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

Twitter Badges For Brands Who Want to Avoid Narcissism

While Facebook is mailing signs to businesses, I’m pretty sure no one is helping them understand Twitter – for free anyways.  After all, Twitter is for narcissists, right?  It occurred to me the other day that the phrase, “Follow us” or “Follow me on Twitter” is getting things off to the wrong start.  Businesses should all aspire to connect with people who are engaged and interested in conversation, creating a value exchange – Twitter is just one of many tools to enable that access to direct conversations.  Companies can ultimately activate that engagement by providing value first and asking for help in return.

My point: A business that says “Follow Us on Twitter” is going to be more and more likely to treat twitter as an opt in broadcast channel, which can ultimately damage the relationship among all the other noise and duck the value of engaging customers (and potential customers) in conversation.

A Proposal

I propose the following to the Twitter Pantheon:  Get rid of “Follow Us” signs on web pages, blogs, email, direct mail, catalogs, billing inserts and anywhere else a business wants to use a badge.  Replace it with the phrase: “Talk to Us on Twitter. It’s a simple change that will encourage conversation from the onset and also change expectations within your organization of how Twitter can be used – more than just pushing messages.  (I did a Google image search and found that only the Frederick, MD Chamber of Commerce had a quick badge on their site using the same language.)

A Little Help

Inspired by Christopher Penn’s post, I’m going to make it easy for you.  Just edit the name in this flash tool below (feedreaders may need to click through to enable) and download the image. – You’ll have a jpg that you can use anywhere.  If you prefer here is a photoshop template you can download and edit to your heart’s desire:

Twitter Talk to Us Template, PSD file, 400K

[SWF]/wp-content/uploads/TwitterLogo.swf, 500, 350[/SWF]

Here are a couple of examples, one for Whole Foods because I happen to be a fan and one for my employer.

Special thanks to Chad Milburn (blog & twitter) for taking a small ask for help and turning it into something more useful than intended.

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How has Social Media Helped You?

This morning while doing a demo of Twitter I asked the question, “How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?”  Industry knowledge? Building relationships? Free hat? Catching an unreal bacon recipe?  Thanks much to a responsive group of followers, I received many responses – some deep, some funny, some insightful, all valuable to once again show the immediate response and community value of Twitter.  Thanks to everyone who replied – as promised, here are their insights and Twitter IDs.  (I’m at @adamcohen).

mattceni@mattceni @adamcohen – user validated data has helped me cut through the noise to find whats relevant and good.

aapjerockdt@aapjerockdt @adamcohen boost downloads of an open source app we made to 1000 downloads in 48 hours: [url removed – love the twitter feedback but not trying to promote biz]

patrick_grady@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen Wow. Lots of ways. 1 – exposure to info I wouldn’t have seen. 2 – met peeps with great synergy and things to share / learn.
@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen tech support… idea bouncing… more.

starrgazr@StarrGazr @adamcohen How has SocNets Helped? It’s all about the people you meet which is even better to meet F2F. I can’t even begin to list the ways.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from someone who …
@StarrGazr @adamcohen …I had never met before in person.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Of the offer of a power generator from another person during the ice storm and an offer to help pick it up from CT?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps being published all over the world through exposure in SocNets?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps just being able to have an amazing year covering the primaries and being able to attend the inauguration.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or being a guest in a church and the home of a minister in the United Kingdom while traveling out there.

4spoken@4Spoken@adamcohen It has allowed me to take a fairly small niche, and connect with people I would have never been able to connect with otherwise

jordansalvit@jordansalvit @adamcohen SM has taught me a lot about businesses and fields I am not involved in. It also keeps me better connected with those that I am.

tippyz@tippyz @adamcohen Social media/net has increased my knowledge of people I already knew, well beyond what I expected –> stronger relationships.  [Great one Dan]

rsomers@rsomers @adamcohen for me benefit is creation of new & expansion of existing offline relationships. Twitter esp b/c time cost of interaction is low

barbarakb@BarbaraKB @adamcohen Social sites forcing OpenID transparency thus easier to make & trust online friends. W/this trust, grow business. 🙂

boggles@boggles @adamcohen the biggest surprise for me was how Facebook has grown into a free version of long-lost friend-finder. High school memories!

marc_meyer@Marc_Meyer @adamcohen I now have an instant knowledge base that I can tap via SM which opens up sometimes a better way to do what I do-  [I agree – much to learn from these folks]

stuartcfoster@Stuartcfoster @adamcohen I got a sweet hook up on a hat at the TD Banknorth garden courtesy of the tag team of @mbrinkerhoff and @michele_moore 🙂

hereitcomes@HereItComes @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from… [URL removed]

barndance@barndance @adamcohen My own involvement helped me help Lindblad Expeditions jump-start on Twitter. And that’s great for eco-minded tweeps & them!

nhscooch@nhscooch @adamcohen All I can say is that is where I found the Bacon Explosion – TY twitter and @adamcohen [just don’t come after me for cholesterol medication]

chadnorthrup@ChadNorthrup @adamcohen I love having an extended network to banter with during sporting events. It made last year’s Sox playoff games even more fun.  [Couldn’t agree more, especially with Red Sox games.]

shonali@Shonali @adamcohen Making unanticipated connections that have helped me personally and professionally. And give me courage.

beverlycornell@beverlycornell @adamcohen got to meet you. Actually, I have a few interesting stories. 😉

For me, much of my surprise in social media is the general willingness of people to help – this demo is no exception.   How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?

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Study: 59% of Top Retailers Now on Facebook

Opportunity Knocks

In May of this year, Rosetta, the agency I am working for, published a study showing that 30% of 100 of the top online retailers had a Facebook page set up.  In the last five months since the original survey, there has been a substantial uptick to 59% – including pages added by Best Buy, Kohl’s and Toys ‘R Us.  This should not be a surprise and should continue to serve as a wake-up call.  Facebook has reached over 150 million users world wide, and Facebook fan pages are quite frankly, an easy way to set up a presence on the platform.

Use Caution, Plan Carefully

I have to caution retailers who just jump in by setting up a page.  Facebook is only one sliver of the overall social media space, and it’s very important to have an online strategy that embraces social media as another marketing channel. Here’s a quote from yours truly in our release on the study:

“It’s important that retailers don’t just slap up a page because everyone is talking about Facebook. An effective presence requires that you carefully consider what your customers are looking for, what you would like to communicate, and what role a fan page should play in your overall online strategy.”

I had an opportunity to talk further about this with Albert Maruggi on his Marketing Edge podcast yesterday going into further examples on how retailers can be using the Facebook page as a way to “start small” in social media and adjust to grow.  Here is the podcast – take a listen and let us know what you think.  Thanks Albert – you make this type of work a lot of fun.

Hot Topic

Facebook is a hot topic to cover right now.  Here are some other examples of where our study has been picked up – I’ll try to keep this post up to date with helpful links.  If you are interested in a direct copy of the study please don’t hesitate to contact me via the channels on my blog or comment.

Press and blog coverage for the Rosetta October 2008 Facebook Study – thanks to all for including our study:

Facebook pages are just one indicator of retailers looking to embrace social media to engage customers.  Do you think they will be successful?  Have a favorite fan page to highlight?  If your company has a page on Facebook I’d love to hear your story – I’d also love suggestions on how to improve the study for the next round.