Getting Started on LinkedIn

Use social networking for business. Find out how!Okay, I admit it, I have dabbled half heartedly with social networking for the last year. Yes, I do have the cursory MySpace site, a Facebook page, and a LinkedIn profile, but I have not embraced social networking; it seems like too much trouble.

It wasn’t until this last month that I decided I really should carefully evaluate social networking to see how the typical business owner could use social networking for successfully growing their business and connecting with customers.

I selected LinkedIn as the social networking service I would really focus on. One reason is that this is where many professionals in my business arena have migrated. MySpace is still owned by the high school set, Facebook by the college and young professional set (although I do use and like Facebook too), and LinkedIn has become the social networking platform of choice for most business professionals such as myself.

What I found out in my testing was, well, shocking. So much so, that it has dramatically changed my viewpoint of social media and social networking. Here’s my candid experience and story.

In mid August, I had 10 contacts on LinkedIn. I had simply connected to anyone who had sent me an invitation. I had not aggressively tried to grow my own network. My point of view was I was incredibly busy and spending time on a social enterprise was “fluff” and consumed time that I simply did not have.

So, one afternoon, I decided I would give it a “real go” as research for an article for this e-newsletter. I loaded my Outlook address book to LinkedIn and clicked “send invitations”. I didn’t even do a custom message, as I was so half hearted on embracing this new “time pit” called social networking. What happened in less than 30 minutes staggered me. I had clients, contacts, and prospects send responses, some with an immediate link to connect with me, others with personal notes. I earned nearly 20 new connections in a very short period of time. Wow, what a response and nearly immediate! What I found was that people are hungry, no, starving to connect.

I then went a step further and sent a request for recommendations to a number of clients. In no less than another 30 minutes I had five excellent reviews of my services that were posted on my LinkedIn profile. As I staggered away from my computer, I was shaken with how quickly all this had all happened. Word of mouth testimonials are “worth their weight in gold” for a business such as mine.

I was able to get an approval from each client to use the recommendation on my website for marketing purposes. (If you post testimonials on your own website, you know and understand how truly important great comments can be toward establishing your authority and winning new clients.) The people who did my recommendations were warm and eager to help me. Wow, the power of social networking at play right in front of my own eyes.

Use social networking effectively.The next thing I did was to post a question in the “Question and Answer” section on LinkedIn. I asked what type of social media people were using, was it generating sales, and did they consider social networking a “time pit”. (Oh, I was woefully ignorant then!). In less than 30 minutes again, I had 12 excellent responses; thoughtful in nature and addressed to me personally. Many of the responses to my question were from top executives at companies like Boeing or from film makers or professional social networking consultants. I really benefited from the group insight and comments returned from my “loaded question”.

After that I decided that maybe I should interact too in the “Question and Answer” section and went on to review and then answer 9 questions. All comments and results were posted to my LinkedIn profile as well. My responses allow others to review my insight, candor, and point of view, kind of like a snap shot of my personality and expertise.

The next day, after now having doubled my connections to over 30 or so, I decided that I should really “get serious”. I loaded my e-newsletter subscriber list of over 1,000 names and sent a custom greeting and explanation of who I was, how I had their email address, and sent out the invitation to connect with me on LinkedIn using email within the LinkedIn control panel.

In under 12 hours from my large list invitation my LinkedIn network contained over 90 connections. Less than one week later I am at 140 connections and still growing. In the first 24 hours, I also picked up a possibility for a new speaking engagement in front of 60 local area public relations professionals and a potential new subcontracting partner project for search optimization, ghost blogging, and Google AdWords management. All this with a wee bit of time investment.

This is the bottom line of what I have found from my own personal experience with social networking and LinkedIn. People crave, no, they thirst for personal interaction. People want to connect with you and want to share their knowledge and themselves!

Here Are Some of My Tips and the Lessons I Have Learned

One – You should not be focused on selling all the time in using LinkedIn. The value of your expertise and open sharing of resources and ideas is well worth the time investment alone. Being able to tap others for references or to recommend someone you know to a connection has incredible value and is super easy to do. Reviewing new connections’ profiles and then their network can give you opportunities to join new conversation groups and to connect with people with common interests in your industry. To do this, you can either introduce yourself to a new connection directly (if they have that option enabled) or ask your common connection to introduce you. You get five free introductions with your LinkedIn account set up. After that, you can buy more.

Two – Responding to “Questions and Answers” can help to educate you and to share your knowledge with others. Each time you answer a question the information is posted to your profile allowing others to see your insight and style.

Three – Asking for a recommendation is easy and painless. You can even ask for a revision gracefully, if you do not like what someone has said and you have the option to post the recommendation or not in your profile. If you decide to use the recommendation off the LinkedIn site best business practices recommend that you ask the author for approval. What a great way to build your authority for your services and products in an easy, unthreatening, and painless way.

Try our suggestions for successful social networking.Four – Have fun and invest 15 minutes each day to add new connections either from new prospects you have had the previous business day or by reviewing connections of your connections and looking for common ground to connect with new people.

Five – When a prospect contacts you by email through your website, make sure to not only add their email to your e-newsletter subscriber list, but invite them to connect with you online with LinkedIn or Facebook. Make sure you have noted in your privacy policy on your website what you will do before you do this to prevent a problem. Although you may not create a sale, by adding the individual to your network, you retain a way to easily share information back and forth and keep connections up-to-date with new services offerings, promotions, new white papers, and other things that bring value to your relationship that may lead to a possible future sale or recommendation.

My Conclusion

What has surprised me from all of this was the friendliness, speed of response, and overall positive attitude from others eager to connect with me. Truly people are starving to connect and share with others. It just takes you to make the first step to reach out to them. By doing so, you build your network, your credibility, and enhance your LinkedIn profile allowing connections to view your “resume” and interact with you and even approach you for a business.

On my end, I have already recommended one previous client to a connection who was looking for a branding expert, and written one recommendation for another. So referrals and recommendations work both ways benefiting your connections from your relationships with others.

You can also send out notes to your connections and post news updates. In fact, I notified my connections that I was publishing this newsletter to share my experience and to encourage connections to subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter list.

There Are Options to LinkedIn – Facebook Is an Excellent Application!

Now one note about Facebook, although I am speaking solely about LinkedIn in this article, I do use and like Facebook. One of the big differences between LinkedIn and Facebook is the ability to add applications like Google Lively, YouTube videos, Grow a Plant, and Flairs to your profile. These are very cool interactive widgets that are easy to add, and add color to your profile, and interest to your profile page, and allow you to interact with “friends” in a fun way.

Additionally, I like that you can instant message other connections directly from Facebook by clicking the icon in the bottom right of the page. There are more cool interactive features on Facebook from my point of view than for LinkedIn, but I find LinkedIn simpler to use on a daily basis.

Which social networking system you use is really best based on where your colleagues and clients have migrated. Which ever one you choose, make a small time investment to reap big benefits. I think that you will find out just like I did your relationships with clients, prospects, and other people will be richer for their use.

Ready to Try Out Some of These Social Networking Sites Yourself?

If you are ready to try out social networking, it is easy. Just visit LinkedIn or Facebook to set up a free account and get rolling. You can send me an email invitation as I would be glad to be your first connection for Facebook at nmccord56@msn.com or to nancy@mccordweb.com for LinkedIn. I’ll look forward to meeting and sharing with you online at either LinkedIn or Facebook.

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Getting Started With Twitter

What is Twitter?

Twitter LogoTwitter is a micro blogging application. Twitter “posts” known as “Tweets” are only 140 characters long including spaces. They are mini updates on what you are doing, reading, or wanting to share with others in an immediate interactive environment. Twitter will never replace true blogging, but Twitter has a unique place on the Web as a way to communicate in an “instant messaging” type format that has been embraced by the “20 something” crowd and tech savvy types.

Why Should You Use Twitter?

You should consider using Twitter as it provides an immediate news feed on what you are doing and experiencing in life in a very simple to use way. You can text in to Twitter via your cell phone or post Tweets, or updates, online using your browser. You can even connect your blog to Twitter to show your blog posts as they are published; getting broader syndication of your blog using the Twitter platform. Twitter is simply a new way to connect with others and one that is very hot right now on the Web. If you are into”cutting edge”, you should be using Twitter.

How to Use Twitter

It is easy to get going immediately with Twitter. Just go to www.Twitter.com and set up a free account, invite your friends from your address book, and start posting your updates. You can browse for other Twitter users using keywords and click “follow” on their profile to add their comments to your own personal Twitter home page. What I find great is that others will Twitter about cool things they have found on the web and provide links. You can tap into the buzz in your industry through Twitter; seeing what others think is cool or important. On Twitter, there will always be some users who will spam you; posting every 15 minutes, or bore you with what they are eating for lunch, but if you can overlook those mundane posts, there is still value in watching Twitter several times throughout the day.

Twitter Etiquette

There are a few things that I should mention in regards to etiquette on Twitter. First, for your business Twitter account, don’t spam people with silly life details. Don’t post every 15 minutes. I have defriended prolific, mundane, Twitter spammers as my whole home page gets filled with their drivel. Make sure that you aren’t spamming others with your Tweets. Use Twitter judiciously at first, and don’t post more than three to four times a day. I know the first day I used Twitter I must have posted every 20 minutes as it is fun, but to get the most out of Twitter be courteous to others and hopefully they will treat you likewise. If not, just defriend them by clicking “remove” on their friend profile.

Tweet it up!Here’s another big tip for new Twitter users, when you see @mccordweb (insert a user name for mccordweb) on your Twitter page, this is a Twitter post shared with the world, but really directed to a specific Twitter user (in this case, me McCordWeb). Don’t interject yourself into this personal conversation.

If you have a personal remark, sensitive item to share, or comment about another, use a direct message in the Twitter control panel. It is like sending an instant message and keeps the message off your Twitter public page and off the public page of your recipient. Keep personal things personal.

Consider hashing your Tweet for indexing by Twitter and search engines. Hashing is kind of like tagging. Use #webdesign (insert your own keyword instead of webdesign) to start your Tweet with, if it is about web design. This helps search engines and other Twitter users to find topics that are hot quickly.

If you decide to use a URL in your Tweet, make sure to change your URL to a Twitter-friendly version by using www.TinyURL.com to change your URL. Just copy your long URL from your browser address bar, and then go to www.TinyURL.com and paste your long URL in and Tiny URL will give you a little small URL that will not take up too much space in your Twitter post or rip apart a blog template layout.

Twitter for Business

Do yourself a favor and set up two accounts when you start on Twitter. Set up one for family and friends and one for business associates, colleagues, prospects, and watchers. Keep your personal information off your business account. Stay focused on-topic and accessible to grow your business exposure with your business account.

Many businesses are using Twitter as a way to showcase new products, introduce new services, point out features, and to provide newsy updates through out the day.

Twitter for Pleasure

Twitter is fun try it today.You can really have a lot of fun with Twitter with friends and family members. You can keep your friends and family updated on the “real you” with texting and Twitter. It is a very cool way to give regular updates to those who care. In this case, people WILL want to know what you ate for lunch and where you ate it. I think that this is Twitter at its most fun.

Not only can you text from your phone to post on Twitter, but you can receive Twitter updates from your network to your cell phone as well. If you have a small network you won’t be overwhelmed with texted updates but if your network is large you could suck up all your cell phone bandwidth quickly if you are not careful.

Cool Twitter App’s

I have a few applications that I like for Twitter. Here are a few, links to websites, and what I do with the applications for my own Twitter use.

Twuffer – I love this one, it is a Twitter post scheduler. Some people feel that it defeats the immediacy of Twitter posts but I like it as I will schedule Tweets on days that I am not blogging to keep my followers advised of things I find important. It is easy to use, allows you to Tweet ahead, and lets you select a posting schedule by day and time.

Twitter Feed – This is another one of my favorites, allowing me to post my blog posts, from The Web Authority, directly onto Twitter. It also allows me to post my Tweets back on my blog (by installing a widget) in my blog template. Very cool cross interaction!

Twitter Grader – This one is a vanity application that allows you to see where you stack up against other Twitter users. Twitter Grader measures the power of a Twitter user based on followers, number of updates, and posting frequency. My score is a 72% and my Twitter feed is 73,105 out of 312,091 as of November 14th.

Tweet Beep – With this application, you can manage your online Twitter reputation. Alerts will be emailed to you whenever a Twitter user Tweets about your business, name, or domain. You select the alert criteria and what to watch for using Tweet Beep.

These are just a few of the applications that I like to use with Twitter. As Twitter is new and very hot, there certainly will be more in the works for this next year so keep an eye out. If you find one you like make sure to share it with me.

The Bottom Line on Twitter

Twitter is growing not only in popularity but in reach. I have just seen that LinkedIn is now showing Twitter Feeds in their new Company Buzz module. In an effort to build on the immediate popularity of Twitter, both Facebook and LinkedIn recently added a “status update” bar to their applications in a Twitter-like interface.

So, what are you doing in under 140 characters: I am… this time you fill in the blank. Twitter is fun, easy to use, and a hot web property. Hopefully this special issue will help you to get going with Twitter too. Feel free to invite me as a friend when you set up your account, my Twitter business ID is McCordWeb or invite me by email using nancy@mccordweb.com. See you there!

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Our Posts This Week

I am on vacation this week and so my blog posts are reprints of popular newsletter articles or tips that have been published earlier this year that you may have missed.

I will be back writing the first week in January.

I hope that you are having a great holiday and taking it easy this week too.

Best Regards,

Nancy McCord

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Bing Now Hits 10% of Searches

ComScore released the search market share results recently showing a nice increase in Bing’s market share. Bing has now hit over 10% of market share with Yahoo dropping to about 17%. That still leaves Google as the dominant player with over 65% market share.

What I find interesting is the feedback on Bing. Some of our writers use Bing first for writing research as the search results are more oriented to information than some of the spammy results for searches found on Google. Clients like Bing and are focused more on organic performance there. It appears that slowly the shift in consumer viewpoint and use of Bing is positively increasing.

Remember when Firefox was new and only 5% of the browser market? Look where Firefox is now a mainstream browser that is the first choice of many business networks and users worldwide. Could acceptance of Bing be headed in this same direction?

Personally I like the Bing interface it is clean, uncluttered and provides quality search results. It will be interesting to see if Google’s new Caffeine update addresses some of these issues and improves quality and has some of the most likable Bing tweaks.

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Google Says 50% of Searches Using Caffeine Now!

Google has announced that one of the data centers is already running the new Caffeine algorithm. This in not new news, but Google stated that 50% of searches are now coming out of the new Caffeine algorithm.

We know that all of Google will move to the Caffeine algorithm after the holidays, but with 50% of the searches running on Caffeine now is hot news.

I suspect that the week between Christmas and New Years Google will roll out the full Caffeine update. Partly because there are typically low search numbers in that week and that may give Google a chance to tweak some things and kind of do a test run live before traffic returns after the New Year.

On the other hand everyone at Google may be off between Christmas and New Years and so the update will roll out the first week of January. Your guess is as good as mine which approach Google will take.

I am taking a poll, just leave your comments on when you think the rollout will be.

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Selling Locally? When Should You Advertise Off Line?

For many clients online advertising is done in addition to direct mail, print advertising, flyers, and Yellow Page advertising. For some online advertising is the only type of advertising that is done. When should you consider advertising offline once you have an online presence?

Here are my tips:

1. If you have a store location, it would strongly benefit you to advertise in the local and regional yellow pages as well as online. Some customers may not be able to find you quickly with a Google.com search and may pick up the phone book, especially when it comes to local services like a plumber, attorney, or even a dog walker.

2. If you are advertising on Google AdWords, Yahoo, and Bing and have great conversions now’s the time to expand your offline presence to really work to penetrate your market if you have a local business. Some of our clients have expanded into bus advertising, billboards, radio, and even local flyers. In this case this type of advertising makes perfect sense. This approach does not make sense if you are located in California and selling nationally. The sheer expense of bus advertising in all the major markets is really left for huge enterprises and not right for small to medium sized entrepreneurs.

3. Have you considered flyers? If you live in a densely populated area such as New York or Washington DC where you have condos, co-ops, and apartments and many non-driving customers flyers placed on bulletin boards in lobbies, meeting places, bistros, and local restaurants can really work to drive traffic to your website and potentially bring you more business. This approach does not work for suburbia or areas where there really are no common meeting places that are heavily trafficked.

I think the real takeaway from this article is that online advertising is important to nearly every business in today’s world, but is not the only place you should advertise. Your marketing plan should contain both offline and online efforts. For businesses who really have not done much advertising at all, online is an excellent place to start.

If you need help with online advertising using AdWords, Yahoo or Bing give me a call at 301-705-7303 or visit my website at www.McCordWeb.com.

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