Engaging the Right Audience on LinkedIn

(Cross posted on the Fleishman-Hillard DNA blog)

LinkedIn, one of the established social networks, is making strides in advancing how businesses can leverage the platform to engage followers.  Several weeks ago, LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Follow Button allowing followers to follow a company page on LinkedIn directly from owned assets like web pages and blogs.

This week LinkedIn launched two new products that allow companies to more effectively engage the followers they have.  These are both significant leaps forward in helping companies engage followers which typically consist of employees, former employees, partners, media and potential customers.

Engagement to the Next Level

The new functions are “Targeted Updates” and “Follower Statistics.” The Targeted Updates function allows companies to breakdown their followers by variables such as: industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. Similar to Google+’s Circles feature, companies are able to send targeted status updates to groups of followers of their choice.  Multinational companies can develop content strategies for engaging followers that are targeted and more relevant.  Status updates about events can target the local city or region where the events are hosted.  Companies that serve both SMB and Enterprise customers in a B2B line of business can target status updates to followers who work only at those respective sized companies, increasing the likelihood of engagement through a comment, ‘like’ or click.

The criteria for Targeted Updates appears to be the same selection criteria for LinkedIn’s ad platform.  If this is the case, brands can combine paid ads with shared status updates as part of a regional campaign, increasing the potential effectiveness of both.  This combination of shared with overlaying paid advertising can help brands create a powerful one-two punch on awareness and engagement on a social network that can have a high quality of followers.

The Follower Statistics feature is an analytics dashboard that allows companies to see how effective their updates have been, including how many followers have viewed and responded to the content. The features are still in beta phase and only available to several companies like: AT&T (client), Samsung Mobile, Dell and Microsoft. A more official rollout can be expected in the near future, but for now brands should prepare enhanced engagement strategies for their followers in order to leverage these new products to the best of their ability.

Imitation is Flattery

These features arguably give a nod to Google+ Circles, elements of Twitter’s follow-button and sponsored stories on Facebook.  The major difference is LinkedIn’s more than 150 million professionals, including executives from all Fortune 500 companies and 2 million companies that have company pages.  These new features combined give a more robust option for companies considering audience engagement in different platforms.

Photo credit: tj scenes via Flickr

Putting Your Social Network To Use

Over time, social networks become a place to accumulate contacts.  I’ve used LinkedIn for nearly five years, and tools like Facebook and Twitter have become part of a daily ritual.  Do you interact with those folks regularly, or is it a virtual rolodex accumulating dust?  Do you watch on the sidelines, or really engage?  I’ve written before about how I scrutize connections on social networks – I like to keep both Facebook and LinkedIn contacts to people I know or have interacted with in a meaningful way.  I’ve also discussed how social media can enhance real world relationships.  With little effort, we each can make these network connections more personal and useful.

Recently a friend contacted me about a potential job opportunuity at one of my clients.  Of course I’d be will to pass along a resume and make an introduction.  We started talking, and I suggested to go through my LinkedIn contacts to see if there are other potential folks she would be interested in talking to.  She was very appreciate of the help, which took a quick conversation and an email to make happen. It’s not difficult – so why don’t we do it more often?

Take a few minutes and think about the last time you helped someone out leveraging your social networks.  Bryan Person wrote a great post this week about how often he mentions himself vs. others in his posts on Twitter.  While social media and networks can be a great personal promotion vehicle, there is definitely a sense of contributing to help others that makes the networks meaningful.

I’d encourage you to take a moment after reading this and reconnect with someone in one of your social networks.  Personally, I like to connect dots to help folks – there’s some satisfaction from being able to leverage social networks to help friends out – either professionally or personally.  Some small examples:

 

  • I have a friend who is an entrepreneur and connected him to a reporter on Twitter who was writing an article about the same industry.
  • I noticed a contact changed jobs on LinkedIn, working for a company that our agency partners with, and reached out to her to see how things are going and share our experience in working with that company.  This helped her understand her company’s partner relationships and we may be working together on a future project.
  • A friend’s Facebook status read “I’m heading to Hawaii…” and I sent her some restaurant recommendations from our honeymoon trip many years ago.

These small interactions make your social network more relevant, meaningful and worthwhile – and one day those folks may come around and “scratch your back” too.  How can you help someone out?  Share a useful link, introduce a relevant connection, recommend a resource.  You’ll get more from your social networks than just “people watching.” 

How did your social network last help you?  Have a good story to share?

 

Photo credit: 7-how-7 via Flickr

Top 5 Reasons Social Media Requires Commitment

Commitment Social Media is a commitment.  It's not something individuals or businesses can dabble in and expect to be successful.  Here are some top ways that I've found Social Media to require commitment.  Chalk this one up to both lessons learned personally and bordering on the obvious to folks who have been leveraging social media for awhile. 

1. Blog Frequency

Best practice often suggests that while maintaining a blog, the author(s) should post new content 2-3 times a week at a minimum.  This keeps readers engaged and setting a regular pattern will keep them coming back.  For anyone whose main responsibilities have nothing to do with blogging, it can really be a challenge to keep up.  There are lots of strategies, from keeping a queue of posts and topics drafted, to scheduling regular time to dedicate.  What helps most of all is having an author or authors who are passionate about the topic.  Those folks will find a way to make it work, but long term dedication is a major factor in a blog's success.

2. Personal (or Professional) Brand Management

Once you have a blog, a twitter account, an account on Friendfeed, etc – you need to keep up with those who comment and respond.  It takes time to search twitter results for posts with your name buried in the middle, blog posts and other tools for people to keep up.  I sometimes stumble across a valuable response to a comment I made days earlier and regret not addressing it right away or capturing the RSS feed for that comment train.  A great aspect of these social media tools is that the information lives on, but much of the conversation takes place in a short time.  You can miss a window to participate with the primary group if you don't take time to keep up.

There are lots of free tools to leverage for this, including search.twitter.com, Google alerts and Technorati among others.  Our agency recently partnered with Radian6, a social media monitoring package.  I'm still learning about it, but so far I would compare it to robust web analytics packages – with a major advantage that you can gain insight not just to your own brand, but competitors.

3. Ubiquitous Content

The beauty of RSS is the distribution of content.  Social networks are proliferating.  New blogs are cropping up, and new tools are adding to the way we can share information with each other.  Frankly, there is so much valuable information to digest it's hard to keep up with it all.  There also is plenty of less than valuable content to sort through.  I use Google Reader and at times feel like I have to declare "feed bankruptcy" and mark everything as read, and I'm sure I miss valuable content in there.  Imagine if everyone you know had a blog, was connected to you on Friendfeed and was on Facebook.  Even apply this just to your company, or your industry.  Would you be able to really keep up with all of the content?

4. Relationship Building

I mentioned before that I use LinkedIn and Facebook regularly and recommend scrutinizing your social media connections.  These are great tools to keep up with friends and colleagues, but also to build relationships with contacts from networking events, business meetings and other settings.  Setting up a profile is a one time event for the most part, but truly using these tools to build upon relationships takes effort and consistent usage over time. 

5. Participating

Regardless of whether you have a few dozen or a few hundred connections, tools like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others require dedication to participate in conversations, answer questions and 'consume' the media.  Uploading and tagging photos, booking trips on Dopplr, checking out events on Upcoming…  When you start to interact with other folks, there is almost an informal contract you sign jumping in to participate.  You license people to reach out to you and they expect a response back, otherwise they may move on.  It takes a long term commitment to get the most out of these tools.

When people ask me for advice about social media, I often start with, "It's a commitment – are you ready for it?"  What other ways do you see social media needing commitment?  A logical next question – what advice do you have for folks trying to balance the commitment with everything else they have to do?

Photo credit: eschipul via Flickr

Is there such a thing as “too social?”

Diluted When I talk to clients and colleagues about social networks, most think of LinkedIn and Facebook.  A few more familiar with social media will talk about Twitter and other bookmarking tools like Delicious and StumbleUpon.  Lately, I am seeing niche social networks pop up through Ning and other tools.  With the profileration of community building online, is there a danger that communities become too diluted?

Take the following examples.  I was recently recruited by the business folks behind local Boston sports personality Jerry Remy to join Sawxheads.com, a community for passionate Red Sox fans.  Within minutes of joining, I had a few dozen connection requests from complete strangers – our only bond a passion for the good guys.  The community allows "friending," blog posts that are proprietary to the network, and the equivalent of Facebook wall posts.  The Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association has also changed up how folks interact with the site adding many social features, like ""friending" and wall posts as well.  (It's actually pretty slick – if you are a member please feel free to connect with me.)  Not too shabby. 

Here's the problem: I want to go to one place, one portal, to get all of my social activity.  I'd almost prefer the front end of Facebook as a single 'portal' that I can access from there, and to maintain contacts in one place.  Do we really need to perpetuate the YASN acronym?  Yet another social network?  I love the idea of connecting with other Sox fans, but I don't like the idea of another profile to update, another source of BACN with all of the connection requests, etc.  There is lots of proprietary content on Sawxheads, and maybe if I could RSS stream the activity to Google Reader it would be a lot easier to digest in one place.

There are startups looking to carry the torch on being content aggregators, whether it's merging activity streams to centralizing the management of profiles.  It seems a long ways off before the pain becomes so compelling that these services will emerge as mainstream…but I think it's going in that direction.  In some upcoming posts I am going to explore the functionality of some of these tools, thanks to some of the folks who have reached out to me to ask for a point of view.  This could be interesting – but hopefully each solves a fundamental problem of spreading out that social goodness too thinly.

Photo credit: cayusa via Flickr

Choose Wisely: Scrutinizing Your Social Network Connections

Last week I conducted an overview of social media for a client.  After the meeting, I executed my usual drill: I followed up by taking business cards and checking if all the meeting attendees I hadn’t met before were on LinkedIn and Facebook, and sent out a series of thank you notes through those tools and requested connections.  In an email response, one of them asked me flat out, “So tell me how you stay in touch with 500+ LinkedIn folks??”  That got me thinking about how I leverage these tools personally.


Everyone has a different level of scrutiny on who would be a suitable connection in social networks.  LinkedIn has an army of folks who refer to themselves as LION – LinkedIn Open Networkers.  I’m clearly not one of those and try to ‘filter’ connection requests a bit.  While people in some professions, like recruiting, may value hoarding connections and “friends” on these tools, I’ve tried to stick to a guideline depending on the tool.  The following chart shows how I use some of the major networks out there, with the size of each circle representing the relative number of connections I have in each as of this post:


Social Media Tools



Set Parameters For Using Social Media Platforms


I primarily utilize 3 tools the most right now: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Friendfeed is growing on me too. I could see that changing over time and have played around with many others for different purposes, like Dopplr, Plaxo Pulse, BrightKite, Upcoming, and others.  For now I’ll compare my daily usage, scrutiny of connections and number of connections on each of the major social networks I use.  I’d be interested in what works for you and whether you have set a “guideline” for using the same tools.

  • For LinkedIn, I prefer to keep the connections to people I know personally or have met in a business context.  Lately I’ve been meeting many in the social media space through events in Boston, but I will use LinkedIn like a rolodex that maintains itself once I connect.  I have many connections who are colleagues from the past and present, business partners and many clients as well.  I check the site regularly, but not much interaction going on.  I like to ask and answer the occasional question but there isn’t too much else that is sticky for me.  It is a great way to keep up with friends who change jobs over time, and I value that 98% of my connections are people I really know and could refer someone to down the road.  I’ve been a LinkedIn user for many years and like the direction the site is taking with adding more “Web 2.0” features.
  • For Facebook, I use a similar guideline – although there are many more people I know in a non-business context there including high school, college, elementary school and especially summer camp.  I do check Facebook regularly and am amazed at the velocity of new joiners.  There are more conversations happening in groups and commenting on photos, and the “stickiness” is improving.  I ignore many of the application requests out there unless I’m investigating how one works (or talking the occasional Red Sox trash).  I do value the interaction greatly but more in a friendly context and less so (although still relevant) for business purposes.
  • On Twitter, I have a much lower level of scrutiny on connections – I will block a spammer or someone with a high following to follower ratio, but if someone has something interesting to say, I’m happy to follow.  I find that Twitter has a very low barrier to entry, not to mention great tools for finding people, searching conversations for folks with similar interests, and learning about the platform.  The value is in the conversation, sharing of information and the constant flow of information.  I try to share and contribute there but it can be very time consuming if time management isn’t a strong suit.
  • Friendfeed is helping me to not chase down the same people across many Web 2.0 services.  I like it, I connect to someone with the same level of scrutiny as Twitter, but I haven’t spent enough time with it yet to become mainstream for me.  I also haven’t taken the time to build up connections yet.
  • Honorable mention is Plaxo Pulse (not going to share my link but feel free to find me).  I just can’t get into Plaxo – of hundreds of connections, a handful there are unique to that site.  I am already connected to people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  There’s something about the UI I just don’t like, but the sharing of feeds is helpful and “Friendfeed”-like. 

It’s important to set some parameters for how you leverage the tools.  What works for you? How do you choose who you connect to?  Do you have different standards in each network?  What are the pros and cons of your approach?

Using Friendfeed, Caught in a Social Media Turbine

I decided to check out Friendfeed, perhaps because of some of the outages of Twitter recently but also because I'm not an early adopter – but I'd like to be one day.  I think.  In a few short minutes I was caught in a vicious cycle, and it's probably because I'm not leveraging some of these tools properly.

Either way, here is what happened the last time I logged into FriendFeed, which is best read as if you are the guy from the MicroMachines commercials of the 1980s:

– In Friendfeed, I spot a Twitter post from a friend with a link to a cool blog post
– Read blog post, bookmark on del.icio.us
– Spot same blog post on Google reader 
– Share it on Facebook
– Facebook feeds automatically to my Plaxo account
– Get comment from Plaxo feed on how cool that post is
– I read comment in Gmail
– I respond in Twitter about cool blog post comment and go back to Friendfeed
– In Friendfeed, I spot a an annoucement about Friendfeed mobile
– I try Friendfeed mobile and send a txt message to my Facebook status, which updates in Twitter and posts on Friendfeed and syncs to Plaxo which sends me a notification email that my Friend's Tweetfeed shared a link on Googletwit… suddenly I'm in one of those awful AT&T commercials and I find myself in Googleplaxifacetwhirlfeediliciouseesmic.

Now I think I will go check that in as my location on Brightkite.

A Different Use for LinkedIn: Alumni Relations

Linkedinalumni About a year and a half ago, I left Accenture to join Brulant.  It was a big career change as I had been with Accenture (previously Andersen Consulting) since graduating college.  The opportunity to work at Brulant opened many new doors, but I also have deep respect and admiration for the people I had an opportunity to work with at Accenture.

Yesterday I received an invite through LinkedIn, as a reminder to reconnect to their alumni network site and "check in."  I'm used to the connection requests and "Can you recommend someone who…" requests, but this one was different.  It was a unique landing page within LinkedIn that was a simple redirect to register for the alumni network.  The page includes a drawing for an iPod Touch and some flash content of stories from other alums.

In addition to employee engagement, Accenture is leveraging a great tool like LinkedIn for alumni engagement.  Knowing how many folks are using LinkedIn (including recent data on a 361% year over year increase), and the high probability that those folks who left Accenture have a profile, this is a smart, simple and innovative way to reconnect with alumni.  Nice work. 

Does your company have a relations program with your alumni, and is it a good one?