Monthly Archives: March 2013

Is creating content something professionals have to do to generate leads from social media?

by Kirsten Hodgson

…or is it enough to simply be present and have conversations?

I posed this question to members of the ‘social media for lead generation in professional services firms‘ group on LinkedIn.

What came back was that each has a role to play and should ideally work together as part of an integrated approach. Ros Morshead said;

Ros Morshead on LinkedIn

“…professionals need to share original content, as well as being present…social media interaction assumes both the professional and their target audience are technologically literate. If a professional relies on the social media band-wagon, then…the professional risks overlooking some or all of a target market.”

To get mileage from your activity you need to share it more broadly than just on social networks including on your website, with clients who will be interested etc, regardless of whether or not they are active on social networks. However, social networks can be a great source of good content.

Gihan Perera on LinkedInGihan Perera adds “I don’t think it’s an either-or or a better-worse. Have genuine conversations with some solid content backing it up. Yes, you CAN generate a lead without content backing it up (just as you can by chatting to somebody at a barbie), and you CAN generate a lead with content but no conversation (just as you can by publishing a high-quality article in a magazine…). But the sweet spot is when you have both.”

I agree with Gihan. Engaging with others is how you build relationships and gives you the opportunity to show a bit of yourself. This is important because, as Tony Vidler comments, “…people tend to do business with people whom they like and trust so it is A path to business.”

Tony Vidler on LinkedIn“However content creation is THE path to establishing credibility as an expert, or professional at the top of their game…Content curation is a strong method of delivering valuable information and resource and being seen as knowledgeable and informed.”

Content curation

In fact, given how busy professionals are nowadays, content curation is often a good place to start according to Bryn Hughes.

Bryn Hughes on LinkedIn“Time pressure/lack of time is often the biggest reason that lawyers give for not writing content…given this, surely content curation is a good place to start to help professionals (i) find their feet in social media networks and build confidence in using these channels and (ii) begin to become known (build their brand.)”

Shelley Dunstone on LinkedInHowever, it’s not enough to simply forward content with no accompanying note. Shelley Dunstone put it well when she said “Curating content is a good way to be seen as a source of interesting news, but don’t just send it with the note “FYI” – say why you think it’s interesting and relevant.”

Oli Moore on LinkedInAnother advantage of curating other people’s content is it shows you are interested in others’ opinions. Oli Moore, like others who commented in the discussion thread, believes there needs to be a mix. “After all, if all you do is create and do not curate, then for me that would show a lack of engagement and interest in other peoples opinions.”

Which brings us back to engagement.

Engagement

As Oli says, “commenting and engaging with others is paramount to engaging and creating that environment where people will come to you.”

Emma Partington on LinkedInEmma Partington believes “being present is MORE important than creating content – the content is also a bonus. Being present is what is lacking in professional services social media…especially within firms.”

She’s right. You only have to look at the Twitter feeds of some large firms to see it’s all about them. There’s often no sharing of others’ content, no conversations and, seemingly, no knowledge of anything beyond their own ‘push strategy’ tweets.

The content you share doesn’t always have to be work related. Don’t underestimate the power of the occasional personal post: People like to laugh and be entertained, and as per Tony’s earlier comment, people do business with people they like (or, I have heard it said, people do business with people like Kelly Madden on LinkedInthem.) Kelly Madden (and his firm) uses a combination of professional and personal content “We try to provide useful and educational content in our efforts to build trust and online relationships that may develop into future business…and sometimes I just post fun stuff about things that make people smile.”

The content curation versus content creation debate

Does it really matter whether the content you share is your own or someone else’s?

Sheena Sarkar on LinkedInSheena Sarkar doesn’t believe so. “I think the key is relevance to your target market. If you can tell them something that is relevant to them and that they may not have heard before, I don’t think it really matters if it is content you have generated yourself or something that you are curating/reposting.”

One way you could make use of curated content to help your clients and prospects is to create a searchable directory of curated content on your website. This would allow visitors to quickly and easily access any content of interest to them and position you/your firm as a source of valuable information.

Julie South on LinkedInJulie South said something that I’ve also found to be true, “I’ve read (& learnt from) more relevant information as a result of what I’ve discovered through social media…than from traditional teaching…

She went on to say, “Sure, it’s important to verify the varacity of each article/author but IMHO [in my humble opinion - I had to look it up!] anyone who writes their own content (or repositions – in a relevant and meaningful way someone else’s content – and cites it) earns more street cred and thus, improves their opportunities for more leads/sales.”

Why create your own content?

Despite the value of content curation there’s little doubt that creating your own content is really important if you want to establish credibility and be considered an expert on a particular subject.

Bryn Hughes on LinkedInBryn Hughes believes “Professional brands should seek to produce their own content online, as part of their marketing mix (no less as effective SEO to aid visibility in natural search!) If done well, generating original [content] does gain more traction for your brand in terms of exposure and engagement online…that hopefully aids conversions down the line.”

Greg De Simone shares how regularly creating content has helped his business,

Greg De Simone on LinkedIn“I can’t say for sure that my content has directly created a lead because all of my strategies overlap to create multiple touches in my target market. But I have noticed that since I started blogging once a week vs once every 6-8 weeks, my web traffic has doubled and my engagement on my site has increased by 25%…since I’ve began creating content, my prospects have a much better idea on what I do and it makes my sales conversations much easier (i.e. conversions have improved by about 10%).”

I find that really interesting. Does it mean that people have almost made up their minds before meeting you that they want to work with you, based on your blog posts? Is the meeting just to check whether you’re someone they’d like to work with? i.e. is it yours to lose rather than yours to win? If so, that’s a pretty compelling reason to create original content.

But professionals are busy. How can you find the time to write or video or record something on a regular basis?

You probably already have some content in the form of Q&A’s, presentations, White Papers etc. A good starting point is to re-purpose this content. As Bryn Hughes points out, generating original content shouldn’t be the responsibility of one person, “In helping to share out the workload and providing varied original content, a … firm could put out an original content strategy together that includes content from its own lawyers, lawyers from other firms (perhaps on the other side of a big transaction), key referral partners, bought in content, instruct third parties to write on their behalf, their clients…”

So, where should you start?

Social media can be daunting and it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ve always believed that you should build up your use of it in stages – start small and build out from there. It seems Bridget Greenwood agrees. She shares some brilliant practical advice to those just starting out, to stop you feeling overwhelmed,

Bridget Greenwood on LinkedIn“…Step 1 show up! Listen, engage, get comfortable with one platform first.

“Step 2 start curating and sharing other peoples content. If you just RT it or share it across networks without adding commentary you’re missing out. If you choose to target the audience who will most benefit from the content you’re resharing, then even better. This can be to individuals, as part of an ongoing group discussion, or shared with specific groups WITH your own comments added as to why you’re sharing and what your view point is.

“Step 3 it’s now not a big leap to make your comments more than one or two sentences and start creating your own content.

“Step 4 collaborate with others to create and share content (both internally at your work place and externally with other relevant professions).

“Add other platforms…as your influence on your current network grows. All that we’re really doing on social media is extending our circle of influence. Showing yourself as an authority is a great way to extend your influence and, ultimately, I believe you can do that best by following all 4 steps.”

Key findings:

- Engaging, content creation and content curation all have a role to play.

- Engaging is how you build relationships and gives you the opportunity to show a bit of yourself.

- Curating content can position you as a source of good content but the content you share has to be relevant and you have to say why it’s relevant by introducing it with your own comment.

- Creating content enables you to establish credibility and helps you get more attention/traction for your brand in terms of exposure and engagement (again, provided it’s relevant!)

- Creating content (within a PSF) should be the responsibility of lots of people.

- If you ONLY create content and don’t share other peoples, it conveys a lack of engagement and interest in others’ opinions.

- Think beyond the social network(s) you use. Share content with individuals who may be interested in it (regardless of whether they are on social networks), on your website etc. Consider setting up a searchable directory of curated content on your website.

- Build up your use of social networks in stages and follow Bridget’s 4 step process to really position yourself to generate new work.

What would you add? 

To what extent do you agree with the comments in this post? 

 

 

Case study: using video marketing successfully

by Kirsten Hodgson

Sue Viskovic runs Elixir Consulting, a business coaching firm for financial advisers.

The nature of her business means that clients have to open up and really talk about their businesses to benefit from her team’s help. Elixir has a good brand and is well known in the Australian market. However, before choosing to work with a prospective coach financial advisers really need to know that they can trust the person and have the confidence that he or she isn’t going to change things against their will.

It’s easy to break down these barriers in a face-to-face meeting, but how can you seek to demonstrate your trustworthiness and beliefs before you’ve met someone?

Sue and her team turned to video.

Because their strategies and tactics need to work for individual business owners the team realised they could only use video to share concepts and examples of what’s worked for others.

What did they do?

Sue has tried a few ways to capture video and has learnt heaps from the process.

“At one extreme we got a professional firm to do everything and at the other I’ve recorded video interviews with clients over Skype.” 

The first set of videos Sue had recorded were profile videos of the team. She got an external producer to do this and then sat off screen and asked her colleagues questions so they’d appear more natural on camera.

“I don’t like scripts. If someone is relaxed then it looks good but if they’re over-thinking it can have a negative impact. I advise people to plan roughly what they want to say and then just talk.”

Sue and her team then helped with the editing process because they know their clients and can immediately see what the powerful bits are. They reviewed the footage and told the editor the bits they wanted to use.

Now all Elixir consultants have their own camera, tripod and lapel mic. so they can record their own pieces. They send in their raw footage for a video editor to edit (Sue found someone on Elance and has worked with him for a while now. She advises others to look at the person’s credentials and ensure they have positive recommendations from others prior to hiring them).

The consultants are aware of the location they’re using and ensure there are no shadows, and that there is something of interest in the background. For example, some videos are shots of someone on a couch with a view of the landscape behind.

Sue is shortly launching Elixir TV, a more human version of their blog. Each clip is 3-4 minutes duration and provides either a tip or story to help people in their business.

She wanted an intro footage Elixir could use on every clip, with a music track. After narrowing it down to two music pieces, Sue asked her contacts on LinkedIn to vote for their favourite. She used Shutterstock.com to find an appropriate stock video to use as background to the intro segment and looked on royaltyfreemusic.com and premiumbeat.com to source the music.

“You pay for the music once and then you can keep on using it without having to pay again.” 

How is Elixir using video?

In addition to Elixir TV, the team are planning to record webinars they run and to break these down into short segments they can post.

Following a consulting session with a client, a consultant might put together a short video after covering an ‘ah-ha’ moment the client had or giving them some tips for overcoming an issue they had. They’d then send the video to the client a few days after the session to prompt them to take action and to remind them they’re there to help. Client feedback on these is really positive.

The team also record videos to send when submitting proposals. This allows them to explain why they have included certain things e.g. ‘The reason X is in the proposal is you said Y was important to you.’ Obviously, in this scenario, it’s important that no-one else can see the video. Sue and her team use Sproutvideo.com to store videos because it allows you to keep videos private and to set passwords where desired. It also has great tracking features allowing you to see how many people opened each video and how much of it they watched.

What didn’t work so well? 

Sue says, Long videos don’t work well - I fell into the trap of producing 9 minute videos because I couldn’t decide which content to leave out. Now I keep videos to a couple of minutes. If there is a lot of good content, we put the videos up as a series.”

She also wanted to ensure that when someone clicks on a video on the Elixir website, it doesn’t take them off to YouTube where they might get distracted. That’s where Sproutvideo.com comes in. It allows users to view a video within your website, and enables more control. It also has great analytics features that allow you to see how many times the video has been viewed, how much of it is viewed, right down to the countries the viewers are located in, what sites they arrived from, and what device they viewed it on.

Youtube can be a good option if you want your videos to be found by people searching on your topic. If you do want to put something up on YouTube, Sue advises unticking the box  to automatically allow the video flicking over to suggested sites at the end. While you can’t stop the suggestions on the right hand side from coming up you can prevent those at the end – and there’s good reason why you might want to. At the end of one of Elixir’s videos YouTube suggested viewers might want to watch a clip of two nuns in bras!

Another suggestion is to get clever with your tagging. If you put up a series of videos with the same/similar tags, you can ensure that your stuff comes up in suggested views on the right hand side.

Another great piece of advice from Sue: Be aware of your surroundings. We shot a video by the beach and in the 15 minutes we were there the wind had got up. I knew it was messing with my hair but it didn’t even occur to me that it was also messing with the sound as it hit the microphone a couple of times and we didn’t realise until afterwards. Had we checked things we would have realised this and could have turned in the other direction to stop it happening.”

What would you do differently if you were starting again now?

“I’d do more research and not be afraid to project manage videos myself. If you do decide to get videos done professionally, get the company you use to give you the raw footage so that you can use your knowledge of your clients to work out the ‘gems’ you want to keep.”

Sue has found a recent graduate who charges $350 for half a day’s work in Perth who she uses to record some videos. She’s also found a video editor she really likes in the USA via Elance so gets him to edit all internally produced videos.

Knowing little about video (I’ve self recorded a couple of pretty poor quality ones), I got so much from my chat with Sue. Her tips should give even the most video-phobic (is that a word?) of people the  confidence to put something together.

Sue’s tips:

1.Choose your format to suit your purpose. Do you need all the bells and whistles? Be mindful of the message you’re sending – it may be professional but does it also make you look too expensive?

2. If you use a professional team ask for the raw footage. You know what will be of most benefit to your clients so let the video team know the snippets they should include in the final version.

3. Give it a go. Don’t be afraid. If you can’t get good footage then don’t put the video up. It will reflect badly on you.

4. Sit to the side of the camera and ask your colleague questions so it appears more of a natural conversation.

5. Be aware of the background and any noises that may interfere with your recording.

6. Get someone else to check your footage as you can get too close to it.

7. If you’ve self-recorded, get a professional to edit your video. Elance is a good place to find people. Make sure the person you choose has some good recommendations from others.

8. Think about the different ways in which video can support your business e.g. updates on topical issues, to support new business proposals, as a summary of coaching sessions etc.

Have you used video successfully in your firm? What other tips would you share? 

Photo courtesy Paul at Freedigitalphotos.net

Social media success story: this financial adviser gets it.

by Kirsten Hodgson

Charles Badenach CFP Financial Planner

Charles Badenach is a financial and planner with the ASX listed  Shadforth Financial Group  based in Tasmania, Australia.

He moved into financial services in 2001 (after practising as a lawyer for many years). He built a successful business  but, when the GFC hit in 2007, it struck him like a train as Badenach says  “I was doing the same as everyone else, I had no point of difference.”

Writing a bestseller

Charles had always had on his bucket list to write a book designed to help people make smart financial decisions. 18 months and many hours  later, with a publisher and a good editor on board, he launched ”Old Head on Young Shoulders” in 2011. The book was selected as the Money Magazine Book of the Month  in May 2011 and the book, after the second edition,  made the Australian Best Seller list in 2012.

He initially used Facebook to help promote the book  by setting up a page, getting friends to like it and regularly sharing tips (mainly from the book itself). Charles was innovative in his approach to marketing the book which included offering  a free copy to all school libraries  in Tasmania. Charles also worked with the Parents and Friends Association in every school, talking to both parents and students separately  about the common financial mistakes they both made and how to avoid them. Following these talks the book was used as a fundraiser by the Parents and Friends Association with the proceeds being split between Charles and the school parents and friends association (who retained the majority).

The initial print run was 3,000  which sold out within 5 months and following this success Charles’ employer, Shadforth Financial Group Limited, asked if he could organise a further print run so they could send a copy to all their clients in Australia.

After the success of the book Charles embraced social media with the support of the Shadforth Financial Group  Board. He updated  his LinkedIn profile, set up his own website, started writing a weekly blog, built a YouTube channel, started using Twitter, and established a Facebook business page.

CharIes has also won a number of National awards for his work in financial services including:

  • Money Management Australian Financial Planner of the Year (2011)
  • Financial Planning Association of Australia Value of Advice National Award in the Pre Retirement Category (2010)
  • Financial Standard Innovation, Leadership and Excellence in Social Media for Financial Services in Australia Award (2012)
  • Future2 Community Service National Best Practice Award (2011) for his involvement in improving financial literacy amongst the socially disadvantaged

In 2012, Charles wrote an e-book ”The Australian Financial System made easy for migrants” and distributed this  to over 2000 migrant support centres and community based organisations  around Australia.

How has social media helped him?

LinkedIn

Charles is an active user of LinkedIn and rates this as one of the keys tools for developing and growing a business in the modern world. Charles uses the InMail feature regularly (LinkedIn’s paid email feature that allows a member to email any other member regardless of whether or not they are in your network). He uses this facility selectively  by offering contacts and centres of influence something they’ll value as issues arise. For example,  in 2012 as a result of Federal Budget changes in Australia, professionals were able to gain a tax rebate by pre–paying their private health insurance before the end of the financial year.

Charles is continually refining his LinkedIn profile to remain current with the latest changes to the structure. He has found that many clients and centres of influence now send a link to his LinkedIn profile directly to clients via email.  His profile also includes a number of videos, which are a mixture of testimonials, case studies, tips, and interviews.

Charles doesn’t generally accept connection requests from other financial planners unless they work closely with one-another and he uses the privacy facility to hide his connections from public view as he uses these as a key business tool. As Charles says “you wouldn’t allow someone to look through your filing cabinet so why would you allow them to mine your data base?”

Says Charles, “LinkedIn’s enabled me to keep track of people globally. When I went to the USA as part of  the 2011 Money Management Australian Financial Planner of the Year Award , I looked for 2nd and 3rd degree connections who were based in both San Francisco and San Antonio where I was stayed. I then arranged to meet up with them.

LinkedIn provided a qualified introduction. Charles doubts many of these people would have taken his call, let alone met him, if they didn’t know people in common.

He has generated work as a direct result of his LinkedIn activity.

YouTube

Charles uses YouTube a lot to share testimonials and stories and to educate clients. “When there are updates I use video because I can say something far more quickly than I can write something. I have a camera on a tripod set up in my office so it’s really quick and easy to do.” 

Facebook

Facebook is “like TV. It”s about entertainment. I stick to posts related to people”s everyday life that have a financial overview. I find the more personal the posts, the more traction you get.“ 

Twitter

Charles has also been an active user of Twitter as he is of the view that you get to find out what’s happening when, where, and why before any other channel picks it up. Having my Twitter feed on my website also helps with SEO as it’s constantly updated.”

Pinterest

He is still trying to work out how best to use Pinterest because financial services isn’t a particularly visual industry. However, a number  of his pins have been widely shared globally beyond what has happened on other platforms.

Charles’ view is that anyone can use social media as the forums are designed for 80% of the population to use. They are not difficult: it is just like running a boardroom lunch – you can serve up cocktail sausages or fillet steak.  If you focus on helping people and providing info they’ll value, you’ll do well. Social media is about sharing and caring, you need to give to get and the more you give the more you will get.

What’s your view?

Charles’ tips:

1. When contacting people you don’t know, work out a common connection and offer them something of value. Focus on their needs.

2. Beef up your social profiles and include videos or slideshare presentations that will help credentialise you and answer some of the key questions your target audience will have. You also need to continually improve your profile as new enhancements are continually being developed.

3. If you’re travelling use LinkedIn to find 2nd and 3rd degree connections you can meet up with. Use people in common to facilitate the introduction or mention them when you make contact. Let the other person know why they should meet you. What’s in it for them?

4. Learn basic video skills as video is a very powerful forum.

5. Post different messages on different forums, as different platforms attract different audiences, don’t be a robot.

What would you add?

 

Successful LinkedIn group owners share their secrets

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first in (what I hope will be) a series of posts in the coming months about what it takes to run a successful LinkedIn group. I’ll be talking to owners of some of the best-managed groups on LinkedIn so that we can all learn from their insights.

If there’s a group owner you think I should talk to, please let me know in the Comments section below.

Toby Marshall and his team at Lead Creation based in Sydney, run 7 successful LinkedIn groups (plus a further 7 subgroups), including Small Business Evolution / Entrepreneurs and SMEs, which has over 10,000 members, 4 subgroups and NO spam!

I asked him what makes a successful group, what’s worked well for him and what advice he’d give to others looking to set up and maintain an engaged community.

What makes a LinkedIn group successful?

“A group is just like an industry or professional association. A lot of people join groups but don’t revisit them. The success of a group really comes down to three things; how much time the owner puts into it, the size of the group, and the focus of the group – is it narrow enough that the majority of discussions will be relevant and of interest to members?” 

Including your keywords in the group name (so that it can be found by those searching) is also important.

Toby believes (and I agree) that 99% of LinkedIn groups are either full of spam   or have under 500 members and are dead. His advice for spotting a good LinkedIn group? Look at the ratio of comments to discussions (this should be at least 1.5 comments per discussion and ideally 3-4).

He advises that, when starting a group, owners ensure there are at least 20-30 members and 3-4 active discussions before they begin to invite VIPs.

What’s worked well for you when running LinkedIn groups?

Sponsorship is a key area Toby and his team have focused on – “we’re not starting any more groups without a sponsor to cover the costs of set up and ongoing maintenance.”

The benefit to sponsors is they can position themselves as experts and it gives Toby and his team the ability to invest time in the group, actively growing and engaging with members.

Ensuring each group is really focused has also worked well for Toby and his team. They’ve set up sub-groups that address one topic within each category. “If a  group is too broad in focus then people won’t be interested in it. LinkedIn has given us the ability to subdivide topics.” 

Other things that have worked well include:

  • building on discussions by summarising them (with comments attributable to various group members) and pulling out the key answer/findings in a blog post. You can then start a new discussion ‘The answer was X, do you agree/disagree?’ and spark further debate. Here’s a recent example of curating comments from a discussion thread and turning them into a blog post. 
  • Personally writing to everyone who requests to join the group to ask them what they want to get from it and then responding to them accordingly. You can set up templates to help with this and engage outside help to ensure the process isn’t too onerous. Knowing this information helps you to shape group discussions. 

What hasn’t worked so well?

Toby believes “there has to be a blog or website behind every successful group as otherwise there is nowhere to post content.” That’s something he didn’t have initially but has now set up.

Not being sufficiently resourced to run a group can also pose a problem as can not having enough industry experts with the ability to write.

What advice would you give others considering starting a group?

 “Why does everyone need to start their own professional association? 99% of groups fail. We’ve been running groups for over 3 years. If you have got something to say and lots of ideas, then go for it but, if not, you have to think about whether your group will work.” 
Do you agree with Toby’s tips? 
What other advice would you give to those setting up or running groups? 
If you’d like to see more tips from group owners about how to set up and run successful LinkedIn groups, subscribe by email or RSS feed to this blog.