To hell with unicorns and rainbows
Are you as sick as I am of hearing that we need to "participate and engage" in social media? I want to get some concrete tips and specific actions to take, not some feel-good social media theories.
If you're an old school, press-the-flesh kind of guy or gal, you don't want to waste a lot of time with ten different social media platforms hoping for leads to land in your lap. You want to take some positive actions that you know will bring you new prospects.
If it feels good, do it
You need online tools that help to supplement your already successful relationship networking efforts. I like to steer relationship networkers towards LinkedIn because it's based on the professional relationships that they have been cultivating for years.
And I have a specific tactic that I like for them to use with LinkedIn. It's worked so well for me as a member of my BNI chapter that I made a video for all my chapter members: How to Use LinkedIn to Get More Referrals in BNI
The premise is simple. On LinkedIn, connect to the people that you know, and then ask them to introduce you to their connections as a way of getting an easy foot in the door with potential prospects. The trick is knowing who to ask your LinkedIn connections to introduce you to.
I see a lot of people who will go to each of their connections' profile pages on LinkedIn to look through their list of connections and pick out the ones who are a good prospect. This is effective, but a big time waster. Instead, I use LinkedIn's search feature to quickly find just the prospects who are a good fit for me.
Concrete tips and specific actions
[Watch the video walk through of this LinkedIn tactic "How to Get Leads with LinkedIn" below]
In my example, I want introductions to local CPA firms here in Las Vegas. So I go to the LinkedIn home page and in the search box (upper right area of the page) I type "CPA" and click the magnifying glass button to run the search.
This generates over 400,000 CPAs in the results. So next I use the filters in the left hand side of the page to narrow down my search results.
The most important filter option to select is "2nd Connections" in the Relationship filter group. The 2nd tier connections are people who are directly connected to one of my direct connections on LinkedIn. A friend of a friend, so to speak. These 2nd tier connections are all people that one of my connections can introduce me to. This cuts my search results down to 1101 CPAs.
Next I'll use some of the other filters to find the 2nd tier connection CPAs who are the best fit as a prospect. So I choose a physical location. I mentioned earlier that I want to find CPA firms in Las Vegas. Because Las Vegas is not one of the choices with a check box in the Locations filter, I'll manually type it into the Locations text field. I now have 180 CPAs in the search results.
Since I want to find CPAs working in accounting firms, rather than CPAs in big companies like the Las Vegas gaming corporations, I check the box for "Accounting" in the Industries filter. That brings me down to 96 CPAs in the search results.
For me to sell my consulting services to a CPA firm, I'm looking for firms with at least 10 employees, but I don't want to pitch very large companies. From the Company Size filter, I check both 11-50 and 51-200 employees. Now I see 30 CPAs in my search results.
Finally, I use the Seniority Level filter to find only owners, directors, CxOs, and partners. That way I'll get the decision makers. In the search results, I see 15 very promising prospects who my LinkedIn connections can introduce me to!
Now this is networking!
We have our short list of ideal prospects, so I look at the first one and see a link that says we have "9 shared connections". That means that I have nine different LinkedIn connections who I can ask to introduce me to this prospect. I click on this link and instantly see the first three of our shared connections.
Below those, I click on the link "View all 9 shared" and a new browser tab opens that shows me a list of all nine of my connections who are also directly connected to this prospect. I can start reaching out to my connections and asking for introductions to this prospect. And I have 14 more CPA prospects to whom I will ask my connections to introduce me!
So old school relationship networkers can use LinkedIn as a tool to help them do their networking more efficiently! The lesson here is that when you're starting out with online marketing, stay within your comfort zone. There's plenty of time for broadening horizons and spreading
About the Author: High Mobley is the founder of 13 Pages Internet Marketing, an online marketing firm and HubSpot partner that helps business owners increase their profitability.
Are you looking for creative ways to use the iPad for business? Have you ever wanted to do more with your LinkedIn Connections? In this article, I'll share some ideas on how you can do both to help grow your network and strengthen relationships with your current customers.
I had the opportunity to interview Tom Boudreau of R&R Insurance (a client of ours). Tom is a Commercial Insurance Account Executive who was looking to provide better resources for his current and prospective customers. Tom was kind enough to share his thoughts and process in how he's using his iPad and LinkedIn network to do a "52 in 52" video interview series featuring Wisconsin business professionals.
Below is a recap of my interview with Tom:
Q: Tom, what is "52 in 52"?
A: "52 in 52" is a video interview series where I'm interviewing 52 Wisconsin Business Professionals, with nothing but my iPad, over a time period of 52 weeks. I've wanted to do this "52 in 52" initiative for years, but it took time to build my network of Wisconsin experts. I am now in a position in my career to leverage the collective expertise of my network. They are a great group of people and I'm happy to be able to share their knowledge in a way that can help all of us grow our businesses.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I sell business insurance like a lot of individuals. But my goal is not only to be the best at that, but to also help my clients build their businesses — whether it's insurance related or not. "52 in 52" is my attempt at putting the "social" back in my social networking.
I really wanted to offer my clients and prospective clients something of value. I also wanted to do something with my LinkedIn Connections. In the past, I was simply accepting new connection requests on LinkedIn and then not doing much more with it. I wanted to reach out to my network and learn more about what their businesses do to see if they could help my clients. Ultimately, my goal of "52 in 52" is to share knowledge.
Q: How has this worked for you?
A: It's been great! I'm spending an hour with each individual for the interview - and prior to that we're communicating about what we'll be discussing in that interview and what we can provide the audience as a leave-behind.
It's really strengthening my relationship with these individuals. This process is kind of a bonding process. I share with them the analytics and they feel that I'm truly trying to help them - and that's my goal.
This has also resulted in new and additional business for me. I had a client that I was working with sign an 'Agency of Record' letter for additional services because he appreciated the fact that I was differentiating myself from other insurance agents and working hard to help my clients grow their businesses.
I've also had several opportunities present themselves in ways that I didn't expect. Just by staying in front of my clients, I'm having them refer opportunities my way, as well as introduce me to other professionals that help me strengthen my business network. Even beyond the sales, this has helped build brand awareness for me in a way that doesn't come across as salesy.
Q: How has this benefited your network?
A: It's been very beneficial for them as well. As an example, the interview I posted a couple weeks ago resulted in business leads for the individual being interviewed. A couple hours after I sent out the email to my network letting them know that I posted the new video, three people reached out to me asking to have my guest speaker contact them about quoting some business. It really was a win, win, win for all of us involved.
Q: From a production standpoint, how are you doing the video interviews?
A: I'm using nothing but my iPad set up on a tripod. My father-in-law was kind enough to let me set up a little studio at their office (Circular Marketing in Waukesha, WI). I purchased a couple lights and printed up a sign, but the rest of it is just setting up the iPad and shooting the interview.
I purchased the iMovie App for the iPad and do the editing right on my iPad. When completed, I upload the video to our YouTube Channel and then with your help (Stream Creative), we build out the blog post, create a landing page and upload the leave-behind piece.
When those pieces are in place, I create an email in SubscriberMail and send that out to my network. From start to finish, including the interview, the entire process takes about 4 hours.
Q: In closing, do you have anything else you'd like to share with readers?
A: As a sales person we try very hard to get that initial meeting to learn what our prospects' businesses are all about and where R&R Insurance can help them. Through these "52 in 52" interviews, I can ask these same questions through a totally different process that doesn't feel like I'm selling to them - which I'm not selling - I'm trying to help them reach a new audience, and they get a better value out of that.
If I had to do something different, it would be finding a way to shorten the final videos - but I just can't find a way to get them between three to five minutes without cutting out a lot of the content or sacrificing the personal element involved with these interviews.
Overall, this has been a great experience!
So how are you engaging with your LinkedIn Network? How are you using your iPad for business? Please share any of your ideas in the comment section below.
About the Author: Jeff Coon is a partner and creative director of Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing and design firm specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.
Dharmesh and the HubSpot internet marketing software development team launched another free tool the other day.
As companions to the free SEO tool, Website Grader, and the press release SEO tool, Press Release Grader, Twitter Grader analyzes a Twitter users influence.
Unlike the other tools, Twitter grader has a leaderboard which shows the highest scoring users. Of course, it's only evaluating the users that have evaluated their Twitter profile via Twitter Grader. But, as of today, that's atleast 20,420 people, including Barack Obama, who comes in at #1 right now.
Dharmesh is hard at thought about how to help small businesses and marketing professionals leverage the social mediasphere to market their businesses more effectively.
There are some new features in the main HubSpot software which help businesses improve their blogging (Blog Analytics) and identify social bookmarking entries (HubFeed) that are related to their products and services (so they can participate in the conversation). I've started using these tools to generate greater returns on my time spent blogging and leveraging social media sites.
Twitter Grader is more of an experiment at this stage. And probably more of a "we think it'll be cool" application than anything.
However, any thoughts about how Twitter Grader could help a company better leverage Twitter are welcome. HubSpot is listening.
When is LinkedIn Grader coming, Dharmesh?
LinkedIn is about to make a power move.
I've been using Facebook a lot more lately. It has some powerful features that enable me to initiate conversations with people. LinkedIn, by comparison is very sterile. However, LinkedIn is where business happens. I think too much play still happens on Facebook. Business happens on Facebook. But, I don't think 40+ serious business professionals (outside of the marketing world) will ever really adopt Facebook as a business networking tool, atleast until the kids just graduating college are 40+.
So, what's LinkedIn's power move? For a few years now, people have been building groups on LinkedIn about all kinds of topic. There was very little benefit to the members of the groups. Owners of the groups, could of course, send emails to the members. (Not many marketers caught on and I expect to see the controls tightened on the ability to download email addresses.)
I also expected for a long time that LinkedIn would launch functionality to enable the groups to interact via the site. The first thing they're launching is forums, which is an obvious idea, albeit nothing that new. What'll be revolutionary about it, I presume, is that when users post to different forums, their contacts will probably be notified via their feeds. LinkedIn Answers already does this, making it possible for people to tap the collective wisdom of their network and the wider linkedin network very quickly. (Answering questions is also a good promotional tool.) I bet their forums will be used more frequently and will draw in all kinds of conversations.
Here's the official announcement from LinkedIn (from an email):
First, thank you for managing your group on LinkedIn. We sincerely
appreciate the time and effort you devote to your members, and we know
they value it. Together you have made Groups one of the top features on
This Friday, we will be adding several much-requested features to your group:
- Discussion forums: Simple discussion spaces for you and your members. (You can turn discussions off in your management control panel if you like.)
- Enhanced roster: Searchable list of group members.
- Digest emails: Daily or weekly digests of new discussion topics which your members may choose to receive. (We will be turning digests on for all current group members soon, and prompting them to set to their own preference.)
- Group home page: A private space for your members on LinkedIn.
We're confident that these new features will spur communication, promote collaboration, and make your group more valuable to you and your members. We hope you can come by LinkedIn on Friday morning to check out the new functionality and get a group discussion going by posting a welcome message.
What do you think of the new move? About time? Implications?
I'm preparing a post about ways to promote your blog in your sleep.
I'm testing a facebook application that lets people say which blogs they like.
If you like mine, please go over to this page on facebook and become a fan of my blog.
I recommend you do the same thing for your blog too.
I'm getting a lot more serious about using plaxo pulse too. Join me over there too.
I've been too focussed on LinkedIn. On my short list to investigate further are Twitter, StumbleUpon, BlitzTime, Plurck, Mybloglog, Google Reader, FriendFeed, and maybe Inquisix. There's also a lot of different ways to promote a feed on Facebook that I haven't fully explored yet either.
Connect with me on the services above if you use them.
Let me know if you think I should be covering other sites/services. Share any tips you have too.
Register for the short webinar and online speed networking event.
Here's a quick introduction/explanation of the material to be covered:
I'm officially sucked in to Twitter. I resisted it for so long. Then, I thought I'd just dip my toes in. I'm totally knee deep now.
I wrote a post today on the HubSpot blog listing "Internet Marketing Blogs You Should Be Reading".
I shot a quick email including a link to the post to the bloggers that I listed. (See Blog Sales Tip #6 & #10.)
Almost all of them responded with a quick thank you. David Meerman Scott, author of "The New Rules of PR & Marketing" was one of them. His signature linked to his Twitter page. I subscribed.
He subscribed back and is now reading my Twitter feed.
I didn't expect him to subscribe back. He's following 121 people and he has 275 followers.
I wouldn't call David Meerman Scott "internet famous" in marketing circles. He's not as well known as Jeffrey Gitomer or Seth Godin. But, he's kind of a big deal. He is very well known and is a very successful author, speaker, blogger, consultant, etc.
He only follows <1 in 2 people who follow him. So, I'm atleast 2x more followable than his average followee. That's the economics.
This interests me because it becomes infinitely more difficult for people like David to "be responsive" to individuals as more and more individuals require his attention.
In August 2004, I wrote a post called "What Does A Connection Mean in a Social Network". I argued that a connection on MySpace and LinkedIn, etc didn't really mean much because it "felt" obligatory to connect with people who requested it. Relationships were automatically forced to be "bidirectional" in nature. Whereas real world relationships are unidirectional. Examples: I am a fan of Jeff Gitomer's. He doesn't really know me although he did autograph a book for me. I am a fan of Jason Calacanis's. I think he dislikes me. I am a fan of Seth Godin's. If he remembers me at all, it's because I've bashed him a few times on my blog. You get the idea.
The question I have is "Where does this breakdown?" We're already seeing "uni-directional" social networks like Twitter supercede (or atleast compete with) "bi-directional" ones like LinkedIn. LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook were never suitable for someone like Seth Godin to use it as a communications platform. With Twitter, he can use it because he doesn't have to respond. He doesn't even have to pay attention to you. In fact, if you look at Seth's Twitter profile, he doesn't pay attention to anyone.
I'm sure there's a breakdown point where someone like David Meerman Scott cannott pay attention to one more person. How close is David Meerman Scott to that number?
At what point in the accumulation of social capital, does it become impossible for someone to reply with a "thank you". Seth? It seems like you know the answer.
Update: I realized after rereading it, that it looks like I was calling Seth out for not thanking me. That's not what I meant at all. It doesn't matter whether someone thanked me for linking to them. I linked to him because he deserved the link, not because I was looking for a thank you. Plus, If I were as successful as Seth, I wouldn't respond to me either.
Yesterday, I gave a talk about how to generate leads using linkedin and other online networking activities.
This morning, it looks like LinkedIn has launched a nice redesign of their site. It took me a few minutes to get used to it. But, after clicking around, I think it really works. It's more intuitive, and organizes things a lot better. It seems that a lot more capabilities and information are easier to find now and are a few less clicks away. (Another fan of the new look.)
Yesterday, Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot Co-founder launched a group on LinkedIn called Internet Marketing Mavens. If you consider yourself an internet marketing maven or aspire to be one, you should request membership.
Why You Should Join LinkedIn.
Unless your company primarily services teenagers or college students, more of your prospective clients and current clients are on LinkedIn than any other network [In the US atleast]. I'm not saying they're using it well [or are any more likely to respond to your email or take your phone call]. But, they are there. [Where else are there that many of your prospects in one place?] Some of them might be on Facebook or Myspace and I'm sure you could attend conferences where more of them are.
But, no matter what you sell or who you sell to, LinkedIn is the domain of people with buying power inside the home and inside the company. And it's 24/7 and tells you who knows who. (Still not convinced? Here's another good argument.)
What I Wish LinkedIn Would Do Differently
Allow more unfettered comunication. Their business model is dependent on charging individuals for the privelege of communicating with their personal networks. Long term, this is not sustainable. It's the equivalent to a tax that discourages commerce.
LinkedIn (and us) would be better served if they enabled more communication and created other ways to add value.
The greatest thing that LinkedIn did for allowing people to meet new people, was start their question/answer functionality.
Their group functionality needs a little work, though. It merely allows you to join a group. It's kinda like joining the chamber of commerce just to be in the business directory. Yeah. It's cheaper than the phonebook, but the real value of joining a group is that the group provides opportunities for people to meet new people through committees, volunteer opportunities and events. LinkedIn should, at a minimum, launch a premium group service that allows organizers to launch a forum, publish some events and send bulletins to members. The groups' page should also show network updates, job posts, question/answers that anyone in the group has published.
Most small and mid sized businesses are just dipping their toes into blogging. With keyword research and a good analytics package, it's not hard to plan and measure how blogging will impact the bottom and top lines for a business. If it's an ecommerce site, blogging is a no brainer. If you're a b2b company trying to generate leads... again... a no brainer. If you're b2c and people are passionate about your types of products (ie you sell wine not hammers), also a no brainer. If you're a realtor, you should be talking to Real Estate Tomato about how to start a real estate blog... umm... yesterday. (Of course, you shouldn't underestimate what's required to be successful with a blog - no matter who you are or what you sell.)
All that said, social media is still the wild west. There's no best practices. There are very few services that assist business owners in a meaningful way. The only businesses that are taking advantage of social media are big brand name F1000 companies. They have the budgets to deal directly with the big social networks and the budgets to tap the big ad agencies who deal with the big social networks.
Everyone else is sorta left figuring this out themselves. I've been able to successfully generate leads from social media activity. So has the internet marketing company I work for. We teach our clients best practices for the sites that actually drive traffic directly, and support our clients' SEO strategy. We also give them the tools to analyze effectiveness in terms of traffic, leads and soon: sales across their SEO, PPC, blogging, and blogosphere/social media activity. This informs what works and what they should do more of. For example, if Digg reaches your audience, you should learn how to use Digg. If you're trying to reach a younger crowd, join facebook. If you're trying to reach CEOs, start answering questions and endorsing people on LinkedIN.
But, this list could go on and on. How does someone know where to focus their efforts and how do they measure what's working before the leads come in? As this map indicates, you could literally spend all of 2008 registering and learning social media services. There certainly isn't a comprehensive tool within the reach of the average mid sized business to track all the leading indicators of social media success or failure. However, is it really necessary to track the leading indicators? If you have a website that converts visitors into leads and you can successfully generate traffic from social media sources and measure which social media sites send visitors with a high likelihod of converting to a lead... then... I'm left with the conclusion that you should just find yourself a social media advisor. I'm sure that 1 out of 50,000 people are like me (or the guys at Read/Write Web) who spend too much time tracking the social media landscape, who can interpret it and translate it for the average business owner so they know what to do first.
And if in doubt and you don't want to find an advisor, start with LinkedIn. If you're in business, chances are that your best prospects are on there.
1. The most important thing you need to do to drive traffic to your website from LinkedIn is to (duh) actually put your company's URL in your profile. Very few people actually do this. When you put the link in your profile, don't use your company name. Use a phrase that someone might search for. For Hive411, I use online networking as the link text. For Hubspot, I use internet marketing software. If you are a residential contractor in Worcester MA with a specialty in kitchen remodeling, put "Kitchen remodeling contractor Worcester MA" as your link text. These links will send you traffic directly from linkedin. It'll also help you rank higher in search engines for the keywords that you use.
2. The second most important thing for you to do is invite all of your trusted contacts to connect with you. I currently have 298 connections on there. I wouldn't say that I trust them all. But, I usually don't decline a connection request. Therefore, over the years, I've accumulated what I call a nice "LinkedIn Baseball Card Collection". The only down side to a big collection is that I have to deny connection requests sometimes if I don't know the parties involved.
3. Now that you have connections, it's time to use LinkedIn. This one is counterintuitive, but it's the most important one. Don't ask people to send a request to connect. I rarely ask someone to connect me with someone else. Why? The first reason is that I don't need to: I can pretty much help anyone generate leads online for their business and have plenty of people that want to talk to me, so I rarely go out and solicit. Also, it's difficult to initiate a sales call with a relative stranger without asking an open ended or blabbing about the features and benefits of your product. How often would you forward that stuff to a friend if you don't know they are in the market for it? Exactly. That's SNAM.
4. So, instead of focussing on connecting directly with prospects, I work on increasing my visibility in the LinkedIn network. The easiest way to do that is to endorse people you know. So, once you invite your trusted contacts (#2 above), go and endorse their work. Almost every time that I've done this, people have reciprocated by endorsing me. How does this help you drive traffic? Your name shows up prominently on their profile with a link to your profile. And of course, since you put your URL (#1) on your profile, some people will click through and visit your website.
5. So, now you have your website linked, you've connected with all the people you know and you have some endorsements that tell people that you do great work. You're now ready to start reaching out to prospects. The best way to do that on LinkedIn is by answering questions. LinkedIn has a very cool tool that allows anyone to post a question. They are categorized and searchable. I recommend you go and find questions that people are asking that you can answer with some expert advice. You should answer it an unbiased and non promotional way. If your answer is good, you'll be demonstrating that you are an expert. There's a big chance that the person asking the question may need your service and will contact you. Further, since the question is archived, it can be found on linkedin, (and if it is a public question), in search engines. Here's the most important part, though. When you answer the question, at the bottom of the answer, you can put your URL. It's masked, so it won't help your search engine rankings. But, the question and answer will be indexed and anyone that reads your answer and wants to meet you, can then click through.