Category Archives: LinkedIn for professional services

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.

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

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?

LinkedIn’s premium features: be seen before your competitors

LinkedIn’s just announced changes to its premium accounts and there’s a key reason for professionals to upgrade.

It’s this: doing so will help you to get found before your competitors.

If you’re using (or intending to use) LinkedIn to attract more of your ideal prospects then read on!

More and more people are using LinkedIn’s search functionality to find people with specific skills. Up until now all search results have looked the same. But that’s no longer true.

Now, profiles of LinkedIn premium members will look bigger and contain more info than those with the free account.

LinkedIn's premium features will now help you get found before your competitors

To further help premium members, LinkedIn now makes personalised suggestions to help them to optimise their profiles: i.e. to increase the number of search results in which their profile appears.

Optimise your LinkedIn profile to get found

A little-known feature that’s been around for ages but that LinkedIn is now plugging is the ability for premium members to set their profile to Open. This means that every LinkedIn member can see your full profile and reach out to you for free. If you have a premium account and want your profile to be open go to ‘Privacy and Settings’ by clicking on your photo in the top right hand corner of the screen and selecting ‘Privacy and Settings’ from the drop down list that will appear. Select ‘Change’ in the Open Profile section towards the top of the page and tick the ‘Turn on open profile’ box.

LinkedIn Open Profile

Lastly, things will look different once people look at your profile. Premium members will benefit from a larger photo and expanded profile header and early access to LinkedIn’s new custom profile background, which will roll out to all members over the coming months.

Work with clients in the building sector? Have some good shots of you speaking at a conference? Or want to highlight something else in your profile? You can use the custom profile background to do so.

When designing your profile background your image should be 1400 x 495 pixels, less than 4MB in size and in JPG, PNG or GIF format.  Remember not to place text or images where your profile cutout will go, it also pays to note that LinkedIn places a colour gradient over the bottom half of this background so you may want to keep your graphics in the upper half.

LinkedIn new profile background

If you’re not a premium member you can still request early access to the custom profile background

What’s the cheapest premium account that will give you access to these premium features?  

The cheapest premium account was called the Personal Plus account but it looks like this has been renamed Premium Spotlight. It costs US$7.99 per month if billed annually. Here’s a handy chart LinkedIn has put together comparing the various premium plans.

What do you think of the new LinkedIn features?  Have you seen some profiles with the new backgrounds that really stand out? Share the links in the comments below.

How to convert social media engagement into new clients and leads

If you’re a professional who’s wondering how to convert social media engagement into new clients and leads then this post is for you.

I interviewed Natalie Sisson, aka the Suitcase Entrepreneur about how to do just that. Natalie is a bestselling author, podcaster, speaker, business design coach and adventurer who travels the world living out of her suitcase. Social media has been a key component of helping her to build her highly successful online business, teaching others how to build an online business and lifestyle they love on their own terms. 

Listen to the 30 minute interview below for some fantastic tips that you can implement right now.

Nat covers:

  • How LinkedIn and other social networks helped her build her community. 
  • Why social media is your sales, marketing and client service tool rolled into one.
  • How to make sales posts authentic and aligned with your brand.
  • How to go about moving relationships beyond a platform.
  • Why email lists are so important.
  • The key ways to encourage people to opt in to your email lists.
  • Why you need to keep in regular contact with those on your email lists.
  • Tools to help you streamline your efforts both on social networks and when keeping in touch with your email lists.
  • How to go about setting up a landing/sign-up page to join your email list and what the ‘must have’ components are.
  • How you get people to buy from you.
  • Other tips for professionals wanting to generate leads from social media.
What’s the one thing you’ll do differently or put in place as a result of Nat’s tips? 
 
Are you a lawyer looking to grow your legal practice? If you want to use LinkedIn to position yourself and stay top of mind with your existing clients so they call YOU when they have a need and/or find and attract more of your ideal clients, you should sign up for “Grow your Practice with LinkedIn: for lawyers”, our new online training course with actionable modules. It’s your roadmap to LinkedIn success.
Grow your practice with LinkedIn

 

4 reasons why LinkedIn groups aren’t working for you

The vast majority of LinkedIn groups suck.

They’re full of spam.

They’re badly managed.

And the majority of members have checked out.

4 reasons why LI groups aren’t working for you

But there are some amazing groups out there.

Groups that are their own community. Where spam is not tolerated and people are focused on helping one another. 

If you’re finding LinkedIn groups to be a complete waste of time, it could be down to one of the following:

1. You’ve joined the wrong groups

Ask yourself:

  • why did I join this group? 
  • is it delivering what I want it to – or does it have the potential to?
If not, ditch that particular group in favour of another that will better meet your needs. There are three key ways to find groups: 
  • Look at the profiles of people representative of those you wish to engage. Scroll down until you see the groups section and then join the same groups. 
  • Use the search feature to find appropriate groups. Select groups from the dropdown menu to the left of the search feature, type in your keywords and press the magnifying glass. Groups will typically be displayed from those with the largest membership down to the smallest. Have a look through and click on any that interest you. If the group’s closed you can check out the description, stats and who in your network’s a member. If it’s open you can look through discussions, members and stats. You can then make a call about whether a group’s for you. 
  • On your homepage, click on the ‘All Updates’ button at the top right of your newsfeed and select ‘Groups’ from the drop-down list that will appear. Take a look at which groups your connections have joined and the discussions they’ve commented on or liked. 

2. Your sole purpose is to get as many people as possible to click through to your latest blog post, offer etc.

You’re essentially a spammer. There is nothing more frustrating for a group manager to continually have to move self-promotional posts into the promotions area.

But better that than have other group members faced with a deluge of stuff that may or may not be worth reading, watching or listening to.

If you’re going to post links to your articles, videos, blog, podcasts etc. then it should only be to support a conversation. Ask a question relating to the info you’ve shared, seek people’s views, use your content to support a point you’re making. But don’t just post your latest puff piece with no intro and no desire to talk to others.

By doing so, you could be at risk of being put on moderation by a group manager. And if one group manager does that it means your posts across all groups have to be checked by they group owner before others see them.

This happens a lot.

I manage a group and, once a month, I go through the members list to see who’s been put on moderation by managers of other groups. There are always a few. I remove the block within the group I manage but a lot of group owners won’t even think/or know to do this. That means if you want to comment on discussions in the majority of your groups your comment won’t go live until it’s been approved and none of your posts will appear until they’ve been approved.

That sucks. I don’t agree with LinkedIn’s anti-spam policy to which this relates but there’s little we can do about it.

So, don’t risk it. Read the group rules and abide by them. Focus on helping others and building relationships one by one.

3. You have no interest in talking to other group members

We’ve all come across the person in a group who’s all “me, me, me.”

The person who posts their own discussions but doesn’t stay involved in the discussion thread.

The person who blasts out their latest blog post every week but doesn’t interact with anything anyone else has posted.

The person who seems to engage…but who actually doesn’t give a stuff what others have said. They just want to make their point and move on.

LinkedIn’s a SOCIAL network. It’s about networking and building relationships one by one. It’s about building credibility and while a catalyst for getting new work, it’s rarely the sole reason why.

If you’re not focused on engaging with others then you’re going to miss out.

If you don’t have the time, inclination nor confidence to participate in group discussions, then you won’t see the true value. If time’s a factor then you could get your PA or VA to monitor groups for you – let them know the types of discussions you’re interested in and then, when they alert you to something, go in, take a look and comment if appropriate.

4. You haven’t moved relationships beyond the group

If you want to use LinkedIn to grow your practice then, at some point, you need to move conversations beyond a group. There are so many ways to do this from events, through to coffees, skype conversations, asking someone to guest blog or write a guest article for your newsletter, and getting them to opt in to your mailing list.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to do so. Sure, if you can offer the other person something they’re going to see as a real benefit then go for it, but otherwise wait until an appropriate time and do your research!

LinkedIn Groups are a brilliant way to strengthen relationships with existing connections and find and begin to build relationships with more of your ideal referrers and prospects but you’ve got to be clear about WHY you’re in a group and what you want to get from it.

Use the power of groups to learn, to educate, to listen, to talk, to help and you’ll be well on your way.

Why else do LinkedIn groups not work for people? I’d love to hear your opinion. Please share it below.

 

 

Very few professional services firms are ‘selling’ their services online [research]

A new piece of research looking at the ‘value of internet services to New Zealand businesses’ has been released by the Innovation Partnership.

Professional service firms selling their services online

Funded by Partnership members Internet New Zealand and Google, and conducted by Sapere Research Group, “it shows that everyday Kiwi businesses could add $34 billion to the New Zealand economy if they made effective use of the internet.”

It also found that “businesses that make effective use of Internet services are six per cent more productive than average businesses in their industry.”

The research focused on 4 sectors, one of them professional services (the others being retail, dairy/agriculture and tourism). I recommend you read the whole piece as it’s really insightful and they’ve done a great job. I just want to touch on a few things that stood out to me:

Unsurprisingly professional services firms have the highest percentages of staff using the internet but what the research found is that the Internet is “central to operations, less so for marketing.”

Very few professional services firms are ‘selling’ their services online.

That doesn’t surprise me.

But it does worry me because the world’s changed and firms, and those within them, have a huge opportunity to use online tools to grow their practices.

Take, for example, a professional services firm’s website. The report found that “for client facing activities the website was the most important, and the most important impact of the website was to give information to clients and potential clients, particularly on who works in the firm and what they do.”

Some interviewees noted that the most visited pages on their websites are staff bio pages but a number also noted that this could be because there’s little else of interest on their website.

Seriously? THE most important impact? Surely it should be to position the firm and provide info of interest and relevance to these people. And perhaps to provide real-time client service?

Why aren’t more firms offering free information of value to their clients and prospects on their websites in return for capturing their name and email address?

I can hear those in big firms now …”It wouldn’t work for a big firm”.

Why not?

You have practice groups. You have industry sectors. Why not put the offer up on those pages as well as in relevant bio pages? After all, they’re the most visited part of your site! (better hope the bios themselves set you apart!)

By capturing visitor info you can then follow up with relevant info over time, setting your firm apart from your competitors and building credibility with the recipient.

In this day and age you HAVE to offer more than a static website or your latest update with key information buried on page 24!

The report also states that “LinkedIn provides a similar functionality, both for clients to check out the firm and vice versa.” And that “online advertising was no substitute for word of mouth or traditional networking for finding…clients.”

LinkedIn and other social networks are not JUST another research tool and they’re certainly not ‘online advertising’ (unless you’re using them to spam people!) They are another way to generate word of mouth referrals and another way to network – but you’re not limited to networking with just those people in the same room as you on the night.

One interviewee described firms’ use of social media as “somewhat like lemmings going over a cliff” in that everyone felt they had to do something, but no one was quite sure what to do, so they all copied each other.”

I think that’s the biggest problem. It can be hard to find the time to work out how to use these platforms. But you owe it to yourself to be able to make an INFORMED decision about whether each social network can help you to achieve your goals and support your other initiatives.

If not, it’s fine to steer clear. BUT you shouldn’t do so out of ignorance or fear.

You only need to read the paragraph in the research that says “Some lawyers we spoke to, involved in the technology sector, had clients find them through Twitter and had never met face to face” to see that it is not only possible to find clients and get recommendations via these tools but that others are already doing so.

Do you want to be left behind?

LinkedIn groups: a key way to generate leads

According to a new infographic by Oktopost, 80% of B2B leads are through LinkedIn. The most popular method to generate leads and to then convert those leads is to get involved in group discussions.

LinkedIn groups: a key way to generate leads

The power of groups often goes unrecognised by those in professional services. Well-run groups are their own community of people with similar interests.They’re a great place for you to find and engage your prospects. From there and over time you can generate leads and new work. 

While you’ll definitely want to join groups to which your ideal prospects belong, you should consider setting up your own group if there’s a gap.

Why set up your own LinkedIn group?

There are multiple benefits of doing so, including:

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

However, if you decide to do so you’ll need to make sure you plan it properly and designate time to build it.

How to set up and run a LinkedIn group that delivers value to its members

The vast majority of LinkedIn groups are a waste of time because they haven’t been nurtured or policed. As a result they’re either very small with little activity or they’re full of spam. To make sure yours doesn’t go the same way, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Plan – what’s the purpose of your group? What’s the scope of discussions you want to see? Who do you want to join? What discussions will you start each week?
  2. Create your group – ensure you use Keywords in the name so that people searching the LinkedIn groups directory can easily find it, and write a clear summary and description that will appeal to those you want to join.
  3. SKIP the step which prompts you to send invitations to join your group – why would anyone want to join an unpopulated group?
  4. Populate your group with at least 2 discussions. A welcome discussion is always a good one, as people like to comment on these.
  5. Get your house in order by selecting your settings, permissions, drafting your group rules, templates and setting up sub-groups (if appropriate).
  6. Pre-approve your group managers (you can have up to 10 including the Owner) and a few ‘friendly’ clients and colleagues who you’d like to join the group early. The aim is to get them to comment on the existing discussions and to add their own so that, when you invite others to join, there is already some activity.
  7. You’re now ready to invite others. You can use LinkedIn’s standard one liner but it doesn’t really tell people why they should join so you may want to consider a personalised email to each of those you wish to invite. You can work from a template so it’s simply a case of inserting their name each time.
  8. Commit to ongoing moderation of your group. If people have to request to join or have their discussions approved before they’ll post (a good option to prevent spam), ensure you, or one of the group managers, goes in at least once a day to do so. It’s really frustrating for group members if they try to post something and it takes a week or two to be approved – often it’s out of date by that time.
  9. Start one new discussion each week in the early days. If you want people to return to your group it’s important that there’s fresh, relevant content. You’ll need to drive this until the group takes on a life of its own.
  10. Comment on others’ discussions and stay involved in threads that you start. You may want to summarise these at the end or to put together blog posts summarising a discussion. Remember to give credit to each contributor.
  11. Continue to invite people to join the group and encourage others to do so. You may want to ask your PA to send out a certain number of invites on your behalf each week.
  12. Promote your LinkedIn group. For example, you could include it in your email signature, on your website, your blog, your newsletters etc.
  13. Look for opportunities to move relationships beyond LinkedIn. For example, you may want to hold an event or a webinar for group members, you may invite someone in the group to write a guest article, you may seek their opinion on something. The options are endless.
  14. Monitor and analyse key statistics about your group. This will enable you to track its growth, determine what’s working well, understand what you need to do differently, and track leads generated by the group.

How’s doing so benefited others? 

In early 2011, a lawyer I know set up a group on employment law issues for HR Directors and Managers. A little over a year later the group had grown to over 1,000 members and the firm had hosted two HR Question Times in its offices. In total, almost 200 people attended, the vast majority of who were NOT clients of the firm.

The lawyer and his colleagues were able to start to build relationships and to generate work as a result. He describes this as the most successful business development initiative his firm has ever undertaken. The group now has over 1,600 members.

Here are links to two audio interviews with other successful LinkedIn Group owners:

An interview with Tom Skotidas, who runs the group Social media for lead generation

An interview with John Grimley, who runs the groups International Business Development Blog and Asia Law Portal.

To benefit from running a LinkedIn group you’ve got to be prepared to give it the time and effort it deserves (I spend around 30-60 mins a week on the group I run). However, the effort is well worth it. Remember to focus on others and their needs rather than how they can help you, and you’ll start to see a pay-off.

If you would like more info about setting up and running a successful LinkedIn group, my e-book “Complete Guide to LinkedIn Groups: Network with the right people. Generate new leads. Get new business” is now available for NZ$ 18.97. 

Image Credit: www.funnyjunksite.com