It must be nice to be more important than Bill Gates … not to mention Jack Welch, Mark Cuban, and Barack Obama. That's the enviable position that Dave Kerpen is in, at least according to LinkedIn.

Kerpen, an entrepreneur and author, earned recognition as the No. 1 LinkedIn Influencer of all time last summer, ahead of all those other guys. He had the most popular article on LinkedIn at the time — "11 Simple Concepts Become A Better Leader," which had been viewed 1.8 million times and "liked" by 21,000 people.

But that was eight months ago. Today that post has been viewed nearly 2.6 million times and "liked" by 25,500 people.

It's a lofty position for a really down to earth guy. Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a social media software product for small businesses, and the chairman and former CEO of Likeable Media, an award-winning social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm that has had triple digit revenue growth for four consecutive years. He's also a New York Times bestselling author of three books and an international keynote speaker.

Listen, Care and Tell Good Stories


Kerpen tries to "help brands, organizations and people everywhere be more likeable." Let's find out more.

Sobel: How did you started Likeable Media? Didn't it have something to do with your wedding?

Kerpen: When I got engaged in 2006 to the woman who is now my wife, Carrie, we couldn't afford the huge wedding I wanted. But we both had a lot of sales and marketing experience. We pitched the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team to host our wedding and allow us to sell sponsorships. sponsored our flowers, Smirnoff sponsored our alcohol and several other sponsors helped us raise $100,000 for an awesome wedding and $20,000 for charity. The wedding generated so much buzz on outlets like the CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, the New York Times, CNBC and hundreds of blogs, that afterwards, our vendors asked what else we could do for them. So we started a company. 

Sobel: How to get people to listen to your message in in this era of social media?

Kerpen: Listen first and never stop listening. You have to listen to and care about your customers and prospects if you want them to be interested in your message. Don't think of yourself as a marketer, think of yourself as a storyteller. Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone loves a good story.

Sobel: You are a big fan of word of mouth advertising. Why?

Learning Opportunities

Kerpen: People don't trust advertising, but they do trust their friends. Facebook and other social networks give us the opportunity to sell based on word of mouth — to bring social context into ads — and this is a huge opportunity. Imagine a radio ad in which, at the end of the ad, you heard, "You friend Bill likes this furniture store." Or a newspaper ad you read which included the words, "Your friend Dave likes this business." Those things aren't possible, of course, but through social media, they are.

Sobel: How do you find leads on Twitter and can you do it in real time?

Kerpen: Think about what your customers and prospects are saying ... literally. Then search those keywords on Twitter and engage in conversation. For example, if you're a recruiter or a growth consultant, search the words "We're hiring." If you're an accountant, search the words "Need an accountant." You can do in real time or near real time, and if you want to scale, you can buy ads targeted at people in similar situations.

Sobel: Can you do the same with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?

Kerpen: It's more difficult to do this on other platforms. But to an extent you can. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have public feeds that you can listen to and engage people with — it's just not common. On Tumblr and Pinterest, you can definitely get your prospects' attention by sharing and liking their stuff.

Sobel: How can you use storytelling to promote your brand?

Kerpen: As I said, nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone likes a good story. Tell stories — both little and big ones — about your company and brand. From a blog post about your humble beginnings to a picture of the view from your office window, stories can captivate people and help connect them to your brand emotionally. We developed the free storytellit app to make it easy and fun to share stories and other engaging content across the social web. Use pictures and videos to tell a better story. A picture really is worth a thousands words. I like to say, "Don't sell it, storytellit."