Is Your Company Missing The Boat With LinkedIn?

I have spent a lot of time on LinkedIn – both professionally and personally – over the last several years and I have yet to come across a company that is doing a great job with leveraging the true power of LinkedIn.

Every employee that a company has on LinkedIn is a potential marketing dynamo that can be leveraged to build brand awareness, to push specific messages and to keep the company’s name in front of as many people as possible.  Unfortunately, most companies are wasting these potential marketing moments.

Based on my experience, I believe that there are three things that companies can do to “right the ship” and get back on course:

  1. Maximize Your LinkedIn Company Page
  2. Leverage employee profiles on LinkedIn
  3. Empower your employees to get engaged on LinkedIn

Maximize Your LinkedIn Company Page – This is the easiest part because it is the most controllable.  I have written several posts with tips for getting more out of your LinkedIn Company Page and you can find them at:

My top two tips for maximizing your Company Page are:

  1. Post regular status updates – the more content you post on your Company Page, the more you will keep your company’s name in front of your followers and in the LinkedIn Newsfeed. My best practice suggestion is to post at least daily which means you will need five great posts each week to drive traffic and awareness.
  2. Post interesting content – you do not want every message on your Company Page to advertise your products or services because that would only serve to annoy or turn off your followers. Instead, it is important to post interesting content that followers will find useful for their every day job or career, or that educates or entertains them in some way.

Leverage Employee Profiles on LinkedIn – Another best LinkedIn practice is to make sure that all employees are using the marketing messaging you want in their profiles.  LinkedIn provides users with 2,000 characters for their Summary and Employment Services section, and most people use only a fraction of this space on their profiles.  In my previous position, we created standard templates that employees could use or tailor for both their Summary and Employment sections and gave them tips on how to maximize their profile.  In addition, you should make sure that they have profile pictures that represent your brand, and that their profiles are as up-to-date as possible.

LinkedIn also lets users upload their own content and this is another way to trick out employees’ LinkedIn Profiles.  Have you received an award, do you have a short Powerpoint presentation on your company or product, do you have a whitepaper or datasheet you want employees to share?  All of this content can be provided to your employees to post to their LinkedIn profile so it is visible whenever anyone views their profile.

Employees will need training and guidance to take advantage of these advanced features, and you may want to set up a phone or email hotline to answer questions and provide assistance.

Empower Employees to Engage on LinkedIn – The final piece of the puzzle is that you have to get your employees to regularly engage on LinkedIn.  Employees must be sold on the idea that every interaction they have on LinkedIn is an opportunity to market their company.  At my last company, we had many instances of new business being generated because a connection noticed an interesting post or update from an employee’s profile.  While it is not necessary for all of their interactions to be company marketing messages, employees should be positively interacting with your brand at least once or twice per week.  The simplest way for employees to do this is to share or like what is posted on your LinkedIn Company Page.

This task will be the hardest for you to achieve as it requires developing new habits for your employees.  Employees do not have to be on LinkedIn all day, but they need to develop the habit of checking in at least once per day.  In five to ten minutes per day, most employees can build their own brand while helping the company at the same time.  Some suggestions for improving engagement are providing a checklist of daily tasks to perform or turning the effort into a contest.

 

Get Up to 40% More From Your LinkedIn Company Page

I managed a LinkedIn Company Page that was selected as one of the Top 10 LinkedIn Company Pages for 2013, so I know a little bit about what I am doing when it comes to building up readership, impressions and interactions on LinkedIn. Last month, I added “Do You Want A Top 10 LinkedIn Company Page?” – and today I am going to provide more detail behind my tip #4 about uploading your own image to Company Page status updates.

I started experimenting with different types of Company Page status updates in November 2013, and discovered that posts with larger images tended to do better than posts with the standard thumbnail images provided when you copy and paste a link into a status update.

However, I did not realize the true impact until I went on vacation in April and decided to run a comparison test. I normally post all of my Company Page status updates directly via LinkedIn since I have not been able to get satisfactory results with any of the major scheduling tools. Since I was going to be on vacation and would not be able to manually post my updates each day, I scheduled the daily updates for the week using Hootsuite. To make the test fair, I re-purposed updates that had been posted a month ago so I would have a comparison between the ‘big’ images and standard thumbnail images.

What were the results? Before I explain how I create the large images, I want to share my interesting results.Here are how two of the test posts performed in side-by-side views:

As you can see, the posts with the larger image did significantly better than the posts with the standard image by a large margin. The posts used the same introduction, shortened link and image, and the only difference was that I created and uploaded an image with an embedded headline for the large image posts.

You can also see the impact of the experiment when you look at the Company Page Analytics for Reach and Engagement for the week I was on vacation. There was a 40% drop in average impressions and a 70% decrease in average clicks for the week of the standard image test.

How do I create larger images? I use a couple of tools to accomplish this feat – specifically, Powerpoint, Snagit and Canva. Granted, creating and adding larger images to your status updates will add additional time to your posting process. For me, the process probably added less than five minutes to the time it used to take me to create status updates — but the time spent was well worth it to me in terms of impressions and engagement. You may want to experiment with what tools work best for you, but here are the three primary image tools I use:

Snagit from Techsmith is a screenshot tool that lets me grab any image or portion of an image from any website, article or document on the web. In most cases, I use the image that is already included in the article and use Snagit to create a screenshot of the image. Then I use Snagit’s editing tools to add a title, border or cut out unwanted parts of the screen grab. I also add a photo attribution in the bottom corner of the screen to make sure I give credit for the image’s origin.

Canva is a personal design tool that lets you easily create graphics to upload to blogs or other social media accounts. Canva is like Adobe Illustrator, but totally web-based and free. They also have lots of free images and clip art to use as well as images that you can purchase for $1. Guy Kawasaki is the Chief Evangelist for Canva and he has been posting links and updates about Canva on Facebook, Slideshare and other social media sites. Once I create something in Canva, I can either save it as a JPG or I use Snagit to create a screenshot of the image. Even if you don’t use Canva for creating status update images, it is worth adding to your toolbox.

I use Microsoft Powerpoint as my default image creator, but you could use any other tool that you can comfortably use. I copy images snagged via Snagit or Canva and paste them into Powerpoint where I can add additional text, combine multiple images or add shading and borders.

To add an image to a status update, click on the paperclip icon as shown below to add the file from your hard drive. Then you will need to write a snappy introduction or headline. Don’t forget to paste in your shortened URL so people know what to click to view the content. I use Hootsuite to generate my short URLs, but you could also use bit.ly or another service to create your own short URL.

Additional Tip – When I am creating my own images, I have found that I get more clicks when I embed the title of the article in the image. Including the title instead of just an images gives the reader a visual incentive to explore the link – especially if the article’s title is catchy or unique. People are bombarded with so many content possibilities these days that it helps to do anything to stand out from the crowd.

Conclusion – If you are not using BIG images with your Company Page status updates, you are throwing away at least 40% of your impressions and more than 50% of your clicks. I do see larger images on a few company pages, but it appears that most company page administrators have not figured out this trick yet.

Let me know if you have tried larger images for your LinkedIn Company Posts yet and if your experiments validate my results.

Hints for Writing Well

In 1982, David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather wrote an internal memo titled How to Write.  The memo was recently posted to the Ogilvy & Mather’s LinkedIn Company Page.

At the top of the list of 10 hints to becoming a better writer was this quote:

The better you write, the higher you will go in Ogilvy & Mather.   People who think well, write well.

I wanted to always remember this hints, so I saved and uploaded the list below.

Hints for Writing WellThe first tip is to read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing three times.  During a quick Google search for the book, I found this Slideshare copy of it.

Read. Rinse. Repeat. Read. Rinse. Repeat. Read. Rinse.

Get a Clue Lou – Don’t Trust Your Social Media To An Intern

First, the back story. Lou Adler is an author, consultant and recruiter who provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. Lou is also one of the top influencers on LinkedIn with nearly 700,000 followers.

I have been following Lou’s posts for quite some time – I respect his sometimes controversial opinions and am even connected with him on LinkedIn.

However, I saw something from Lou last week that really stuck in my craw and is at the top of the list of my social media pet peeves. My top issue is with people and companies who think that anyone can do social media and who minimize the profession by not fully understanding the depth and breadth of expertise necessary to successfully create and implement social media and content management strategies.

Lou posted a job description for a Social Media Intern, aka All-Around Digital Marketing Maven on LinkedIn last week. The job description outlines the challenges of the position for a “savvy digital native”:

  • get significant exposure for Lou’s posts, book and column
  • manage the Facebook page and take it to the next level with increased engagement and better conversion
  • create and launch marketing plans and mini-projects using social media and traditional PR
  • exercise your creativity and develop your own PR and social media projects

I apologize in advance for the weak take-off of Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Here’s the rub Lou. It’s all right to hire college interns to gain real life experiences and expertise, but your job post description is cheapening the social media profession by assuming an intern is going to be an all-around digital marketing maven and a savvy digital native and be able to achieve the results you desire. Just because someone has had a Facebook page since they were 13 doesn’t make them digitally savvy from a business standpoint. Not to mention, someone with minimal marketing and life experiences is not going to get you significant exposure, take your Facebook page to the next level and develop their own PR and social media projects. Interns also won’t have the strategic outlook to see the big picture and how various pieces of your business are inter-related. I’m ok with you trying to help a college student and get some marketing help at bargain-basement prices, but don’t diminish our profession with the expectation that you can get a high level of expertise at that price. Real social media expertise comes from years of experience in social media, marketing, content management, branding, customer service, technology, operations, analytics and project management. While there may be some success stories of interns being successful in corporate social media marketing, I have not run across any in my experience.

Call it like it is. I have always admired your posts for their honesty and bluntness, and for calling both employers and jobseekers on the carpet for not understanding that the hiring world has changed. Likewise, I trust you’ll respect the bluntness of this message from a social media expert. You wouldn’t hire an intern to handle one of your top recruiting gigs, so don’t think you should hire a short-term-focused intern to be the face of your personal and corporate brand on social media.

Too many companies do not really understand what it takes for someone to be successful in social media. I wrote a blog post with my ‘perfect’ social media job description for a project several years ago. When I went back to re-read it today, most of the thoughts I had in 2008 are still applicable today. While some of the social tools may have changed, the need for having deep experience and expertise in the multiple disciplines that come into play for successful social media marketing is still an important success factor.

Most (if not all) social media practitioners would also agree with my viewpoint. For example, I found a recent article on Inc.com from titled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” Hollis asks whether you really want to entrust your entire social media efforts to a recent college graduates who does not have the maturity, social etiquette, business understanding, communication skills and well-rounded expertise in marketing, customer service, public relations, crisis management and branding necessary to do the job properly. Obviously, I am in total agreement with Hollis.

Respect the profession. Lou, I just want you to have the proper respect for the social media and marketing profession and stop contributing to the myth that anyone with a social media account can do social media. I want you to successfully use social media and wish you the best in your latest search. Just remember this simple thought…social media is not kid’s play!

Life Lessons from Mowing the Lawn

I do not regularly mow grass as I live in a part of Southern California where our lots are pretty small. In fact, I haven’t even had any lawn to speak of in the three houses I have lived in over the last 15+ years.

Growing up, I spent many warm (and humid) summers mowing the lawn at my parents’ house (and for some o my neighbors). So I am well acquainted with the subtleties of lawn maintenance. It is just that I have not had any recent opportunities to use these skills recently.

Fortunately, I have a friend with a decent-sized lawn and he let me cut his grass when he went on vacation this week. While working up a good sweat and successfully completing my task, I came up with these life lessons that can be learned from something as mundane as mowing the grass:

  1. It’s good to spend time with your thoughts – The activity of lawn mowing definitely lends itself to spending time with your thoughts. In today’s hectic world, most of us do not get the opportunity to have uninterrupted time to let our minds wander and to
  2. You have to pay attention to details – When you are mowing a lawn, it is important to keep your lines straight and neat. You also have to be careful while doing the edging so you don’t mow down the flowers or knock down any other plants or trees in the process. It is also important to clean up after yourself as the job is not finished until the sidewalks are swept and the mower is put back in the garage.
  3. Hard work involves sweat – There is no easy way out when you are mowing a lawn (unless you have a riding mower). Even still, there are no shortcuts to cutting a lawn. You just have to put your head down, roll up your sleeves and complete the task.
  4. There is a lot of satisfaction in a job well done – When you’ve done a great job of mowing, the symmetry of a fresh-cut lawn is a thing of beauty. The even cut of the turf, the straight lines from the wheels, the smell of summer and a slight glow from the physical exertion are all things to appreciate. Plus, there is the satisfaction (and slight feeling of superiority) to be part of the rare breed in my circle of friends who actually “get” to mow their own lawn.
  5. Celebrating success is a good thing – And of course, the best way to finish off any arduous outdoor activity is to kick back in a lawn chair, absorb the beauty, revel in the expended physical effort and enjoy a cold beverage of your choice. As with all great efforts, celebrating success reinforces the achievement.

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I am a social media and digital marketing expert who has been using social media to build awareness, tell stories and connect with customers since 2007. The LinkedIn Company Page I used to manage was selected as one of the Top 10 LinkedIn Company Pages for 2013.

Should Brands Abandon Facebook?

My answer to this rhetorical question is yes – unless you are willing to rethink your Facebook strategy and spend money to sponsor your company page posts. While you do not have to spend a large sum of money, my experience has shown that Facebook organic reach is rapidly diminishing and it is almost not worth the effort to continue with the “free lunch” approach.

This post is based on a couple of articles that I read recently, and my experience with B2B brands where engaging customers is typically harder than with consumer brands and where the number of followers are generally lower and less passionate.

As noted in an article titled Facebook Puts Everyone on Notice about the Death of Organic Reach by Ewan Spence in Forbes.com last month, the conclusion was “the free ride and access to Facebook’s user base is coming to an end.”  Ewan also references an article from Social@Ogilvy that proves the point in a dramatic way. Ogilvy has analyzed the organic reach of 100 brand pages on Facebook and identified that the average organic reach has dropped from 12% in October 2013 to 6% in February 2014. Based on this trend line, the organic reach should be near zero by the end of 2014.

In the accompanying whitepaper, Facebook ZeroOgilvy notes that the “power in Facebook remains its potency to generate earned (organic) conversation and engagement”, and concludes that you should not over commit to a single social platform while offering specific recommendations for action based on the “new world order” in the Facebook channel.

Real Life Experience

In my experience over the last 2 1/2 years for managing the social media accounts for a $1 billion staffing company, I have had a first hand view into the declining reach of Facebook – especially when compared with the rising influence of LinkedIn Company Pages. Since I have been analyzing my analytics every week during this period, I had a front row seat able to the steady decline. For both LinkedIn and Facebook, I was posting at least 5 times per week – and both accounts had increasing numbers of Followers. In March 2013, the number of impressions were fairly close for both channels. But over the next 15 months, impressions in the Facebook channel dropped by half while the impressions in the LinkedIn Company Page channel increased by nearly 4 times.

So, What Should Brands Do?

The short answer is to “pay up” as it is becoming clear that efforts to achieve organic or free traffic from Facebook is probably not worth the effort any longer. And if you really want to reach and engage your most loyal customers and potential prospects, you will have to pay.  If you are not willing to pay up, then I recommend that brands refocus their efforts on the LinkedIn Company Page channel or other social channels, and de-emphasize the efforts for Facebook.

In an experiment where I spent just $10 of my own money to sponsor two different Facebook posts in two consecutive months, I proved that paying even a little can have a dramatic impact on overall reach. In the 2 months where I did my testing, I spent $5 to sponsor 1 of 20 total posts for that month.  My experiment yielded a paid reach that was 3.5 times more than organic reach and paid impressions that were 4.7 times more than the organic reach.

Imagine what you could do with even a relatively small budget.  At the very least, knowledgeable social media managers need to understand the new dynamics of the Facebook channel and recognize that they should run their own experiments to see what works best for their brands and their budget.

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I am a social media and digital marketing expert who has been using social media to build awareness, tell stories and connect with customers since 2007. The LinkedIn Company Page I used to manage was selected as one of the Top 10 LinkedIn Company Pages for 2013.

What Was Your First Tweet?

Earlier this year, in honor of its eighth birthday, Twitter unveiled a special page allowing users to automatically see and share their first Tweet ever.

This feature is interesting in that it allows you to go back in the Twitter “time machine” to view your own first tweet or the first tweet from anyone with a Twitter account.

Here’s my first tweet, from October 31, 2007 – (the tweet is the original, but the profile picture is my current version of me and not the 7 years younger version):

This tweet is also about when my journey into social media began and brings back some good memories. I was working with Jim StorerMark WallaceDerek Showerman and Aaron Strout from Shared Insight (now Mzinga) to develop and launch a professional community for iRise. The community subsequently grew to over 4,000 members by July 2008 when I left iRise for greener pastures.

In the last seven years, I have posted 6,185 other tweets and grew my Twitter following to over 3,150. And my social media journey has gotten even richer with forays into blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Slideshare, etc.

I no longer remember what the Shared Insights webcast was all about, but I’m sure it was interesting because I remain passionate about the value of engaging with customers and prospects through social interactions.

So, what memories will your first tweet dredge up? Check out First Tweets at this link.