Advertisements

Growing Your Brand and Business: Using LinkedIn Groups

With LinkedIn operating the largest online professional network with some 160 million users across 200 countries, it is clear that being active on this site is essential to growing your brand and business. However, being successful at generating business on LinkedIn requires developing and following a plan of action to ensure that the optimal results are achieved.

Being part of LinkedIn groups is an important part of an individual marketing strategy.

According to the most recent statistics provided by LinkedIn, “members are sharing insights and knowledge in more than 1.25 million LinkedIn Groups.” By joining groups that pertain to your industry (or not – your niche or other area), you are able to interact with like-minded groups of people, regardless of your connection to them. “One major reason for me to be involved in a LinkedIn group… I can have access to other group members, whether I have a direct connection with them or not,” says Jason Alba, author of I’m on LinkedIn — Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most OUT of LinkedIn.

Create Your Own Group

Creating your own LinkedIn group provides you with even more benefits and opportunities to interact with the right prospects. The added bonus of creating and managing your own group is that you have control over the group and its focus. By having your own group, you highlight your expertise in the topics being discussed and have more of a say in what topics are covered in the group.  As group manager, you are able to list your events, connect to members directly and can even choose who will be allowed in the group.  One of the most effective ways to connect with members is to welcome new additions to the group with a personalized message. “My experience is that few people acknowledge new connections with a personal reply, something that takes just a few seconds,” says Jeff Korhan, author of 10 LinkedIn Tips for Building Your Business. “This is why this strategy is so valuable for developing relationships and standing apart from others who are just collecting connections.”

Stay Active

LinkedIn users should remember that, like real world networking, to receive the greatest benefit you must put in the effort and remain an active participant in groups. One strategy is to become “very” active in three or four groups.  Being very active means checking in at least 3 to 5 times a week.  When you check in, get involved in discussion, post questions, share articles and look for ways to help people find solutions to their challenges.  Work to create a reputation as a giver and provider of expert information.   The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more you will get out of it. “LinkedIn Groups provide you with an audience of interested individuals who are there to learn and share,” says Susan Shapiro, Operations Strategist for Bralan Consulting. “By actively participating, you become an expert, a resource your listeners may turn to for themselves and/or their clients.”

The State of LinkedIn

c/o viralblog.com

LinkedIn and social media in general should primarily be used for networking, branding and relationship development.  If you use LinkedIn as a vehicle to push sales messages and sell aggressively, success will be hard to find.  Make your LinkedIn efforts part of your personal marketing and branding strategy.  Selling will push people away and, if you spam, might even get your account suspended.  People in the real world and on LinkedIn want to do business with people that they know, like and trust.  Use this site as a vehicle to advance your brand and to get people to know who you are, like you for the information that you provide and trust you as a person who provides good content and delivers.

LinkedIn Groups offer a tremendous opportunity to meet people and expose them to your expertise. Leverage the relationships you create in groups and make personal connections.  Begin conversations and demonstrate that you can offer value and support.   These efforts will lead to relationships which will grow your brand and build your business.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

Networking in the Real World and Online

Networking is a crucial aspect of a business marketing plan.  Relationships are essential in business and networking is one way to get the relationship-building process started.  Networking is a way for people to meet and get to know each other.  The use of effective social skills and a strategy is necessary to become a successful networker.   A savvy networker will use these skills both in their real world and online networking efforts.

Every individual who networks should have their own personal marketing plan, strategies and goals to create brand awareness and a buzz about individuals.  Networking should begin long before you print your business cards or step foot into a networking event.  Public relations and social media lay the groundwork for more effective real world networking.  How great would it be to have people who you have never met in person recognize you at an event?  By actively engaging target audiences on social media or by using a blog, you can build recognition and a positive reputation.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the ideal forum for professionals to gather online for business purposes.  Create a profile detailing your skills, accomplishments and personal interests.  The profile is not for you; it is for the people you want to get to know.  Include a professional headshot.  Make it easy for them to get a feel for your expertise, willingness to share and depth of your network.  Write your profile so people in the cyber world will want to connect to you and people in the real world will want to take the relationship to the next level.

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Although networking has evolved significantly with the advent of the internet, e-mail and social media, there is no substitute for meeting in-person and interacting face-to-face to build relationships.  Online networking should be used to reinforce relationships made in-person.  When networking in person the goal is to find common ground, which often has nothing to do with business.  Rob Fishman, Partner at Hauppauge based Sandler Training said, “When networking, you must resist the temptation to sell.  Networking is about creating a relationship for mutual gain.  The focus should be on meeting a person and creating a relationship.”  He suggested following the F-O-R-D acronym to avoid talking about business when networking.  “F is for Family; ask the person where they are from originally or if they have a family.  O is for Organization; ask the person about their company and who is a good prospective client for them.  R is for Recreation; ask what they do for fun, people like to talk about topics that are enjoyable.  D is for Dreams and Aspirations; ask what the person’s goals are and what they want to achieve.  The big picture is about creating a network of people in which there is a shared mutual level of trust,” added Mr. Fishman.

Bruce Libman, Author of It’s Just Breakfast and Total Networking, endorses the “give to get philosophy” when networking and building business relationships.   “Giving is key to relationship-building and you have to give much more than you should expect to receive.  Giving information, ideas or making introductions demonstrates that you care and that you have listened to the other person’s needs or interests.  This carries a lot of weight when building relationships,” said Libman.

Business Cards

After you’ve met people, swapping business cards remains important to swiftly exchange information.  Today, there are smart phone applications that allow users to exchange contact information by simply bumping their phones together; a cool app, but not common.  Business cards remain the staple.  There are several apps including one by LinkedIn called CardMunch that allows you to quickly scan business cards and import their information into your database and generate a connection request on LinkedIn at the same time.

Phil Capell from GoSchmooze, a networking facilitation system which randomly puts four individuals together for a business lunch or breakfast, suggests to, “Always be networking.  Every person you meet has the potential to introduce you to others in his or her network. Try to meet people every day.  Remember that networking is not prospecting.  Don’t treat all people as prospects. Develop relationships with people first and build upon this to see if business or referrals can be shared.”

After you have met someone, started a conversation and exchanged information, the real challenge begins – follow-up.  It is crucial to following up with each person you want to continue a relationship.  Making contact after the initial meeting is absolutely necessary if you want to build a relationship even if to simply touch base or have coffee,.  A personalized system for following up must be created and used.  If you do not follow-up, networking is a waste of time for you or the company you work for.  Failing to follow-up is a critical mistake that the majority of “networkers” make – don’t be one of them.

Networking is about meeting people and managing relationships.  Create a system to build awareness for yourself and your brand, network in the real world and online to strengthen relationships, and commit to following up.  Each of these steps offers their own challenges.  Even if you have been networking for years, take a look at what you are doing, create a plan or update your networking plan and make sure you have a clear follow up strategy.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

Do You Need a Blog? The Personal Branding Perspective

Why should I have a blog?  This is a question many of us in the marketing arena are often asked.  From the personal branding perspective the answer is absolutely.  A blog is where your personal brand is shaped.  Unlike a static website or social media profile, a blog is where an individual’s personal brand comes to life.  It’s where you can express your opinions and passions and demonstrate your experience.  It’s where people get to know you, what you are interested in and what you are about.  Your blog creates the narrative for your brand and allows you to express yourself how you want to in the way that you want to.

Image c/o kathybackus.files.wordpress.com/

From a business perspective, why should a person blog?  Besides creating a brand narrative, blogging helps to build relationships.  Writing timely, topical, fun and informative posts builds a following.  Have you seen Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in the movie Julie & Julia?  The film demonstrates the power of blogging, and how it can impact an individual’s life or business.  I won’t give away the plot, but the main character played by Amy Adams follows her cooking passion and writes about her struggles and successes.  Her creativity, writing ability, emotion and content slowly began to resonate and attract a following, media attention and much more.  Social media expert Seth Godin said, “It doesn’t matter who reads your blog.  What matters is the humility that comes from writing (a blog)….the meta-cognition of thinking about what you’re going to say.  How do you force yourself to describe in three paragraphs why you did something, how do you respond out loud?  [Blogging] forces you to make yourself part of the conversation.”

What Will You Blog About?

What should you blog about?  There are no rules here, but certainly something you’re interested in, an expert on or something you are passionate about.  If you have trouble coming up with blog post ideas then maybe you should look to another subject for inspiration.  A blog does not have to be all about business.  Watch Julie and Julia and you will see what I mean.  If you are looking to grow your personal brand and build relationships with people, post what you are passionate about and interested in.  Readers will connect and engage with you.  If you build your following and readership with content that you enjoy creating, then blogging will be a joy instead of a chore.

Be Consistent

Consistency matters when blogging.  Some may find that once a day or once a week works, while others determine twice a month works for them.  No matter the schedule, stick to it.  Consistency is vital to maintain reader interest.  According to Jane Sheeba, author of Pro Blogging Success, “choosing a blogging frequency depends on various parameters for different people.”  She emphasizes that blogging frequency is dependent on many factors including the blogger’s goals and preferences, the type of blog, and how new the blog is.

Time Limitations

We are all pressed for time in our fast-paced world.  Many of us have limited time to read and research topics we are interested in.  We want information in a short and concise format.  Susan Gunelius, author of About.com’s Blogging Guide says, “Most people who read blogs don’t have a lot of time or patience to read thousands of words of content. They’re looking for quick access to information or entertainment. Therefore, you should try to write succinctly and use headings to break up long blocks of text.”  Blog posts should be a reasonable length that allows information and messages to be conveyed.  For blogs that provide how-to or do-it-yourself advice, the length may be longer, but consider using bullet points. This will allow you to get the same message out but with fewer words.

A personal brand focused blog needs to be promoted in order to attract followers, subscribers and readers.  Besides including keywords, tags and categories in and with the blog specifically, the following are several simple strategies for getting the word out:

  • Post a link to your blog on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (use a shortened link)
  • Use Facebook applications such as Networked Blogs to allow your blog to also reside on Facebook
  • Send your blog link to your contact list and ask people to subscribe
  • Ask friends to share and recommend your blog on social media and directly
  • Put the link to your latest blog in your email signature – highlight the topic
  • Each time you blog, ask 20, 30 or 50 or more people what they think of it? Share their comments and ask them to follow.

There are literally millions of blogs.  According to Hat Trick Associates there may be as many as 450 million English language blogs as of 2011 and possibly close to a billion if you count all languages.  Many of these blogs have virtually no readers.  These brands aren’t growing they are stagnant.  Become a successful blogger and create a brand that reflects you and your passions in life and business.  Start by determining what you will write about, find the platform that works for you and start posting.  Remember to be consistent and proactively promote your blog.  To grow your brand and blog you need to tend to it, nurture it, create content for it and build relationships with it.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

Tips to Extend Media Coverage

Media coverage is not easily obtained, but comes at a great cost and effort.  It is highly sought after because of the credibility and significant exposure derived from it.  Today’s media cycle is constantly moving, which gives many stories short-term relevance but a long-term shelf life.  When a company or an organization does get a story in the press, it must do everything it can to leverage its exposure quickly to secure a return on investment.  Below are several strategies for ways of extending the life and brand-building power of hard-earned media coverage.

Social Sharing

Use your social media infrastructure to promote press coverage.  Post links immediately on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest (photos) and/or others.  Social media is a direct conduit to an organization’s fans, followers and “likers.”  Social media allows you to get the message out quickly and efficiently, but remember, every social media platform is different and each message should be customized to each site.  All coverage must include the link to the story or video.  If the link is too long, use a tool like bit.ly to shorten it.  Post at different times of the day and week to maximize the reach of the post.

Don’t Forget Images

Images are important.  Select the best image to include with the post and make sure to stress key messages in posts describing what the story is about.  Photos and media outlet logos help attract attention, shares, likes and retweets.

Proper Crediting

Post the article or a link on your website and/or blog.  Keep in mind that you may need to get permission to reproduce a published article or video.  Post coverage links in the groups you belong to on Facebook and LinkedIn and in appropriate threads on sites like Digg and Reddit.

Teamwork is Vital

Teamwork is key.  Company employees, friends and contacts can share positive company news in the groups they belong to on social media.  A collaborative effort can help increase the exposure exponentially.

Debra Vilchis, Chief Operating Officer of Fishman Public Relations, proposes creating an e-mail message to send to “customers, coworkers, and friends, pretty much anyone you know.” Share with them the press coverage directly, or include a link to the video or print story.

Communications

Communicate the company’s success and media coverage internally to employees and vendors.  Include the coverage prominently in electronic or print company newsletters.  Every company should have a news area on its website.  Links to stories should be placed here.  Multiple story links demonstrate that the business and its principals are industry leaders and experts.  Positive media coverage can increase company morale and productivity, and enhances the company’s credibility and stability to outside partners and vendors.

PR pro John Lee said, “Depending on where your story lands on the media food chain, use it as a stepping stone to garner more coverage.  Compelling print and online stories can be the best way to generate TV coverage, especially when they include a compelling human interest story.  Use print coverage prominently in a pitch to TV, but emphasize the visual aspects to the story, and if possible, suggest a fresh angle or an interesting person who can be interviewed.”

Publicity trainer and speaker Nancy Juetten suggests “creating a custom signature for your outgoing emails [because it] makes it easy for clients and prospects to read about your good news and remark upon it.”

Media coverage is a vital part of branding, credibility enhancement and promotion.  It is    positive third-party content, which must be pushed out on social media streams.  Good coverage can and should be repurposed periodically to ensure key individuals and target audiences see it and learn important information about you and your business.  Media coverage offers unmatched credibility enhancement and promotion.  The value it provides cannot be easily measured, but it is worth many times more than advertising and other forms of marketing.  When you get the coverage use it.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

Is Junk Mail, Spam and Hard Selling Hurting Social Media for Business?

c/o sme-blog.com

Social media is all about being social.  It’s not about hawking products and services or distributing information directly into people’s streams.  We know that social media sites are meant to provide an online venue people to connect, engage, share and much more.  Many have also flocked to social media as a way to connect people and businesses together.  So we now have a paradox.  Social media is supposed to be fun, but now capitalists want to be a part of the action.  There is nothing wrong with capitalism; the American entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our nation and the world economy run.  Without capitalism, there would be no social media to begin with.

According to a Nielsen 2011 social media report, “53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand.”  Social media interaction between people and business was inevitable because people identify themselves with brands, and social media is an ideal place for brands and businesses to engage their customers and fans.  This interaction is a good thing, allowing people to find the products and services they like and their friends recommend.  Social media allows individuals to demonstrate brand loyalty and get access to discounts, special offers and prizes.  However, the problem arises when businesses or individuals motivated by sales start pushing unwanted advertising and direct messages to make sales pitches or offers.  Didn’t many of us sign up for social media to get away from spam and unwanted hard selling?

Social media is an opt-in medium, meaning people choose which information, people, brands and content they want to engage with.  In social media, communication or contact with a brand or business must be initiated by the individual.  If you like a product or company on Facebook or LinkedIn, no problem! You can connect, and businesses want you to do this.  However, a line can be – and often is – crossed.  Most people do not want to be contacted by someone trying to sell something on social media…unless they ask.  Social media is a platform where businesses and individuals must market themselves indirectly through interaction.  Social media participation is about giving information and engaging, not selling and soliciting.

Businesses should focus on using social media to provide information, demonstrate expertise and offer a forum for interaction.  By maintaining a positive flow of information and helpful interaction, a business, brand or professional salesperson will accomplish their goal: sales.  Yes, sales!  Sales will eventually come directly or from referrals, but only after a relationship is built.  Building the kind of relationship where individuals get to know, like and trust the individual or business is the goal.  People do business with those they know, like and trust.

What should businesses be aware of when trying to sell or market directly online?  Social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have policies against direct sales pitches.  LinkedIn’s User Agreement has a list of do’s and don’ts, which states that, “the user will not upload, post, email, InMail, transmit or otherwise make available or initiate any content that is unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation.”  Failing to follow this policy and the many others can result in having your profile suspended or terminated indefinitely.  Yes, terminated. Think of how much time and money goes into creating a social media site or account.  Do you want to risk losing it all?

Direct sales messages are annoyingly commonplace in social media, as many businesses are drawn into the possibilities and the exposure opportunities that it offers.  Social media sites’ news streams and walls are not intended for direct sales messages. This is an area that should remain uncorrupted by overzealous and scavenging advertising.  Some experts disagree, but I believe in reporting and blocking all inappropriate sales contact made through direct messaging.  If it’s a friend you may wish to tell them that it’s not appropriate, but we all need to fight against this practice.  We don’t want to have our LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter direct message mailboxes fill with unwanted sales spam.

I have been bashing selling on social media, but there are some exceptions.  Not all “sales messages” on social media are inappropriate.  For instance, advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn is, for the most part, unobtrusive and helps to keep most of the services offered free.  These ads are not direct messages and are usually chosen based on their relevance to your likes and interests and content that you post.  Divya Rawat, a content writer with a reputed SEO Company, says that Facebook ads can be customized as per age, location, gender, industry, interests and more. (http://www.vast9.com/facebook/facebook-advertising-5-tips-design-effective-facebook-ad/).

Selling is an art and a skill.  Online selling is evolving and, in the business to business arena, selling via social media is difficult when compared to the business to consumer market, where online selling is more ubiquitous and accepted.  Retail brands, including clothing and restaurants, can use social media to advertise extremely effectively.  This is a less intrusive approach, allowing individuals to opt-in.

People need to know that hard sales messages on social media are counter-productive and will turn people away instead of attracting them, which is just the opposite of what social media is intended to do.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

%d bloggers like this: