Why Cold Email Marketing is More Effective at Capturing Executive Leads than Content Marketing

Why Cold Email Marketing is More Effective than Content Marketing

‘Content marketing’ has become somewhat of a buzzword/phrase in the world of marketing these days. This inbound marketing practice is remarkably widespread.

Just about every company is using some form of content marketing today.

But why?

And is it really effective?

It is widely believed that ‘inbound marketing’ delivers more leads than traditional marketing.

According to HubSpot’s 2013 Inbound Marketing Report where they surveyed over 3300 marketers across various business types and industries, inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional marketing.

The report also revealed that 93% of B2B companies are using content marketing.

It is hard to question the usage, I have some good friends that are top leaders in content marketing around the world who are constantly advocating the value of it.

However, recent statistics brings into question its effectiveness.

According to the leading global content marketing education and training organization CMI (Content Marketing Institute) 2016 B2B Content Marketing Report, only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% last year and further down from 42% in 2014.

Twenty-six percent found it to be ineffective while 44% say it is partially effective.

What is at the heart of the decline you might be asking?

Lead generation is the process of marketers stimulating and capturing potential customer interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline.

However, the abundance of readily available information online has led to the rise of the ‘self-directed buyer.’

With the growth of the internet, the world has changed from one of information scarcity to one of information abundance.

This has transformed the buying process.

This is due to what social scientist Herbert Simon calls ‘attention economics’: the wealth of information means a death of something else, a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes – the attention of its recipients.

Buyers are overwhelmed with all the noise and they are getting better and better at cutting through it to find what they want on their own.

Today’s empowered buyer can learn a great deal about a product or service before ever crossing paths with a salesperson.

Therefore, if you really want to effectively build predictable pipelines and revenue opportunities, you’ll have to put yourself directly in their path.

I do believe content marketing can be very valuable but it all depends on where it is applied and to whom.

If you are in a B2C space where content is very powerful, sure, but if you are in the B2B space and trying to land executive-level opportunities or get conversations in your marketing funnel, then this form of marketing won’t give you the results you desire.

In fact, what I’ve found from the many communications and thousands of content pieces that we have curated for our clients over the (number of years in operation) as a marketing consulting company, less than 5% of the leads we have generated for our clients have come from content marketing.

Actually, most of it has come from direct engagement.

Executives have very busy schedules and are not normally the ones that are going to be engaging or digesting content. They will likely delegate that task to their assistants or whomever unless it’s a referral from somebody they already know and trust.

But even referrals, trade shows, speaking events or press releases, aren’t sustainable enough to consistently create executive-level conversations with key decision makers.

In our years as a digital marketing agency, we have seen and ran the gamut on all the aforementioned lead generation options.

It might now be seen as counter-intuitive to most but cold email marketing remains an effective way of acquiring customers. It is more effective than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

Why Cold Email Marketing is More Effective at Capturing Executive Leads than Content Marketing
Email had a median ROI of 122% – more than four times higher than other marketing formats, including social media, direct mail and paid search A June 2016 survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric found.

 

And it is the most effective way of capturing executive level leads. Think about it, checking emails is one of the things every executive do consistently on a daily basis.

So the only real predictable way to get in front of an executive today is to get into their inbox and to do so in a way that is not intrusive but compelling and intriguing enough so they want to look at it.

So if you’re in the inbox of the right person with the right title with the right company consistently, you’re going to get their attention. Once you have their attention what do you say, how do you say it and how do you present it. Doing this right or wrong will determine your success.

For us, we have found this to be the most successful and effective form of executive-level engagement.

It is reported that for every dollar spent on email marketing, an average of $44 dollar return on investment is realized. (Source: Campaign Monitor, 2016). 

Whoever you’re trying to reach, whether that is Managers, Directors, VPs, SVPs, Presidents, CEOs, C-Suite, Entrepreneurs or Professionals, email and Linkedin marketing strategies are the most efficient ways to secure on purpose meetings in the shortest amount of time

Traditional content marketing where companies are just chumming the waters hoping that the right fish will bite is an inefficient way to catch a specific type of fish.

You want to make sure you are targeting the people you want to talk to directly.

With all the technology and social tools currently available to us, our ability to engage executives in a direct, intimate and personal way has never been easier to do.

With the right cold email marketing and LinkedIn marketing approaches your company should be able to build and create scalable systems that bring inbound leads from outbound activities from your exact target market consistently and predictably to help you grow.

According to the CMI report, lead generation (85%) and sales (84%) will be the most important goals for B2B content marketers in the foreseeable future, as it should.

We believe cold email marketing is the number one way to generate quality B2B leads, and it has been proven that the market is moving in this direction.

An effective cold email marketing campaign is complex, and to get it right requires a commitment of 12 to 18  months to get fully optimized without outside help.

The one thing that is certain that is any B2B company in the market that wants to gain market share and continue to grow has to adopt these strategies and methodologies or it will slowly be put out of business and not know why.

Sarah Darlington – Vice President of Client Services

Sarah has been involved in building and growing several digital businesses throughout her 25-year career. Sarah has responsibility for overall customer success of our clients. Sarah’s unique ability to engage, build trust and achieve goals is a great asset to clients. Her corporate and business owner background gives an all-round perspective on challenges organizations face daily. Sarah holds up the company’s purpose when interacting with clients, which is to accelerate positive change in the world by helping our clients generate over 10 Million purpose-based relationships. When not working, Sarah can be found golfing, cooking and traveling with her son who is a nationally ranked teenage paintball player!

LinkedIn Ads, Levi’s and Content Strategies

Linked Strategies Group on LinkedIn has a great discussion going about Content Marketing and if it’s really worth it? @Ernest & the whole group have been going back and forth on this topic.

Check out the group for more insights on what some of the Best LinkedIn and Content Strategist have to say on the topic CLICK HERE.

In short, this is the premise of the conversation:

Ok, I love content marketing… but I realize it is for a specific purpose. Awareness, Trust, Credibility. Nothing more….

For B2B organizations, this strategy is overrated and over promoted as a strategy.

I know more Guru’s and contributors to some of the worlds largest publications that can’t tell you how much or how long it will take to get business from the content they produce. Many of them turn to us to find ways to create predictable leads and revenue for short and long term deals.

What do you think?

Are you an executive or professional? When’s the last major buying decision you made that originated from an Ad? Or a Blog? Probably never. If so, maybe one time in your life, right? Point is this,… executives make buying decisions from people they know like and trust, from referrals, or from people that are top of mind. Content Marketing is trying to break into that latter part – Top of Mind – which can work, but it’s competing with live events, email, InMail, and live online events… not to mention that barrage of noise out there vying for their attention.

I describe Content Marketing is Haystack Marketing, and no one should ever want to be the Needle!

Let me elaborate. This post is content marketing, right? But I don’t rely on it to generate me predictable business deals. It may help me establish my opinion in the market place. It may differentiate me. It may build my authority with my core target market, because I think like they do.But they have to find it. They have to search it out (unless they subscribe to me already) and they have to have time at that moment to read it. @Susan from our group summed up my opinion on content marketing the best. I quote

“If the right eyes don’t land on your content, it’s all moot.” Well said Susan.

Susan believes in Content Marketing. So do I. But when it comes to B2B organizations, I think the timing of rolling out a Content Strategies initiative matters a great deal. I think all B2B organizations should first have in place a predictable revenue model for lead and relationship acquisition… derived from Social Media. They should have a plan to put their customers/clients in an exclusive pond so to say (community or group). Then Content Marketing helps enhance those already successful and predictable strategies.

This article shared Ernest by Adage, Could LinkedIn Be Adland’s Next $1 Billion Player?, is a great insight into LinkedIn’s big focus on their next “Big” revenue opportunity. However, this article as many in the social media space, assume LinkedIn is like Twitter, comparing followers in each to one another.

All of this activity flows from Levi’s company page, which has more than 90,000 followers. That may not sound like much next to Levi’s 560,000 Twitter followers and 22 million Facebook “likes,” but LinkedIn is the only major social network where it always feels OK for a brand to push its business — in fact, it’s expected.

“It gives us a platform to express company perspectives in our own voice without a lot of effort,” said Kelly McGinnis, senior VP and chief communications officer at Levi’s. “It’s low effort, high return in our mind.”

What’s their metric for success? Is it just busy activity? Does it serve a purpose? If so, how is that measured?  You see, followers on a company page have nothing in common with a Twitter follower. They are 99% Job Seekers, bottom line. There is no other incentive to follow a company on LinkedIn. Sure it’s low effort, but as their own Chief of Communications states. But she says the return is in their “mind”! WHAT?! We can measure everything!!!

LinkedIn’s direction will continue to improve, especially in the “Ad” arena. I hope they come up with an Ad Model that works with executives. I just know that to gain predictable visibility through Ad’s on LinkedIn with Director level and above, is very rare. The behavior of executives is not inherently aligned with Ad’s. They ignore them by default. They don’t have time. They are busy and they don’t make business decisions through this vehicle.

LinkedIn is a great place to market for the B2B market, although it requires detailed understanding of how the users, specifically your target market, use the platform.

For a company like Levi’s, I can’t understand their marketing spend on LinkedIn, but I applaud them for trying. I challenge Levi’s and their agency to step up their knowledge of how their core target market interacts with the platform, so they don’t throw this amazing opportunity with a poor result, leading to permanently stepping away from LinkedIn like several other Fortune 100 companies have done. Levi’s, Impressions won’t produce the results you want. LinkedIn is full of a opportunity for every company to create massive impact to their bottom line… just choose strategies that align with your target markets behavior.

Even I do Content Marketing. I love it. But I don’t rely on it. It doesn’t drive my bottom line, it supplements it.

Nathan Kievman

LinkedIn Endorsements: One Year Later

One year after LinkedIn introduced the Skills & Expertise Endorsements feature to its platform, tens of millions of LinkedIn users remain in the dark about what these numbers really mean, as well as the rationale underlying the activity itself. Opinions on the feature’s usefulness run the gamut from being just a popularity contest to a granular, defining appraisal of one’s professional capacity. The lack of consensus on LinkedIn Endorsements would seem to belie the fair share of attention paid to giving and receiving them.

THUMBS UP Mechanical ArmSince LinkedIn introduced the Skills & Expertise Endorsements feature on September 24, 2012, it has dominated the conversation among users, eclipsing the cosmetic changes to the LinkedIn profile page, which occurred at around the same time. As the feature has matured, questions about its validity have increased. My experiential evidence confirms that many people are struggling to find context for these endorsements and are continuing on a path of frustration.

With the jury still out on LinkedIn endorsements, there is opportunity for LinkedIn to pinpoint their value and provide some clarity. I know I could use some. I am just as curious as you as to learn how the company plans to handle them. Like you, I receive LinkedIn endorsements from people I don’t know for skills I don’t possess. At the time of this writing, we have arrived at a point at which conjecture has displaced fact. Your guess is as good as mine as to future of the feature:

Are recruiters really interested in the counts?

Will the skill tallies be indexed and rolled over into an expanded search algorithm?

Will the feature be abolished?

Since when do I do project management?

I am on the record as someone who favors LinkedIn endorsements. I think they do lend themselves to the credibility discussion. As someone who embraces and teaches LinkedIn best practices, I would like to offer my take on the status of LinkedIn endorsements on its first anniversary, and insights as to how we can negotiate them moving forward.

1). Endorse others for the skills they are known to possess

If compiled in a conscientious manner, endorsements from your LinkedIn connections could be helpful in raising your brand awareness and getting found by the right people. The giving of LinkedIn endorsements should be of one’s own volition. Consider the huge blue banner that downloads superior to the marquee of the LinkedIn profiles of 1st degree connections upon your visit, prompting endorsements for skills off of a prefab list (highlighting those that they did not provide themselves). Your connections will view a similar banner upon visiting your LinkedIn profile. This is the primary reason that endorsements do not accrue organically. Nobody is scrolling down to the belly of the page where your “real” skills—those for which you want to be endorsed—are displayed.

2). LinkedIn endorsements get conversations started

One thing I know for sure regarding the rollout of LinkedIn endorsements: they got people talking and thinking about LinkedIn—at a time when their heads were spinning from all of the site changes. And whereas so many may feel that the LinkedIn endorsements are merely a surface estimation of one’s true capabilities, for me, they have proven to be a valuable engagement strategy. I endorse others when justified, and make it a point to reach out and thank folks for endorsing me. If it has been a while since we have spoken, I will get the dialog rolling. The genius behind the feature lies in its inherent value as a top-of-mind technique. If you can create situational awareness around the flurry of endorsement activity that plays out in your network—and this takes time and patience—then you can make something great happen. The topic, too, itself is a great conversation starter. Next time you are at a networking event, ask someone what they think of LinkedIn endorsements. See where it takes you.

3). Do not run LinkedIn endorsement campaigns

Since the inception of the feature, I have received several long-winded messages from people seeking my endorsement. And I am not talking about a message that is tailored for my eyes only, but the one that begins with “Hello Valued Connection.” In it, the sender is requesting endorsements in specific skill categories, while offering to do the same for me in return. Such is the nature of what I call social coercion. LinkedIn endorsements should not be solicited; they should accrue by their own inertia. Of what value is an endorsement that is not heartfelt or born out of integrity? However, if someone you know well has already endorsed you for your non-primary skills, there is nothing wrong with creating a touch point (thanking them, of course) around the request for a return visit to your LinkedIn profile to endorse you for your preferred skills. Mention that you will be delighted to reciprocate.

4). Treasure the written LinkedIn recommendations you receive

One notable aspect that has been brought to light by the consternation over endorsements is just how valuable the written LinkedIn recommendation truly is. Some of you may have taken such testimonials for granted. I implore you to do so no more. I have noticed that the frequency with which people in my network give or receive written recommendations has decreased since the release of endorsements. Given people’s crazy-busy schedules and fractured attention spans, it is no wonder. They take effort. Those that receive them, especially when unsolicited, ought to hold the writer in high esteem. An endorsement is, by no means, a substitute for a well-crafted recommendation. The latter, which offers experiential evidence into a person’s competency and character, is a far more accurate gauge of our credibility in the social business world.

5). Perhaps an intermediary step in the endorsement process? 

There is not much thought behind the majority of endorsement activity. (See skills. Click on skills. In some cases, turbo-click on the whole lot. Or click on those with the higher count, feeling that these are the areas in which the person excels.) Endorsement for the sake of endorsement does not strengthen bonds between LinkedIn connections. There is an element that is missing. Say, for example, that when you mouse over a given skill, a text box pops up with a couple of check boxes. Here, you would be required to validate that the person actually commands that particular skill or area of expertise and has demonstrated it to you. Not until you qualify as an endorser will the endorsement register and your thumbnail become visible on that person’s LinkedIn profile.

Parting Thoughts

On LinkedIn, skills and expertise are vital to your keyword strategy. They are your ticket to entry in a world where you are judged before you are bought or hired. Having them in some incarnation—and with the appropriate density—on your LinkedIn profile is imperative. By now, we should be aware that managing change is a vital part of advantageously using LinkedIn. If you know me, you know I focus on the positive. Complaining creates negative energy, and negative energy has no place in social networking.

Are you Contemplating the Upgrade to the Paid LinkedIn Program?

As a LinkedIn specialist, I am always on the ready to deliver good answers to the frequently asked questions. I prepare for them. After I give a talk, I anticipate them. I find that the question asked with the greatest frequency is whether one should upgrade to a paid LinkedIn account. People want to know what the advantages are and when the time is right.

My answer: Yes, and you will know when the time is right. The more skillful you become on LinkedIn, the more you will need and appreciate the features and benefits that accompany the upgrade.

The transition of LinkedIn to a paid platform has been underway for quite some time. Since early 2010, the point at which the site really started on its path of change, LinkedIn has introduced some features that seasoned users, and those gaining traction on the site, now find indispensable. In order to extol the merits of a paid subscription, LinkedIn is enticing those in its massive user base who are skating for free to make the move up by offering a 1-month FREE trial period. (You may very well have this promo message still sitting in your inbox.)

Whereas the provisions of the paid program are clearly listed in the promo, and can be easily accessed on the LinkedIn site, many people still don’t know what the advantages are, and which features they should test drive during those 30 days.

It is becoming crystal clear that on LinkedIn, you have to pay to play. Back in the day, you could effectively build your LinkedIn network at no cost. Not so anymore. Negotiating professional relationships in the Digital era requires more judicious decision-making. LinkedIn now withholds valuable information on those outside a direct connection with you, and has set limits on your depth and breadth of search. Clicks that once led you to what you needed to see now prompt “Upgrade Now” conversion attempts. Many of my clients and students have reached that impasse and see the need to opt into a paid plan.

If you are on the bubble as to whether to pop for the paid, but will accept the free trial offer, here are the questions that warrant your contemplation for those 30 days:

1). Can you stay committed to a daily LinkedIn regimen?

Building a professional network that can generate business opportunities requires time and discipline. To the uninitiated, mastering the site might seem like a long, hard climb. Not until the habit of daily use is ingrained will you see and truly appreciate the power of LinkedIn as a prime driver of business growth. If you are newbie, find your way. If you are a sporadic user who deems LinkedIn as hard labor, then you will fail to see its value. Don’t make excuses. Do what it takes in order to achieve a positive outcome. With daily use of LinkedIn comes greater agility on the site, a deeper understanding of its nuances, and an enhanced recognition of real world opportunity. Without your firm commitment to focused learning during the 30-day trial period, you will not arrive at a basis for justifying the upgrade. So invest the time. Do your homework. Bring an optimistic outlook into each LinkedIn session. Once you string together a few good sits at the computer, you will become more productive, more intuitive, and more creative on the site. Plus, you might even find it fun.

2). Are you interested in building a deep, cohesive LinkedIn network?

The new dynamics of social networking on LinkedIn call for raising your level of professional conduct and more respect-based connecting. Your ability to do business, real business, on LinkedIn is contingent on how purposefully you research, approach and engage with others. If you view your professional relationships as your business lifeline, and are intent on interacting with people on a meaningful level, then the return on your LinkedIn investment will be best realized. The availability of relevant information that can be harvested via LinkedIn filtered searches makes the upgrade an easy decision. So, too, is the InMail feature. An InMail is a targeted piece of communication that offers an inroad to a potential client, collaborator, or influencer when no other routes are apparent or feasible. A cordial, well-crafted InMail presents you in the best possible light, elevates your brand in the mind of the recipient, and increases the likelihood of a favorable response. With the paid program, you also gain greater access to LinkedIn’s dedicated introduction platform, therein allowing your 1st degree connections greater ease in orchestrating quality introductions to decision-makers on your behalf. During the trial period, you are sure to discover that the upgrade is designed around helping you bring good people into your LinkedIn network.

3). Are you receiving more than 5 LinkedIn profile visits per day?

The tipping point in my own decision to upgrade—other than the fact that I consider myself a brand ambassador of LinkedIn to the nth degree, and wish to speak from the point of view of the paid subscriber—is the expanded Who’s Viewed My Profile (WVMP) capability. WVMP has become one of the most frequently discussed aspects of LinkedIn, as both a critical metric and a strategic touch point in social selling. With the basic (free) program, you will only see 5 visitors per day (providing that you have your account visibility settings set accordingly). If you are consistently receiving more than 5 hits daily on your LinkedIn profile, and wish to see them all, then that alone warrants the upgrade.

Parting Thoughts

The upgrade to the LinkedIn premium program is more than merely acquiring the privilege of displaying the gold “IN” logo on your LinkedIn profile that designates you as a paid subscriber. The real issue here is: what can you do on the site for the money versus what can’t you accomplish for free? As with any investment, you have to evaluate the tradeoff and decide if the end justifies the means. Once you get to the point where LinkedIn activity becomes second nature and part of your daily business process, I say pay, and don’t look back.

Do you value your LinkedIn work to the point where you are willing to pay for it?

Ben Franklin Close-Up

 

Fare Thee Well, LinkedIn Answers

Who Has the AnswerAnother feature of LinkedIn has gone by the wayside. LinkedIn Answers, oft-touted as a destination for users seeking to advance a thought leadership platform, receive an objective viewpoint on a specific business challenge or commiserate with their fellow LinkedIn citizens on any number of nagging concerns, was retired on January 31, 2013. Given the systematic restructuring of the LinkedIn site, the move should come as no surprise. It does, however, spell dismay for a great many people who depended on the forum for crowdsourcing, peer advisory and the gleaning of business intelligence.

The demise of LinkedIn Answers supports the progressive strategy of LinkedIn toward a more engagement-driven platform, one that emphasizes meaningful one-on-one interactions and more focused problem solving. Although I did not frequent it regularly, I found Answers to serve a purpose and, on more than one occasion, found it to be extremely helpful. I was more of a question asker than an answerer. In the end, I must confess, it felt like a closed community, one in which the same folks were jumping on questions as soon as they hit the board, seemingly more interested in vying for the “Best answer” distinction rather than shedding light. Some responses were on-topic; others were vague, diffuse and offered no value.

With the plug pulled on LinkedIn Answers, contingency plans will emerge to pick up the slack. Those who participated in the forum regularly will miss it, I’m sure. They will have to find alternative vehicles through which to ask a question, arrive at a consensus on an issue or voice their subject matter expertise. Sadly, one of the byproducts of its removal will be the virtual landfill of content in the listings generated by Google searches that can no longer be accessed. Click on those links and you’ll be ushered to LinkedIn’s outgoing letter to its users explaining their decision to pull Answers. No archives to peruse. Gone.

So where do we get our questions answered?

The LinkedIn Interactive Space

Community outreach on LinkedIn now shifts to Polls, group discussions or via status updates, with hints that future enhancements are planned. Although great for assessing trends and quantifying data, asking a poll will not supplant the value that can be gained from reviewing detailed explanations. I see limited conversation taking place on status updates. On a home page already rife with noise, there is some liking, commenting and sharing, but many users defer from engaging authentically so as not to ruffle feathers, or for fear that something they say may be taken out of context. Additionally, the shelf life of a status update is very short and the post will ultimately be displaced out of conscious awareness and fall off the activity log. At the time of this writing, the groups stand as the best option through which to cull the information you seek and gain emotional intelligence from your interactions. Deepening your exploration of the LinkedIn groups is a logical move. The hope is that group members will undertake more genuine knowledge searches and actually pose questions unhinged from self-promotion in the group milieu.

Organic LinkedIn Network Searches

Whether you realize it or not, through your LinkedIn work, you have amassed a treasure trove of professional resources, many of which you may not be aware. Even if Answers was still a viable option, the time has come to tap the collective knowledge of your direct LinkedIn connections. The focus, as it should be, is on strengthening relationships. Perform an internal audit of your LinkedIn network and isolate those who can address a specific issue, either now or down the road. The sample size will drive the value of the return. You can submit the question en masse and retrieve several different viewpoints, or tailor the information request to a select few. In either case, frame the inquiry as a preface to a meaningful business conversation. If these folks can’t help you, they will surely point you in the direction of someone who can. Such is the essence of social networking, lest we forget that is why we are on a site like LinkedIn in the first place.

Real World Discussion

In today’s crazy-busy world, getting to know someone beyond a superficial level takes time and energy. If you are gliding from person-to-person at a networking event, only concerned with distributing your quota of business cards, then your efforts won’t translate into much. The more focused you are during the exchange, the greater the opportunity to position yourself as a trusted and valued asset. Keep mental files on the people you meet. They may provide you with the insights you need someday. Also remember that intelligence gathering is a two-way street. You have specialized knowledge that can solve problems for others, don’t you? Let people you meet know what your sweet spots are so that when the connection on LinkedIn occurs, and the need for your intellectual property arises, you will get their questions answered and, in so doing, move the relationship forward.

Parting Thoughts: If you were a devotee of LinkedIn Answers, whether as an inquirer, reporter or both, the volley of problem-solving dialog that you once enjoyed shifts to within your tribe. This movement is opportunity-directed as it will give more people (some who never knew LinkedIn Answers even existed in the first place) a chance to provide facts and fixes and demonstrate their subject matter expertise. With Answers now a piece of LinkedIn history, I will take a page out of my own playbook and access my network for professional insights and sagacious advice. I predict that we will see heightened interactions and more emotionally-charged questions in the LinkedIn groups. I’m very interested to see what new channels emerge on LinkedIn through which we can simultaneously pool knowledge, scaffold a thought leadership platform and build enduring business relationships.

 

 

 

The NEW LinkedIn Profile: The Spotlight Shines on YOU

After a few sneak peeks, I finally and fully converted to the new LinkedIn profile view on December 11, 2012. Rather than do what so many citizen journalists do—that is, climb over each other to see who can get the word out the quickest—I wanted to take a step back, spend some quality time with the new look and fully assess the format changes. After a period of deep contemplation, I am ready to deliver some preliminary observations on what the latest version of the LinkedIn profile means to you moving forward. I give you the first in a series of posts on the new wave of LinkedIn engagement strategies. (Note: Each of the subtopics in this piece, as well as some additional features and benefits, will be explored in greater detail in future posts.)    

2012 will go down as the year in which we saw the greatest changes occur in the history of LinkedIn. Each modification has built on the one that preceded it, and collectively enhanced the user experience by drawing more attention to the LinkedIn profile, cuing more engagement (both online and offline) and shortening the route previously taken toward forging meaningful business connections.

The site’s transformation, which started innocently enough in Q1 with a few subtle tweaks to the LinkedIn user interface and reassignments of content sections, accelerated in the autumn with the introduction of the Skills and Expertise Endorsements feature. Shortly thereafter came the word from LinkedIn Corporation that its hallmark, the LinkedIn profile page, was about to change. As LinkedIn profile writing is one of my core services, I was naturally curious as to how the transition was going to play out and how I should best communicate this to my clients and those in my LinkedIn network. So, noticing that the rollout was going to be piecemeal rather than all-at-once, I started to let folks know that change was on the way as I waited for my own LinkedIn account to convert.

Theatre Stage with SpotlightsWell, the curtain has been pulled back and the NEW LinkedIn profile has taken its place on center stage. And the spotlight is focused on and following you.

The updated profile is more polished and easy on the eyes while the enhanced functionality is extremely comfortable on the brain. The layout, typography and spatial orientation of the page are engineered for quick uptake of information. From top to bottom, each content compartment is delineated by grey-shaded headers and punctuated by bolder and brighter supporting text for key search terms. The staggering of typefaces (I approve of the new font choices), company and LinkedIn group logos and thumbnail photos of those in your network add color, texture and dimension. The right rail is dressier, too, accessorized with stylish graphics that simplify metrics, amplify important network characteristics and showcase member advertisements. To the dismay of some dedicated users, there are a few features from the previous version that did not make the final cut, but all in all, the page works and is set up to exhibit you in all your professional glory and splendor.

The LinkedIn Marquee Drives Instantaneous Branding

Optical tracking studies, which measure one’s points of gaze on a computer screen where data is presented, and map the hot spots where attention is concentrated, bring to bear that the eye is naturally drawn to the top left quadrant of an Internet page on download. Additionally, brain studies reveal activation at the highest emotional and intellectual centers and support the theory that people surveying your LinkedIn profile form expectations and make judgments instantaneously. Recognition and response occur at the first negligible perception in a manner akin to what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), a term that can be extrapolated to many phenomena in Internet-driven decision science. Understandably, these findings become strategically significant to Web developers and marketers.

On LinkedIn, you are the product. How you are packaged in your LinkedIn profile will determine the extent to which people can (or will want) to learn about you. A favorable first impression of you hangs in the balance. You brand on impact. Therefore, it is essential for you to make that content (and those keywords) count. Whether you are being vetted as a potential vendor, service provider, enterprise partner, job candidate or first degree connection, first-time visitors to your LinkedIn profile perform a lightning-fast sequence of evaluations and determinations based on the information that you have provided. If you present well and pique their interest, then they will keep scrolling and clicking for more information. Fail to grab their attention from the get-go and they will bounce out quicker than you can say “Engage.”

Hence, the LinkedIn marquee, situated in that all-important top left quadrant, is the focal point of the LinkedIn profile. The content in this region—comprised of your name, headshot, professional headline and nutshell vitals (your industry, geographical location, contact information and network size)—has been reconfigured and spring-loaded with visual and textual cues that position you immediately in the minds of those accessing you. Accordingly, your professional headline, the most fertile area of LinkedIn search by keyword, ought to contain razor-sharp descriptions of your service offering. There is no room for ambiguity here. You get 120 characters (including spaces). Make every character count.

Your Headshot Facilitates Immediate Recall

There is a wealth of information on human face perception—a process that involves multiple areas of the brain—and how we recognize, differentiate and interpret faces. As LinkedIn moves toward a more humanized medium, the headshot figures prominently. The photo portal is bigger, facilitating immediate identification, and strategically situated at the—you guessed it—top left of the profile page. On the lower right-hand side of the photo field, you will notice a little magnifying glass icon. When clicked, a separate screen emerges on the center of the page bearing an enlargement of your photo that is four times the original size. (This functionality is dependent on the file size of the image.) There is no denying the value of a professionally-rendered headshot, one that captures your unique energy and exudes confidence. I recommend you invest in quality business portraiture. Pick your expression carefully. It should be warm and welcoming.

The factors of age, gender or ethnicity notwithstanding, your LinkedIn headshot is the most salient aspect of your personal brand. A great headshot, more than any other device, aids the ability of others to commit you to memory, assign positive qualities to your service offering and recall you with precision. I meet hundreds of people per month. Whereas I am not the best at remembering names (I’m working on it!), I am extremely good at placing faces. When I am referencing someone on LinkedIn after a long lag time since the initial meeting, I have no shot at recalling that person without a photo. An accurate, professional headshot promotes connectivity. (Increasingly, I find that people will not accept LinkedIn invitations from users whose profiles do not contain a photo. This is a very popular topic in LinkedIn group discussions.)

Once people have your image in their mind’s eye view, they will recognize you in the future as you both swim around the LinkedIn fishbowl. With repeated exposure, you gain familiarity and your social brand builds. Moreover, I firmly believe that people, just like other goods, can be bought on impulse. A great headshot does not ensure LinkedIn success. But if you post a poor, silly or nonexistent one, then as sure as the day is long, people will turn down your business overtures. As I have often stated, people don’t do business with, or hire, ghosts. Start caring about the image you project—that is, if you wish to be taken seriously on (and off of) LinkedIn.

 LinkedIn Strategies are Activity-Centered and Engagement-Driven

Prior to the changes, I extolled the virtues of a content-rich LinkedIn profile Summary section on the merits of its location just below the marquee and the role it plays in positively reinforcing your unique promise of value. That has not changed. Your Summary still provides visitors to your profile with the best inroad to your business persona. In the new LinkedIn profile format,this content has been displaced by an immovable Activity section. Suddenly, what you share, with whom you connect on LinkedIn and who you endorse (and vice versa) are important. Your LinkedIn Activity offers visitors a window into your social networking patterns and is designed to induce interaction on the spot.

LinkedIn has concluded that how you maneuver on the site can (should) draw positive attention to you and create opportunities to engage with others. In Facebook-like fashion, your Activity is your LinkedIn timeline—a chronicle of your choices, contributions and broadcast communications. (This information is not available to those outside your network, but becomes visible to your first degree connections. Of course, your discretionary interactions and private messages will not display.) Your time-stamped status updates, appearances in the updates of others, LinkedIn profile tweaks, endorsements and group contributions comprise an engagement platform, allowing others to like, comment or share. The idea here is to create conversation momentum and build community. The humanizing of LinkedIn is in full force.

The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more visibility you obtain, and thus, the more important the content in your LinkedIn profile becomes. If you are working LinkedIn to generate leads, establish a thought leadership platform or build a network deep and wide, you can’t expect to achieve your objectives without a LinkedIn profile that frames you as that go-to professional. As you circulate, provide insightful commentary and overlap with regularity in the networks of others, you will stir curiosity and people will (ideally) notice and want to research you. And you know what their first stop will be, yes?

Parting Thoughts: There are many other new valuable features and benefits that accompany The Great LinkedIn Profile Makeover. This piece focuses on those that are directly tied to your flagship content and will help you establish a more permeating LinkedIn presence. As you acclimate to the changes in LinkedIn culture, and gain a feel for the new LinkedIn profile, you will accordingly ramp up your involvement on the site. As you experiment with the new strategies, your unique attitudes and behaviors will emerge, you will commune with others in a more meaningful way and make good things happen in your professional life.

Is your LinkedIn profile ready for prime time?

Linked Inhibitions: “I’m on LinkedIn, BUT…”

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For me, LinkedIn is a constant backdrop, a livelihood. It brings out my professional and personal best. I went in with zero inhibition, recognized its value immediately and quickly understood that my output would be directly proportional to input. My LinkedIn profile works when I sleep. I am proud of the network I have built and respect the professionals who inhabit it. I embrace a best practices approach on the site, carefully measure my activities on it and obey the laws of business etiquette to the letter.

People are masters are putting up roadblocks, rationalizing a lack of willpower and setting themselves up for discontent. Depending on circumstances, we will abstain from acting on something perceived to be potentially beneficial, self-handicap to preserve self-esteem and protect our interests rather than risk them. Our inhibitions in the physical world, whether real or imaginary, at once shield us from harm and impede productivity. Overcoming challenges and conquering adversity are signature pieces of the human condition, and these conscious exclusions of thoughts, behaviors or impulses that we deem unacceptable or undesirable can come at a cost.

When it comes to inhibitions in social networking, some lose them while others gain them. Naturally, some personal restraint is necessary in the digital world. The Internet is littered with professional tragedies that have befallen the uninhibited. On LinkedIn, an inhibition is lodged in an excuse or complaint that drives an aversive response or retards achievement on the site. Confusion and complacency set in, and the case is built for not exploring the possibilities. Naysaying, skepticism and pessimism ensue. An inhibited LinkedIn member will eschew making even a minimal effort or completely avoid certain activities that could,prove to be beneficial. If you embrace LinkedIn, and have successfully developed business or advanced your career because of it, then you might not appreciate the plight of others who are paralyzed by some psychic force and can’t maneuver freely on the site.

As for the excuses why people can’t (won’t) do LinkedIn, I’ve heard them all. Some folks believe that the site won’t work for them, that it is beyond their comprehension, and downplay the value that LinkedIn could have on their business. Others are worried, and rightfully so, about breaches in personal security and place a premium on their privacy in the Digital Age. Social networking anxiety—the fear of not measuring up, or not being taken seriously in their online interactions—detours people from getting started, let alone gaining traction, on LinkedIn. Whatever the reason, I have assured these folks that their apprehension and abstinence will not have an effect on my way of life. I’ll be fine. But for them, there is necessity, even urgency, now with respect to LinkedIn. Awareness of the site is at an all-time high. Curiosity is piqued. Many professionals have suspended their disbelief,  stopped carping and realized that there may be something to this social networking thing after all.

So what’s holding you back? In order to gain wisdom, let’s first isolate the three primary “buts” and their underlying behavior:

#1: “I’m on LinkedIn, but I’m not using it.”

Translation: “I hate my LinkedIn profile.”

Insight: This is the default excuse and one that goes beyond mere apathy. Not using LinkedIn signifies to me that people are inhibited by a poor, inaccurate or under-developed LinkedIn profile, yet they invest no time or effort in energizing it. Invariably, these folks hurriedly splashed up a few sentences on their LinkedIn profile after creating an account and have let it stand. Whether they are shy, indecisive regarding their professional direction or unable to articulate a value proposition, they have failed to attach significance to how they represent on the site and are catalyzing self-handicapping behaviors. Your LinkedIn profile is your place to shine, not hide your inadequacies. A strong self-concept is essential for success in using the site. The cosmetic enhancements to the profile page (which will be discussed in future blogs), ought to force the hand of even the most stubborn procrastinators. Your LinkedIn profile is your ultimate lead generator and, as supported by the statistics, the primary destination for others searching for you by name on Google. If can’t do the writing of your LinkedIn profile, then outsource it (I got a guy). The sense of social business self-esteem—as I call it—that is engendered by knowing you present well on LinkedIn will propel you in your pursuit of commerce in the real world.

#2: “I’m on LinkedIn, but I’m not really using it effectively.”

Translation: “I log in occasionally, get frustrated or overwhelmed and blow it off.”

Insight: This excuse, which smacks of passive exasperation, masks what might be a sincere desire to learn LinkedIn, yet reflects no commitment to a regimen. You may have begun with noble intentions in working the site, put forth some effort, but did not apply yourself. Along the way, you could not keep up, lost focus and quit. Perhaps you set your expectations too high (or not high enough). Those who are prone to distraction, have problems coping with stress, experience difficulty in processing information, or engage in negative self-talk, will have difficulty in diagnosing potentially beneficial scenarios on LinkedIn. Perhaps you are overly sensitive to what your competition is doing and are putting too much pressure on yourself. You feel that if you had a blueprint to follow, or could receive tangible evidence that LinkedIn will positively impact your business, then you would do all that is necessary and proper. Well, I can state without fear of contradiction that you have the ability to excel on LinkedIn. What is missing here is the critical thinking piece. Take a deep breath. Relax. Learn LinkedIn incrementally. Keep consciously aware of events in your network from which business opportunities could spring forth. Discipline yourself to sit still in front of the computer and really study what plays out on your screen. Be patient and optimistic. You’ll get it. I promise.

#3: “I’m on LinkedIn, but I just don’t have the time to work it.”  

Translation: “I don’t want to do LinkedIn.”

Insight: Ah yes, no time. This is a popular cop-out and eminently worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of great excuses. When the going gets tough, the tough are just too busy. Any routine, without having value attached to it, can become cumbersome and acquire time-suck status. If you don’t perceive a potential reward, or feel that you have to do something “just because,” then you will certainly bring negative energy to the work. Deflecting the blame for your LinkedIn absenteeism to the ticking clock could likely be a substitute for other inhibitors. We all have deadlines looming. We are all multitasking our brains out. The key to overcoming the time crunch (yes, a real concern) is to figure out what you can and can’t do on the site right now. Find a way to prioritize and work LinkedIn into your schedule. Sporadic logins are okay if you can take something beneficial away from each session (e.g., making a constructive LinkedIn profile tweak, connecting with a potential influencer, gaining valuable business intelligence from a group discussion, etc.). When you are ready, hopefully sooner rather than later, contribute to the conversation. You do want to be relevant and stay top-of-mind, don’t you?

Parting thoughts: As LinkedIn continues to ascend in popularity, the quest for knowledge in using it properly has picked up steam, and more users are taking command of their professional destiny. If you have postponed learning the basics, or would like to expand a stagnant knowledge base, I encourage you to invest some time in learning the new engagement strategies. Scaffold your LinkedIn profile. Access the wealth of online tutorials on social networking best practices. Talk to your colleagues who are using LinkedIn every day and ask them which approaches they favor. Contact me. Happy to help.

And finally, don’t lay back. Owning up to an inhibition is the first step in vanquishing it. Find your place in LinkedIn Nation. Be proactive in learning the site and take some enjoyment from helping others in your network and watching your online community grow. Have some faith in your ability to critically think your way through each challenge and you will gain inner strength from your interactions with others. If you bring a defeatist attitude to LinkedIn activity, you can expect defeat. Making excuses is easy. Doing the work is hard. When it comes to achieving your professional goals on the site, a little positive mindset goes a long way.

LinkedIn Endorsements vs. LinkedIn Recommendations: A Definitive Overview – Part II

In Part I of this series, I delineated between the definitions of the LinkedIn endorsement and recommendation and established a framework for how the former finds its identification point on the LinkedIn profile page. In this post, I’d like to expand the comparison and explore the act of endorsing a LinkedIn connection, taking into account its relative importance, reciprocal dynamic and the context in which it is delivered.

One thing that has become evident in the wake of LinkedIn’s introduction of the Skills & Expertise Endorsement platform is that people take their online credibility seriously. Business professionals have awakened to the all-permeating force of Internet culture and the influence that digital word-of-mouth brings to bear. Quickly scanning the endorsement display (Grid of Competency) of a would-be vendor, service provider or job candidate gives a nebulous appraisal of that individual’s capabilities, whereas written recommendations, culled from actual experience, are a more telling feature of a person’s accountability, reliability and performance.

Most people with whom I’ve spoken about endorsements have offered positive commentary. Others remain on the fence, are indifferent, or just going with the flow. Some people, as I have noticed in the LinkedIn groups, are more outspoken and question the validity of endorsements, feeling that they cheapen one’s credibility. One thing is for sure: LinkedIn wants endorsements to be a prominent piece of the new LinkedIn profile format and is making them the focus of a new wave of engagement strategies.

Exchanging endorsements and recommendations are actions that lend themselves to comparison and contrast. Allow me to summarize the distinctions as follows:

 

Reciprocity Then and Now

Back in the day, when you wrote a LinkedIn recommendation for a first degree connection and it was accepted and posted, you immediately received one in return. This knee-jerk response was prompted by the system and your recommendation hit the home page right underneath the one you wrote. The event was perceived as staged. Today, as networks have expanded, and a dizzying amount of content pounds the stream, the quid pro quo aspect of recommendations is diminished or lost altogether. Nobody is keeping track anymore. Nowadays, most people simply don’t have the time to sit down and write an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation and are moved to do so only when requested. The process has become highly collaborative, frequently requiring multiple touch points (brainstorming, revisions, etc.) that can catalyze a relationship.

An endorsement comes to you when a visitor to your LinkedIn profile deems you as “endorsement-worthy.” This visit is sparked by a casual observation of you on the home page, in the networks of common connections, or via an off-LinkedIn mental cue (receipt of an email, voice mail, etc.). Perhaps you may feel an obligation to return an endorsement left for you. In those instances, an accompanying note of thanks is always appropriate (and a powerful goodwill builder). I tend to reciprocate endorsements left for me, and I will leave endorsements for others with no expectation of payback. Several times, the exchange initiated a meaningful business conversation, lending credence to the argument that the endorsement can be a very powerful top-of-mind strategy.

LinkedIn endorsements should not be seen as a popularity contest, nor should you run targeted campaigns to increase your tally. Let them flow. Endorse your key connections (if they haven’t gotten to you first) for real reasons, not merely to curry favor. Allow the Grid of Competency to populate under its own inertia. Based on the feedback I’ve received, I sense that many people view the endorsement as an easier alternative to crafting a full-blown LinkedIn recommendation, and will feel more inclined to generate or reciprocate endorsements. And endorsements beget endorsements.

In the Eye of the Recruiter

Talent acquisition is a vital piece of LinkedIn’s business model and at the heart of the Skills and Expertise Endorsement platform. Recruiters use LinkedIn in altogether different ways than salespeople, entrepreneurs or executives. They are racing the clock (and each other) to fill available positions. They spend the majority of the day performing targeted, keyword-based searches of qualified candidates, quickly sifting through the listings and distilling down to a select few. They don’t spend much time on LinkedIn profiles (they routinely access several hundred in the course of a week) and make surface judgments based on how people pop on the page.

Adding skills and talents will surely bolster your position in search.Even in a down job market, there are highly sought-after skill sets, those that can put you under consideration just for claiming them. The more relevant and specific the wording, the greater the likelihood you will wind up in the recruiter’s crosshairs. (Hint: If you are actively involved in a job search, you may wish to “borrow” exact phrasing of skills and expertise from job descriptions you are pursuing from the companies you are targeting.)

The Skills and Expertise piece figures prominently in the new LinkedIn profile format, and the company undoubtedly has big plans for expanding it as a recruiting solution.

A Note on Restricted Industries

Reciprocity notwithstanding, financial services and healthcare, two industries that are heavily regulated, closely monitored and constricted on social networking sites, will have issues with the LinkedIn endorsement feature. Due to legislation, compliance constraints and confidentiality requirements, individuals in these industries cannot display recommendations or endorsements on their LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, many professional service providers (e.g., attorneys, accountants), especially those in larger firms, and depending on their state of residence, cannot display any content that can be construed as a testimonial, marketing device or an advertisement (nor can they endorse or recommend others). Ultimately, many of these professionals will be mandated to keep this section of their LinkedIn profiles hidden from public view.

That said, are you more or less inclined to reciprocate a LinkedIn endorsement?

Part III of JD’s Take on LinkedIn endorsements will go inside the numbers. What does the tally really mean in a social networking strategy? JD will also provide valuable suggestions for moving forward with this new feature.

LinkedIn Endorsements vs. LinkedIn Recommendations: A Definitive Overview – Part I

I can’t recall a modification to the LinkedIn platform that has met with more confusion than the company’s unannounced and unheralded introduction of the LinkedIn Skills and Expertise Endorsement platform. Since its arrival, I have been fielding numerous questions from clients and colleagues on the utility and validity of this feature, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. Invariably, people want to know the reasoning behind these endorsements, whether they are designed to replace the recommendations they’ve already received and what the strategy sets are around them.

I think the Skills and Expertise Endorsement feature is a fine addition to the LinkedIn profile, one that will undoubtedly escalate the level of engagement right there on the page and have far-reaching implications in creating top-of-mind awareness, rekindling dormant relationships and building goodwill. It also gets to the core of LinkedIn Corporation’s dual commitment to improving the user experience and making life easier for those in the talent acquisition business. It is clearly designed with recruiters in mind. What is also evident is that this new feature has people talking—about LinkedIn.

The back-story on LinkedIn endorsements begins in March 2011, when an “Add Sections” link, positioned right underneath the LinkedIn billboard, made its debut on the LinkedIn profile. Among the many options that you could include was Skills. You were free to title these terms as you saw fit, with any combination of keywords. About a year later, many LinkedIn users noticed another change: The Specialties section of the LinkedIn profile—an accompaniment to the LinkedIn profile Summary in which many LinkedIn users listed their skills and core competencies—was unceremoniously discontinued. (If you had content in this section prior to the change, you could keep it; if you deleted it, you couldn’t restore it. Those creating new accounts did not have it available.) Thus, the focus shifted to the new Skills section and a great many added it to their LinkedIn profiles. Ultimately, Skills became a permanent addition to the LinkedIn profile template.

Then, on August 20, 2012, the LinkedIn profile page, which had previously received only a few minor tweaks, underwent its first significant design change. The LinkedIn billboard—the area that housed all your professional vitals—was condensed; more visual emphasis was placed on your professional headline and headshot; your once-visible and readily ascertainable contact information (including URLs to your Web collateral) was concealed within a drop-down menu; the number of LinkedIn recommendations that you had accrued was no longer displayed. You could find out the latter, but it took a bit of detective work.

That leads us to September 24, 2012, when LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements for Skills and Expertise, another marker towards the complete revamping of the LinkedIn profile. The outcry is not the expected one—that is, how this new feature builds on the already established credibility model. Instead, it’s why endorsements, why now?

On the Nature of Endorsement

 As defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, to endorse is “to acknowledge” or “to give approval of or support to by public statement.” In essence, your endorsement—both given and received—is merely an acknowledgment, a passive sign of approval. It is a LinkedIn like. Unlike the written recommendation, it doesn’t go deep. There is no insight into your character, no assessment, no validation of your integrity. For those who may shy away from a lengthy written treatment (the recommendation), the LinkedIn endorsement is a simple click that shouts, “I vouch for you. I was here on your LinkedIn profile and wanted to acknowledge your ability in a particular area.” In our Testimonial Era, where word-of-mouth and user-generated online content shape perception and drive action, we are what others say we are. Competition is omnipresent and we are all looking for differentiators and credibility enhancers. Any affirmation of your skill or acumen (especially on your LinkedIn profile) is a desired outcome as you move forward in social business.

Skills & Expertise Grid 

The Grid of Competency

 Unlike the previous refinements LinkedIn made to its user interface in July 2012, the LinkedIn Skills and Endorsement feature rolled out without any fanfare. I found out as you may have: One morning, I received an email notifying me that I had been endorsed by a connection. Endorsed? What is that? So I followed the link to my profile page, where a prominent blue banner trumpeted the change. I had been endorsed for skills I created a while ago, as well as some new ones that somehow found their way into that content section, now reformatted to include a tally counter on the left and a depository for headshot thumbnails on the right. In the days that followed, the endorsements trickled in, the count went up and the thumbnails accumulated. Some skills were being endorsed more than others, thus forming what I call the Grid of Competency. This grid describes the distribution of opinion with respect to your professional capabilities as expressed by your LinkedIn tribes.   

Part II of JD’s Take will explore the reciprocity issues regarding LinkedIn endorsements, as well their applications in recruiting and restricted industries. JD will also share his insights on how to integrate these endorsement strategies into the brand new LinkedIn profile format.

 

The Changing Role of the LinkedIn Strategist

I first became aware of Nathan Kievman in the spring of 2009, when I joined the Linked Strategies group. At that time, I had been doing LinkedIn-specific work for well over two years, and his name kept popping up on my screen with great regularity.

So I reached out to connect on LinkedIn with Nate on June 7, 2009 and, coincidentally, met him a few days later at a meeting we both attended here in my hometown of Chicago. One month later, he was back, and we both participated in a two-day creativity workshop. Fast-forward to April 24, 2012, where we reconnected at the Sheraton Chicago for The Art of Marketing Conference, and at which time Nate asked me if I would be willing to serve the group by becoming a manager and a contributor to the Linked Strategies blog.

So here I am. It’s an honor and a pleasure. Thank you, Nate.

What I’ve always appreciated about the Linked Strategies LinkedIn group is the depth and breadth of the information exchange. This is one very learned online community. The knowledge pools and accumulates hourly and there is a wealth of valuable content to be gleaned from our discussions. I’ve mentioned this group many times during my talks as the LinkedIn group to join if you want to do the deepest dive possible.

For my maiden voyage, I thought I’d take an objective inventory on the state of LinkedIn from an educator’s viewpoint, offer perspective on where I feel the collective thinking on LinkedIn is heading and discuss how my role as a specialist in LinkedIn is evolving.

New LinkedIn User Challenges

The stakes are going up on LinkedIn. At the time of this writing, the platform is undergoing radical changes to its user interface and we are tasked with not only keeping up with them, but adapting accordingly. People are busy. They have a lot coming at them. When it comes to digital, not everybody has time, attaches significance to the activities, or is able to process and integrate new information on-the-fly. For those of us in the LinkedIn business, we have a responsibility to communicate new features and benefits to our professional networks in timely fashion. Those of us who are agile and intuitive on LinkedIn must also realize that our colleagues and clients need our guidance now more than ever. What we, as dedicated users of the site, take for granted can be difficult, if not impossible, for many. Neurologic and psychological issues (e.g., attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, technophobia) also impede effective use of LinkedIn.

The Demand for the “Real” LinkedIn Knowledge

Well, it seems as if everyone these days is a LinkedIn expert. The bandwagon is ever-expanding and new people are streaming into the tutorial space every day. The Internet has become swollen with LinkedIn-related content. Google any phrase relating to the LinkedIn issue you’re trying to troubleshoot and you will find the fix. The blogging has become painfully redundant with a heaping mess of titles like “The 7 Best Tips” or “The 5 Most Common Mistakes” or “The Top 10 Ways” sharing very little, if any, new insight. If I read one more passage that insists I need to “craft a compelling LinkedIn profile” in order to generate business on LinkedIn, well, I just may hemorrhage. The good news is that many learning curves are shortening and there is clamor for the next level of strategies. More and more LinkedIn-savvy business people have bought in and now want to know how they can derive ROI from their efforts on the site. The demand for this intellectual property far outweighs the supply of resources available to provide it.

Exciting Times for LinkedIn Strategists

From the time I wake up in the morning to the time I hit the pillow at night (and that can be quite a span), I am in conversation about LinkedIn—with others and with myself. My browser is always open and the LinkedIn tab is never minimized. I’m completely jazzed about what I do and having fun. I see my mission very clearly now. For those who, along with me, embrace leadership in LinkedIn education, and aspire to make a difference in the lives of those we serve and mentor, I share your commitment to excellence. The market opportunity for the nimble, knowledgeable and empathetic LinkedIn strategist is immense. But we, too, may be now perceived by others as commodities in business and need to take a page or two from our own playbooks.

To wrap up, it’s getting really scary out there and many professionals are fraught with uncertainty. More and more are turning to LinkedIn—out of necessity, curiosity or in an attempt to make rain—yet so many lack insight, critical thinking skills and, yes, hope in using LinkedIn effectively to achieve their professional goals. I feel that if I can give one person that one nugget of strategy, the impetus to find their voice on LinkedIn, or illuminate one concept that can turn their personal economy around for the long-term, then my work truly has merit.

Glad to be here. Happy to help.


Follow JD on Twitter and please feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Chris Brogan’s Enormous Social Media Failure

If you know Social Media, then the name Chris Brogan is familiar to you. Chris is an author, journalist, marketing consultant, and frequent speaker about social media marketing and is considered one of the leading authorities in all things Social Media.  Recently Chris wrote a blog about why he chose to delete his LinkedIn account <Read Chris’s blog post here>.  He had a number of reasons, but primarily it was because of LinkedIn’s poor customer service.

LinkedIn’s customer service is horrible, no doubt. I don’t disagree with Chris on how bad it is. But that aside, LinkedIn is a platform with over 170 million users to date, and growing over 5 million a month. If Chris believes that platform does not have any business opportunities for him sufficient enough to overcome the customer service issues, then I don’t think he understands how to use the platform appropriately and either has been misinformed, misguided, or ignorant to the Power of LinkedIn, especially for the type of business he is in.

LinkedIn is a different platform than other Social Media networks. LinkedIn is NOT Twitter, it is NOT Facebook, it is NOT YouTube or Google Plus. It is an entirely different animal. Its members are different. They act differently. They behave differently. Conversations on LinkedIn are not about vacations, favorite pets or the minutia of life. That’s not happening on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a professional network, not a social network (as it’s typically described). Professionals are on the platform for a reason; to find jobs, to find new business leads, to find new business partnerships, and for various other business related reasons.

After readings Chris’s blog, I posted a comment directly to him along with a challenge which he did not pursue. You can read that and his comment below:

Consider this: What if you found someone that was interested in talking to you specifically about your offer and you could tell that person fit your specific target market, they were the right company size and they were the decision maker?

LinkedIn allows this sort of action to take place daily for thousands of professionals. You can experience this too, all via LinkedIn. It allows anyone the opportunity to connect with those they need to talk with. It allows you to initiate “Relationship-Centered” conversations. It allows you to get in front of the right people at the right time providing you the opportunity to have a conversation with the exact person you need to talk with.

Add to this an optimized LinkedIn profile that reflects your credibility and authority, and warm interests will begin to get hot.

Now if you were able to systemize that process, you would be able to virtually eliminate the prospecting process of sales and consistently be talking with relevant, targeted people that wanted to talk with you about your services or programs. Essentially, with a system like this, you can generate almost an endless amount of inbound leads for you and/or your organization.

I believe that Chris Brogan made a very poor business decision by deleting his account. Here is my 2nd public challenge to Chris Brogan: Contact me in the next 30 days, inquiry@linkedstrategies.com, and within 30 days of you agreeing to work together on a test project, I can help you generate a significant amount of business opportunities for your business through LinkedIn. You pick the target market. You will experience interested business owners that would like to discuss your “Muddy” offers (as you described them Chris).

You can get somewhere between 50 to 100 new interested prospects for your business identified by title, industry, company size and many other customized identifiers within a couple weeks.  Now, I don’t know what that’s worth to you.  I would suspect that you charge somewhere between $5,000 to $100,000 per deal that you offer. The beauty of my process is we’re helping you establish and build a good relationship with the market that you need and want to talk with … specifically for a discussion around your business.

Socially, I understand why Chris Brogan deleted his LinkedIn account. It is frustrating dealing with the LinkedIn Corporation (I think this is universally understood amongst LinkedIn’s power users). I’m frustrated with them just about every day as well. That aside, the possibilities and the opportunities that LinkedIn provides far outweigh any negative experience caused by the company in their ignorance to the customer experience.

Chris, let’s get your LinkedIn account back up, let’s run a campaign, let’s test this out, and I will show you the power of LinkedIn! Or, if you don’t want to run the campaign, I will do it for you without you having to reestablish your account, to prove to you it’s powerful impact on YOUR business. All you have to do is email my team and we can get you started! The challenge is on the table. It’s up to you now to be ok with being wrong.

Y.S.S 2012 Underground® Online Seminar

Hello everyone! Just wanted to let you know about this event that I will be attending.

Y.S.S. 2012 Underground® Online Seminar

Underground® Seminar is a 3-day annual event which provides high-level Internet marketing information from real-world, testimonials, advice and tips from speakers who are making their fortunes online. Topics covered in this event include selling content, ecommerce, SEO, email marketing, blogging, Social media, CPA networks, domaining, mobile marketing
and so much more.

The Keynote Speakers:

Brendon Burchard – “Millionaire Messenger

Brendon is the founder of Experts Academy and is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author of The Millionaire Messenger. He is also author of Life’s Golden Ticket and one of the top business and motivational trainers in the world. Inspiring millions of people in the world to create and master change.

Robert Hirsch – “Serial Entrepreneur”

A serial entrepreneur running a private equity fund for companies primarily centered on direct response marketing and technology. Consulting through South Fork Ventures, Robert has helped six companies to grow from the $5 million to $50-million dollar level and prepare for liquidity events.

Other Speakers include Matt Gallant, Shelby Larson, Chad Mureta, Dustin Maher, Noah Kagan, Ewa Wysocka, Glen Ledwell, AJ Roberts and Greg Jerum.

Here is the link if you’re interested to join this event:  Y.S.S. 2012 Underground® Online Seminar

There is only limited seats available so reserve yours now! This is an incredible opportunity to get to know the superstars of Internet marketing and actually learn from their success!

Simple Tips to Maintaining Top of Mind Awareness through LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an amazing tool and it has many uses! If you are already heavily involved in LinkedIn, this is not new news for you, but what you may not know is how you can use the platform for maintaining top of mind awareness with your market. Without some guidance, this can be challenging to figure out! Now here’s how LinkedIn can help you to create consistent Top of Mind Awareness.
First, let me share a few benefits of creating a Top of Mind Awareness with your market.
1.) Larger transaction deals
2.) Shorter life cycles for the sales process and;
3.) Longer customer relationships
The following are a few simple Tips you can use to maintain Top of Mind Awareness consistently.

1.)     Create a Group on LinkedIn

I own several LinkedIn groups such as, Linked Strategies, my Qualified Investors Group, LinkUp: The National Networking Group, and many more.

The reason I do this (starting LinkedIn Groups) is to create Top of Mind Awareness with different segments and specific types of people.

Do the same thing for yourself; create a group designed for a specific target market. By doing this effectively you’re going to create a great deal of influence for yourself and/or your company which will in turn lead to virtual Trust and Credibility with your market allowing for continually top of mind awareness through the communication channels that your group provides.

 

2.)    Post Status Updates

Posting status updates is also another way to create Top of Mind Awareness. Your status update feeds to your entire network, so there are two things that you might consider doing:

a.)    Increase the size of your network so that the status feeds will be distributed to more people

b.)    Second is to continually create status updates. People will likely click to view your status updates if they see it in their homepage consistently, thus creating more Top of Mind Awareness through consistent distribution.

So these are some simple tips of what you can do on LinkedIn to improve Top of Mind Awareness with your Network, with your specific connections, and with your targeted markets.

 

Do you have any suggestions as to what else you can do on LinkedIn to create Top of Mind Awareness with your network? If so, please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Add Videos to Your LinkedIn Profile Using Google Presentation

Watch this video to learn how to add a video to your LinkedIn profile in about 3 minutes. Simple, easy, quick.

LinkedIn: Who’s Viewed My Profile – Updates December 2010

who's viewed my profile linked,who's viewed my profile statsWith all the great updates and improvements that LinkedIn has been doing lately, there is one in particular that caught my attention the most. It’s the Who’s Viewed My Profile feature. There are several different analytics within this feature that will no doubt come in handy for you and keep you or your company going in the right direction.

On your main page, this feature will tell you how many times you have shown up in search results for the past day. It will also show how many times your profile has been viewed for the day.Once you click on the highlighted statistic you will be directed to the Stats and Trends page of your profile. Armed with the right information, this page can certainly be a wealth of knowledge.

Not only will you be able to see all the profiles of individuals who have viewed your profile each day, but you are also able to see a bar graph showing how many times your profile was visited over the past ninety days. The bar graph statistics can be changed to show how many times you have shown up in search results over the past ninety days, as well. Better still, LinkedIn gives you a grand total for both statistics, too!

In addition to these great informative tools, you will find analytics about viewers by industry and the total visits for each; viewers by geography which is further broken down by country and visits for each as well as a world total; and the top ten search keywords used to find you shown with percentages for each.

The better you understand the statistics that are right at your fingertips, the more streamlined your efforts and focus can be.

Gratitude for Social Media: A Personal & Touching Story

Several years ago, my young sister at the time (13 yrs old) was hit by a car and was paralyzed, she was a quadriplegic. For her (as there are varying degrees) meant she had no use of any limbs in any capacity. From a youthful snowboarder and ballerina at 5’11” in 7th grade, she went from active and popular to an outcast, different and misunderstood.

Several years have gone by since then, she’s now 16, and still trying to figure out how to fit in. Last month she re-joined Facebook with the help of some friends and she is able to socialize like a normal kid for the most part (at least from her perception). Now I’m not sure if the impact of this can translate over a post like this, but the impact was amazing. It left her feeling alive, connected, and in some ways, free from the claims of her disability.

We often get caught up on using social media for business or professional purposes, but this shows us how the simple act of connecting can mean so much to one person. So, thank you Facebook and thank you to this new media that allows us to connect and interact with one another so easily!

The Freedom of Technology… Really?

social technology,high technology,latest techonology,technology benefitsI was thinking tonight about technology, how it was to provide us freedom, less stress, and all in all make life easier. I suppose to some extent that is true, but overall, is it? I suppose I’m too young to know what life was like without alot of the technologies we take for granite today. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to take a drive without the need to fill the time with a call you’ve been meaning to make or a business associate you need to catch up with simply because by not having a cell phone. That is a great reason to get a motorcycle or convertible!

Social Technologies are not slowing this process down at all, it’s pulling us into texting on the road, always being “ON” and increasingly connected with everyone and anyone. I have found for myself, my clients, my family and others that setting rules and boundaries is very important. So I turn off on the weekends as much as possible and on Sundays I pretty much don’t do anything with technology, ie computers and cell phones. I am working on doing this for a whole day in the work week as well to improve my creativity.

What is it you do each week or month to find real freedom? I would love to hear what you do and suggest!

What McDonald’s Can Teach Us About Our LinkedIn Profiles

 

What McDonald's Can Teach Us About Our LinkedIn Profiles,linkedin,mcdonalds

Creating a Cohesive Message on Your Profile

Is it not true that we are all complicated with many talents and abilities? Of course it is! But that is not how people make decisions on working with us. An “all things to all people approach” is a death token to receiving communications from your target market because they don’t know they are a perfect fit with your value proposition.

Why does McDonalds not offer Pizza? Could they? They certainly have the capacity financially to do so. They don’t because it’s not what they are best at. They don’t because their market isn’t looking for it. They don’t because it’s inefficient.

Is McDonalds losing opportunities or potential business to Pizza Hut by not offering Pizza? Yes, does it hurt their success more than if they offered Pizza? No, if they offered Pizza, people would be confused, take longer to make a decision, and would confuse the value proposition McDonalds offers.

Get it? You have something you are great at. You have something you can focus on. Don’t be all things to all people or you will fall into the abyss of people doing the same thing, ultimately offering nothing by offering everything.

For more free details on how to maximize the use of LinkedIn, join our LinkedIn Power User Strategies Webinar for f.ree.

Continue reading What McDonald’s Can Teach Us About Our LinkedIn Profiles

How to use LinkedIn to Build an Advisory Board

LinkedIn has been the best place to connect with people I never would have met otherwise. I love this media vehicle to accomplish all sorts of business objectives.

One of the many things I use LinkedIn for is creating sustainable, real, and valuable relationships with people I would be interested in having on my advisory board.

In a little over a months time, I was able to round out my business (Consulting Businesses on Strategic Alliances) and have a vast network of “experts” join my advisory board.

I used several methods to identify these individuals:

1. Joined groups where these individuals would likely hang out

2. Engaged the groups in discussions to build credibility (this process was key to enable the people I was seeking to contact me first)

3. I also searched for key people with certain titles with the search feature

4. When I found a new person I was interested in, I figured out what they needed first and tried to help them achieve their goals. (when you help someone, a vacuum is created and they feel compelled to help you sooner than later)

Before you start doing the above steps to build out your advisory board, be certain to do a strengths and weaknesses analysis of your self. Know exactly what you are good at and not so good at.

You must also do an analysis of your goals, see where you want to go and identify the key players that could help you achieve these goals, then include this type of person as a position to fill on your advisory board.

For more information on how to create an advisory board with Linkedin, check out my book at

LinkedIntoMarketing eBook

For more information on how to integrate LinkedIn with your business or professional objectives, join us and see why over 10,000 others are raving about our LinkedIn Power User Strategies Webinar (F.ree).

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