Tag Archives: social media marketing

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.

Be seen as an expert in your field: leverage an issue

Imagine you’re a client of an accounting or law firm. Your accountant and lawyer both seem to be doing a good job. There’s just one problem: you don’t hear much from them when they’re not working for you.

Be seen as an expert in your field: leverage an issue

Each month you hear from another accountant and lawyer – they send you information you want to know, their posts pop up when you log into LinkedIn, they call you when there’s a tax or legislative change that looks like it will impact your business. You see them quoted in the media, they speak at conferences you attend. In short they’re everywhere.

Would you stick with your existing accountant or lawyer or would you switch? I guess it depends on how good a job they’re doing for you but at some point you’re likely to think “I really should give this new guy/girl a go because they’re clearly know what they’re talking about.”

If I was the incumbent accountant and lawyer I’d be worried!

The point is this: if you’re not top of mind with your clients and prospects you’re missing out on business: business that you want.

So if you want to stop that happening and be seen as an expert in your field, you’re going to need to work hard to own the space.

How?

You need to identify key issues that will impact your target market and then leverage all the tools and channels available to you. One very effective strategy is to take an issue and leverage it to death: own it! 

The ideas below are based on some work I did with one of my clients a few years ago that positioned her as a leader in her field. Those operating in the same area say she’s still right up there today.

The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm the upcoming big issues in your area of practice. When doing so, think about:

  • whether there is any new/emerging legislation
  • what your clients and prospects say their big-ticket items are going to be for the next year or two
  • what’s happening in your area overseas that may impact your clients or may become legislation in your country
  • whether there’s an opportunity to commission some research that will be of value to your target audience (such as research to uncover attitudes, future trends, issues etc) or to run round-table sessions

Then choose your topic or issue and create an action plan:

  • write down your goals ensuring they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). For example a goal might be to generate $X in revenues from water-related projects between Jun 2014 and May 2015. NB: goals don’t all have to be financially related and could include converting specific prospects into clients, or to be the go to person for the media for enquiries in your area etc.
  • write down the measures you will use to ascertain whether you have achieved your goals. For example, number of clients, number of repeat clients, percentage of overall work from this area, client feedback etc.
  • write down the actions you will take and when you will take them (see below for some ideas of how you can leverage the various channels). You may want to do this as a timeline so you can see what you are going to do when and include when third party decisions will come out that you will need to respond to (such as when Bills before Parliament are due to have their next reading or when the next Budget or Reserve Bank decision is due out). Doing this means you can allocate time to read through decisions/key points and summarise these to your clients/prospects.
  • keep updating your action plan with next steps to ensure there is forward momentum.

How to leverage the issues

I regularly see professionals put out a news alert to their clients, and they may even speak at a conference and put together an article on the same topic but I very rarely see them proactively leveraging all communications channels open to them to really own the space. While it might look like a lot of work it’s actually surprisingly easy to repurpose content. You can also ask your colleagues and marketing team to help with some of the activities. Using the example of some new legislation coming into force, here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your top 5 clients who are likely to be impacted. Don’t wait until the legislation comes into force. Give clients an early heads-up and then let them know you’ll come back to them when you have more information.
  2. At the same time post a LinkedIn update, both personally and on your company and/or relevant showcase page; post an update to Google+, Twitter, and Facebook if relevant and ask your colleagues to do the same. You could direct those interested in hearing more to sign up to your notifications list. If you set up a landing page, where they can input their name and email address you can grow your distribution list for this issue.
  3. Talk to colleagues whose clients may be impacted by the upcoming legislation, including what it may mean for their client. If they agree this may impact their client, ask them to give their client a heads-up and offer to go and talk to the client when the time is right. If you want a colleague to set up a meeting between you and their client, give them a few prompts they can use when talking to their client as this will increase the likelihood of client buy-in.
  4. Talk to your main referrers about the issues and offer to speak to their clients. Down the track you could offer to run a workshop, webinar or round-table for them.
  5. Put together a short news alert setting out the issue, who it will impact and what it is likely to mean (or when further info will be available). Repeat as Bills have their next reading or become legislation.
  6. Put together a short video along the lines of the information in the newsalert.
  7. Speak to conference organisers early and look to get a speaking slot at any relevant events.
  8. Organise a seminar/webinar at an appropriate time. You may want to look at specific events for specific clients plus more of a catch-all session.
  9. Put the news alert on your website, consider adapting it into a blog post and/or Slideshare presentation, and share via social media networks. Do the same with the video and conference/webinar slides. You could also put your videos on your YouTube channel and they could double as your blog.
  10. Identify the best publication to reach your target audience and call them to give them a heads up on the issue and how it might impact their readers, and to see if they would be interested in an article or some commentary on the topic. Repeat for other media including TV, radio, and online.
  11. Do a roadshow in the main centres in your country.

Using a multi-pronged approach means you will achieve maximum reach and will be visible each time the issue comes to the fore. I strongly believe that taking an issue and leveraging it is one of the best things you can do to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Do you see yourself as an expert?  Comment below and share how you are positioning yourself and what’s worked well.

Building your brand: The power of one click

As a professional you probably regularly consume content.

You may read the paper.

The trade press.

Blogs.

Newsletters.

You may watch things on YouTube.

Listen to the radio or to Podcasts.

And this is all great for your own interests and learning.

BUT you could be missing out on a trick.

Continue reading

How to do social media (well) at corporate level

I am a big believer that social media is predominantly about people connecting with other people. Even the world’s largest brands are using their people to form stronger relationships with their customers and prospects.

Social media at a corporate level

It’s no longer sufficient to hide behind a brand. And I don’t believe that’s ever really been the case in the professional services world. Continue reading

Why sharing your content via email alone isn’t enough

Last week a lawyer asked me why he should share content on LinkedIn if that same content was already being sent to his connections via email.

It’s a good question.

And there are three good answers.

Why share content on both LinkedIn and your emails

1. Don’t assume people read your emails

Even though you send people your email newsletters and updates it doesn’t mean they read them. When people are busy they often ignore newsletters and other news alerts. Often they intend to read them but don’t get around to it, they place them in a folder to look at if needed or they simply hit delete.  Note: If you are using Mailchimp, iContact or a similar campaign service to send your emails you will be able to track who has opened your emails and other key stats. Continue reading

Professional services firms: Don’t underestimate the power of the familiarity principle

by Kirsten Hodgson

The familiarity principle, or mere-exposure effect, “is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.” (Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago I recommended a professional I’d never met to a contact because I was confident that person could help. Thinking about it afterwards, I realised that a couple of my ‘real world’ contacts could probably also have helped. This led me to question why I’d recommended the person I didn’t actually know.

I realised it was because I feel like I know them. This is a person I’m connected to on LinkedIn, I follow them on Twitter and they share some good content. I’ve built a rapport with them. As  a result, I have confidence in them and they were top of mind when my contact asked for a referral.

This is the familiarity principle at work.

It’s easy to see why someone travelling through Africa would choose “Coke” over the local equivalent they’ve never heard of. It’s a safe option and you know what you’re getting but…

…how can those in professional services take advantage of this principle?

It’s largely about being visible. If someone’s regularly writing articles or a blog on a topic, or is regularly quoted in the media, people will get to know their name and can make a judgement call about whether they know what they’re talking about. Over time, the person becomes more familiar and people will be more likely to contact that person over his or her competitors.

Being present on social networks, and actively engaging with those you wish to, also enables professionals to benefit from the Familiarity Principle.

How?

The more you see someone’s name, photo, content they share and comments (provided these resonate with you), the more you feel like you know them.

If you are active (in a targeted way) on social networks then you’re likely to notice that more people want to connect with you. If you then seek to build relationships one at a time, and help others out, they’ll start to trust you.

It’s at this point that the other person is usually happy to use you or to recommend your services.

Actively using social media is a great way to make the familiarity principle work for you. It’s one way to find opportunities and turn them into instructions.

7 steps to ensure you benefit from the familiarity principle on social networks

1. Ensure your profile is complete and that it clearly positions you. Be focused in terms of your profile and the content you share. Stand for something. You can’t be all things to all people so be really clear about who you help and what you help them with.

2. Every time someone invites you to connect and you accept, go back to them thanking them for connecting and ask them a question about their business.

3. Every time you invite someone to connect with you, send them a tailored invite.

4. Share at least one piece of content each week (on LinkedIn, Google+ and/or Facebook) and one per day on Twitter, that will be of interest and use to those you wish to engage. Often this will be content one of your contacts has generated. Sharing other people’s content is a great way to get on their radar and to initiate a conversation with them.

5. Comment on discussions on LinkedIn and Google+ and on relevant posts on Facebook. Aim to comment on one discussion/post per week.

6. Use the reply or direct message functionality on Twitter and the email option on LinkedIn to have conversations with others. Aim to do this at least once a week.

7. Always focus on helping others out by pointing them to information to help address a question they have or by introducing them to someone in your network they’d benefit from meeting. In terms of frequency, I aim to introduce two people in my network each month.

What else would you add? 

How’s the familiarity principle worked for you in social media? 

Image courtesy Andy Newson/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How can professional services firms use social media to increase their tender success rate?

by Kirsten Hodgson

More often than not, professional services firms know when an organisation will be going out to tender, well before the tendering organisation issues the RFP or EOI.

They may have told you.

They re-tender every two to three years.

Or, there’ve been reports they’re looking to rationalise their spend, initiate a project etc.

Professional services firms spend a lot of time and money evaluating whether or not to pitch for work and, if so, compiling their proposal.

The enlightened ones even look for ways to tip the level playing field in their favour before the tender’s been put out.

This is where social media can really help.

How can leveraging social media help professional services firms to increase their tender success rate?

Looking at who’s on social media platforms within the target organisation will help you to identify the likely decision makers, influencers, veto-holders and gatekeepers.

You can use this information to compile your Who knows Who matrix.

You can then ensure members of your team connect with as many of these people as possible – be it by inviting them to connect on LinkedIn, by joining the same groups or communities on LinkedIn or Google+, by following them on Twitter, or friending them on Facebook (if appropriate).

You’ll likely be thinking about the key issues and considerations for the target organisation – be it in relation to a particular project they’re putting out to tender, or more broadly in the case of a panel tender.

Once you have a list, you can develop content that will be both of interest, and relevant, to the target organisation. This will help to position you as ‘experts’ in your area and/or their industry sector.

As well as sharing this content strategically via traditional means such as a news alert, and on your website you can also share it via social networks.

Those connected to the decision makers, influencers, gatekeepers and veto-holders can share this content via their personal feeds such as their LinkedIn updates, their Twitter account, their Facebook page or their Google+ account.

In addition, you could post it in relevant group or community discussions on LinkedIn and Google+, and put it on your company page, firm Twitter feed, Facebook page etc. In this way, you’re softly positioning your firm well before the RFP’s been issued and are ensuring that, should someone from the target organisation check you out, they’re likely to see this content.

When compiling your RFP response, you can point to the central repository for this content, be it your website, your blog or You Tube.

In some cases, firms may want to take it one step further and tailor specific professionals’ online profiles for a particular opportunity. This would involve a bit of work but, where an opportunity is of strategic importance to a firm, it may pay to ensure that profiles highlight those areas of key interest to the target client shortly before and during the pitch process. Profiles can easily be changed back afterwards.

Do any firms do this already?

I’ve anecdotally heard of a firm in the US that strategically places content on LinkedIn prior to RFPs being issued. They’re looking to position themselves in the tendering organisation’s eyes early. I think that’s a really smart approach.

I’m not aware of other firms doing this at this stage, but would love to hear of more examples if you’re aware of any.

Your 6-step approach to leveraging social media for RFP success

1. Use features such as LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to identify who, within the tendering organisation, is likely to be involved or have some input into the evaluation process.

2. Identify the key issues and considerations for the tendering organisation using your usual processes such as coffees/meetings with the client, strategy sessions with the client, client interviews, secondee interviews etc. and develop a content plan for the months leading up to the pitch. This can be as simple as a calendar setting out what you will be compiling when. Actively hunt out relevant third party content too, and build this into your plan. 

3. Develop/source the appropriate content.

4. Share this via social networks  - e.g.

  • directly with specific contacts (if and when appropriate), via a professional’s personal LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts if he/she is directly connected with, or followed by, one or more of those who will be involved in the decision making process.
  • within LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. 
  • on your website, your firm’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and LinkedIn company page
When doing so, don’t forget to ask a question to encourage discussion and debate. 
5. Stay actively involved in any discussion threads around the content you’ve shared. 
6. Refer to your repository of content, where appropriate, in your RFP response.
Do you know of any firms already doing this?
How else could professional services firms leverage social media to increase their RFP success rate?

 

What’s the etiquette when someone you don’t know invites you to connect on LinkedIn?

by Kirsten Hodgson

You receive an invite from someone you don’t know.

What should you do?

Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to connect with those you don’t know.

This will largely depend on your objectives for being on LinkedIn as well as any governing professional association’s (such as your Law Society or Bar Association) guidelines.

If it is permissible in your jurisdiction, there may be very good reasons why you would connect with people you have never met, such as influential journalists, prospects, prospective influencers and referrers, and those with whom you’ve had discussions within LinkedIn groups.

Secondly, take a look at the invitation. Have they made it clear why they want to connect with you or have they used the standard LinkedIn text?

While I advise against this, don’t hold it against people as LinkedIn doesn’t give you the option to tailor your invites if you try to connect through certain features – such as ‘People you may know’.

Next, take a look at the person’s profile. Are they someone with whom you want to connect?

You’ll need to use your judgement here – For example, I’m happy to connect with those in my industry sector, as well as people who share valuable content or who’ve been involved in the same group discussions.

If you’re unsure, you might want to send the person a message asking why they want to connect with you. If they respond to this you’ll know they genuinely do have a reason, if not, it could be that they’re just growing their connections.

To reply click on the small arrow next to the ‘Accept’ button.

If you think someone does want to connect just to grow their number of connections or if you don’t want to connect to someone for another reason, select ‘ignore’ and you’ll no longer see the invite. Save the ‘report spam’ button for true spammers.

 Will people know you’ve ignored their invite?

No they won’t. If they go into their ‘Sent’ box within the LinkedIn email system (when in invitations) they will only see that you haven’t responded. However, they won’t know that you’ve selected ‘ignore’. They may well try to connect with you again in future.

What other tips or advice would you share?

 

5 ways online marketing can help you build your practice

by Kirsten Hodgson

Online and offline marketing are two sides of the same coin. Neither one should be done in isolation.

Online marketing’s purpose, in the professional services context, should be to create more offline opportunities. Rather than replacing face-to-face contact it should create more opportunities for ‘offline’ meetings.

5 ways online marketing can help you create more opportunities:

1. Profile raising/positioning

As a legal, accounting, engineering or other professional you’re probably already sharing information with your target audiences. This may be content you’ve created (such as articles, seminar slides, Whitepapers, or newsletters/newsalerts), or content others have put together that those you wish to build relationships with will be interested in.

You can also share this content via social networks and via your website, further positioning yourself in your area. If people ask questions and you can help them out (without ‘giving advice’ per-se) you can further demonstrate your expertise. This will give people a flavour of who you are, what you are like to work with and what you do before they have actually done business with you.

People can ascertain whether you know what you are talking about and whether you’re someone they would like to work with. Not everyone will like what you’re saying or agree with you and that’s okay. There’ll be others who will.

2. Attracting more of your ideal clients

You can find and engage with prospects online, begin to build credibility and trust and then take these relationships offline. Ultimately, you can generate new business via social networks – but this won’t happen overnight.

For example, an employment lawyer set up a LinkedIn group for HR Directors and Managers. He invited 100 people to join and 60 accepted within a fortnight. The group now has over 900 members and this lawyer has built his client base on the back of this. He explained to me that this is the most successful business development initiative he and his firm have ever undertaken.

3. Creating more touchpoints with your existing clients, referrers and influencers

Provided your existing clients and referrers are on social networks, these provide additional channels to communicate with these people and get in front of them.

You can share content that they will value, ask and answer questions, or put them in contact with other people you know who they might benefit from meeting. Social networks increase your visibility, allowing you to stay top-of-mind.

A few professionals I’ve spoken to have won work as a result of sharing information relevant to existing contacts on LinkedIn. For example, one lawyer reconnected with a former client and met with his contact but nothing came of it. A few weeks later he noticed one of the sales people from his contact’s firm was active on LinkedIn. He joined a group this person belonged to and answered a question the sales person posted. As a result the sales person picked up the phone to him and gave him a piece of work.

4. Research and planning

A person or an organisation’s activity on social networks can be a rich source of information. Perhaps you’ve set up a new business meeting or are putting together an RFP response or capabilities statement. By searching social networks, you can see what topics and issues your contacts are discussing. This may give you information you can talk to them about or include in your response. At the very least if you can find out a bit about their hobbies and interests you can find an ice-breaker.

I recommend that if people you are meeting or pitching to are on LinkedIn, you look at their profile. Similarly, if you are doing any key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning, look at the social networks. Again, using LinkedIn as an example, you could search a particular organisation to find out who is on LinkedIn and to ascertain which of these people you don’t know but should. You can then look to connect with them, either by asking a contact to introduce you or by joining the same groups and commenting on the other person’s discussions (assuming they are active on LinkedIn). You could also join LinkedIn groups relating to a particular industry sector or topic.

5. Professional development

Monitoring social networks allows you to keep up to date with the key issues in your area of practice, in a particular industry sector or for a particular client. Following people who share good information and relevant hashtags on Twitter can lead to a rich source of information. LinkedIn groups and your LinkedIn connections can also be great sources of up-to-date content.

By using online tools well (and in conjunction with other initiatives), you can create more offline opportunities…and make it easier to get more of the work you enjoy doing.

Look to build relationships one by one, seek to demonstrate your expertise in order to build credibility with those people you wish to engage and, over time, think about how to move some of these online relationships into the real world.

How have online tools helped you build your practice?

Image courtesy Jomphong via Freedigitalphotos.net

5 ways to use LinkedIn for lead identification

by Kirsten Hodgson

How can you use LinkedIn to find those people you wish to engage?

Over the past two years LinkedIn has grown exponentially. In June 2010 LinkedIn had 70 million members. In March 2012 there were 150 million members. By September 2012 the number had grown to 175 million.

While two years ago more of my contacts were not on LinkedIn than were, that’s completely changed and you’re much harder pressed nowadays to find business people who don’t have an account.

LinkedIn and other social media are turning the traditional business development process on its head. Whereas in the past you’d meet someone and add them as a LinkedIn connection, now the opportunity is there to ‘meet’ and start to build relationships with people on LinkedIn and then move these beyond the platform.

4 ways to use LinkedIn to find those to whom you wish to connect

1. Perform an Advanced Search:

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function allows you to search by a range of criteria including keywords, job title, company name, industry sector, country (and, in some jurisdictions, postcode) so it’s a great way to find those you wish to build a relationship with.

LinkedIn’s free account does limit you to seeing 100 search results and you can only see names of those in your network (i.e. your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections) as well as those who share a Group with you. In order to benefit from the Advanced Search feature you need a critical mass of connections. However, there is a way around this without rapidly increasing your number of connections and without upgrading to the paid account – and that is using search engines such as Google to search LinkedIn (but that’s a post for another week).

Once you’ve performed the search you can begin to follow those you wish to, join the same groups and seek to engage them there, or invite them to connect with you – letting them know why they should do so. What value will they get from connecting with you?

To access the Advanced Search feature click on the word ‘Advanced’ next to the people search on the top right of your LinkedIn toolbar.

2. Search the Groups Directory:

Type in keywords or names of industry sectors you’d expect those you want to build a relationship with to join. Have a look through the results. Typically groups will be listed in order of size with the largest membership first. You can take a look at groups which may be relevant, see who in your network is a member, view group discussions (if the group is open), look through group statistics and determine if it’s for you.

If it is, then join. Take a look at the types of discussions that get the most traction and emulate. In some groups posting links works well whereas in others it’s better to keep all content within the discussion thread. Comment on other people’s discussions where you can.

If you identify people you wish to connect with you can take a look at their profiles, see which groups they’re members of and join the same groups.

You’ll find the Groups Directory under the ‘Groups’ tab on the LinkedIn toolbar.

3. Search LinkedIn SigNAL

Signal makes it easier for you to quickly find the information you’re looking for. You can use it to search for keywords or types of information. The beauty of it is that it allows you to see posts from across the LinkedIn network – not just those in your network – so you can quickly find people who share similar interests or who are actively looking for help in an area in which you can assist.

You’ll find Signal under the ‘News’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

4. Search LinkedIn Answers:

The Answers section is a great place to showcase your expertise by answering relevant questions. Doing so will enable you to build relationships one by one. If someone you want to connect with asks a question, answer it.

‘Answers’ is accessible via the ‘More’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

5. Search LinkedIn Events:

Monitor events in your town and area(s) of expertise and sign-up where appropriate. You could organise to meet others who have signed up via LinkedIn prior to the event, thus maximising networking opportunities on the day.

You may also wish to post your own events so others on LinkedIn can register – don’t forget to promote these through relevant groups and your status updates (as well as on your website and via other communications channels).

LinkedIn is a great tool to identify and begin to build relationships with those you wish to. If you approach people with common-sense and focus on them and their needs, you can begin to build some good relationships that you can then move beyond LinkedIn.

How else have you used LinkedIn to find your target audience?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @freedigitalphotos