itself. It is much less about writing than producing, at least at the end. “It’s a lot more than an eBook” is what one author I know likened the Book vs. eBook comparison to this analogy – “It’s the difference between having a baby and babysitting.”

Rock The World With Your Online Presence: Your Ticket To A Multi-Platinum LinkedIn Profile is a book about “how to strategically apply LinkedIn to BUSINESS and to YOU, the business person.” What is the new book called and what will its’ focus be?

Our new book, Rock The World with Social Media – The Ultimate Social Media Guide for LinkedIn Users, is a direct result of our Rock The World tours promoting the first book. More and more, the questions we are fielding are more about the OTHER platforms and how they fit in for LinkedIn business users like us. We happen to know quite a bit about the topic so the next book topic was sort of handed to us.

The Rock The World series will have many books, CDs, DVDs, videos and products supporting all the major formats including iPad and Kindle.

Who are your all-time favourite classic rock artists?

In terms of bands and their music it has to be Pink Floyd, The Who, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Counting Crows. I have lots of ticket stubs from seeing these bands in concert.

For musical artists, probably Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Melissa Etheridge. I have lots of ticket stubs here as well.

What are your three favourite concerts of all time?

Best favorite concert has to be Pink Floyd (multiple times), followed by U2 (multiple times) and the US Festival in ’82 in California. I even have a jersey-type T-shirt from the festival. Just look at this abbreviated line-up:

Day 1 – The Police, Oingo Boingo, Talking Heads, Ramones, B52’s

Day 2 – Santana, The Kinks, Eddie Money, Tom Petty, Pat Benatar, The Cars

Day 3 – Grateful Dead (6am), Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Fleetwood Mac

Can you talk about your public speaking engagements and cross-country tour?

Well, the tours seem to quite naturally mirror a rock band or even a comedian that is out on tour, except for the vans and buses. We tend to have a local “handler” in the cities we speak and train in. The primary place we look for “our kind of partners” is with the individuals that run the “Linked to City” LinkedIn Groups. We run the “Linked to Denver” and “Friends of Colorado” LinkedIn Groups for example. People seek us out as a result.

It still feels we are “yet to be discovered” when touring as we don’t have the limos, opening acts, and all yet. We do have T-shirts, a CD series coming and even some groupies now!

Lori Ruff and I really enjoy couchsurfing (or staying with our local online friends) when on tour. We meet amazing people that way and we get insider knowledge of the places we visit. We host lots of couch surfers in Denver as well.

We have been hunkered down here in our downtown Denver condo for a few months as we’re very focused on completing our Rock The World with Social Media book so our radio spots have fallen off a bit. We really kick up big time in November as we launch the new book, probably in San Francisco this round. Having a very active book publisher, combined with some interesting audio CD projects, means we will have the radio spots cranked up to a fever pitch in support of our 2010-2011 Rock The World Social Media Tour.

You mentioned a little bit to me about Rock The World TV. What are your plans for that?

We have become more of a media company vs. primarily speaking and training. That means Radio and TV. For the TV show – which is designed to be enjoyed on a traditional TV and not a PC – it will probably happen around the end of the year. We have a true Hollywood-level producer lined up, the show format is pinned down, and the studio is lined up. Time and a certain radio show (next) are pushing the TV show out just a bit.

We are focusing our immediate media efforts on the September launch of our Rock the World with LinkedIn® radio show on WebMasterRadio.FM. We will be joining our good friend Joel Comm as a radio show host on this channel.

Of course, a major sponsor can change priorities rather quickly. We expect future sponsors to focus on integrated media sponsorships (and partnerships) involving events, radio, TV, live music, blogs, giveaways, spokespersons, etc.

What do you love the most about working in social media?

I get to meet such interesting people and it amazes me how easy it is to find them. For example, I am connected on LinkedIn to Barack Obama, John McCain, Vint Cerf (inventor of the Internet), Barry Diller; 29,000 total.

I really live for the big conferences, where we get to perform in front of large audiences and develop relationships with the other speakers, big wigs and celebrities. We just performed in the main ballroom at the Meeting Professionals International’s annual conference at the Vancouver Convention Center (2,500 attendees from around the world). This is the very spot where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held – amazing.

Aside from LinkedIn, what do you feel are the other most important social networking platforms?

We covered the platforms and tools that we feel are the most important in the Rock The World with Social Media book. The most important from a business perspective are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter followed by YouTube and WordPress/Blogs. We particularly think Meetup and Amazon are biggies to watch. We cover a dozen Social Media Tools in the book and I think Foursquare is probably the most significant.

In what direction do you feel that social media is headed in the near future?

I get to write a lot about the future in the second book and I find it is amazing how much of it is focused on Facebook. It wasn’t planned that way, but they are the future infrastructure of Social Media (if there is such a thing). We throw out the idea of a Facebook word processor, spreadsheet, Facebook phone, Facebook appliance or tablet and a bunch of others in the new book. It was really fun. We might even call it “Facebook – Prediction or Premonition.”

LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook all the time, but its real value is its database component and who is in that database. Just imagine the consequences of a LinkedIn Joint Venture (or even a merger) with Hoovers for example. I always thought that Microsoft or IBM should buy LinkedIn. How many IT decision makers are there in LinkedIn? Let me see….


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