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I was recently asked to be part of an expert panel about Social Media and storytelling. We talked all things engagement, building an audience, building your message and telling great stories through social media to build your business and brand.

Here’s how Suzanne Chadwick, the organiser of this event and the founder of The Connection Exchange described me in the copy promoting the evening.


Karen Hollenbach – The founder of Think Bespoke, Karen is a craftswoman when it comes to creating magic on LinkedIn and telling great stories through Instagram. A self-confessed ambivert, Karen works with individuals and corporates to help them share their journey and tell their stories to attract the clients they want. This is one lady who can teach you the art of relationship building for business success!

New Experiences are Uncomfortable for Me

I sometimes find new experiences uncomfortable. As a life long learner I also have a mild discomfort with calling myself an ‘expert’ as I believe I can always learn something new, or find a better way to do something by listening to the perspective of others. And even though I guest speak regularly, being on a panel was a new experience for me. As a kinaesthetic learner I learn by doing, and need to prepare in advance if it is a new experience. So here I was, facing two key things that make me uncomfortable! While this is often the reason I will try something new, it never gets easier. What I do know, is that where there is discomfort there is also growth.

Thankfully, Suzanne asked her Facebook community in the lead up to the event what they wanted to hear from the panel in terms of social media and storytelling. I was grateful for this ‘heads up’ and so did what I enjoy best, put pen to paper and wrote down my thoughts. In many ways writing down and thinking about what I want to say and how I will say it has become a key way for me to process my experiences and feelings across many aspects of my life.

A true extrovert, Suzanne’s advice was “It’s a panel, you just fly by the seat of your pants”.

One of the other panel members, Serena O’Brien suggested “Karen at the last one it was quite conversational and relaxed so I think we’ll be able to feed off each other too.” This was reassuring.

Serena, Sova Social, Suzanne, The Connection Exchange, Kate, Buzz Pop Social & me

So here’s the topics and questions Suzanne suggested we’d cover and the answers I prepared. Of course I did not answer exactly like this and I was forced to wing it a bit on the night (I had to because Suz skipped the last question and created a whole new one!!!). I am glad I took the time to write down my thoughts. It was an enjoyable experience and I valued hearing the perspectives of the other panellists.

1. I’ll get you to introduce yourselves, how you got to where you are, who you work with and what you do.

I am a LinkedIn Training Specialist | Storyteller | Speaker | Content Marketer | Strategist and Ambivert!

I am also the Founding Director of Think Bespoke, which I established in 2010. We provide LinkedIn Training and Social Strategy for individuals and organisations across Australia. You’ll find us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. I’m also the Co Founder of Ozsourced. This is a sister venture for Think Bespoke that I established with Lyndall Taylor, who founded Life Stylelists and now also owns and runs Bubbler Deals. We help growing Australian businesses source talented local service providers, including copywriters, photographers, videographers, social media managers, visual designers and web developers. You’ll find us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

I also moderate a small Facebook community called Career Grow with Marina Pitisano. Our mission is to help people reflect, learn and succeed.

When my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2010, I chose to get serious about carving out a more flexible career so I could be present for her and my young family. Finding my voice, telling my story and sharing this with others has been as important to my own professional and personal development as it has been for attracting, acquiring and engaging my online community.

Success for me has looked like helping people find their voice and tell their story on LinkedIn and via their blogs and replacing my full time corporate income. It’s important to me to be at school pick up on some days and actively participate in the lives of my two growing boys, who are 9 and 12.

I believe in starting where you are.
I believe your story is your unique selling point.

Don’t wait for it to be perfect.
Perfection does not exist.
Flaws are in fact very endearing!

2. What does social media story telling mean to you?

Story telling is about adding value to my community by sharing insights that are relevant to where they are at and what they need from me. From time to time I will also give my community an insight into my fears, beliefs or my personal journey as an ambivert or what I do when I am feeling lost. Sharing these more personal insights has become a bit like therapy and it’s sometimes as much for me as it is for others.

For LinkedIn it’s a lot about ‘How To’ and to help people get comfortable with LinkedIn .I generally write like a talk and like to help my potential clients imagine what it would be like to be in a conversation with me. I visualise my ideal client whenever I write a LinkedIn article or share a LinkedIn post. I am strategic and do not share anything just for the sake of it. There’s always a bigger picture. It’s like a game of chess.


3. Where would I start? How do I start?

Decide your favourite format. e.g. write it down (blog), a photo (Instagram), a video (Facebook Live)
No shoulds.
There’s one of two ways you can approach it and it depends on what pushes you to action:

  1. What feels comfortable OR
  2. What scares you?

What works with your schedule, technology and capability are also key considerations. I’m self taught across all platforms except Facebook.

4. Who do you think does it really well in your experience?

I need things to shift inside my brain or heart for it to be good and this does not happen very often.

Good storytelling is normally discovered via authors of the books I’ve read, the most recent being Museum of Modern Love, Heather Rose.

I was recently moved by a story shared by a close colleague and Think Bespoke’s Social Media Consultant, Debbie Hatswell. Debbie runs an online bookstore, Story Mama, for children aged 0-9. Debbie’s About Us page tells a lovely story, which I heard her share recently at the Monash Business Awards. Story Mama is a finalist in the Micro Business category and Debbie had two minutes to tell us about her specialist online bookstore.

Here’s an excerpt of what she shared:

As a child, I could often be found finishing off a Nancy Drew novel or a Famous Five story under my doona with a torch, long after I was supposed to have turned off the light. Books were always the way I wound down after a busy day; reading was what I did to relax and where I looked for answers to the things I didn’t know.

Exploring foreign countries and meeting interesting characters through books also gave me a burning desire to see the world, which I was lucky enough to do after university. Travel guides then became my new book fetish. I poured through the pages of exotic sites and imagined myself in each of them.

When the call to come home was too strong to resist, I thought I ought to put my degree to some use. I worked my way up the ranks at one of the big 4 Aussie banks, and enjoyed running a team and a business unit. By 2012 though, I began to struggle. Fighting with ferocious mother guilt left me feeling conflicted and unfulfilled. So I embraced my inner corporate-drop-out and joyfully jumped on the entrepreneur bandwagon.

I also enjoy reading Louise Weigall’s Instagram feed. Louise is a Style Consultant, the founder of Style with Substance and worked with me to develop outfits for a branding photo shoot I did earlier this year with Fi Mims Photography.

5. When you think about putting together your story what are some key things that people need to think about?

  1. Who Are You?
    And I do not say this lightly . . I have done a lot of work on this personally and it has formed my approach to my business and life. My Who Am I? Self Reflection exercise is one of the first tools I suggest new clients to complete if they have engaged in ongoing coaching with me. Knowing who you are is essential to being able to share your story powerfully.
  2. What Do you Want To be Known For?
  3. Who Are You Trying to Influence?
  4. What are your narratives / story lines as they relate to the outcomes you want to achieve with your clients?

Get the Who Am I? Self Reflection Exercise, when you subscribe to my e-insights. You can subscribe here.

6. What are your top 3 strategies that you can share for building your audience and encouraging engagement?

  1. Choose your favourite platform. Decide based on comfort and strategy – where is your ideal client? Where are your referrers?
  2. Have great visuals, great headlines and content that genuinely adds value.Consistency and value will win over volume and fads every time.
    Focus on giving and the money will follow.
  3. Do not outsource engagement. It must be you!

7. What sort of posts do “better”? Meme vs just words vs FB LIVE or Uploaded Video. Curious to know if there are stats on that?

Depends on the platform. Depends on the brand. Depends on your goals.

What does ‘do better’ mean? Clicks to website, engagement, bookings?

Get inside people’s heads – that’s my goal.


How To (for me). For others it’s being contentious. There’s lots of stats on the power of LinkedIn for B2B conversion. Industry news and updates seem to rank the highest. I think it depends on your audience and what you are trying to achieve.


Pictures of me and me sharing an insight about me seem to do the best. As a lover of the written word, I found the idea of sharing pics of me very uncomfortable at first, but now that I understand that Instagram is also about getting to know the person behind the brand, I am more comfortable with sharing pics of me.


And as a side note – if you are thinking about the role storytelling and LinkedIn can play in your business, please join me in July for my next online seminar, How to Leverage LinkedIn Articles for Leads. Find out more here.

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