How to Really Work Your LinkedIn Connections
Connecting the world’s professionals is the whole point of LinkedIn—the first half, in fact, of their mission statement. With LinkedIn’s 277-million-strong user base welcoming two new members per second, it’s easy to picture just how far the strategic use of this social network can take your business.
According to this graphic by solomoIT, Australia alone is home to 2 percent of the network’s global membership. That may not sound like much, but let’s put things in perspective: this seemingly paltry 2 percent equals 5.6 million Australians, or 35 percent of the country’s total workforce. On a slightly larger scale, that “small” piece of the LinkedIn pie represents 66,300 companies in Australia (mostly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane)—that’s 66,300 potential goldmines of business connections!
So you’ve signed up, built up your profile, and sent invites to key people in your industry. You sit back and wait for LinkedIn to work its magic, and… nothing. Your inbox is so devoid of activity, you could hear crickets chirping.
What are you doing wrong?
The biggest mistake people make when they’re new to the platform is assuming that LinkedIn is a self-propelled perpetual motion machine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While it is an effective tool for learning, marketing, finding new customers, and driving business growth, LinkedIn is just that—a tool. And you need to learn to use it.
Below are just some of the things you can do to kick-start lead generation on LinkedIn.
1. Figure out how best to connect with people
One of the failings, perhaps, of LinkedIn is that it isn’t as intuitive as, say, Facebook or Twitter. For instance, more limits are placed on visibility and connections, which can turn some users off. But the limits are there for good reason: people go on LinkedIn to seek strategic alliances, not just to socialize or get entertained. The platform is a virtual extension of your place of work, hence the need for boundaries.
Your first challenge, therefore, is to find ways to cross those boundaries. Here is where LinkedIn first demonstrates its genius: it shows you how you’re linked to the people in your network (levels 1, 2, and 3), which is your first clue as to what you should use to get in touch with them. Here are a few rules of thumb according to LinkedIn expert Viveka von Rosen:
- Level 1 connection: messages and updates
- Level 2 or 3 connection: invitations or introductions
- Outside levels 1, 2, and 3: paid InMail
2. Engage connections through messages and updates
First-level connections offer you the luxury of visible updates and direct messages, but don’t go overboard with your communications. Focus on providing value and building rapport.
- Use the Sharing Bookmarklet tool on useful and/or interesting links. Share links with individual people or groups or post them as updates to tag multiple connections.
- Be generous when sharing your contacts’ posts. Give them due credit by tagging them. (Bonus: This is a two-way deal. You gain exposure in your contact’s network while he or she gains exposure in yours!)
- Misha Sobolev, director of CTOsOnTheMove.com recommends a 1:7 ratio—a maximum of one promotional message or update for every seven useful pieces of content.
3. Use introductions judiciously
One out of every three LinkedIn member is a decision-maker in his or her company: an owner, partner, corporate executive, VP, manager, or director. These are the people you want to connect with, and introductions are an excellent way to get your foot in the door. Keep in mind that introductions are limited (5 for free accounts, 15 for basic paid accounts), so you have to use them sensibly.
Pro Tip: Send a message in advance to a Level 1 connection and ask if they’re willing to facilitate an introduction for you. This way you won’t waste introductions on unresponsive contacts.
4. Take full advantage of groups
The average LinkedIn member signs up for a total of 7 groups.1 Joining a group therefore ups your chances of rubbing elbows with your prospects. Another bonus: You won’t need to shell out $10 for InMail to send messages to fellow group members!
Pro Tip: Focus and minimize. Julia Angelen Zunich, president of Z Group PR, warns against overdoing it: “I reduced my groups to one or two in each key category and then focused on being an active, contributing member to those groups. I made excellent connections and raised my professional profile.”
And participation in group discussions goes a long way. LinkedIn statistics show that members who actively contribute to threads get four times more profile views than lurkers. So you get to establish yourself as an industry expert and find more opportunities to network as well.
The important thing to remember about LinkedIn is that for it to work in your favour, you have to do more than just the bare minimum. Don’t just like an update; comment on it. Don’t just share a link; invite discussions on the subject. Don’t just join a group; contribute to it. Do all these things AND MORE, and you’ll soon see the leads pouring in.
Do you have any tried-and-tested lead generation tips for LinkedIn users? Share them in your comments below!
Why Your Blog NEEDS Creative Custom Imagery
If you have so much as a passing knowledge of content marketing, you’re probably well aware that content is the raison d’être of all blogs on the internet. No exceptions. You blog because you have content to share. In common (or more accurately, hackneyed) parlance, content is king.
The trouble begins when new bloggers make the mistake of thinking content = text. It is true that except for a few special cases, text is the central element of any given blog post. It is also true that text is the backbone of many successful content marketing efforts. But text is only a medium.
A typical blog uses text to promote its core message. It can tell a story, provide instruction, and compel readers into action. But while it can achieve these goals with text alone, it can do so more powerfully with the help of images. If you don’t use images in your blog, here are some of the things you’re missing out on:
The power of the featured image. The featured image is your headline’s sidekick. Together, they fight crime introduce the topic and set the tone for your blog post. It is the combined impact of the featured image and headline that will determine whether or not a potential reader will care enough to find out more.
Better reader experience. Let’s face it: plain text is BORING. Your blog may have the most compelling content on the internet, but give any reader a wall of text and he’ll run away faster than you can quote V. (The reference below is delightfully apropos.)
Search and social media sharing perks. Blog images offer valuable opportunities for on-page SEO, provided you know how to put file names and alt attributes to strategic use. Add to this the fact that social networks are very image-friendly (think thumbnails) and you’ve got a great combination of searchability and shareability. If that’s not reason enough to dress up your blog posts, I don’t know what is.
Where the featured image’s job is to get the reader to click through to your blog, images within the blog post will help make sure he sticks around long enough to read the last word. And then there’s the issue of eye fatigue. Computer screens aren’t exactly eye-friendly, so breaking up your text visually with the use of short paragraphs and the occasional image does help.
Added emphasis. Images aren’t just eye candy; they can add power to your message. Using visuals to illustrate salient points goes a long way toward making your post digestible as well as readable. According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, communication is 93% nonverbal. That just goes to show how big an impact screenshots, diagrams, infographics, and other relevant images can have on your readers.
Getting Creative (Or, Putting Less Stock in Stock Imagery)
The online world is getting increasingly noisy, and the pressure to get creative with content is mounting. We’re not talking about creativity for creativity’s sake; this is about differentiating your content and finding ways to stand out in a sea of mass-produced blogs.
Stock images have their place and are definitely a step in the right direction if you’re thinking about prettying up your blog. But a look at some of the most successful blogs today will tell you that the pros rarely stop with stock—they create custom visual content.
It’s a strategy that works, and the people behind the following blogs can attest to it. I’m not saying their visuals were the sole secret to their success, but as a content marketer and a mass consumer of blogs, I can see how custom imagery added value to their written content. Check them out:
Fortunately for those of us who aren’t Scrooge McDuck, there are a slew of budget-friendly ways to pull off the bespoke look. Think of these tips as a happy medium between stock imagery (Point A) and having a photographer or graphic designer at your beck and call (Point B):
- Use stock images alongside simple graphics tools like Canva.
- Annotate your screenshots.
- Use free/inexpensive text-to-image tools like Over HD (iOS), QuotesCover, demotivational image generators, etc.
- Outsource your graphics work to Fiverr.
All things considered, there really is no “right” way to use images in your blog, just a way that works for you. Finding the right formula will take some work on your part, but consider the benefits: a more readable, digestible, searchable, and shareable blog.
If you’re time-poor or unsure how to proceed, send us a line and we’ll see how our team can help. Got any tips on using blog images? Let us know in the comments!
Taking a Dip in Google+ : The Naysayer’s Guide
Google+, are you on it? I’ve asked this question to a number of business owners and all present the same reactions (frowns, confused, shrugs) and all evidently result in them asking ‘Is anyone on there?’
Now this post is not designed to convince business owners that people are on the network as a number of large publications have finally agreed to let this one go…so yes Google+ is not a ghost town.
Instead, I’d like to think of this post as a stepping stone for business owners which are willing to give it a shot and how to really test if the network will work for them or not. In the end this comes down to how much you put in so if you’re simply going to use it for posting links back to your company blog and not talk to people, don’t bother. This practice won’t cut it and it doesn’t for any network.
So with that out the way, let’s look at some real instances of what other users are doing on Google+ and how you can become a well rounded Google+ user in a short space of time.
Create a Great First Impression
One of the most important things you need to do when creating any social profile, fill out all of the details. Make sure you have a great description that explains who you are and what you do. But don’t think of Google Plus as just another social profile. Think of this space as your first contact point with a new client. With that in mind, make sure you have a great description in your introduction, all of your contact details, and links to your most important online profiles.
In Mark’s case, he goes into detail around to to expect from his posts if you follow him . This to some degree helps him to ensure the right people follow him so people with no interest in say content marketing or social media follow his posts.
Stephan’s profile is somewhat like a Google resume as he cites some key publications which are designed to help newbie Google+ users get started on the platform. Like Mark, Stephan also mentions reasons as to why someone might want to circle him and the type of content you should expect to see in your news feed if you follow him.
80% Them, 20% You
If you’re just getting started with this social network you probably have a lot left to learn about all of the in-depth features. One of the best ways you can start to understand what’s going on is to start out on the sidelines. In other words, spend 80% of your time engaging with other users – comment, answer questions and share what others are doing. You’ll learn how others are using this platform and form relationships along the way.
I have recently had the opportunity to connect with some great people (Bill Bassman, Vincent Messina and Heather Ellis) who don’t have 1000’s of followers (yet) but offer a lot of value and aren’t on G+ just to broadcast themselves. Here are two specific examples with Heather and Vincent to give you a practical view on their behaviour:
Vincent runs his own sales and marketing business but I have yet to see him broadcast his services or outright taunt users to follow him or any activity of that sort. In fact, if you see the attached screen shot below, it’s quite the opposite. He admits to being a newbie, has shared a post by another user and encouraged interaction on the post (no self promotion stuff).
Heather offers design and marketing services from home and brings a fresh approach to Google+. She knows how to engage on the platform and like Vincent, I have yet to see her broadcasting how good she is at what she does. In fact what makes her stand out is that she leaves insightful comments on topics which appeal to her. This is a strategy / approach which a number of Google+ veterans will tell you – leave comments but not the standard ‘Great post’, add your personal views and people will notice.
Mr. Don’t Know It All
Are you becoming that guy – you know, the industry’s know-it-all.
Not too many people find that appealing.
Vincent Messina recently put together a post in which he raises the question around whether we are afraid to showcase our curiosity?
Vincent says that if we work on becoming more curious and less afraid of being perceived as someone who doesn’t have all the answers – by putting ourselves out there – we will make more meaningful connections with others (phrased by Christine DeGraff)
Instead of always being the expert on all things, ask your followers what they think. By simply asking a question you allow others to have a reason to comment and engage with you. This not only brings in engagement, but by asking a question you also develop a trusting community that feels their opinions matter.
Tag Your Connections
Give credit where credit is due. Did you find a cool post you want to share? Do you want to let someone know they’re included in one of your posts? Like Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus allows you to tag other users in your posts and comments. When mentioning other users add a plus sign before their name and select that user from the dropdown list. This will notify the Google Plus user that he/she has been mentioned and allows others to click directly to their profile or business page. This is a great way to reach out directly to the mentioned user and it becomes more likely they will respond to your post.
Take a look at how +Stephan Hovnanian mentions two other users in his post when he shared a link to their site. +Tia Kelly further engaged with the post but if Stephan had not tagged her she may not have known he posted a link to her site.
Welcome to the Neighbourhood!
There are a HUGE selection of Google Plus communities, spanning interests from social media to real estate to dog lovers. In other words, there’s something for everyone. Much like LinkedIn groups, Google Plus Communities and Hangouts are the jackpot for connecting and engaging with other like-minded users. Once you’ve found and joined communities that interest you, participating in these features is critical to creating a strong presence. Introduce yourself, actively ask and answer questions, as well as share valuable content to build quality relationships.
What Not to Do?
One of the most important lessons I want to share about Google+ communities is dropping links to your own content without any context. When I first started on Google+ I added the following link to an article I had written and a basic sentence explaining the post and to my surprise it somewhat went viral (over 300 +1’s and 100 shares). I thought to myself, this is ridiculously easy and something I’ll do for future posts…..
Well I was WRONG! I was not only banned from the community but also singled out for link littering by the community owner which then made me realise the importance of adding context and learning the etiquette of community behaviour. This should be no different whether you’re on LinkedIn or a Facebook Group.
What I Should Have Done?
Read the community guidelines located on the right panel and find out whether the community owner and moderators allow you to post links to your own site and what is best practice to get the most out of the community.
In a way, Google Plus isn’t much different from other social networks when it comes to building engagement.
Have you recently taken the step over to Google+? How have you been engaging with your followers? Share your tips in the comments below.
How We Got Our First Lead through Google+
Since its launch in 2011, Google+ has carved out a pretty hefty chunk of the social media pie for itself. Sure, its 300 million active users per month may be just a teensy fraction of Facebook’s 1.23 billion, but when it comes to doing business, Google+ is an absolute game-changer.
The reasons for its success are self-evident. As the pet project of the world’s most powerful search engine, Google+ offers a slew of benefits: stronger influence over search engine results, clearer metrics and results tracking, built-in market segmentation capabilities (G+ circles), greater focus on local consumers, faster content indexing, instant content authorship, and much, much more.
I can go on about why none of us can afford to miss out on all the sweet Google+ action, but that’s a story for another day. Today we’ll be talking about how we got our first lead through Google+ and what tips you can get from our experience.
It all started in February, when a member of the Australia G+ Network posted a query asking for recommendations. His company website was having performance-based issues, and he needed someone to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
One of our current clients noticed the query and recommended the Webquacker team, citing the work we did on the Dentist@330 website as an example and giving the OP a direct link to our homepage. As soon as we got clued in on the conversation, one of our team members was able to extend an offer to help.
Within a short space of time, we were able to secure the OP (Original Poster) as a client. We improved the load time of his website from 15 seconds to 2 seconds and detected and fixed an additional frame issue for no extra charge.
The result? A rave review on our Google+ page, plus a shout-out on the Australia G+ Network.
Ours was a textbook case of Google+ setting the stage for a ‘right place, right time’ scenario. And while it may seem like a small triumph to those of you who have more business coming in than you can handle, there are nonetheless a few points for you to consider:
1. Do not underestimate the power of the client.
There is no marketing force on earth more powerful than word of mouth, and Google+ has provided a easy platform for your existing clients to become your business’s best promoters. This is their voice magnified three-hundred-millionfold—anyone who cares to look you up can and will have access to their feedback.
(This, of course, is something that can also end up biting you in the ass in the event that you fail to provide satisfactory service, so mind you do the best you can for your clients—no exceptions.)
2. Do respond in a timely manner.
Clients may leave your business glowing reviews, but it’s still up to you to seal the deal on new prospects. On a platform like Google+, timeliness is valuable currency. Failure to do a quick follow-up on possible leads will result in your losing opportunities to showcase your services.
Notice the dates on the initial post and comments. The expression of interest, the recommendation, the initial contact, the direct inquiry—everything happened in one day, within minutes of the original post.
3. Do consider offering value-added services.
A client who comes to you by way of peer recommendations will have different expectations from a walk-in client with no preconceived notions of the way you operate. The bar is automatically set higher. One way to make sure your client walks away happy is to go above and beyond the call of duty. Value-added services don’t have to eat up a lot of your resources, but they always pay dividends in the form of repeat business and/or stellar reviews. (Remember Point #1.)
4. Do stay engaged.
Staying engaged can be as simple as following up on a project you worked on or, as we did in our case, responding to a client’s shout-out. This last item is optional, but it does have its benefits. It keeps you visible, gives you the chance to expand your circles, and helps the client remember you (which may in turn bring in more business in future). You can’t lose.
Google+ is a powerful platform, and it doesn’t take much effort to harness its capabilities to boost your business. It’s all about building strong relationships, keeping an eye out for fresh prospects, and turning your customers into active promoters.
Opportunities are right there the moment you sign in; don’t miss out!
How to Choose a Creative Marketing Agency
The choice of a marketing agency is less a matter of going eeny, meeny, miny, moe than it is a combination of hard strategy and team chemistry. It may seem counterintuitive to put so much work into finding a team who would shoulder the burden of your marketing efforts, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s the kind of work that pays dividends.
With Australia being home to roughly 250 major marketing agencies, not to mention more than a thousand boutique advertising consultancies, the task of hunting down the best fit for your business can seem daunting. Below are a few tips to help you make sure you get it right the first time.
1. Know what you want for your business
The fact that you’ve decided to outsource your marketing efforts to a dedicated creative agency is a sign of your readiness to invest in your company’s future. The first question to ask yourself is, what do you expect the agency to help you achieve?
Sit your team down and talk about your goals. What is your vision for your business? Where do you see it one, five, ten years down the road? What improvements do you want to see in your website? What kind of public image do you want to build? How much are you willing to invest in your marketing campaigns? Until you have clear answers to these questions, you will be ill-equipped for the search.
2. Know what you want from your marketing agency
The next step is to go over your selection criteria. Work out an assessment rubric if you think it necessary. Different businesses will have different priorities; what matters is that you’re clear about your requirements. A few things to keep an eye out for:
- Relevant industry experience. It helps for a marketing agency to have some experience with businesses similar to yours, because a working knowledge of your audience and the challenges unique to your market segment are valuable assets. Lack of industry experience, however, should never be the sole basis for eliminating a candidate.
- Strategy and creativity. I’ve lumped these two together because this is not an either/or deal. A cleverly designed campaign without a solid strategic backbone founded on market research will go nowhere.
- Culture fit. Compatibility matters, period.
- Size and business model. What you want to look for is an agency with a size and business model similar to yours. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, thinking along these lines will make finding an agency compatible with you culture-wise much easier.
- Location. This last item is more of a nice-to-have than an absolute requirement. It’s true that meeting a candidate face to face facilitates connection building; however, not all businesses have the luxury of being situated a block or two away from their choice agency.
Note: The below graphic was derived from Curated Content
3. Build a list
This phase of the agency hunt can be a breeze, provided you have your selection criteria down pat and you know where to look. Popular suggestions: recommendations from peers and local media outlets, advertising agency trade associations, awards lists, search engines, and social media (more on this later).
Alternatively, you can use intermediaries who can do the hunt for you (for a fee) or call for expressions of interest and let the agencies come to you. Keep in mind, however, that not all agencies are willing to go the RFP route and you may miss the opportunity to take the next step with some otherwise suitable candidates.
4. Research. Rinse. Repeat
While building a good list of candidates is important, trimming it down is even more so. This step requires a lot of desk research, some legwork, and plenty of ruthlessness. Go through their project portfolios. Check client feedback. Find out how long the average client stays with them. Read their blogs. Learn about their core values, their work dynamic, how they roll with the times, and how each of these factors affects their output.
Pro Tip: Observe how they market themselves. For instance, how many of them actively use social media to promote their agency and services? Surprisingly few, if the figure below is any indication. Granted, social media isn’t the be-all and end-all of a marketing campaign, but if it is a priority for you, this is one important factor to take into consideration.
Optional: The Pitch
One mistake businesses make is thinking agency selection = pitch process. While the pitch has its place in the marketing world, it is not a prerequisite to closing a deal with an agency. The pitch process is notorious for being time- and labour-intensive, and agencies will have second thoughts about pitching when the campaign isn’t large enough or when too many candidates are involved.
The below graphic was obtained from fueling new business.
More often than not, you can opt out of the pitch process if you were critical enough when trimming your list. Barring extreme cases, a chemistry meeting should be enough to tell you whether or not a candidate is right for the job. Portfolios and recommendations are great performance indicators, but the savvy business owner will not ignore the intangibles.
What’s the takeaway for all this? You may be a growing startup on your first foray into serious marketing or an established company whose current ad agency has lost its sparkle. Whatever your case may be, you’ll need to go into the selection process prepared. Good luck!