I have a lot of time for LinkedIn — it has always been a genuinely useful way to build up my network of contacts. In particular, I love the Skills and Expertise section that was introduced a couple of years ago — it’s great for providing a snapshot of someone’s skills and demonstrating which of those skills are especially valued by others.
But this section is actually much cleverer than that and goes beyond a simple display of professional skills.
Select Skills & Expertise from the More menu in LinkedIn’s top navigation bar and you’ll discover some rich marketing information just waiting to be mined. On my own LinkedIn page, marketing strategy is a skill for which I’ve received many endorsements — and a search using that term immediately identifies other professionals with that same skill.
If you’re connected with them via others in your network, this will show; and it may well be that linking directly could be beneficial. Depending on how closely you’re connected, this could be as simple as sending a message, or requesting an introduction, or making contact via a shared group.
You’ll also see a list of related skills and statistics about how many other people are using that skill and how popular the particular skill is. This information can be useful for determining the skills you want to add to your own profile — you can have up to 50 — and it’s well worth considering including less popular skills as well. If someone is searching for that skill and you are identified as one amongst a hundred others, it could yield more interesting and beneficial results than being one in thousands.
Another useful feature is Groups and Companies. You’ll see a list of companies that are relevant to your skill, so giving you the opportunity to dig deeper into a shortlist of companies that may require your services. Visit a company page and you can then find out who you know and then introduce yourself. And with so many groups on LinkedIn, the groups section is ideal for quickly identifying groups that are worth joining and where you can then build strategic relationships.
I highly recommend using Skills and Expertise, it’s the perfect tool to improve your connections and nurture business opportunities — just be warned, though, it’s very easy to spend hours at a time delving into the information, so be disciplined and don’t let it be to the detriment of other marketing activities that might need your attention!
Whether you’re tweeting, pinning, blogging or composing the perfect Facebook update, it’s essential to make sure your social media copywriting is up to speed.
How to write a good tweet
If you’re new to Twitter, you’ll probably already be familiar with the most common problem — fitting everything you want to say into 140 characters. Writing short copy is a great discipline and a skill all of its own. Any online copywriting agency will tell you that whittling down an idea into a short, clear message is tougher than writing a long piece.
Make sure you’re using the shortest and most straightforward words you can find, and strip out any unnecessary adjectives. Get right to the point, and keep each tweet centred on a single theme. Don’t forget to add a link if you’re talking about something people can read about elsewhere — especially if it’s a link to your own site. Hashtags can help you connect to other people writing about the same things.
What makes a good Facebook update?
Facebook is probably the most widespread and best-known social platform. It gives you a bit more wiggle-room than Twitter in terms of word count, but it’s still a good idea to keep your posts punchy and to-the-point, especially when you think about how many other people’s messages yours will be competing with in any one user’s news feed.
Facebook users love to chat, so invite comments by asking a question or posting a picture or video for people to share their reactions to. The more reactions your message gets, the more “newsworthy” Facebook will rate it, so that it appears in more of your users’ news feeds.
It’s also worth thinking about when your user base is most likely to be online, so you can schedule or post your updates at peak times. If you’re in the UK for example, you might post at around 13:00 GMT to catch people on their lunch breaks at work, or at 20:00 when they’re sitting down with their laptops after dinner.
Spreading the word on LinkedIn
Writing on LinkedIn is all about showcasing your strength as an opinion leader and curating content that shows your credibility within your industry.
Post hot news stories about your area of work, and make sure you preface them with a quick comment showing your own opinion on the subject. Asking a question in your update is also a good way to start conversations with like-minded people who might comment on your post.
LinkedIn is an ideal place to share news about your company, especially if you’re hiring new people or expanding your business.
If you’re looking for a new job or you’re a freelancer, treat it as part of your job application or pitch process — keep the tone of your updates professional and keep an eye on your spelling, grammar and capitalisation.
Writing content that’s shareable
Even if you’re not actually writing on a social media platform, it’s worth remembering that your content is likely to be shared across social channels. It might be via an automatic feed to your corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts or shares by interested readers who are posting your content to their own social streams.
Headlines are the key to shareable content. A strong, self-contained headline that gives a clear idea of what your article is about, and also gives the reader a good reason to click through and read it, is your goal. That’s because on Twitter, the headline is all they’re likely to see.
It might sound like a tall order, but there’s a lot you can learn from an online copywriting agency like Sticky Content. The trick is to think like your users. What do people want to read? What are their motivations, pain-points and goals?
Charlotte Rivington is a freelance writer on social media and marketing.
How long should you spend on social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn? The simple answer is no more than fifteen minutes per day, preferably outside normal working hours.
If you are an entrepreneur, the vast majority of your time should be focused on your business: selling and delivering your products and services whilst ensuring you make a profit in the process. Everything else is a distraction.
The Dunbar number
You would be wise to ignore those who insist you should spend significant time in online conversations with complete strangers. This may be a very good idea for those with free time on their hands but the rest of us should remember that the number of close friends we have is only around 150 people, often called the Dunbar number.
This also represents the maximum number of people with whom you can effectively have a close business relationship. They each have the same number of close contacts, so you are no more than one degree separated from 22,500 people, plenty for most business purposes.
While developing online relationships with potential customers is sensible, you should focus your prime business activity on the 150 that genuinely represent some potential value to your business.
You should start by generating an accurate personal profile on the main networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This must include a clear elevator pitch explaining the business problems you solve for people.
You then start networking online by first offering people useful and valuable information. Once you have built up sufficient trust, you can also make useful introductions between people.
Horses for courses
All the online networks have different purposes. Facebook works well for younger people looking to socialise. Twitter is about broadcasting and overhearing useful conversations. LinkedIn is ideal for people looking to recruit or be recruited, as well as those who have already spent time building up their business network manually.
If you are genuinely doing interesting things and generating useful content, then do broadcast this fact while cherishing everyone who chooses to follow or befriend you. But concentrate your commercial activity on the 150 people who you genuinely like and who share your values. They will also make your best customers.
Originally published in The Mail on Sunday. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.
Targeting customers through social media has become more and more prolific over recent years. Household brands through to much smaller start-up companies are using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
However, it is vital that when selecting the social media tools you intend to use to target your audience, you are selected the correct ones. For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn users all have very different demographic profiles, so there is no point using a tool like Facebook to reach a target audience of professionals aged 40+, when statistics show that around over 80 per cent of UK Facebook users are under 40.
Once you’ve decided which social media tool or tools you are going to use, decide how you’re going to approach it carefully. What are you saying and to whom?
There have been numerous examples of major brands attempting to conduct social media campaigns or stunts, which have badly backfired and resulted in a consumer backlash, and ridicule aplenty.
No brand can afford that kind of damage, no matter how large or small.
Always have the consumer at the centre of any social media activity, and think as they would. Add value for your consumer, and always think of how they will gain from your activity. For example, a Facebook page that offers discounts and information about your product or service is innovative and is likely to increase brand awareness virally.
Be different and try to make sure that your social media campaign is one that will get people talking and one they will remember. No matter how simple.
And last, but by no means least, encourage your consumers to engage with you through social media activity. Simply talking at them by posting regular updates sends out the wrong message entirely.
Social media is all about engagement and interaction, and is not a passive process.
If you can actively encourage consumers to get involved in these campaigns, for example by posting suggestions for new products ideas as part of a competition, they will feel that they have some ownership of the brand, and this is vital.
Consumers engaging with each other through social media and sharing brand opinion has a favourable reaction, not only because these consumers feel they have ownership of the process, but also because they are more likely to relate to others’ opinions about the brand as they seem more ‘real’ than direct marketing messages.
Finally, don’t forget that many mobile phones today have powerful interactivity and will be linked to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can take advantage of this by developing a downloadable application, which can be done on a relatively low budget and connects you directly with your consumer. Just remember that an app needs to add value for your consumer. That way it will make their life easier and cement their relationship with your brand.
Howard Scott is digital marketing director at Sequence Digital. The digital marketing agency’s clients include the BBC, S4C, The Welsh Assembly Government, Storm Model Management and Rachel's Organic.
So you want to get involved in social media – you’ve read about it, about how it’s going to help your business, and you’ve got some time at the end of the day to do something with Twitter and Facebook. But now the guy says you ought to be monitoring – and that could well cost you money. Do you need to do it? I say monitoring of some sort should come before you make your first post, and this is why.
A while back, there was an idea going round that social media was like a cocktail party, and you had to find the right people and talk to them. But when you got in front of the girl, it was like speed-dating with the next guy trying to muscle in on her – you had to act fast. Though I haven’t heard the analogy in a while, it is as true now as it was two years ago – if not more so, as the number of people on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has grown, and the forums and networks have multiplied.
In today’s crowded online space, it’s more important than ever that your message goes to the right place. But when you are starting off, how do you know where the right place is? You may join Twitter and Facebook, but how do you know who is interested in what you have to say? Who is blogging about your particular area of business?
And that’s where monitoring comes in. When I go to a function, or a networking event, I stand in the doorway for thirty seconds, looking around, checking who’s there and who I want to talk to. In the same way, with social media, you should listen first – for mentions of your business area, for people talking about your subject.
Online there isn’t a doorway that you can hide in and watch; you need a tool. Plenty of others have listed the wide range of social media monitoring tools, from Social Mention, Giga Alerts, or Google Alerts, which are free, through Simple Web’s MediaGenius, Alterian SM2, and all the way up to Radian6, with many more on the side. These tools – to carry on a tired analogy – will help you to identify which part of the cocktail party to head to, and who to talk to when you get there. But without them, you’re going to be standing around, a lost and confused Billy-no-mates, on your own.
I joined LinkedIn a few weeks ago. I have a mighty 11 'connections' at the time of writing and, truth be told, haven't been taking a very serious interest in the site. Until I happened to log in yesterday and did a double-take at one of the 'people I may know' listed on the right. The site had helpfully directed me to connect with my brother (and yes, I do actually know him).
Logical enough, you might think, except that there's no direct link between my brother and me on LinkedIn at all. My only 'connections' at the moment are current colleagues and a handful of friends (none of whom he mutually shares). The single thing linking me and my brother is our surname, and when I did a search on his name on the site it turned out there are another 132 Brother Knights on the system. I don't know how many SomeOtherFirstName Knights are out there too in LinkedIn world, but I imagine it's not an insignificant number. I haven't let the site access my address book, email account or anything else and to be honest I've been pretty cagey about any of my details from before I started working at BHP (not listed any schools or former employers). My brother lives in a different town and works in a different industry. So HOW DID IT KNOW?
Is it a magic psychic ability? OK, probably not. My brother wondered if it has a clever cross-referencing system with Facebook, which is the only option I can rationally understand which doesn't make me look over my shoulder nervously trying to spot the LinkedIn spy stalking me. It's a bit Big Brotherly, if that is how it works, although it's clever stuff (though if that is how it works, they don't advertise it - I can't find any sources yet which mention Facebook as anything other than a competitor to LinkedIn).
Anyway. I still don't know for sure how it did it, but it impressed me (while simultaneously freaking me out a little bit). My point is that clever technology on a website or anywhere else is only going to work if it's not just flashy, but intrinsically interesting and/or (preferably 'and') useful. LinkedIn naturally wants me to use it more and more, and I have to reluctantly admit that it's got my interest for the time being (even if, by the looks of it, my next connections will be my hairdresser and my next-door neighbour). We've all had conversations about work projects where someone's gone "wouldn't it be brilliant if this did that?" And while it's often tempting to respond "ooh, cool idea!", think about what you'd actually achieve. Is it just something that's flash but ultimately meaningless? Or does it achieve what you actually want (be that users engaging with a website, people buying your products, brand awareness or anything else).
Questions like these have come up time and time again on the Marketing Donut, and hopefully we'll have answered most of them correctly when you get to see the site. We're creating a site which we think will be useful, informative, attractive and engaging for SMEs with an interest in marketing. It is going to be clever and it is going to look amazing, but what we're aiming for is a site that businesspeople actually want to use. In a couple of months, you can let us know how we've done.