Monthly Archives: February 2013

Social media for lead generation: top tips for professionals

by Kirsten Hodgson

If you could only give one piece of advice to a professional looking to use social media for lead generation what would it be and why? 

I posed this question in the LinkedIn group: Social media for lead generation in professional services firms, which garnered some great responses.

So, for any of you wondering how you can leverage social networks to grow your practice, here are some top tips from various group members.

Get the rest of your online presence right first

Gihan Perera on LinkedIn“Social media is a magnifying glass on your business.” says Gihan Perera,  ”People might find you first on social media, but then they’ll want to follow you in other areas – e.g. blog, newsletter, Web site – to really connect with you before deciding to do business with you. If you don’t get the other things right first, your social media efforts will merely magnify those weaknesses. But if you do get those things right, social media can help to amplify those strengths.” 

Ensure you have a website with lead-generating tools in place

Julie South on LinkedInJulie South advises all professionals to make sure they have a website first “BEFORE you jump into any social media space…it does need to be current and it MUST have lead-generating tool(s) in as many places as appropriate” 

This is vital if you are to build your contact database and manage the risks of having your online presence in third-party owned properties.

“…all the SM spaces (except YouTube) require people to be members (which means you’re excluding many potential customers who don’t play in the same space). If you’ve got all your activity happening in one of these *free* spaces and they decide to change the rules and make free suddenly become beyond-what-you’re-prepared-to-pay, what would you do then?…What’s your Plan B to put into action without missing a beat? [If you've got a website already working in tandem with your SM activity this would happen [almost] seamlessly].”

She goes on to say “…building a list (of contacts) is pretty much impossible within each SM space: the only way you can connect with people is within each space…which means your message needs to be repeated across all SM spaces to be heard (time consuming)…AND growing / building a database within any space is damn hard.”

Produce content your audience will find valuable on a regular basis

John Grimley on LinkedInIf you’re not already doing so, you might want to consider blogging, says John Grimley as an active blog will enable  a professional to “consistently demonstrate his or her expertise.He also recommends identifying “potential clients and reach out to them where you have the ability to be of assistance. Whether it’s help them achieve a commercial objective, avoid a problem, or other matter – and where you will generate revenue by assisting.

Create blogposts around those opportunities/dangers to support your outreach efforts. That’s where your offline and online BD efforts come full circle and meet each other.” 

Tony Vidler on LinkedInTony Vidler explains why producing valuable content is so vital;

“The primary benefit of social media in the marketing mix is the personalisation of the marketing, which is critically important in a vastly crowded and noisy marketplace. The average Australian consumer today receives some 3,000 marketing or advertising messages daily aparently, so cutting through that clutter can only be achieved…by providing content that engages your target market because it is relevant to them – it must inform, engage or improve them meaningfully.“ 

Getting your own online properties in order, producing content that’s going to inform, educate and help your audience, and ensuring your offline and online efforts all link together is key.

But then what?

Taking it back a step, you’ve got to be clear what you’re looking to achieve and to focus your efforts. Spend time where those you wish to engage are. If you don’t know then find out.

Have clear objectives in mind and pick your platforms carefully

Jennifer Myers on LinkedInJennifer Myers says “I have heard from a more social-media-savvy friend that Facebook can be a great lead generator for Business-to-Consumer, but perhaps not so great for Business-to-Business.” 

My view? If a lot of your prospects are on Facebook then you may want to have a presence but it may not be the best place to start. You’ll need to make that call. If you do use Facebook then don’t solely rely on your business page to bring in the work. Again, seek to create a community of people interested in a particular topic or issue and then look to build each relationship one at a time.

Build your presence slowly and be consistent

Tessa Hodson on LinkedInTessa Hodson advises busy professionals to build up their presence slowly, “…everyone is at such different stages of engagement with social media, but there is always room for more – more focus, more activity, more platforms. Trying to go from having no engagement to full engagement too quickly can be confusing for the professional and disingenuous to your audience. You risk burn out and lack of consistency. My advice…is to know where you are at, know what the next step is and take it.” 

Nicola Jones on LinkedInDon’t overcommit, says Nicola Jones “Do it right and do it consistently.” 

 

Greg De Simone on LinkedInGreg De Simone further pushes the importance of consistency, “Be…consistently active. Consistently listening for the needs of your market. Consistently addressing those needs and adding value to the market.”

Schedule time for your social media activities

He advises professionals to schedule time for their social media activities.

“I would also recommend that you schedule your social media time much like you would a networking event…If you look at social media as one large networking event and work it consistently to create opportunities to meet face-to-face (or phone-to-phone due to geography) leads will consistently follow.“ 

Interact with others and focus on building relationships

Rhetta Akamatsu on LinkedInBeing active on social networks was a recurring theme. Rhetta Akamatsu advises professionals to “Get a Twitter account and keep it active. Really interact with your followers and retweet interesting and relevant tweets from others. Don’t make every message be a commercial, but provide links to your website and other social media.”

Building relationships one-by-one is a key way to generate leads from social media. That involves getting on people’s radar,  conversing with them, helping them out where you can and seeking ways to move the relationship beyond whichever social network you’re using.

Get the basics right

But before you can really engage with others, you need to ensure that your profiles on social sites are complete and clearly position you. Otherwise people can’t easily make a call about whether you can help them and whether you’re someone they’d want to do business with.

Angus Ogilvie on LinkedIn“…the background section of your profile [within LinkedIn] is a key thing to get right, says Angus Ogilvie, “This is a superb opportunity to sell yourself and the firm. People who skim profiles will be drawn to a good background statement that outlines key skills, areas of interest and the way you do business. So often I see bland background statements that are little more than generic bullet points. It is such a lost opportunity.“ 

I’d also advise including a call to action at the end of the summary section within LinkedIn. Inviting people to get in touch with you can provide the push they need to do so.

Think like your clients

Justine Parsons on LinkedInJustine Parsons summed it up superbly;

“…remember that social media is as much about personality as it is your offering. Be sincere, be honest and be transparent. While our audience can be in the millions, look to connect one on one. One person reading your post, update or discussion can be that difference between being a success – or not…Be in the space, think like your clients think, solve their problems for them and have fun. Social media is a two way conversation that the whole room hears!” 

Which of these tips have you found most useful? 

What others would you share? 

 

 

 

 

LinkedIn: a cost-effective way to upgrade

by Kirsten Hodgson

I’ve resisted the urge to upgrade to a paid LinkedIn account for years, believing you can do a lot with the free account.

And it’s true, you can.

There are ways around the search number limits and seeing profiles of those outside your network (just Google X-ray into LinkedIn and you’ll be amazed what you discover!)

Having talked to several people with paid LinkedIn accounts, I came to the conclusion that, unless I wanted to start a group (and therefore quickly find those outside my network/existing groups who may be interested in joining), I’d be better sticking to the free account.

Over NZ$300 per year seemed  a lot to pay simply for finding out which keyword searches my name was appearing in.

A really cheap LinkedIn plan

But last week that changed. My Virtual Assistant, Justine, sent me an email she’d received from Donna Serdula, which talked about a really cheap LinkedIn plan. We’re talking NZ$131.40 per year (or US$7.95 per month if paid annually).

But you may not have ever come across it (I hadn’t!) – and that’s because LinkedIn hides it…

…in the hope that people sign up for their more expensive upgrades.

It’s called ‘Personal Plus’ and Donna wrote out the steps to find it in her email:

1. Open LinkedIn

2. Click the hyper-linked text under Who’s Viewed My Profile on the right sidebar

3. Scroll down and click the Upgrade Link

At this point you may or may not see the link for the Personal Plus plan.  If you do not see it, click the gray button that reads Other Premium Accounts.  VOILA!  There you have it! Click and purchase!” 

You don’t get Inmails with this plan (but you can buy those separately on any account including the free account – just go into your settings to do so).

You do get 5 folders in profile organiser as well as priority customer service.

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says you look more of a serious networker if you’re on a paid plan but I definitely think that for those looking to build their practices, it’s important to see if you’re appearing in searches for your keywords.

Knowing this info means you can tweak your profile accordingly, which then leads to more of the right people viewing your profile, and more opportunities to generate leads.

If you check into LinkedIn regularly enough, you’ll know who’s viewed your profile with the free account, but having more of this info to hand is handy.

So, if you’ve been wondering whether you should upgrade, here’s a pretty cheap way to do so.

What do you see as the key benefits of a LinkedIn premium account? 

Which one would you choose and why? 

 

Setting up a LinkedIn group – 8 tips you may not have considered

by Kirsten Hodgson

At first glance setting up a LinkedIn group is relatively simple.

You fill out the fields in the ‘Create a Group’ form and voila!

But, if you want to maximise the chances of people joining your group, it’s slightly more complex than that…

I’ll back up a moment.

Why might you want to set up a LinkedIn group?

  • Build your profile in your area of expertise.
  • Position yourself as an authority in your area.
  • Find and attract those with similar interests or who may need your help.
  • Widen your professional network by building relationships with group members.
  • Learn more about the views and perspectives of those in your industry. 
  • Establish a community and then organise in-person events to strengthen these relationships.
  • Generate interest in you and your firm, including in-bound enquiries. 

How might you go about it?

LinkedIn suggests you invite people as soon as you create your group. However, at this stage you won’t have pre-loaded any discussions, you won’t have created your group rules and you won’t have set up templates (if desired) such as to let people know they’ve successfully joined your group.

If you invite people at this point, why should they join?

For that reason I recommend you skip the invites (you can send these later) and click the ‘Manage’ tab.

A number of tabs will appear in the toolbar on the left hand side of the page.

1. Go to ‘Group Settings’ – here you can determine what features you will allow, what permissions you’ll give people (e.g. do new discussions need to be moderated before they can be posted?), any restrictions, and whether people can auto-join the group or whether they need to request to join.

2. If you want to add or change anything in the form you filled out originally, go to the ‘Group Information’ tab. Take a look through your Group Description – does it tell people the purpose of the group and the benefit to them of joining? If not, you might like to revise it.

3. Go to ‘Group Rules’ and set out your rules. What is and isn’t acceptable? What will happen to those who don’t comply? For some good group rules check out the Group ‘Lead Generation Marketing – Gather, Engage, Sell’.

4. Go to the ‘Templates’ tab and set up any template messages you wish to.

If people need to request to join then you’ll want to set up a ‘request to join’ message thanking them for their interest and letting them know when they can expect to hear from you.

You might like to set up a ‘Welcome’ message thanking people for joining the group, giving them some information about it and saying you look forward to their participation. Tom Skotidas has a great message for those who join his B2B Social Media Lead Generation Group.

You may also want to set up a polite ‘decline’ message for those who you don’t let into your group. You have the ability to ‘decline and block’ them so they can’t request to join again in the future.

5. Ask those you wish to moderate the group to join it (you can have up to 9 moderators plus the group manager). If people have to request to join your group you can pre-approve the moderators and any others you wish to under the ‘Pre-approve people’ tab. Once the moderators have joined the group, you can change their status from member to moderator.

To do so:

  • Click the ‘Manage’ tab
  • Click ‘Participants’ (in the list on the left hand side)
  • Select ‘Members’ from the Participants list
  • Click ‘Change role’ and select ‘To moderator’ from the drop-down list.

6. Pre-load some discussions so that those you invite to join can see some activity.  An ‘introduce yourself’ discussion is a good way to get people engaging. You may then want to ask a question or share a link to some content those you wish to join will find helpful/valuable.

7. Ask a few of your connections to join the group and comment on the existing discussions. This will give others who join later the confidence to do so too.

8. You’re now ready to invite people. LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to send personalised invites if you choose to invite people within the group itself (this is to protect members security with regards to group invites).

If there are people you really want to join your group or you want to maximise the number of people who accept your invite, you may want to use LinkedIn messages or InMail to invite people. It’s slightly more time-consuming but it does allow you to tailor your message.

I always great people by their name, invite them to join the group and let them know the benefits of doing so. It’s easy to draft something and to then copy and paste it so it’s not like you have to write a message from scratch for every person. And it shows you’re thinking about them and their needs.

You’ll then want to invite more people, initiate more discussions and comment on others, and ensure the group’s delivering what you say it will.

What other tips do you have for people thinking about starting a LinkedIn group? 

What’s worked well for you? And what hasn’t worked so well? 

Related posts:

5 tips for managing a successful LinkedIn Group

 

 

 

A summary of the key recent LinkedIn changes and how you can benefit from them

by Kirsten Hodgson

The shutting down of LinkedIn’s Answers feature on 31 January 2013 marks the latest in a series of changes made by LinkedIn recently.

For those of you struggling to keep up, or who think you might have missed something, here’s a summary of what’s changed and, where relevant, some tips for you to take advantage of these changes:

1. New LinkedIn profiles were introduced in late 2012

These really emphasise your photo, your summary section and social proof (primarily in the form of Endorsements although photos of your connections appear much more prominently than in the older version).

If you haven’t already, you will need to spend some time on your profile to ensure it positions you well.

You are also able to add a number of additional attachments to the bottom of the summary, and many other sections – including videos, presentations, blogs etc. This is a great way to highlight content you’ve put together or details of upcoming events.

To do so,

Click the ‘add a link’ icon (it looks like a square with a plus in the corner (at the top of the relevant section [when you're in the Edit view]

Then type or paste in the link to your content.

There are many types of media links you can add to your LinkedIn profile so long as they have a public URL.

I recommend taking advantage of this functionality and changing the links you use when relevant.

You can also add sections to your profile (see the right hand side of your profile screen) and can still re-order the sections in your profile so they appear in the order in which you want them to.

2. LinkedIn launched its endorsements feature

Endorsements (love them or hate them) look to be here to stay. The main problem that professionals have spoken to me about, is that they’re endorsed for skills they don’t consider they have.

That’s because LinkedIn used to suggest (and perhaps still does although I haven’t seen the blue box pop up recently!) to members that they endorse people for specific skills based on LinkedIn’s algorithm and it didn’t always come up with the best suggestions (okay, it usually didn’t).

If you want to endorse someone the best thing to do is to go into their profile and endorse them for one or more of the skills they have listed.

When should you endorse and when should you recommend? 

If someone has done a great job on something, you should recommend them. It quickly gives others a really good impression of what someone’s like to work with and takes time and effort so it’s a great way to show your appreciation.

If you want to quickly acknowledge someone’s expertise in a particular area, then endorse them.

Why the overlap between endorsements and recommendations?

While LinkedIn hasn’t confirmed or denied it, there was speculation in the blogosphere that endorsements may be LinkedIn’s way of bringing some independence to its search rankings. 

Rather than stuffing your profile with keywords in order to appear higher up search results (which you were able to do), this may be a way of sorting those who really know their stuff from those who don’t. Of course, if this is the case, there are still issues – it turns it into a popularity contest with those with larger networks more likely to have more endorsements than those with fewer connections, but I guess it’s a start.

3. You can feature up to 3 groups on your company page

If you’re a group owner or want to promote a group to which you belong, to followers of your company (firm) you can now do so (provided you are a member, or group manager, of the group you wish to promote. And of course you’ll need to be an admin of your company profile!)

To do so:

  • Go to your company page. 
  • Click the blue ‘Edit’ button that appears near the top right hand side of the page. 
  • Scroll down the page which appears until you get to the ‘Featured Groups’ section. 
  • Start typing the name of the group you wish to promote and then select it from the drop down list that will appear. 
  • Scroll back up the page and hit the blue ‘Publish’ button. 

4. The way you create a poll has changed and it’s now easier to promote your polls more widely

The easiest way to create a poll is to go to http://polls.linkedin.com

You’ll then have the option to share it via LinkedIn (updates, groups and with individual connections). But you can also tweet it, share it on Facebook, grab a link that you can send in an email or blog post, or embed the code on your website or blog.

The polls feature is really easy to use and it’s great that LinkedIn have made it so easy for people to share their polls both within the platform and more widely.

5. LinkedIn events feature has been removed

LinkedIn shut down its events feature in late November 2012. However, they do say you can still share details of events via your status updates and in relevant groups.

I do think it’s a shame this feature has gone. With a bit of refining and investment (such as enabling people to promote recurring events) it could have been really useful. At a basic level it was great for finding out what events were taking place in a particular city or on a specific topic.

6. LinkedIn Answers feature has been removed

According to a discussion on the Answers feature before the feature shut down, a relatively small minority of people used this. While it was useful for asking questions and providing answers where relevant, there did appear to be the same people answering every single question going.

LinkedIn says:

“We’ll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn. In the meantime, you can still pose questions and facilitate professional discussions through other popular LinkedIn channels including LinkedIn Polls, Groups, or status updates.”

This feature probably had outlived its purpose. You can ask questions in relevant groups and of your network going forward. If it’s a LinkedIn related issue, their Help Center can be useful – and, if your query’s not addressed there, you can email them directly.

If you want to ask a question of a broader audience, Quora is quite a good network on which to do so. 

7. The ability to see who in your groups is following you has been removed

This was always a ‘clunky’ feature but it was useful to see who in a specific group had chosen to follow you. The downfall was you had to scroll through a huge list, which included all your first-degree connections, to find these people and the only way you could identify them was by the 2nd degree connection or group marker to show how you were connected.

The upside was you could reach out to these people, start to build a relationship and generate new work.

I asked LinkedIn why they’d removed this feature and they replied:

“The only members outside of your connections that can follow you are your group members. Since you can’t remove group followers and they can only see shared group content, the decision was made to remove the ability to view them. This is the first of several related steps to simplify the groups experience.”

It would certainly be useful to bring a refined, searchable variation of this back in future. People who’ve chosen to follow you are likely to be competitors, someone you’ve had a conversation with via group discussions, or someone who’s liked what you’ve had to say. If they’re in the latter category, it’s important to know so that you can determine where to from here.

What else changed in 2012?

In late December 2012, LinkedIn put out a slideshare presentation ‘Oh, what a year its been’, which sets out the key developments in 2012. It’s definitely worth a look.

What do you think of these changes? 

Are there any others I missed? 

What other tips do you have to take advantage of these?