Monthly Archives: June 2012

The 3 stages of LinkedIn adoption in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

There are a large number of professionals on LinkedIn but surprisingly few who have well-written profiles and who are actively conversing with others on the platform. Why is that?

It seems there's a lack of knowledge about how LinkedIn can help lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals to achieve their marketing and business development goals and support their other efforts. From talking to several lawyers who have won significant business via LinkedIn, it appears there are 3 distinct stages professionals go through:

Stage 1: Reconnecting

Stage 2: Maintaining connections

Stage 3: Building new connections

The first step, assuming your LinkedIn profile positions you in the way you wish to be seen, is to reconnect with clients, former clients, colleagues, peers, referrers, and other contacts. LinkedIn then becomes a living, breathing address book but at this stage, it's little more than that.

Stage 2 is where I, and other professionals I've spoken to, began to see the power of LinkedIn. It's often via activity at this stage that people win their first piece of work via the platform. This stage is about using LinkedIn to converse with your existing contacts. Some things you might do are:

  • share status updates that your contacts will value on a regular basis.
  • comment on, like or share a status update one of your contacts has posted.
  • send a LinkedIn email to one (or more) of your connections, sharing some information they will want to know – such as upcoming legislation, a potential opportunity they may be genuinely interested in, or organising a meet up with other people in your network they may benefit from meeting.
  • send an Introduction (or email) to two of your contacts who would benefit from meeting one-another, letting them know why you are connecting them.
  • send a congratulatory email to a connection who has a new job and then a follow up email in a few weeks/months to find out how their job is going.
  • contact one of your contacts per week to suggest an in-person catch-up.

Once you are comfortable using LinkedIn in this way, you may wish to use the platform to build new connections. This is where the traditional business development model gets turned on its head. Instead of meeting people offline and connecting with them on LinkedIn, you meet them on LinkedIn, connect and then meet offline. 

LinkedIn is a great way to get in front of 'hard to reach' people. Sometimes this is via an introduction from a mutual contact, other times it's via a group or a group discussion, LinkedIn Answers or LinkedIn events. Or it's by contacting people you don't know in a polite way to get an offline meeting. I've seen all three approaches work well for professionals and I expect to see more professionals using LinkedIn in this way in the future. 

The key things are to focus on the other person and to be yourself - let your personality come through. It's unlikely that you'll see results overnight. But if you persevere and are consistent then you will get traction. You'll probably find that many of your traditional business development activities could be done via (or in conjunction with) LinkedIn. 

Has being on LinkedIn helped you to win business? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

What tips would you share with others? 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social media training within professional services firms

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

From talking to business development teams within some of the international law firms in London, it seems they either have social media guidelines/policies in place or are in the process of developing these. But, those I spoke to who have developed guidelines, say these haven’t yet been communicated to all employees. 

It is important to ensure everyone within your firm understands your guidelines. Not doing so poses a huge risk as you’re leaving people to their own devices. Even if you block access to social media (not something I’d recommend doing but that’s another post), your employees can access sites via their mobile phones or at home. Letting them know what is acceptable, what you would like them to do, and who to turn to if they have any questions will greatly lessen this risk. 

A challenge one of the teams I spoke to raised is how do you train large numbers of people? 

Firstly, let them know you have a policy. Grant Thornton in the UK put out a great video for staff a month or so ago, which is on YouTube. This is brilliant. It quickly conveys the firm’s attitude towards social media and answers the key questions people are likely to have. 

Secondly, organise training sessions for all staff - you could train selected people in each office who, in turn, train others, or do this online (provided you can see who has undertaken the training and who hasn’t), and build this into your induction process. This training should provide an overview of your policy and guidelines, legal issues, a basic introduction to each social media platform, and some common mistakes and how to avoid them.

You can then organise more targeted and in-depth social media training for those who will be using the tools from a work perspective. This could cover responsibilities, goals, expectations, the escalation process, how to respond in a crisis etc.

The aim is to minimise risks – both legal and PR – and to give employees the information and knowledge they need to better do their jobs. 

Guidelines and training are important but trust is key. Once you’ve trained people, trust them. If they break your trust then deal with these instances. If you involve your people, seek their input and you might be surprised by how good some of their ideas and suggestions are.

What other tips would you give professional services firms to train their staff in the use of social media?

What other good examples of professional services firms doing so are there?

Social media for professional services: the butterfly effect

by Kirsten Hodgson

Social media is not a silver-bullet. It's a series of tools you can use to add jet-fuel to your existing marketing and business development efforts but you have to be clear about how using social networks will help you achieve your business development and marketing goals and how you're going to use them.

I was interviewing a lawyer for my forthcoming book "The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Lawyers: connect, engage and win new business" when he said something that really resonated with me:

"It's important to keep flapping your wings and see what happens. It can take a long time for positive and engaging messages to get through. Persistence and consistency are key."

He's right.

When you're looking for (or pursuing) new business opportunities in the real world, you don't often see results overnight. It takes time, patience and follow-up. It's exactly the same when using social networks. The principles don't change, only the tools.

It's easy to try a few things and then give up when you haven't seen any returns in 3 or 4 months, but often that's not realistic. Do you give up on 'traditional' business development efforts so easily?

It could be you're not using the tools to best effect.

Or those you wish to engage with are passive users and so you don't realise that they do see your content.

Maybe you're missing out on opportunities to continue the conversation.

Or you're not joining the conversation at all – if you're one of those professionals who say "I'm on LinkedIn but haven't got any new business from it" then this could be you.

Yes, it's important to persevere and to try new things, and it's even more important to be clear about why you're using these tools in the first place and to understand how they can help you to achieve your goals.

Once you've done that, find out about the platforms you're considering – read a good book, go on a course…find out what's on offer so that you can make an informed call about whether this is something that might help you.

Then watch what others do – find someone you admire or who seems to get a lot of traction and pick up some tips either by asking them what they do or by following/connecting with them.

You'll know you're on the right track if more people start connecting with you, viewing your profile, conversing with you in Groups, sharing your updates and so on.

Give it time. Keep flapping those wings – a little and often – you may be surprised at the results.

What's your view? 

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

6 great ways to alienate people on LinkedIn

by Kirsten Hodgson

LinkedIn is a great tool, but there are some things people do that irk or that make it really hard to share their content – despite much of this content being really valuable. I thought I'd share six of my top-peeves.

This isn't a rant. It's easy to make some of these mistakes. I know I did when I was new to LinkedIn, and I no doubt continue to make lots of other mistakes (that I'm yet to learn from). Using LinkedIn positively can greatly benefit both you and your connections. Let's try to stamp out some of the more common mistakes so that we all create good first impressions and make it easy for others to converse with us.

The top 6 great ways to alienate people on LinkedIn are: 

  1. Inviting someone to connect by saying they're a friend when they've never met you nor heard of you – if someone is in one of your groups you can choose that option or, if you really don't know them, take the time to find out their email address. It's not that hard. They'll likely have a link to their website from their LinkedIn profile.
  2. Inviting someone you don't know to connect by using the standard LinkedIn text – at least tell them why you would like to connect with them. You'll have a much better chance of your invite being accepted. Using the standard text just makes you seem lazy and that you might be wanting to connect simply to collect contacts. It doesn't take long to say "I see from your profile we share an interest in X. I thought it would be a good idea to connect. I look forward to seeing your updates." That took about 30 seconds to draft. It's not time-consuming but can make the difference between making a good first impression and not doing so.
  3. Automatically feeding your Tweets through to LinkedIn – if you're like me, you tend to tweet a mixture of business and personal stuff and you probably share a lot more on Twitter than on LinkedIn. Many of your tweets will be irrelevant to your LinkedIn followers and, if Tweets feed through regularly, you could be seen as an over-sharer. Perhaps, more compellingly, those in your network can't like, share or comment on your Tweets within the LinkedIn platform. They can retweet or reply through Twitter (if they have a Twitter account) but you could be making it hard for a significant number of your connections to interact with you.
  4. Asking someone for a recommendation using the standard LinkedIn text – I've had a few of these recently and am happy to provide references for people I've worked with or for. But please set out a few bullets letting me know what you'd like me to cover. This makes it far easier and you end up with a better recommendation that does what you need it to. Other people are busy so you need to make it easy for them to endorse you.
  5. Spamming your connections or those connected to your contacts – I've received a number of calls from companies claiming they know someone in my network and want to do a product demo. Fine, if the product's of interest but if indeed they know my connection, why don't they ask him or her to make an introduction. Someone did this to a few of my connections and it got everyone's backs up. I had to apologise and say I knew nothing about it and it was embarassing. Equally, connecting with someone and then sending them an email asking them to buy your product when this is the first interaction you've had with them is not a great look.
  6. Linking to your blog, book or website in every single post – I'm not saying it's not okay to do this occasionally. It is. Especially when a discussion relates to something you've written or can offer. But I have noticed a few (luckily not too many) who seem to refer back to their material in every single post – often when there's only a tenuous (or non-existent) link. Focus on helping others first. If that means linking back to some material you've put together, go for it but don't find opportunities to do so where none exist.

We all make mistakes and we're all learning. The key thing is to treat others as you'd want to be treated. If someone told you they wanted to connect with you because they admire you or like what you share or you have a common interest in something, how would that make you feel? Pretty good? How about if someone asked for a recommendation and sent you a list of things they wanted you to cover – it would make the process really easy, wouldn't it?

The concept of 'give first and you shall receive' is so true on LinkedIn. It's incredible how generous people can be with their time and knowledge – aim to be one of those people and it will come back at you in spades. I bet you'll get more leads and opportunities than you would if you had constantly asked for things, spammed people or invited all and sundry to connect with you without giving them a reason why they should do so.

I've shared my pet-peeves. What are yours? 

Image courtesy @freedigitalphotos.net