My End of Tour. #LinkedInLife

Transformation of self.

 

I was once awe struck by this place. From the first time I logged in, I was hooked. That was 2005. LinkedIn has been the app that connected me to opportunity. Literally. I had become one of the most vocal people in the sales industry about it’s potential.

 

I led a social selling movement initially with no data but a solid belief that this was the right thing to do. Social selling became my new religion and I spread the gospel every chance I could.

 

Then in 2013 I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I got IN for real. I walked through those doors of building 2019 in Mountain View for the first time excited and anxious. I never imagined the possibility of being within these walls. Linkedin wasn’t just the platform I talked about, now it was the company that I worked for.

 

Transformation of company.

 

I was the first person at LinkedIn focused on social marketing in the B2B businesses. Many said a full head wasn’t needed. The interview was tough. In the end Ralf believed in me and the idea everyone needs a Koka and they took the risk. There were some non-believers and when I started I felt that I had to prove myself. I was up for the challenge.

 

Two key items from the culture and values were instilled from the beginning. The idea that relationships matter and the company fosters… no… empowers transformation.

 

My previous manager at a different company was now leading the marketing department for Sales Solutions. It may be self denial but I don’t think I would have ever had this opportunity without him. He gave me the chance to write my own job description and the goals were quantifiable.

 

Linkedin Sales Solutions was much smaller then. The entire NAMER sales team in SF filled a small corner of the floor. 5 people in marketing to feed the sales machine.

 

In my first manager 1:1 I was introduced to the concept of Next Play. He said, I got in, now what do I want to do next?

 

Next?!? I just got here.

 

Little did I know that Next Play was driving factor of my growth in the company, to always be testing, risking and optimizing for success.

 

The social channels @linkedinselling then were barren wasteland. Maybe one update a week was going out. We didn’t even have a blog but when we finally got approvals for the blog and started pushing out social updates, the game was on.

 

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#Linkedinlife is empowering

In 2 years we worked magic. The team built a lead generation machine and LinkedIn was becoming synonymous with social selling. At my core I was a publishing house for content, producing 5-7 posts a week, a webinar every 3 weeks and an ebook every 2 weeks. From SF to Singapore I got the opportunity to preach my religion on crowds large and small.

 

Then this happened after we made an amazing House of Cards infographic and it was picked up by Mashable

 

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It was an event that popped up on a bunch of radars in the company. Someday I’ll tell that story, but as you can tell, it worked out well in my favor.

 

Even though the term social selling didn’t rate high in focus groups, when Sales Navigator launched we took it forward, put a stake in the ground and called it the start of the social selling era. It was the first time I sat in a Product Launch review at a table with Jeff Weiner and had the opportunity to outline the expanded social plan for the product launch. I will always look back at those days as a personal win and all involved in those early days should carry it with pride.

 

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#LinkedInLife challenges you.

But with growth comes change. I adapted for a while but I wanted to expand too. In the vein of taking intelligent risks I wanted to learn a new market. The move into B2C felt a lot like the time I moved from sales into marketing. It was a whole new world but this time with familiar and friendly faces everywhere.

 

My mission was simple. To build the machine that would answer the most asked question we faced, “I’m on LinkedIn, now what?”. I wanted to educate not only sales people but all people the benefits of Linkedin and the opportunity it provided.

 

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The decision to move into Consumer Marketing set me on a new path. With the help of Michael Manuel we were building the machine from a combined playbook and it had some new obstacles and detours along the way. We broke away from the stock images and photography and made illustrations to help tell stories. Got to celebrate 1M members publishing on Linkedin and assist with many product launches.

 

My favorite, though I was just an input for the early days was that I had the opportunity to watch Elevate go to market from a wireframe to a working product.

 

Then I got what at the time was the highest honor in my space. I was head of social media at LinkedIn. This Social/Content or SoCo team is the “A-Team” of social.

 

We redefined how LinkedIn uses social media. From a typical PR channel broadcasting LinkedIn news and updates into an engaging and more humanized brand.

 

I learned more about my craft in the past year by being around them, brainstorming campaigns, going through the data than in the two previous years. It wasn’t always easy and we didn’t always agree but strategy was created and there is even a calendar of post-it notes with the plans.

 

The company wasn’t just growing fast, it was changing fast and it takes a certain type of person to adapt at the speed of LinkedIn. New teams were formed, redundant processes were streamlined and it’s been a wild ride.

 

With all of the excitement I realized that I missed B2B. Tracking activity to revenue, creating content, preaching the gospel of LinkedIn.

 

As Reid Hoffman’s book Alliance says, ‘we operate in tours-of-duty’, I’ve had 3 tours of duty and I served them proudly. I knew this day would come. I plotted out my next play in advance, just as I was trained to. I realized that life was a battlefield and I found my clarity and accepted my reality.

 

Transformation of world.

 

It’s always about timing. This is my time. I used to fear the transformation out of LinkedIn. I know I shouldn’t think of this as a family but that’s harder than it sounds. I have made some good friends, hopefully lifelong friends, met true visionaries and had the opportunity to get to know people from across the company who are destined for greatness.

 

I wasn’t ready for my ultimate tour at LinkedIn to end but its time and though sad, I won’t argue with that.

 

This company has instilled more skills, values and professional success than I could ever hope for and taking these out into the world is a gift.

 

So for now, my next play is on Social Selling Labs, where I’m advising sales and marketing teams how to leverage content and digital channels to increase revenue. I’m taking these gifts I’ve collected over the past 3.5 years to help the rest of the world.

I was once awe struck by Linkedin but I leave confident. I’ve lived “the start-up of you.” and it’s the best blueprint of success I have found.

 

I will always bleed blue.

 

Thank you LinkedIn.

 

Koka Sexton

Koka Sexton is a renowned expert in social selling. Some would say Koka Sexton is the reason social selling exists, he would say that social selling existed once the internet was created. A recognized expert in social selling that has produced revenue for B2B companies, Koka continues to make generating new business the focus of social media. Finding creative ways to plan, develop and execute content marketing campaigns that break through the noise and provide value to buyers in excess of what they expect. He is the founder of Social Selling Labs.

2 thoughts on “My End of Tour. #LinkedInLife

  • July 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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    Koka, I know that you’ve been an inspiration to me and many others. You’re leading a movement, and even though your time at LinkedIn has come to an end, the mission lives on. Looking forward to what you do next and to continually learning.
    ~ Alex Lopes

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