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Today we’re chatting with Tom Schulte of Linked 2 Leadership – a group of global professionals dedicated to leadership development, organizational health, and personal & professional growth. It’s all about growing and developing leaders.

How does Tom market Linked 2 Leadership online? And how does he channelĀ all his passion? And what is his advice when it comes to content and online marketing? Read more to find out.

Tell us more about you and what you’re passionate about.

I am passionate about helping global professionals learn, grow and develop other leaders in the areas of leadership development, organizational health, and personal & professional growth. As a sales and marketing professional, I was “bitten by the leadership bug” 10 years ago (this month) while attending my first live leadership conference when I was working as Sales Director for leadership guru Dr. John C. Maxwell.

I saw the direct connection between being a great sales person and being a great leader because I drew the connection in my mind that any great sales person knows that they are really nothing more than a problem-solver. And the very best leaders do just that: they solve problems that lead others toward success to achieve goals.

So for me, learning how to engage others in a way that equips them to become better leaders equates to adding a multiplier to my passion and helps more people get more done and be more successful.

And also, I am passionate about bacon. Loves me some bacon!

Tell us more about Linked 2 Leadership and why you started it.

I worked as a director of sales for a leadership development firm for 5 years. I felt the calling to start my own values-based leadership training firm that provided short-format, high impact training built for a “smartphone attention-span.” So in 2007 I started Recalibrate Professional Development with a training program and a train-the-trainer model to help cure what I call “the Knucklehearted leaders” of this world.

To promote my new business and find prospective trainers to purchase my offering, I went to the (then) up-and-coming business social media site LinkedIn to find sales prospects. But contrary to my natural sales instincts, I found that I could not get myself to just reach out to professionals there with a message that might come across like “Hi, I am Tom. I see that you are a corporate trainer and I am stalking you on LinkedIn and I want you to buy my stuff!”

My conscience hit me and I felt that I should practice what I preach to be most effective. I felt that I should go to this marketplace and simply “show up as a giver” and build credibility and trust before asking for anything from them. So I started an official group on LinkedIn called “Linked 2 Leadership” and put forth my lofty goals and rules for this new group to help them learn, grow, and develop other leaders. I felt that I should “show up as a giver” and provide value to group members before I ever asked for a sale from any trainer I met online.

I started discussions, asked questions, and compiled the results in three free PowerPoint offerings (now over 250,000 views, 20,000 downloads) available as training aids for new members. I figured that it was my duty to provide “a safe, fresh, and clean” forum for topical discussions to build trust and provide value to members of the group. And it was from this group that I started the “blogazine” (blog+magazine=blogazine) with contributing authors from the membership pool. Now after 5 years and with over 25,000+ members in this private group, our site called “Linked 2 Leadership: The Leadership Collaboratory” is one of the most popular leadership sites in the world.

How would you describe your philosophy when it comes to marketing a business on the Internet?

My motto for marketing on the Internet is this: “Show up as a giver and build trust based on serving others with authentic value.” This is contrary to so much of what I have witnessed over the years on the Internet from hucksters who only serves to manipulate, trick, or hypnotize people into purchasing something. For all of those tacky quick-sale shysters, I refer to their practice as “schmarketing” (sh** + marketing = schmarketing.) I feel that our purpose here on earth is to serve others, not gain from them. And in serving others our needs, wants, and desires will be met.

So to “show up as a giver” and provide authentic value that solves real problems is the only true way to market to people to whom we are supposed to serve. Adding value through our online and off-line efforts is the only real, authentic way to sell.

What’s the most successful piece of content you’ve published on one of your blogs?

Early in my web publishing experience I had the fortune of meeting a very special person to join the Linked 2 Leadership Group named LaRae Quy. She is a former FBI counter intelligence agent who dealt with Cold War Soviet spies to try to get them to convert to double agents (Wow!). After this season in life, her new role was to teach others the leadership lessons she learned during that exciting period in her life. Her touchstone content focused on mental toughness and how to overcome fear, discouragement, bad advice, and naysayers to reach new personal heights of achievement brought on by mental toughness.

LaRae penned a title on the L2L Blogazine titled “4 Secrets of a Strong Mind” that has surpassed the 25,000-view threshold. She attributes this success to the need for so many in our culture today to find new ways to cut through the clutter of confusion, busyness, apathy, and fear and find solutions that directly impact productivity and the bottom-line of personal satisfaction.

How do you use social media to market and lead?

I was an early adopter of social media for my personal and professional life. In 2005, I was interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper about MySpace and how it impacted my family. At the time, I had five teenagers in my home who all were interested in this new “social media thing.” Times were much different then, but I understood the power that it held for me, my wife, and family. Since that time, I have understood that ANYTHING I PUT ONLINE might affect my future well-being and that I should be mindful and careful about what I post on any business or professional networking site.

Now, keep in mind that this social-exposure-mindset was developed before Facebook and Twitter took-off in any professional’s mind. But this exposure-mindset gave me the perspective of how to understand a life in the ever-present public life arena. So, for me, I decided that I would live my professional and personal life as ONE PERSON, with a single online/offline persona.

I knew that my digital footprint would follow me to the day I die, so I decided that my online persona would reflect the “true me” and it would simply be an amplification of my offline self. This mindset has helped me maintain an authentic life that is viewable for anyone. I certainly understand that this type of lifestyle has its risks and is not for everyone, but I figured that this ideal would serve me well by forcing me to live my personal life in public way that brought a visible accountability to my private life. I think of this as a daily exercise in accountability. And this is the way that I market and sell. You get what you see. And my social media marketing will always reflect my single, authentic voice.

Thus, the leads that I get are, by default, pre-filtered and very interested because they know what they are getting.

What is the L2L Blogazine and how do you use it to increase your influence?

The L2L Blogazine is a popular site for global professionals interested in helping global professionals learn, grow, and develop other leaders. The content covers twelve related topics in the areas of leadership development, organizational health, and personal & professional growth. By being the editor and publisher of the content, I am able to ensure that great content from a wide variety of sources is brought to our readers in a consistent way that is highly readable on all devices and provides an exceedingly clear, cogent, and clarifying message to all who engage with what we produce.

This broad-based exposure helps me build credibility, influence, and recognition for providing quality content that serves global professionals interested in increasing their influence. The L2L brand is strong and reliable because we focus on bringing value through an authentic voice sculpted by decades of experience in the marketplace of ideas. The natural credibility of bringing truth to light over time increases the credibility of everyone involved because we stand up to scrutiny and because we hold fast in service to others.

What is your opinion on the future of content and blogs on the web?

Because I have been web publisher for so many years, I have seen a tremendous shift in what is acceptable to produce and publish on the web. In years past, it was acceptable to have content published on one’s site and also have it replicated elsewhere on the web. But with so many places ripping off content, or just re-running content with no discernible voice for originality, the web was becoming one giant place of replicated content.

Now with Google algorithms patrolling the web for singular content, providing exclusive, original content is the key to success. I see the future of content being more singular and exclusive in nature for popular domains. I see sites that provide originality being more popular and those replicating it being doomed. Running a popular site with many contributing authors runs the risk of providing duplicate content, but I see tools emerging to make the task of providing original, single-voiced content easier in the future.

What’s your SEO philosophy?

As I am no SEO expert, it is difficult for me to pronounce an articulate, persuasive philosophy other than to just say that content creators must be outstandingly original. I feel the days of manipulating search engines for traffic generation are over. Over recent years, because of technologies like Google Panda, search engine “trickery” and “gimmickry” designed to increase a site’s exposure and traffic has been replaced with more fundamental concepts like “authentic voice.”

Consequently, my philosophy is to fill my reader’s minds with new, exciting, and excellent content from grass-root providers that no one else can provide. Organic growth and smart content will yield our best results.

You’ve won a ton of awards for great content. What do you think has been the key to this success?

The key to the success for the Linked 2 Leadership Blogazine has been our singular focus on outstanding content on twelve related topics provided by passionate experts who share their expertise, experience, and heartbeat for serving others. Our L2L group has such a drive to help others learn, grow, and develop other leaders that it simply overflows onto the pages of our writers. Our expert team of editors provides an easy-to-read format fit for modern devices and attention-spans so that readers have a strong and reliable source for information to help them in their quest for excellence. We feel that continuing to have a servant’s heart and passion for helping people will be the key to expanding our influence and reach over time.

Plenty of things to think about – a really fantastic interview, thanks Tom! Check out the L2L group on LinkedIn and also follow Tom on Twitter. And, of course, don’t forget to spend some time at the Linked 2 Leadership blog.