Linking In to Pay it Forward – An Excerpt

As promised the following is an excerpt from my new book, Linking in To Pay it Forward – Changing the Value Proposition in Social Media.

I hope to finish this by the end of the month, so stay tuned. I am also committing as a goal to blog twice a week on the subject and include excerpts as I go.

Feedback is definitely welcome as is tweets, posts on blogs and trackbacks!

Introduction – This is NOT Your Daddy’s Business Book

I have been in high tech public relations since 1984, working for everyone from Western Digital to TEAC to the Department of Defense Technology Transfer Program to my best and current job as Communications Direct for iContact Corporation.

That’s 28 years of booms and busts, fads and favorites, the “new” Mac, Yahoo, and that small upstart called Google. Throughout those 28 years, one thing has stayed constant for me – I always had an affinity for connecting with other people.

Before online networking, I was known for my ability to find someone, get answer to a question, all within three phone calls.

I was always told I was good with people, could talk to anyone and later that I “never met a microphone I didn’t like.” So, when the Internet took hold for good, and being online was the way to go, I felt that social networking was made just for me.

At first it was a way to connect online, with reservations. There were things that this corporate/agency raised professional didn’t like. Tell them your intimate details? Meet people online anywhere anytime in anyplace? But they aren’t standing in front of you, how can that work well?

But slowly I became accustom to this new business tool. There was LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, even Yahoo Groups. All had their plusses, and many had their minuses.

It wasn’t until I joined iContact in July of 2006 that I realized the power of social media – and online networking – and how important it would become in my life.

As iContact’s first PR Director, I was charged with building a Social Media plan, reaching out to bloggers and making our company known in the online community. It was a process where I learned as I went, but I drew on my strength of being able to connect to people. It made all the difference in the world.

Through social networking, I have developed friendships that will last a lifetime, found partners and business for iContact and garnered media coverage in major media outlets – both on and off-line. This includes the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Fast

I have refinanced my house using a broker I found, connected friends with key executives of companies that I wanted to reach. I have received offers to speak at conferences, and my wife has even found the right shoes to wear when conducting Team Building seminars!

Maybe just as important, I have built a business, a personal brand that is recognized throughout the U.S. and continue to reach others outside of the United States.

Oh, and one other detail – I met my CEO, Ryan Allis, and got my job as a direct result of Linking in with him.

All from one website – LinkedIn.

Over the past 2 ½ years I have slowly grown my LinkedIn network to where it stands today – more than 8000 direct connections in every state in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, Canada and South America.

To put that in perspective, I have the ability to directly reach more than 8000 people in companies ranging from IBM to Microsoft to Starbucks. With LinkedIn I can email them directly or even message them through the application.

With this tremendous network I can now reach out to practically anywhere in the world, to almost any industry. When I travel I always enjoy the company of my LinkedIn connections. I have been able to assist in getting jobs for more than 30 people to date through LinkedIn Live Raleigh – an in-person LinkedIn networking event I started in July, 2007.

I truly believe LinkedIn is the best way to network online – and to Pay it Forward.

Again, more about that and other topics surrounding my passion later in this book.

First, as the chapter title implies, this is NOT your Daddy’s business book. I’m not going to give you a serious of exercises to make you a better networker. Nor am I going to run you through a step-by-step process on how to use LinkedIn as a web application.

There are plenty of good websites and books – all listed in the Resources section – that can do that as well, if not better than I. Jason Alba’s I’m on LinkedIn Now What is my best example. More on Jason, later.

No, this is more of a “let’s sit down and talk” story. A way to help you realize the power of Linking in and Paying it Forward by hearing from me and a host of others about how we made it happen.

I will also share with you how once I started asking “how can I be of service to you,” instead of wanting to know “what can you do for me,” when I connected with people on LinkedIn, the value proposition of social media changed for me – for the better.

My hope is that you will come away from this inspired, hungry for more information and ready to enrich your life and the lives of others through social networking.

Another thing this book is not – long and drawn out. My good friend, Rich Sloan, who was one of the many that pushed me to write this book, said I should use the Seth Godin model of less is more. Nuggets instead of full course meals. I couldn’t agree more.

What this book is, on the other hand, is a chance for me to share the blessings that I have enjoyed using LinkedIn, and hopefully touching a few people along the way.

One more thing, many people I connect with ask me if my Pay it Forward philosophy is inspired by the book and then the movie of the same name. In a way, yes, but my inspiration comes more from the blessings my wife Stephanie and I have received from those that helped us. We believe it’s important for us to continually pay it forward to other so that we can make this world – business and personal – a better place to live.

With that being said, let’s get started.

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7 Responses to “Linking In to Pay it Forward – An Excerpt”

  1. Chris Grayson says:

    Hi Chuck,

    I read your post in the LinkedIN Q&A, followed the URL to your blog, and took the time to read your article here. I also find LinkedIN to be my most valuable online business tool. As well, I am a big advocate of the Pay-It-Forward model, and have been an active LinkedIN user from its beat release.

    I see that you are an 'Open Networker'. I'm not of that model, but I respect that many others are. There was a time when I would only connect with people that I had true face-to-face relationships with. Today I am connected with many people that I have never met in the flesh, but they are all people I "know". People I've built online business relationships or even friendships with, mostly through blogs. Sometimes a stranger will contact me that has several common connections, and the reason they wish to connect is obvious. I will maybe ask 'How do you know so-and-so?' and the threshold for connecting is easy to cross. If a total stranger contacts me for a connection, I will vet them with a reply email asking where they feel our connection can add value— Do they know of a specific project, assignment or business opportunity? Do they want to hire me? Do they hope I will hire them? Or perhaps there is simply a symbiosis in our skills and background where they feel there may be a future opportunity, and it would simply be beneficial for us to get to know each other. That last one gives them broad latitude. In most cases they never reply to my vetting letter at all. That's when I know they are just 'collecting connections' and I decline. If they cannot even extend the courtesy to reply to letter responding to their unsolicited request to connect, then how likely are they to ever be a valuable relationship anyway? On the handful of occasions when they do take the time to write me a courteous reply, I'm inclined to accept.

    The few occasions that I have ever send out unsolicited invites to specific people I do not know, but wish to connect with, I always write a professional letter, concise, and let them know specifically why I would like to connect.

    These are the techniques that work for me. I have a few hundred connections, not a few thousand, but I feel they are high value relationships. Different methods work for different people. I like to write. I'm told that I write well, and so this medium works for me.

    I'm of the "quality over quantity" school of thought with LinkedIN, as I am in many things in life. Another useful technique I have found is that while I read a lot of Q&A, I only reply when I feel I can really add value. You could say I play-to-win. I learned that one of the metrics used by LinkedIN to list users in search results, and top Answerers in Q&A is not your volume of answers or even so much the volume of best answers, but your percentage of best answers. So I only reply to questions where I feel I'm going to give the individual who asks, the reply which gives them the most value. I answer about one question a month, maybe two. I make sure I have at least a half an hour or more to write a quality reply.

    On topic, here is my most recent Q&A reply:
    Has linkedin generated any freelance projects for your?

    In my answer, I say some of what I’ve also said here, as well as some other techniques, and some of the ways I try to pay-it-forward, to be a valuable relationship to those people in my network.

    I hope this has contributed something to your conversation.
    Happy New Year.

    Very truly,


    Chris Grayson
    Art Director / Creative Director
    New York City

    Blog: GigantiCo


  2. Andrew Miller says:


    Interesting premise. I look forward to reading more.

    Andrew Miller

  3. Greg says:


    This is going to be a perfect addition to those that are spectators to participants in social media by paying it forward. There are a number of people that may not realize that social media is the perfect place to practice Pay-It-Forward. I am looking forward to reading how you have put the two together and established one of the most visible brands in social media.

    Thank you for doing what you do. You continue to inspire me.

    Greg Hyer

  4. john dipietro says:

    love your attitude. We must be twins! Social networking is taking over for cold calling and wasting time at business after hours events, when most of the folks there dont even carry business cards.

    You are a winner!

  5. Steve says:

    Good start Chuck. I look forward to reading more. Let me know if you need any proof-reading/editing. It could be my “Pay It Forward” gift back to you. You and Stephanie have been very inspiring to me and I’m sure to many others.

  6. Chuck Hester says:

    Thanks to all who have commented.

    Steve: if you read this email me directly at and we can discuss further!


    Chuck H.

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