As a business owner or somebody building a professional brand, your social media platform of choice might well be LinkedIn.

Which brings us to best-selling author Brad Meltzer.

He has a new book out, about the first, unsuccessful assassination attempt on President Lincoln. Surprisingly, I first learned about it on LinkedIn.

I don't normally think of LinkedIn as a place to learn about new books, at least if they're not about business or professional development. But, I've known Meltzer for a while, so I reached out to ask him about it.

We had a long wide-ranging talk about his books and his work, which you can find on But as a business owner, his insights into what works on LinkedIn contain some good takeaways.

1.    Actually use it (for networking and outreach).

Meltzer said that even with millions of books sold, and having interviewed presidents and Supreme Court justices for research, he still uses LinkedIn actively for research and as a networking tool. 

"Use it. With an exclamation point," he told me. "Sometimes you have that person you're trying to get to that you have no way to get to. And LinkedIn has been the most incredible way to access those people."

Two other keys here: 

First, make requests in a way that lets the person you're reaching out to help you quickly and concretely, and demonstrate kindness in doing so (which is rewarding to them). 

Second, practice what you preach -- meaning, respond to people who ask you for help.

"There are people write to me and say, 'Hey, I wrote a book, can you help me with that?' I will help those people," Meltzer told me. "There were people who helped me at the start, and I never forget. That's one good thing about being obsessed with history is that you never forget who helped you at the start."

2.    Strive for authenticity.

Looking back through Meltzer's LinkedIn posts, it's striking how many of them are only tangential to his books and projects. Instead, you'll see him doing things like:

*    Posting about his emotional reaction when his son got into his alma mater, the University of Michigan
*    Writing a retrospective on turning 50, and sharing the story of how he and his wife have known each other and basically dated since high school
*    Sharing memories about the deaths of his parents

"I put my failures out to the world to see, and people know that you can't make that stuff up,," he said, adding: "The X-factor in any writing is, does the author care about what they're writing? And it's the same on LinkedIn. Put out the things that you are passionate about and people will feel that passion."

Cavet: Maybe it isn't actually authentic for you to share personal stories like Meltzer does. That's OK.

Instead, write and post about things you actually care about, and feel passion for. Let people build a connection with you.

3.    Do it yourself.

I don't know if this next tip is practical for everyone. Meltzer is a writer, so it makes sense that he'd be the actual author of everything that comes up under his name -- as opposed to having an assistant or a marketer handle them.

But even if writing and content creation aren't things you want to do personally, at least be involved.  

"Every single word you see on there, I write myself," Meltzer told me. The more the content comes from you personally, the more authentic it will be, and the better your ultimate results.  

This also means being willing to fail. Metlzer gave me the example of trying to raise money for charities he's passionate about (breast cancer research, the National Medal of Honor Museum, and City Year, for example), and having some of his efforts fall flat.

"The Wright Brothers used to ... bring extra materials for multiple crashes. Every time they went out they knew they would fail and they would crash, and  rebuild and crash, rebuild. And that's why they took off. I love that story. ..." he said. "The same is true on LinkedIn. Like, you're gonna crash and rebuild, crash and build. That's when you'll take off."