Author Archives: Kirsten Hodgson

Improve your SEO by publishing to LinkedIn

Despite publishing to LinkedIn once a month for the past 15 months, it’s only since LinkedIn recently rolled out its new stats feature that I realised how highly published posts rank in Google search results.

Google_search_engine_linkedin

Two of my posts were getting lots of views 6 months to a year after they were published and I didn’t know why. When I looked at the new stats feature I saw 100% of the traffic to them was from Google. When I mentioned this to a friend she whipped out her iPhone, went onto Google, typed in “How to view someone’s LinkedIn profile without them knowing”, turned to me and said “yeah, it’s coming up right at the top of the search results”.

I then did the same thing for a couple of other posts, much more niche focused, that were still getting a few views each week, well after being published, and it was the same story.

I’d posted some of these on my blog but this didn’t appear to negatively impact the ranking of the LinkedIn posts – I’d be really interested in your findings on this point. Have your posts been negatively affected as a result of doing this?

What does this mean for you?

If SEO is important to you and your firm and you want to be found for specific topics:

  • Put together useful content that answers your clients’ and prospective clients’ questions.
  • Use long-tail keywords in your title. For example, if people regularly ask you how to set up a shareholders agreement, then make that the title.
  • Publish this content to LinkedIn and encourage your colleagues to share it – you can also share it within any relevant LinkedIn groups (provided the group owner permits this) as a status update (or a series of updates over a longer time period), via your company page, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc.
  • Monitor visitor traffic over a 6 month period.
  • Let me know what happens!

Make sure you publish posts with a long shelf life as it seems to take around 2 months to see traction via Google as highlighted below (n.b. this is not typical for my posts – most of them get far fewer views and are much more up and down in terms of traffic from Google).

LinkedIn stats

How to find the stats feature:

  1. Go into one of your published posts – either by clicking through from your profile, or hovering over the Profile tab on the LinkedIn toolbar, selecting ‘Your Updates’ from the dropdown list and then clicking on the ‘Published’ tab.
  2. Click on the ‘View stats’ button that appears at the top of your post next to the Edit button.
  3. To view stats for other posts, simply scroll through your posts within the ‘View stats’ page and the relevant stats will appear.

LinkedIn stats

If you want more tips on publishing to LinkedIn, check out my other posts:

Have you found publishing to LinkedIn has helped you or your firm to be more easily found in Google?

What tips would you give to those considering using this feature?

Is your LinkedIn profile damaging your personal brand?

Answer honestly: would you be happy for a prospective client to take a look at your LinkedIn profile before they’ve met you or seen any of your other profiles and work online?

That’s exactly what many of them will be doing.

And yet, I’ve looked at hundreds (if not thousands) of lawyers’, accountants’ and engineers’ profiles on LinkedIn and an overwhelming number do not create a good first impression…

Is your LinkedIn profile damaging your personal brand?

…which doesn’t make sense when you consider the importance you place on your professional reputation.

Why would these people be looking at my LinkedIn profile?

If you’ve ever Googled yourself you’ll know that LinkedIn profiles appear high up search engine results. Often they appear just below (or even above) your website profile.

This, coupled with the fact that, according to some 2011 research by BTI Consulting in the US, the top two ways clients find lawyers (I believe this would be similar for other professions) are:

  1. Peer-to-peer recommendations
  2. Online search

No surprises with personal recommendations. Of course, people will reach out to those they know and trust for recommendations. But what BTI Consulting found, is that often prospective clients will get two or three names. Instead of calling those 2 or 3 people they’ll do an online search. What are they going to find? You can’t dictate where people click: they could just as easily click on your LinkedIn profile as they could your website profile.

Bottom line: you could be missing out on ideal business (you don’t even know about) simply because you haven’t set aside the time to craft a good LinkedIn profile.

So, in this post, I’m taking it back to BASICS because it really matters.

Your LinkedIn profile checklist

Even if you think your profile does a good job positioning you, look through the checklist below to see if there are any improvements you could make:

1.  Have you set up your profile background and does it clearly position you? Click to download a guide on how to create and upload your background banner.

2.  Have you uploaded a professional, up-to-date photo? LinkedIn says that profiles with photos are 7x more likely to be viewed than profiles without.

3.  Does your professional headline clearly position you? If you’re using LinkedIn to grow your practice then your professional headline is an opportunity to position yourself. When you connect with others, their connections can see that they’ve connected to you and your headline. When you start, or comment on, group discussions, your professional headline is displayed prominently. For that reason, instead of simply stating your job title, state who you help and what you help them with. Alternatively set out your key areas of specialisation or use your headline to ask a question that will resonate with those you wish to engage e.g. Are you looking for commercial legal advice from someone who has been involved in running businesses?

4. Have you included your postcode in your location information? The key reason for doing so is that your profile appears in relevant location-based search results that other LinkedIn users may perform.

5. Have you personalised your public profile URL? When you join LinkedIn you are assigned a public profile URL, which comprises your name and some randomly-assigned digits. If someone searches for you in Google then your LinkedIn profile will be returned in the search results but will often appear as ‘there are [3] people called John Smith on LinkedIn’. The reason for personalising your URL is to make sure your profile appears before others who share your name.

6. Have you included your contact info so people viewing your profile can get in touch?

7. Have you written your summary with your goals in mind? If you’re on LinkedIn to grow your practice then your summary shouldn’t read like a CV. It’s a marketing piece that should be designed to position you and clearly communicate the types of people you can assist and the issues with which you can assist them.

It should answer the following questions:

  • Who do you help?
  • What do you help them with?
  • What’s your approach to working with your clients and/or what do you like about what you do?
  • What do you enjoy outside of work?

And contain a call to action such as ‘If you have a commercial dispute you wish to resolve, please do get in touch. Phone XXX or Email YYY.’

8. Have you added links to and/or uploaded authorised marketing materials to your profile? Research continues to highlight that people like visual content so this is a way to showcase your expertise and stand out from your competitors. LinkedIn allows you to add links and upload files to various sections of your profile including the Summary section (you can do so in any section which has the box and plus sign icon). This results in a richer profile and allows you to evidence your capabilities and experience as well as those of your firm. You should check your firm’s guidelines about what you can and can’t upload.

9. Have you completed the experience section? Add your current job title to the Experience section of your profile. In order to have a complete profile on LinkedIn, the network wants you to list at least two previous employers in addition to your current role. However, it’s up to you whether or not you do so.

10. Have you researched your keywords and incorporated these into your summary section, your current job title and the skills and endorsements section? You can use a free tool such as Google Keyword Selector to find these out.

11. Have you added your skills in the skills and endorsements section? You can insert up to 50 skills. Repeating 3-5 main keywords (those words people will search when looking for someone with your skills) will help you appear higher up the LinkedIn search rankings and there’s another really good reason why you need to list your skills…

You may have seen a blue box pop up on your LinkedIn homepage suggesting that you endorse someone for a particular skill. Some of these suggestions can be arbitrary. To ensure that LinkedIn suggests others endorse you for the skills for which you want to be recognised, complete the Skills & Endorsements section of your profile. Alternatively, opt out of being included in endorsement suggestions.

12. Have you completed the Education section of your profile?

13. Have you completed the Additional info section?  You do NOT need to add personal details unless you wish to do so but we do recommend completing the Interests section and the Advice for Contacting [YOUR NAME] section. People tend to work with people they like and so including your interests may strike a chord with others who share your passions. At the very least it will create a good conversation opener when meeting someone for the first time. The Advice for contacting [YOUR NAME] section allows you to specify who you do/don’t want to hear from – so if you’re not interested in sales pitches or hearing from recruitment consultants then say so.

14. Are there any sections you wish to add to your profile? There are a number of other sections you can add to your profile. These appear towards the top of your profile page, just below the first section (containing your photo and headline info). If you are just setting up your profile, some of the sections mentioned above will be located here – you will need to manually add them to your profile.

15. Have you made a list of content you can publish to LinkedIn? There are some key reasons why you might want to:

  • Whenever you publish to LinkedIn, your connections get notified that you have published a new post and the title. They see this when they log into LinkedIn. This means that even if they log in a week, or a month, after you’ve published, they will still see the notification. If you simply shared a status update, it would disappear from people’s newsfeeds pretty quickly, often without many of them having seen it.
  • Posts published to LinkedIn are searchable, meaning they can get found by people on the platform looking for information about a particular topic. Plus there is the possibility one or two of your posts will be picked up by a Pulse channel (which is why you’ll want to tag them to make it easy for LinkedIn to categorise). Hundreds if not thousands of people follow each Pulse channel so it’s a way to increase your content’s reach.
  • Publishing to LinkedIn is also a permanent, easy to access, showcase of your content. Your 3 most recent posts appear towards the top of your LinkedIn profile, directly below the box containing your photo and professional headline, and above the summary section. These posts are one of the first things people will see when they look at your profile. To view more of your posts, they can simply click on the words See more (which appear above the three most recent posts).

If you’ve found this post helpful, grab your copy of our FREE “Definitive Guide to setting up your LinkedIn profile” eBook.

Like peas and carrots: social selling in professional services firms

Social selling should be to professional services firms what peas are to carrots – a match made in heaven.

Given that many professionals dislike the word sales and its connotations, social selling by contrast, fits well with the approach of those in professional practice.

Hubspot defines social selling as:

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.” 

In a professional services context I prefer to think of it as “the process of generating work from existing and prospective clients by sharing content they want to consume via social networks and in so doing build your personal profile and stay top of mind.” 

social selling in professional services firms

Essentially it’s using another set of tools where these clients and prospects are active to do what you’ve always done: 

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.

Unlike traditional “selling”, social selling shouldn’t push you too far out of your comfort zone because its principles of building credibility and trust will be familiar to you. 

The fundamentals don’t change – you still need to identify people’s pain points and make them aware of legal and other changes that require them to take action (or could require them to do so down the track). 

Your content still needs to create more questions in their minds so that they want to find out more. 

How do you go about social selling?

In order to successfully socially sell, you need a laser focus – it’s not about taking a scattergun approach but about building relationships one by one. 

  1. Know who you’re looking to build relationships with and how you want to be perceived. Put together your buyer personas as doing so will help you develop your plan.
  2. Make sure your social profiles clearly position you and, where possible, EVIDENCE your expertise. For example, you can publish to LinkedIn and posts will appear towards the top of your profile, you can upload documents or link to pages on your website/blog, you can include social proof in the form of recommendations and endorsements (if permitted in your jurisdiction), and you can highlight projects, cases or matters on which you’ve worked.
  3. Connect with those you wish to build relationships with – including existing and prospective clients, influencers, referrers, journalists and colleagues.
  4. Engage: position yourself as a go-to source of information by doing people’s reading for them. Have a clear content plan that talks to people at different stages of the buying cycle and then use social networks to get this seen by more of the right people. For example within LinkedIn you can use tags, groups, direct sponsored content, sponsored updates and ads to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. Link this to point 5!
  5. Seek to move people beyond LinkedIn into your lead nurturing system – i.e. targeted email lists. If your content is useful but is creating more questions than answers then people will want more. You can create a really useful how-to or White Paper that gives them what they’re looking for and they can access it simply by signing up to a targeted list you’ve set up (i.e. within your initial content you’d highlight this as a way to get more answers in exchange for their email address). It’s then a case of nurturing them through your system.
  6. Create more face-to-face opportunities as a result of doing the legwork online.

Social selling is not about overtly promoting yourself.  It’s about being a resource to your target audience and using your content, including conversations, to start to build  a relationship with them that you can then move beyond the social platform.

Today’s consumer is savvy and well researched, with a wealth of information at his/her fingertips.  By being front of mind and creating a trusted, credible presence via social networks you are, by default, social selling.

Thoughts?  What does the term “social selling” mean to you?

Image credit: The Guardian

How do you find the time for social media in professional services?

 

How do you find the time for social media

Two questions I’m regularly asked by BD and marketing professionals working in professional services firms are:

“How do we best use social media?”

And

“How do we find the time for it?”

I can totally relate to these. Social media can feel like one more thing to add into your already busy day.

A great way to start is to think about how one, or a combination, of these tools could increase the effectiveness of an existing initiative or make it quicker or easier for you to achieve a specific objective.

Here’s an example:

What we did

When I was marketing manager in a law firm, one of our corporate practice’s goals was to build more and stronger relationships at board level, both to generate work at that level and to raise the firm’s profile to ensure board members would be comfortable should management decide to hire the firm.

As a result, we held a corporate governance symposium and invited numerous ‘captains of industry’ along.

Following the session, one of our partners drafted a White Paper largely based on discussion and feedback at the event, which was given to all Board Members on our database as well as specific journalists.

What could we have done if we were doing it all over again today?

It was a great initiative and it worked well for the firm. However, if that was today, we could have done so much more such as:

  • Used LinkedIn to identify other key company directors to invite
  • Used Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to help with the research
  • Invited people through the platforms or run promoted/sponsored content informing them about the event that would appear in their newsfeed/stream.
  • Offered the Whitepaper as a download through our team’s individual accounts, our company page and via promoted/sponsored updates. The whitepaper could possibly have been offered as gated content company directors could download in return for signing up to a ‘Board Table’ newsletter (allowing us to keep in touch with them on an ongoing basis).
  • Published a summary of the whitepaper to our blog or website and directly to LinkedIn and then promoted this in relevant groups asking a question to drive discussion.
  • Interviewed the relevant partners and put together a video and audio, which could be posted on YouTube, iTunes etc. and shared via social networks. Alternatively we could have held a Google+ Hangout or Hangout on Air.
  • Used LinkedIn and Twitter to identify and reach out to relevant journalists.
  • Sent a summary of the whitepaper to journalists and company directors – social networks would have made this process easier because we could have used tools such as Inmail to send it to those people who were previously unknown to the firm along with a smart intro setting out why we were sending it and the benefit to the other person of reading it.
  • Set up a LinkedIn group for corporate governance issues and invited people to sign up for it at the event – via tablets they could log into.
  • Live tweeted from the event.
  • Set up a Corporate Governance tweet chat – if we found sufficient directors were using the tool and/or a regular forum to discuss issues e.g. via a Google+ hangout.

The point is, this initiative was incredibly successful, but it could have been even more so had we been able to use social tools as part of our tactics. At the very least, a LinkedIn group would have enabled the firm to sustain the momentum over the long term.

So, rather than thinking of social media as an additional task, think about how you can use it to make your job easier and improve a particular outcome. I guarantee it will be worth it.

How do you use social media to add value to existing initiatives in your practice/firm?

Image Credit: www.pbs.org

Why do so many professionals struggle to build their practices?

I met with a lawyer last week who has a wealth of experience in his field, yet is struggling to build a practice.

It’s an issue many professionals face.

He explained that he’s been for coffees/lunch with everyone in his network and assumed the work would follow.

How to improve your lead conversion over a coffee

Fair assumption, right? I mean these are people who already know him.

Unfortunately not.

For starters, I bet they’re propositioned on a fairly regular basis by lawyers who want their work.

Secondly, they may have every intention of giving him work, but they just don’t have any currently.

Whatever the case, this lawyer was feeling despondent and unsure about what to do next.

Have you ever had a similar experience?

If you’re in a similar situation here are some practical steps you can take:

It makes total sense to start with your existing network. However, it’s important to get your approach right. Think about it from your contact’s perspective – which of the following would you prefer?

“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would love to work with you. Do you have any work for me?”

Or

“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would really like to find out from you what I need to do to position myself within your industry. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

It could be that I’m British, but the first approach would make me feel uncomfortable, whereas the second wouldn’t – plus I’d be happy to provide some insights and to help the other person.

So, the first step is to plan.

The plan

What’s the outcome you want from the meeting? Getting new work is probably a tad optimistic for a first meeting but gathering information in order to develop an offering for the person you’re meeting, or to get an introduction to the person’s colleague isn’t.  A good outcome will involve a next step – an opportunity to progress things. It will help to avoid pleasant, but ultimately pointless, meetings.

Once you know your goal, write down between 3-5 questions you want to ask the other person.

The meeting 

The second step is to set up the meeting. Let your contact know why you want to meet e.g. “I’m looking to put together an offering for the construction industry and would really value your input. Do you have half an hour in the next few weeks for a coffee?”

When you get to the meeting, restate the purpose and then ask the questions you’ve planned to get the other person talking. You should be doing most of the listening. At the end, get their buy-in to the next step e.g.” I’m going to put together the offering over the next week. Would you mind if I run it by you once I’ve done so?”

Always ask who else you should be meeting with/speaking to. If they mention people you don’t know, ask if they’d be prepared to introduce you and what you can do to make that process easy for them.

The follow up

After the meeting, follow up with a good summary of your discussion and possibly send the person something related to your conversation if appropriate.

The key thing now is to work on the next step. However, you’ll also want to ensure you’re top of mind with the other person both in the interim and over the long term. This is where social networks and traditional marketing come into play.

  • Connect/follow the person on social networks on which they’re active.
  • Develop a content plan (if you haven’t already done so) and then create and curate content relevant to them. Share this directly with them (if appropriate) as well as via relevant social networks, your website, newsletter etc.
  • Invite them to any events/functions you’re hosting that might interest them.
  • Introduce them to others in your network who they would benefit from meeting.
  • Engage with, and share, content they share.

Look to get as many positive touch points with them as possible. This will help keep you top of mind so that, should they have a need, or be asked to recommend someone to a contact, they’re likely to think of you.

There is no silver-bullet, but by adopting a carefully considered and integrated approach, you can really stand out from your competitors. Which is exactly what you need to do if you want to win more of your ideal work.

Your thoughts?  How do you make the most of your coffee meetings with old contacts? 

How can accepting Bitcoin payments help your legal practice?

Coming from the UK but living in New Zealand I get people’s frustrations with bank fees on international transactions. Quite frankly, it feels like daylight robbery.

How can accepting Bitcoin payments help your legal practice?

Which is why I love the idea of Bitcoin, a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.

In January 2014, LegalVision, one of Australia’s most innovative legal service providers, announced it would be the first Australian law firm to accept payment in Bitcoins.

Lachlan McKnight is the CEO and co-founder of LegalVision, which helps small to medium businesses and start-ups looking for legal assistance, advice or documentation. Their business lawyers work online and for a fixed fee.

I spoke to Lachlan about:

  • what prompted this
  • how it’s impacted LegalVision’s business
  • what advice he’d give to other professional services firms thinking about accepting Bitcoin payments.

Why did you decide to accept Bitcoin payments?

“We had a customer based in Germany who wanted to pay in Bitcoins and so we decided to look into it. We signed up with Bitpay, which was a really easy process, and started accepting Bitcoin payments. The real benefit to international clients is that we can charge them less, as Bitcoin trading fees are much lower than traditional international bank transfer fees.”

What, if any, impact has doing so had on your business?

“When we announced that we were accepting Bitcoin payments, we got lots of media coverage both in Australia and internationally. As a result, a number of people came to us asking us to help them resolve Bitcoin disputes.”

“We now seem to get found by people wanting help in this area. Interestingly, negative publicity about Bitcoin resulted in more work for us.”

“Bitcoin payments make up a small, but growing percentage of our total revenue. However, a lot of our clients operate in the online or technology sphere. Even if they don’t want to pay in Bitcoin, the fact we accept this currency shows that we understand new technology and that we’re open to new ways of doing things – it’s essentially a trust signal.”

“Accepting Bitcoin payments has also been valuable internally as it shows our existing and potential staff that we’re a different type of business to a traditional law firm.”

What types of customers typically pay in Bitcoins?

“Typically overseas clients who don’t want to deal with money transfer issues and Bitcoin entrepreneurs. I expect this will change over time but Bitcoin is still not main-stream.”

What advice would you give to lawyers and other professionals looking to accept Bitcoin payments?

“Firstly, I’d say it’s very easy to set up and to use. Secondly, once you’ve taken a payment in Bitcoin, sell it immediately for your local currency. The value of Bitcoin does fluctuate from day to day and so, unless you’re prepared to take a risk, you’ll want to exchange it for real money.”

How to set up a Bitpay account:

1.  Go to www.bitpay.com and fill out the short form.
2.  Click the link in the verification email they send through to verify your email address.
3.  Once you receive your account approval, log into your Bitpay account and set up details of your settlement currency and bank details.
4.  Adjust your approved sales volume limit from US$100 per day by clicking ‘raise your limit’ on your dashboard. There are 3 options:

  • Basic – enables processing up to $1,000 per day. It requires a manual account review and can take 1-3 business days.
  • Verified – enables processing up to $10,000 per day. This requires a manual account review and you will need to provide proof of address, incorporation documents, photo ID and Tax ID number. It takes 2-4 days to set up.
  • Trusted – enables processing up to $100,000 per day. This requires all the same things as ‘Verified’ plus the most recent 3 months of bank statements OR an extended validation SSL certificate.

4.  Add payment buttons and/or plugins to your website, or invoice via Bitpay.  

What do you think – can you see a benefit in accepting Bitcoin payments in your practice?

Should I connect with other lawyers on LinkedIn?

Lawyers regularly ask me this so I thought it worthy of a blog post.

The answer to this really comes down to your objectives. What is it you’re looking to achieve?

Should I connect with other lawyers on LinkedIn

There are some very good reasons why you might wish to connect with other lawyers, such as:

  • You wish to generate referrals from other lawyers
  • It’s a great way to keep track of former colleagues and friends who may one day move in-house
  • You want to pick up some tips from others’ activity.

I know some of you will be concerned that other lawyers will look through your contacts and try to poach them.

In order to prevent this, you have two options (other than not connecting with them):

  1. Be proactive and focus on providing your clients with excellent customer service and regularly sharing content they will find valuable and helpful. In all likelihood your competitors will be talking to your clients anyway, so this is always a key area on which to focus.
  2. Hide your connections on LinkedIn. This means your connections can only see details of shared connections (i.e. those connections you have in common). To do so, go to ‘Privacy & Settings’ (hover over the photo of you in the top right hand corner of your LinkedIn toolbar and select Privacy & Settings from the dropdown list – you may be prompted for your password), look under the ‘Privacy Controls’ header in your profile settings and select ‘See who can see your connections’. Choose ‘Only you’ from the drop-down box.

On one hand, LinkedIn is about networking and helping others in your network and it many people perceive it negatively when people hide their connections, but on the other if you act for Shell and you have lots of connections at BP this could cause issues with your client.

Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you and make sure that your social media guidelines are flexible enough to allow others to do the same.

What are your views on connecting with other professionals in your industry?  Are you for or against?

Image Credit: www.jobinterviewtools.com

The single biggest mistake I’ve made on Twitter

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It’s just a shame I didn’t have the foresight to avoid this mistake. Because it’s actually a biggie and is badly affecting the way I use Twitter. I know I’ve been missing lots of great info from the people I really want to follow.

My mistake is this: I didn’t properly think about which Twitter lists I’d actually need long term and now they’re in a mess. 

The thing is I’m probably not alone, which is why I’m sharing what I’m doing about it – in the hope that it will help you too.

So, back to the lists. They started out okay but, as I’ve followed more people, tweets I want to see have become buried in overly-active streams. I not only didn’t think hard enough about my lists but I kept on adding people to them.

Why Twitter Lists Aren't Working for Me

 

Things are about to change.

After 5+ years on Twitter I’m finally going to be more strategic about how I use lists.

Why should YOU care?

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation and are wondering how you can make the most of Twitter. Perhaps you’re new(ish) to the platform and want to know what lists to set up.

Here’s what I’m doing.

I am setting up lists for:

  • Top clients
  • Other clients
  • Top prospects
  • Top referrers
  • Top influencers in each sector I follow (split into separate lists by sector)
  • Journalists by sector
  • People who re-tweet me (so I can make sure I reciprocate)

I’m then keeping my existing lists but in a much more streamlined format. Once I’ve moved people into the new lists the existing ones should be much easier to monitor.

I really wish I’d taken the time to do this at the outset. It would have saved heaps of time and my sanity!

What else do you think I (and others in a similar situation) should do to avoid ‘buried info syndrome’ on Twitter? I’d love to hear your tips.

Image Credit: mediainjection.com

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

In late July LinkedIn launched a new feature, Direct Sponsored Content, that allows firms/companies to sponsor their content WITHOUT it appearing on their company or showcase page. This means you can now send specific messages to a specific audience.

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

Imagine you’re aware of an upcoming RFP and want to position yourself prior to it coming out – you can use one, or a series, of direct sponsored content, to get on the radars of those who will be involved in the decision.

There are a whole lot of applications for this and it effectively means that your competitors and others (who you’re not targeting) will be unaware of what you’re doing. 

How to create direct sponsored content in 11 easy steps:

  1. Go to your company or Showcase page, click edit, and scroll down to the ‘Direct Sponsored Content’ posters box and type in the people authorised to post for your firm. If you want to include a poster to appear alongside any sponsored content, do so here.
  2. If you don’t have a business account, you’ll need to create one and link it to your company page. Go to Business Services, Advertise and sign in to the campaign manager. Move your cursor over your name in the top right and select ‘Create your Business Account’ and then type in the name of your firm (if that doesn’t work open your company page in a new window and copy and paste the URL across).
  3. When you have your business account: Go to Business Services (top right of toolbar), Advertise, Manage.
  4. Select ‘Create new campaign’.
  5. Click ‘Sponsor content’
  6. Scroll to ‘What would you like to sponsor’ header and click ‘Create Direct sponsored content’ This will open a dialogue box.
  7. Type in your message and URL link (you are limited to about 1.5 lines of text total).
  8. Click save.
  9. Click ‘Direct Sponsored Content’
  10. Select the message you just created.
  11. Follow the prompts – name your campaign etc and then press next for targeting and costing options.

This is a great new feature. It not only means you can put the right messages in front of the right people at the right time but also allows you to send these from a Showcase page rather than just from your Company page.

Have you used this feature? Let us know what you think of it or how you think you’ll use it. 

Image Credit: http://marketing.linkedin.com/

I’ve set up my LinkedIn profile, now what?

Firstly, congratulations! You’ve taken a really important first step: setting up a LinkedIn profile that clearly positions you.

But what should you do now?

While it will depend on your objectives for being on LinkedIn there are some key steps below you should consider:

1. Connect with people you wish to

The more people you connect with, the more people potentially see your updates. If they then engage with these updates (by liking, commenting on or sharing) the greater your reach as their connections can then see that particular update.

The second reason to connect with more people is that search results will be more meaningful – important if you’re looking to grow your practice. With LinkedIn’s free account, you can see up to 100 search results and full information for your first degree connections (i.e. those people you’re connected to), your second degree connections (connections of your contacts) and fellow group members.

Of course, if you only want to connect with those you know or have met in person, that’s fine too – if search is important to you then you have three other options:

  1. Join more LinkedIn groups
  2. Upgrade to a premium (i.e. paid for) account
  3. Use Google to search LinkedIn (known as X-ray searching LinkedIn)

There are several ways to find people on LinkedIn:

  1. If you know their name, type it into the search bar
  2. Look through the ‘People you may Know’ feature
  3. Look through your connections’ profiles and, if they have their connections on display, take a look at these
  4. Upload or sync. your email contacts – LinkedIn will then tell you which of them are on LinkedIn (if you’re a lawyer I do NOT recommend synching your contacts – you will be able to see your last few email exchanges with the person within LinkedIn, which could cause confidentiality issues should your account be compromised).
  5. Use the Advanced Search feature to search by a number of criteria.

 2. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and start talking to people there

While the majority of groups on LinkedIn are a waste of time – either because they’re badly managed and are full of spam or there’s not a lot going on, there are some great groups out there so it’s worth looking for them.

You can check out the group stats as well as who in your network is a member of a group prior to joining and if the group is ‘open’ (i.e. anyone can join and discussions are indexed by Google) you’ll be able to see discussions too. This info will help you to make a call about whether a group’s for you.

If not, leave it and join another that better meets your needs. LinkedIn currently allows you to join up to 50 groups plus a further 10 subgroups, which is sufficient for most people.

3. Develop a content plan

If you’re looking to position yourself and overcome pigeon-holing then you’ll want to develop a content plan – essentially a calendar setting out what you’ll be producing when. Here’s a how to:

Tips to make creating content easier for you:

  • Share the load around your team – it means you might only have to put together one or two pieces for a year’s worth of content
  • Think about existing content that you could re-use, update or repurpose (e.g. an article into a Slideshare presentation)
  • Block out an afternoon to draft your content – you may find it easier to go with stream of consciousness first and to edit and reorder later
  • Repurpose all new content you produce – get as much mileage from it as you can (e.g. once you have 4-6 blog posts you could turn them into a free guide)

Your own content should be supported by good quality third party content that either helps to create a need for your services or positions you as up with the play. By curating content, you can position yourself as a go to source of info by doing people’s reading for them. There are so many sources of great content from social networks, blogs, traditional media etc. Consider downloading an App such as Feedly or Pulse onto your phone and subscribing to at least 5 good sources of content in your area. You can then take a quick look through each day – when waiting for a meeting to start, while catching the bus/train to work, when watching TV) – and quickly and easily share it. 

4.  Regularly share relevant content with those in your network

Share both your own and third party content via your usual channels as well as LinkedIn. Get relevant people to share it via their accounts (including directly with individuals who need or may want to know about it), share it on your company and/or Showcase page(s), share it via relevant groups (don’t forget to include an intro and don’t share into multiple groups simultaneously or you’ll run the risk of being blocked by a group manager, meaning all your content will need to be moderated before it can be posted in every group to which you belong. That’s unless a particular group manager unblocks you in their group. However many don’t know how to do this), sponsor your update (if appropriate) or run a LinkedIn Ad.

5. Start your own LinkedIn group

There are many reasons why you might want to start your own LinkedIn group. These include:

  1. Building your profile in your area of expertise
  2. Positioning yourself as an authority in your area
  3. Finding and attracting those with similar interests or who may need your help
  4. Widening your professional network by building relationships with group members
  5. Learning more about the views and perspectives of those in your industry
  6. Establishing a community
  7. Generating interest in you and your firm, including inbound enquiries.

If you want your group to be a success then you’ll need to plan and to do more than follow LinkedIn’s process, which suggests you invite people to join your group before there are any discussions there – why would anyone want to do that? It doesn’t make sense.

This Prezi (below) talks you through how to go about setting up a LinkedIn group that people will want to join and that will deliver value to its members. If you find it helpful, please share it.

 6.  Seek to move relationships beyond LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another way to stay top of mind with existing contacts and to find and engage ideal prospects. However, it’s unlikely that professionals will get work simply through being on LinkedIn.

Another step or steps will need to occur such as an in-person meeting, a Skype call or putting together a pitch document so it’s important to look for opportunities to move the relationship beyond LinkedIn. There are a multitude of ways to do this from events, to asking people to guest speak, write articles, attend a roundtable, catch up for a coffee etc. The key thing is to make it about the other person. If there’s a benefit to them, then go for it. Just remember that a meeting is much more likely to be successful if you’ve positioned yourself with and demonstrated your value to the other person first.

7.  Measure, measure, measure

Hopefully you’ve picked a few key measures that are tied to your objectives and are tracking these over time and in conjunction with your other initiatives.

Keep tracking what’s working well and what’s working less well and tweaking your approach accordingly.

If you want to generate work from LinkedIn then you’ve got to be active: consistently so. Doing a little and often is a much better approach than going at it with great gusto in the early days only to tail off after a few months.

If you focus on positioning yourself as a valuable resource, helping others, and building relationships one by one, then you won’t go far wrong.

What other advice would you give to professionals wanting to use LinkedIn to grow their practices?