Ten Linkedin business marketing mistakes to avoid

Many millions of people using Linkedin are missing out on the fantastic brand building opportunities new Linkedin presents. I say new because after several years of under-investment, Linkedin has gone functionality crazy of late.

Give your Linkedin profile a spring clean today, avoid these ten all-to-common mistakes and start to take the most of the platform as an unbeatable research and business development tool as well as an incredible brand builder.

1. Poor or non existent profile pictures. Who wants to see a faceless profile or worse a company or brand logo. Not me. As with all social media, add a profile picture.

2. Lack of clarity in titles and descriptions. Use keywords that best represent who you are and what stand for do.  That little box that tells you how many times you’ve been looked at – its down to keywords.

3. Lack of focus on achievements and what you add. Too many people fixate on titles when they should be focusing on your impact on sales, brand launches, new initiatives, or improvements in quality, process, training or operations if you are not in a commercial role.

4. Failure to use all available opportunities to promote via the profile page. There are some great links and embed opportunities. Use them. Add your website, a blog, a Twitter account, a Slideshare account.

5. Not having a thought out contact strategy or approach. Are you connected to all the people you’ve ever worked with rather than the people you want to sell to? Time to rethink who you want to be connected to by researching people using the search function, identifying key companies and seeking opportunities to informally approach them through Groups (see below). And don’t let Linkedin send a default invitation request. Tailor it giving a reason to connect – reference to a group, common contact or other common ground.

6. Not enough or over use of the status updates feature. Linkedin status updates containing tweets is one of the most frustrating parts of logging into new Linkedin. If you’re not careful a handful of people will take over your feed – luckily they can be hidden without dis-connecting. On the other side, don’t be a Linkedin bore. Update once / twice a day with something useful.

7. Not enough or over use of testimonials. These should matter. The best testimonials come from former managers, clients or customers. Asking your peers, team or suppliers to provide references just seems lame. Go for quality over quantity on this one. .

8. Being a lurker not a contributor in Groups. I estimate 1% of a Linkedin group’s membership actively engage in discussions within the group. What a missed opportunity. Getting involved in groups of like minded people is the cornerstone of the Linkedin experience. There is a group for almost everything on Linkedin. Search and sign up for one to try it out. There will be discussions taking place that you can add value to today!

9. Not building reputation through Answers. Like groups, this is a great feature to really build your profile as an expert in your field but as it is hidden away in the ‘More’ tab it is overlooked. Browse the categories and begin to provide feedback and recommendations to questions posed by other Linkedin members, worldwide.

10. Not fully populating your Company Page. This feature has developed in recent months with opportunities to add specific products and services linked to targeted landing pages and your Linkedin member colleagues.

Q: What other mistakes do you see made on Linkedin and how can they be avoided?

Would you pay for content?

Question:  With so much free content online, would you really pay £1-£2 for a short white paper / ebook if it helped you in your job?

I recently conducted a quick and dirty survey poll through Linkedin exploring the topic of paid for content. Clearly, there is a huge amount of information made available for free online right now with lots of companies realising the benefits of using content to drive interest and position as expert.

The freemium model, which was for so long the mainstay of the software sector – where people accessed free but restricted software needing paid updates at a future point – has now rolled out to the information sector.

I was interested in establishing if business professionals would be prepared to put their hand in their pocket (or draw out their busincss credit card) and pay for content that looked like it might add value to their role or their business.

Thanks if you contributed. Here are the results.

 

I thought this was especially relevant given much of the advice online at the moment centres on publishing material far and wide in as many formats as possible.

Seth Godin’s recent piece for his new digital publishing initiative, The Domino Project, highlights some of the downward trends in traditional publishing and how businesses and individuals will need to adjust their strategies in the future – in order to 1/ cut through and 2/ make a meaningful return.

Do you always get out what you put in?

Is the reward always worth the effort?

There is a saying in business (and in life) that you get out what you put in. But is this really true? As the economy lurches from recession to depression and back again, businesses are working harder and harder not to achieve growth but to stand still. And marketers are having to stretch reduced budgets to achieve the same outcomes.

Techniques like Internet based content marketing assume that the creation and distribution of useful, usable information to specific audiences will over time develop their trust, reliance and eventually spend with you are in vogue.

But there are huge barriers to entry for businesses. How can you work around them?

First off, listen. Understand what is happening online, monitor the discussions, obtain insight and establish who the big voices are before doing anything.

Second, you need a fully functioning website capable of providing information quickly and channelling visitors to the lead capture devices that have built in.

Third, develop optimised material that they will be interested in and will click to obtain – accepting that by offering an email address and a phone number, they are opting in to future dialogue with your business.

Finally, promote this material widely on the Internet in order to capture the attendance of your audience where they graze. This means considering an investment in paid and earned media on media sites, industry portals, discussion forums and social networking sites to stimulate interest.

There is a clear in-cost involved in this. But there is also the ‘time’ cost which is often not calculated by businesses that are not time/service oriented.

Positioning yourself as an expert in order to drive inbound lead generation isn’t easy, quick or cheap. But by implementing a measured approach over the long term (and avoiding the distracting overtures of certain social media tools and games), you will build trust in your products and services regardless of budget or resource.

Image: Howstuffworks

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Playing by the social media rules

I talk about the Internet and Internet marketing alot. That’s because it offers an incredible way to breakthrough, to create, build, promote and defend a brand – whether business or personal. Google yourself, your company or your brand and see for yourself.

But it also contains inherent dangers for the modern brand manager. Aside from the more distasteful elements permitted by a self-policing environment, I think marketers in particular have to be very careful about the risks of over communicating, over promoting, over sharing and over networking.

If in doubt, ask Kenneth Cole about his inappropriate tweeting. Or Honda, Taco Bell, Asus, Dominos or Belkin about how they used sites like Facebook and YouTube in the past before realising the error of their ways. Even brands like Habitat have fallen foul of not playing by the rules too.

The golden rule of social media marketing (if there is one) must surely be to use common sense. Read things out loud before you post them. Would you say it in front of your colleagues, boss, customers? If not, it probably shouldn’t be posted either.

To help, Econsultancy recently shared their social media guidelines which they work in conjunction with internally. It’s a snappy and straight forward list which offers some direction but also some flexibility for creative thinking. Check it out.

Image: EmanuelFernandes

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6 creative ways to use Twitter for business

Twitter is like Marmite. People love it or hate it. And even within the pro-Twitter group, there is a significant number that fail to maximise the exposure the platform provides. Which does little to convince businesses and brand owners to give it a go.

To avoid the humdrum of updating people on where you are having your lunch, or indeed what you having, consider using Twitter in the following six ways.

1. Run a poll. Snapshot market research. Done. Provides great content for a blog or press release, creating something newsworthy.

2. Run a time sensitive promotion. Arguably easier for retail based or hyper local businesses , but professsional services companies shouldn’t rule out the value of providing limited time access to ‘valuable’ information and insight packaged into white papers and pdf downloads. A great lead generator too.

3. Support events. More and more seminars and conferences create a #hashtag pror to an event to link all tweets related to that event. It’s simple, searchable and incredibly effective. Maintaining the community after an event by sharing content and continuing discussions maximises this further.

4. Share relevant industry news. Raise your profile by associated yourself with the latest news and views in your industry. Using services like Twitterfeed and Google Reader you can quickly and easily keep on top of the latest news without having to visit dozens of websites every day.

5. Look for new recruits. Write a catchy tweet with a link to further content on your website or blog to encourage the best talent on the Internet to make themselves known.

6. Take advantage of location. One of the biggest advances in technology and marketing as smart mobile phones develop. It is estimated that there will be more smart phones than computers accessing the Internet by 2013. Thats two years away. Twitter synchs seamlessly with other location based services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places.

And indeed, linking ‘location’ with any of the points above provides for a smart, engaging and potentially lead generating return from Twitter.

And hey, not an overtly self promotional ‘broadcast’ tweet in sight.  Thats the way to do it in style. It rarely pays to be the loudest guy in the room.

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Why just dipping your toe online doesn’t work

Time and time again we see companies making a hash of their online presence and the opportunities afforded to them by the Internet. To some it can be a place to make a quick buck, to others it is a terrifying place only entered with extreme caution. To others it represents an incredible opportunity to reach and engage with likeminded individuals.

From a business perspective, you are doing your company’s future success online more harm than good if you are just dipping your toe and using the latest in-vogue digital marketing tools rather than joining them up strategically.

Limiting your reach and exposure to a single website, the odd profile on a social networking site or a couple of banner ads on key industry portals really inhibits your ability to shine online and draw customers to you.

A term that is already in use in digital marketing circles is ‘social media optimisation’. This takes the notion of search engine optimisation one stage further and in using high traffic social media sites to in essence provide a backlink to a nominated web page, means you are optimising your site through social media.

As a weekend challenge, visit the website namechk and enter your vanity url to see whether it is already being used. You might find in some instances it has already gone. If not, I really recommend reserving it on the following so it is yours for the future if not right now: Linkedin, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Vimeo and Foursquare.

And if you want to really go to town, you should also consider reserving your vanity url on Delicious, Digg, Disqus, Reddit, StumbleUpon and bag yourself a WordPress blog handle too.

All these tools will help you not only create durable profiles and content, they can host and distribute your content, driving inbound enquiries to your business. Which ultimately makes it easier for prospects to find you on platforms they prefer to use.

Summary: A strategic approach to using everything the web has to offer (just like any other approach in marketing) might be more protracted but keeps you focused and pays dividends in the end.

Image: My China Connection

39 million users can’t be wrong

The BBC recently reported that over 39 million people in the UK now regularly use the Internet. That equates to around 60% of the population.  Of the additional 2 million users added in the last twelve months, half are over 50 years old.

Think about that for a minute. It’s spectacular. Most of these people use the Internet to search. To find information. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was some way of communicating with them, engaging with them, harnessing their opinion and input into design and being in the front of their mind when they need what we provide?

There is. It’s called marketing. For years, marketing has been treated contemptuously as a cost rather than an investment in business. Companies that have splashed the cash and media titles that have ridden the wave have up till now convinced most businesses not to market. Sales Directors have been revered whilst Marketing Directors have been reviled.

But there has been a sea change. Marketing is getting a better name. Sure, there is still an element of spin and seduction involved. But to be seduced, a prospect needs to play along. They need to be interested. They need to have a problem or a headache that needs to be solved. They looking to be engaged with rather than being sold to.

What does this tell us? If you are solving problems, treating headaches and fulfilling needs, 39 million UK users are telling you that the Internet is the place to be.  So, are you here?

Image credit Surfing Computers

Ten steps to making Linkedin work for you

If you’re only using Linkedin as a platform for solely posting your CV, you’re missing out on its power to develop your personal brand and that of your business and its expertise. For free.

The real benefits of Linkedin come when you join in, when you engage and offer opinion and recommendation. If like me, you believe in karma, you’ll believe that good things happen to those who do good things. Clean up your profile in line with the tips below and allow yourself fifteen minutes a day to check in and keep it ticking over.

1. Profile name / account set up – Sounds obvious but secure your name or the ‘easiest to remember’ version of it. (Whilst you are at, do the same on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, SlideShare and any other content site you might prepare to use in the future).

2. Profile content – Structure your content as follows:

Picture – Seems obvious, but people like to see a face, rather than a blank square or a company logo. Use a head shot, so there is some detail. Avoid glasses and hats and smile – this makes you more approachable. Avoid boring corporate styles.

Title/Description – Keywords are short and punchy. Make it about what you are and/or what you do and the value you add.

Career highlights – Add a few lines about each of your career positions, the companies you’ve worked for, your role, responsibilities and achievements. Keep them light but high impact. This means focusing on your impact on sales, brand launches, new initiatives, or improvements in quality, process, training or operations if you are not in a commercial role.

Links – Set up, and channel a Twitter account (more below). Link to your company website or your blog (if you don’t have one, set one up on a topic you are passionate about).

Personal information – Like a CV, add a little personality to your profile by displaying some sports or leisure interests. Remember people ultimately buy people.

3. Contacts – Once your profile is set, look up key people you’ve worked with at the companies you’ve listed. You should already start receiving connection recommendations in the top right of your profile page when you sign in. Linkedin generally recommends that you link only with people you know through specific parameters. I’d guard against spamming people in groups (see below) or prospective clients you would like to work with. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

A note on LIONs: Linkedin Open Networkers. These are the guys who think quantity supercedes quality. Personally I don’t. My view is that you are far better having close relationships with 100 people you know than 1,000 people you don’t. Linkedin has been flooded with recruitment specialists connecting with anyone and everyone. Though in theory, your status updates may reach a wider audience by appearing in a LIONs feed, I counsel against connecting with too many of them because they are not fundamentally into developing deep relationships.

4. Status – As the name suggests, update this at least daily as this information appears in the feeds of all your contacts and in email digests. Use it to position yourself in their minds. (What have been working on? Who for? Link to a new blog post).

5. Testimonials – Opinion is divided as to the validity of testimonials, but I think if you consider Linkedin as your professional shop window, you want to dress it up as credibly as possible. Ask a select few previous and current managers, and a few line reports (especially those who were managed to bigger and better things) to recommend your approach, style, creativity, organisation and all round management skills. The only harm is in having everyone and his dog recommending you. They need to come from credible sources.

6. Groups – Getting involved in groups of like minded people is the cornerstone of the Linkedin experience. There is a group for almost everything on Linkedin. Search and sign up for one to try it out. When you request to join, tick the box to received the daily email digest of activity. This provides links direct to new discussions, news, jobs etc within that group. Then, build your profile and credibility by adding comments to existing discussions, sharing interesting news and views from the Internet, and in time create your own discussions, ask questions run polls.

7. Liking / following – A new feature, adapted from other sites like Facebook and Ecademy, which can alert people to informative, relevant content. I’m not sure of this simply because LIONs can easily amass lots of likes/follows for fairly average content. The jury for me is out on this one, but using this functionality for others will undoubtedly raise your profile as you navigate groups and discussions.  The like/follow functionality now has a role in highlighting key weekly influencers in groups, so if your ego needs a boost, try it out.

8. Answers – Like groups, this is a great feature to really build your profile as an expert in your field. Selecting the Answer tab via ‘More’ in the top bar allows you to browse all categories and provide feedback and recommendations to questions posed by other Linkedin members, worldwide.

9. Twitter – Integrating Twitter into your Linkedin activity can be done well but I’d personally caution against automatically syncing all tweets through Twitter. With all the RTs, @’s, # hashtags, shortened URLs, it is like text speak. Done well, it can promote content being promoted on other platforms and develop your contacts across them. Be cautious, though, if you are using Twitter for leisure and Linkedin for business.

10. Linked applications (Twitter, WordPress, SlideShare, Amazon, TripIt etc) – There are a wealth of applications that you can easily integrate into your Linkedin profile. As well as Twitter, the most popular ones are WordPress blogs where recent posts can be displayed on your profile page. The same thing applies to Slideshare presentation and document templates.  Books you want to read, are reading or have read can be profiled and reviewed using the Amazon application. This provides contacts an insight into what your fields of speciality and interest. And Tripit can be used to keep them up to date with your travel movements. As ever, be cautious, especially if people have your personal contact details and address and you are planning on being away from home.

Take a steady approach and you should quickly find Linkedin to be an information rich resource full of interesting and experienced people, for the most part happy to help, advise and support as needed.

Blog Gold 2010: Does your digital marketing sizzle?

In July 2009 I wrote about how I saw emerging technology bringing tremendous opportunities, choice and challenges. The ability to reach wider audiences, tailor products, services and communications, and have better visibility of what works, all make digital marketing a must for most enterprises. The last twelve months have seen an explosion in talk around how to make the most from digital marketing and has proved just how important having a digital profile for your business and yourself has become.

The challenge to companies and marketers still to embrace it is in doing it properly,credibly and in line with business objectives. Avoid ‘just doing it’ as many digital gurus may advise. Like any other marketing element, consider long term, customer focused, permission based marketing strategies which will help you use the right tools in the right way. This retains all the brand equity you have hopefully amassed over many years of successful customer satisfaction, and make taking it online a little easier.

B2C brands like Dell and Amazon have done, and continue to do this supremely well. B2B marketers can take the best from their models and apply them cost effectively to their own operations.

Planning digital marketing that sizzles hinges on how you do business and transact. So what sort of business are you?

Are you running an eMarketing program (essentially online promotion which drives customers to have to enquire, make a call, visit a store or see a salesperson in order to place an order? Are you running an eCommerce business (incorporating online marketing with transactional capability? Or are you running a true eBusiness (with the front end seamlessly linked and automated into the back end)?

Digital marketing should help achieve one, some or all of the following objectives:

1. To sell – growing sales by satisfying needs, easily.

2. To serve – add value and customer satisfaction with good delivery, regular communications and order updates and other online services.

3. To speak – starting a proactive two way dialogue helps identify and anticipate customer needs.

4. To save – doing it all efficiently and effectively, reducing overall administration, warehousing, logistics and distribution costs.

5. To sizzle – providing an enjoyable brand experience that creates positive word of mouth (buzz) and leads to return visits and purchases. This is brand building, creating an emotional tie with the customer.

I concluded with a telling summary that if your digital marketing doesn’t sizzle, doesn’t stick people to your site, doesn’t get them to talk about it, recommend it, bookmark it and return to it, you’re wasting your time, money and effort.

I’d reiterate a year on that, conversion is and should be the most important role of any website. There has to be a reason for people to bother, to keep bothering or be bothered enough to bother anyone else with it. Whether it is direct selling, information, advice, education, comparison, research, it needs to be doing something for your target audience.

Originally posted 14 July 2009. Image courtesy of BestDigital

Get your tweet on

Don’t believe the press stories about its declining impact (Stephen Fry has only suspended activity whilst he writes a book).

Brands large and small make money from Twitter every day. Here are 10 ways of building profile and traffic on Twitter:

1. Use a good clear picture (avatar): Individual, personalised profiles work best on Twitter. True there are lots of brands and companies with profiles, but remember business people deal with people. It should be no different on Twitter.

2. Create an effective bio profile: Keep it real, make it relevant and interesting. State who you are, what you do, why you should be followed.

3. Tweet during peak time: Tweet at a time you know your audience will be online. So if you’re a UK business its 0900-1800, if you are interested in accessing other markets, you’ll need to adjust your schedule.

4. Repeat yourself: Accept that people won’t see every message you post. Don’t just repeat one tweet ten times a day, mix it up in within new content but accept you might need to repeat a morning tweet in the afternoon if it is important.

5. Develop a niche: Be specialist and expert in something. Stand for something. Share your news, comment and views and share industry news comments and views. People in time will click through to stories you tweet about.

6. Ask questions: Asking questions is a great way of raising engagement, whether it is about referrals, connections, the news, your industry or less business focused issues, but remember your ‘niche’.

7. Link to interesting sites: I’m a marketing consultant so I tweet marketing and business related stories from sources including Brand Republic, Marketing Week, The BBC, Management Today and the broadsheet press as it fits my niche profile and will hopefully attract the right audience to me.

8. Send @messages to top / influential users: This raises your profile in the public timeline by association, and will get you more followers – even if the people you message don’t reply to you.

9. Link your account: You can add widgets and feeds which share your Twitter activity to other platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, Friendfeed, Ecademy, your website and your blog.

10. Post pictures: Applications like TwitPic allow you to upload pictures – great if you trying to promote products and services that need a little visual stimulus, or if you promoting finished projects.

Credit goes to the guys at howstuffworks for inspiring me to write this post. More resources and tips available on their site.