As a professional social networking tool, your LinkedIn homepage is more valuable than you may give it credit for.
It is by far the greatest source of real-time market intelligence I have (and costs just a few minutes of my time each day).
LinkedIn is a truly brilliant tool that provides us with the ability to engage in conversation with our business network, on both a one-to-one and one-to-many basis. So much so, I wonder whether we really still need email.
A quick glance down the right hand column reminds me of the power of my LinkedIn profile. With over 500 connections, I am less than three steps away from almost 9 million professionals. And this is growing — today the statistic shows over 25,000 new people in my network in the past three days. Three days!
Here are the seven LinkedIn features that reveal valuable information about your connections and your sector as a whole.
The quality of status updates has significantly increased, in my opinion, since the automated feed from Twitter ceased. Status updates are becoming more and more informative as users find their voice and clarify their content strategy. Engagement via likes and comments is becoming more prevalent, and the recently added ability to mention other users is proving popular.
My timeline shows when people update their profile — useful information about job changes can provide valuable business intelligence.
I love seeing the new connections being made across my network — it shows that they’re active users.
However, if you’re in a sales role you should consider protecting your profile so “stalkers” like myself don’t pick up on when you add a new client or prospect to your list. It’s a small world and I’m keeping my enemies (competitors) close by, including them in the network I’m watching.
I’m not keen on the endorsement feature — some users are click happy when it comes to endorsements and this undermines their credibility. However, a quick review of skills is helpful, and it’s interesting to see who is recommending who.
When building your network, LinkedIn’s ability to identify people you might know is really useful.
Now this is really interesting information — who has been looking at you and why? Perhaps they’ve seen a status update and want to be reminded of your profile. Maybe they need your help. Keep an eye on this and, if relevant, drop the user a note to see if or how you can help.
Real-time feedback is great for refining your content strategy. A new feature on LinkedIn provides a snapshot of what you’ve shared over the past 14 days, who has seen it and how it has been received (liked, shared) from your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections.
If you’re not regularly checking out all this information, schedule ten minutes a day into your diary and you’ll soon find out just what you’ve been missing.
No one anticipated just how popular social networking would be become. Once viewed with trepidation, small businesses wondered whether social media would ever be something they would incorporate into their marketing strategy. Now social networking has changed the way B2B businesses interact with prospective clients and partners and how they market their brand.
Social media has become a necessity for every business because with the right strategy, it has the power to positively impact the bottom line.
An obvious marketing technique is to go where your prospective clients are and market to them. Well, everyone is using social media and whether your business is engaging in social media or not, people are using it without you. They may be talking about your business — or they may be talking about your competitors! The fact is that they are talking and you’re not there to interact.
An increasing number of businesses are engaging in social media every day and the only way to reach out to them about your brand is to make your online presence known. You can’t run from social media any longer so you might as well embrace it.
Engagement is the key to trust, and conversation and social media gives your business a voice. A few years ago all you needed to do was create a product and market it to as many prospective buyers as possible. Now traditional marketing methods are gone because social media has changed the way B2B businesses market themselves. Many businesses are now using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to engage with their audiences and some use it as their sole customer service function. People want to talk and interact with real people.
Social sharing now also impacts your SEO rankings. If you’re absent from social media, search engines such as Google won’t consider your website as important which makes your website harder to find. It’s important to include social networking in your SEO efforts in order to be a leader on the SEO board.
Social media is no longer a trend, it’s a necessity. It’s a tool that fulfils a need — the need to communicate, interact and share. Interacting on social media platforms can significantly increase your brand visibility. While traditional marketing methods could increase your traffic, social media will bring you fans, friends and followers who are interested in your business and offerings. These can be turned into customer engagement and that will lead to increased sales.
No business can survive without customer and client feedback. Social media is a dialogue where people with similar interests can interact and share things they like and dislike. Consumers don’t limit their online expressions and opinions to those businesses with a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Today, they have their own accounts and blogs for sharing their experiences and opinions about your business. By not engaging in social media, you’re ignoring these discussions and limiting your ability to participate, apologise or defend. Social media is the best way to find out what your customers are saying about your brand.
B2B businesses that continue to conduct their marketing and PR the old fashioned way will undoubtedly find it more difficult to compete. Social media isn’t going away. Businesses that want to engage their audiences need to seriously consider their social media marketing strategies for today, tomorrow and the foreseeable future.
So the key message is — don't get left behind. Social media is not just a passing trend, it can be a bonus for any company if the right strategy is implemented. For a B2B social media campaign to work, the campaign needs the same professionalism that businesses bring to every other aspect of their business.
Blog provided by iBAengage, a global social media service company.
Social media is time consuming, especially if you want to see results. But, as someone who eats, breathes and sleeps social media, I’ve discovered ways to make it a friend in both my professional and personal life, and to avoid burnout.
The key to staying fresh online and avoiding burnout is to establish exactly what you want to achieve from your social media efforts. Do your research to identify which tools your target audience are using, and focus your efforts here, whether that’s LinkedIn and Facebook, or Google+ and Twitter.
Spend time planning content. Think about what to post and create a calendar to schedule your updates. Identify a range of sources you can tap into at any time. RSS feeds are perfect for checking at a time that suits you, and can help to avoid your email inbox becoming cluttered.
Check the latest news each day, and share appropriate posts by those you like, follow or are connected to.
Not only do I plan my content in advance — I schedule posts using timers. Telling new social media users about scheduling feels like sharing a way to cheat, but it’s essential for managing your time, and your online presence.
Quotes, pictures, product descriptions, upcoming event promotion, links to your website and articles about your industry all lend themselves to advance scheduling, leaving you free to focus on the very latest news.
There are a number of tools available to help your scheduling — Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Buffer are popular choices.
Technology is the catalyst behind the popularity of social media and a wide range of free mobile apps let you keep up with the very latest news on your smartphone or tablet, even when you’re on the move.
Even when you’re happy that social media is working for you, it’s important to regularly review your profiles. Check your connections, pages you like, people you follow, and groups you’re in, and de-clutter to ensure you’re meeting your objectives.
And finally, if, like me, you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) sign up to receive a daily email from NutShell Mail, summarising the most recent activity from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
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.