Linkedin

Time, talent and desire to connect make Linkedin valuable

This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.

In my previous posts about Linkedin I talked about the value of the platform, the frustrations users are having, changes that Linkedin might consider to reverse those frustrations and how you can screen contacts more effectively to minimize spam. This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.  Leverage-linkedin-for-success



A communicator is a person who can bring disparate and anonymous people and groups together through the distribution of information those people and groups find valuable. If you don’t care if they find that information valuable, or you don’t really like bringing people together, you might consider avoiding social media altogether. That is a valid option.


There are people that have plenty of business and don’t really need more. There are people who are considering retiring from business altogether and they don’t need more connections. There are people who just don’t like human interaction. For all of those people, social media is a useless place to be. But there are billions of people who do need to know how to do it right and, for business, Linkedin is a very good place to be, but its value to those people is dependent on whether the people they want to reach find their information valuable.


Linkedin is an excellent blogging platform. I maintain a professional blog, a political blog and a theology blog but only with the first one do I make an effort to expand my audience as the rest are just hobbies. However, my audience on my Linkedin community is larger than my blogs, my Facebook pages and my Twitter accounts, simply because the target audience for what I have to share is primarily on Linkedin. I’ve also used Linkedin to boost traffic to client sites, as well as my own. I’d like to think that’s because people on Linkedin find me to be a brilliant writer, but it’s more likely that I post information and comments that people find interesting.


Developing interesting content, however, is not simple and there is no real formula for developing it. There are tools and techniques for writing effectively, but finding out what is interesting to your audience takes time and observation.


For example, when I wrote a post about how things are getting better in online journalism no one cared. Essentially, all I did was point out a few observations I made.  But when I write about a problem and offer a potential solution, like the first post I did about Linkedin, there was a mammoth response. 


That’s the beauty of social media. You can get almost instantaneous measurement of the value of your content and adjust accordingly.  It’s a constant work in progress and, again, takes time and effort.


Producing timely information is another way to boost your audience. For example, I did a piece about the Tesla battery product a few months back that got thousands of views and hundreds of responses, but follow on posts about alternative energy have not gotten anywhere near the response. That’s because when I wrote the piece on about Tesla it was the same day that the company announced the product. It was fresh and on the minds of my audience. The followup pieces lacked a breaking-news hook.


That does not mean, however, that small responses are not valuable. In social media it isn’t about how many people follow you or read your material, it’s whether the right people do. My followup pieces attracted twice as many valuable connection requests than the Tesla piece did.


That final point is the real value of Linkedin. If your profile and content attract 1 new piece of business, or one new partner, or one investor for a client (and this series has done all of that), it is better than getting thousands of views without a single connection request.


You need three things to make Linkedin, or any other social platform, valuable. First is your ability to create attractive and engaging content, the willingness to put in the time to study the responses, and the desire to increase your potential market. If you lack one of those three, find someone who does have the attributes you lack and get their help. 


And if all of this feels a bit overwhelming, feel free to give me a call or shoot me a request to connect.  I’d be happy to give you an analysis of your current program and put you in touch with someone who can take care of all of this for you.


Keeping crap out of your Linkedin feed

If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation.

The input on my concern about Linkedin’s future has created a massive response in the past week. More than 30 comments in my Linkedin post and a couple hundred direct messages and emails. All of the input is consistent.


While comments range from power users who say the will continue to be power users, to those that say they are leaving Linkedin altogether, but the consistently say that the level of SPAM is increasing, which makes the platform more difficult to use. So today I’d like to talk about techniques to eliminate the SPAM and make Linkedin useful for you. Linkedin-icon
If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation. 


Step one, when you join Linkedin, do not automatically add everyone from your contact lists until you’ve taken time to go through those lists and weed out useless contacts. If you don’t feel you have time to do that, don’t make those connections. Several respondent in the discussion said that when they joined they started getting all these requests to connect from people they said they didn’t know. But I had one of them check one of their contact lists (in this case, Yahoo) and he discovered all the names of the people asking for connections. He had no idea those names were in his list.


For the record, I did not add my lists to Linkedin until about 5 years after I joined and had gone through hours of cleaning up those lists.


Step two, actually look at the profile of the person asking to connect. Do you actually know them? Do you want to have them in this particular virtual community? If the answer is no, then you don’t have to accept it. But before you say know, check out their profile by clicking on their name in the request. This might be someone you want to connect to or it might be a fake profile. Here’s how you know:


Linkedin has a standard request and whenever I connect with someone I try to change it and make it personal to let them know why I want to connect. This doesn’t work when I use the app, because it doesn’t give me that option, but from the desktop I always state my case. If someone doesn’t make that effort that’s strike one. So next I go to their profile and if they don’t have a picture that’s strike two, if they do have a picture and it looks too slick (which happens more often when I see a picture of a young, pretty girl, I do a Google image search to see if they are that person. Many times, they have stolen the image from someone and in most cases, that’s where I stop altogether and delete the request. If they pass those two tests I look at who they work for, where they went to school, what their experience is and if it would be advantageous to both of us to connect. Fake profiles usually list the workplace generically (“a direct marketing firm”) and their title is just as generic. If they are not interesting or are just too generic it’s strike three. They are out.


That is not a foolproof system, however. I recently was approached by someone who claimed to be interested in investing in a client. I went through the basic vetting process and everything clicked. We began a conversation on Linkedin and certain forms were filled out. However, my intuition started tingling and I decided to check it out a bit further. The photo was right, the job description was right… but his email address was off. It was exactly the same as the legitimate company, but he added a dash between words to go to a fake site.


So that’s step three: Don’t be gullible. Take the time to look into the people who you are getting involved with. It really doesn’t take more than a few seconds.


 Linkedin and all the other platforms are not magical. They don’t operate without personal effort any more than a ream of paper can produce a great novel until you pick up a pencil and start writing. If you follow those three steps, you will dramatically see a reduction in your SPAM almost immediately.


The next and last installment will be how to get more legitimate contacts through a content strategy.


A Linkedin power user growing dissatisfied with the social network

This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.

Last week I published an audio interview with IdaRose Sylvester about her doubts about the value of Linkedin. She echoed some of the concerns that I expressed although I'm not about to give up on the platform as yet. She introduced me to Todd Herschberg, a former Linkedin Open Networker (LION), who she said might have had a different perspective. Not quite. In fact he agrees with her more than me.


In this 20-minute interview, we got even deeper into the problems of Linkedin which focus primarily on spam and fake profiles that are proliferating on the platform. This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.  Here's the interview.


 



Is Linkedin a valuable business tool or a spam bucket?

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We are starting a new series today discussing Linkedin, looking at where it is as a social network, its strengths and weaknesses and how to best use it as a business and individual. Linkedin continues to grow in popularity as a business tool for finding talent, business networking and B2B marketing. The bad news is that it looks like it’s hitting a plateau.


At the end of 2012, Linkedin was growing at almost 100 percent quarter to quarter. That boosted its stock stratospherically and with good reason. As of the end of last quarter that growth had slowed to less than 35 percent and continues to drop. That growth decline looks like it began with the steady introduction of marketing tools, specifically lead generation, near the end of 2012 and took a major plunge with the launch of their expanded marketing platform in February.


I’ve been hearing about the rapid expansion of spam in Linkedin for several months (We plan a live discussion of the topic of Linkedin spam soon, so watch this space for details). I also noticed a significant growth of spam in my own inbox recently.  Several major influencers told me that they had already given up on Linkedin because of the crap flowing steadily to them, joined by malicious code and sophisticated investment scams (which I almost fell prey to and will be talking about in the live discussion).


Linkedin will need to address these issues soon if they are to stop the bleeding, but there are some simple techniques you can use to minimize the flow of unwanted material and keep this platform a valuable source of information and connections. Come back next week and we will let you in on a few of the secrets we’ve discovered.


If you can’t wait that long, click here, fill out the form and get a free consultation.


The filters of good content

Continuing on with our discussion about good content, I've come across some fascinating data regarding how customers in the world of semiconductor design are consuming it and what it means for social media.  Let's start with a poll taken by a company I've been consulting to in recent weeks.


The company wanted to get some attention from a select segment of customers.  The company estimates that their entire customer base consists of a few thousand people worldwide and they only need to reach a small part of that to be successful.  So they were looking into ways to best reach them.  Good content was a given in their estimation, but how to create that content and how to deliver it most efficiently was the question.  They had an assumption on what would be the best path that I questioned so I asked them to do something: talk to your current and potential customer about where they get their information.


I've asked my clients to do this for many years, but no one has ever done it.  They prefer to stick with assumptions.  I was stunned when this new company took me up on the idea.  And they went about it with a scientifically significant sampling.  What they discovered verified what I was telling them about the media, but also came up with some surprising results even for me.


What was not surprising (to me) was that the publications they thought about targeting with their content barely registered or did not register at all with their audience.  What was also not surprising was that EE Times and EDN were a virtual tie for first. I generally lump these two together since they are both UBM products and generally serve the same audience though for different purposes (more on that later).


What was mildly surprising was that Chip Design and Design-Reuse.com came in tied for third and that John Cooley's DeepChip did not register at all.  I actually thought that the three would be much closer, but as I thought about it, what Chip Design and D&R focus on is generally a much higher level in semiconductor design.  That's a significant bit of information (more on that later, too.)


What knocked me out of my seat, however, was what came in a solid second.  


Linkedin.


I've been following Linkedin for quite a while.  In fact, it was the first social media platform I ever got involved with.  However, until the past couple of years, it just kinda sat there in my browser bookmarks.  That changed in 2010 when I was able to help a client make a contact with a significant potential customer using my Linkedin contacts.  In that process I discovered groups and now belong to and, in some instances, moderate 31.  Some people have called my involvement scattered and can't imagine being able to follow that much, but the results of this survey showed my Linkedin involvement is not that remarkable.  The respondents stated they get their dose of news and opinion from 20 or more different groups.


But none of that information is actually original content.  It's based on content that group members have screened and found valuable... from places like EE Times, EDN and Chip Design.  


In my last post I said that readers are using social media to filter content.  This is a perfect example of how they are doing it.  They are relying on peers and trusted sources to scan through the content and then endorse it.  Most of the groups have moderation filters in place (people like me) who look at suggested content first before allowing it to be disseminated.  The content comes from other trusted sources (like Chip Design and EE Times) and then can be commented upon by members.


And because Linkedin has carefully adopted the image of a businesslike site, you don't get a lot of socio/political spam.


Linkedin was, at one time, the realm of HR managers and job seekers.  It still is very much that, but it has morphed into much more.  It has become a curation site for business information and, as a result, has become an increasingly important channel for  organizations that develop trusted content.  


There have been a few articles recently talking about the fiscal value of Linkedin over Twitter and Facebook.  Part of it is that Linkedin doesn't just get revenue from advertising, but also from subscriptions and job listings, keeping the overall cash flow positive. But the fact that it has proven valuable to business more than developing casual acquaintances has also kept it's stock value high (106 for LI vs 21 Facebook at this writing).  It has kept is focus much narrower and is therefore more broadly valued.  In that point let's go back to the issues of EETimes/EDN and Chip Design.


Fractured vs Focused Readership


The survey showed, as I said, that EE Times and ECN were in a dead heat for readers, which doesn't bother UBM at all, but the respondents said something interesting about EE Times: they approach the massive amounts of content in many different ways.  Some read the newsletters only, some just one or two DesignLine pages, some the weekly digital version, some the videos, some the online front page.  One even mentioned EE Times Confidential.  The audience for EE Times is highly fractured.  They can claim total readership in the millions but with so many channels, the chance that the content about your company will reach the eyeballs of your target audience is just a crap shoot.  Not so much for EDN, however.  The driving number of EDN readers say they go directly to EDN.com for their content and move from there.  So getting front and center there means you get more potential readers for your material.  The downside is it is tougher to get through the editorial filter of EDN than it is for the multiple channels of EE Times.


That being said, channels like Chip Design and D&R give access to a much more select audience focused on issues more specific than EE Times and EDN, and the name of the game in media for high tech is not quantitative but qualitative (Point of order, the survey showed that everyone who reads Chip Design and D&R also read UBM content).


Companies need to look at media non-exclusively. You can't rule out the big media names and you can't assume that just because you like a style of writing that everyone else feels the same way.  My consultee was considering putting all their eggs in a single media bucket because they assumed that the bucket was the best possible choice.  A careful consideration can demonstrate that obvious choices are not necessarily good choices and the best choices are those that take time and effort to foster.  Social media can help, in a big way.

SEO is not your real concern right now, part 2

Last Friday I dropped a flash-bang into the room saying search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what you should be concerned about.  I got one comment from a SEO person pointing out, very nicely, that I didn’t know what I was talking about because SEO is still very important.  I don’t disagree with that statement because SEO is important... especially if you’re selling ink cartridges and boner pills.  That still doesn’t take away from my original statement.  SEO is not what you should be concerned about, especially if your business is about anything other than commodities.


When Google got going in the mid double-oughts, search was THE thing.  People were still getting used to this interwebs thing and it was kinda fascinating being able to find all kinds of stuff that normally took a dozen phone books and a lot of shoe leather.  It also turned the garden hose of information in our lives into a viaduct.  People started applying subjective filters on where they got that information.  Some people chose Google as the start-up page, which became MyGoogle.  Other when to Yahoo.  Some chose the sites of traditional publications like the NY Times.  Then browsers started adding search widgets in the browsers themselves.  Then social networks appeared. That’s when SEO went from THE thing to ONE of the things you had to be concerned about.


Social networks changed the game because now the subjective filter was not a landing page, but what your friends and co-workers thought was important.  If your audience could find out about you from those they trusted, they would be more likely to buy stuff from you.  That is what has made Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and all the others successful... for now.  That is starting to go away. Users are starting to switch allegiances to social media platforms as often as they change phone service or cable providers, but the market, overall, has gone static, and for good reason.


The social platforms are starting to be gamed by marketers whose primary function is to boost sales by any means possible.  There are many who are adhering to basic decency and trying to use social media in a non-invasive manner, but there are even more who are using unscrupulous means to get into the head of the audience.  That is creating a not insignificant level of distrust in the platforms themselves, just as search is not suspect, hence the recent halt in the growth of the more popular platforms in the US.  Google is entering the fray late with yet the third incarnation of their social effort with Google+, but the issues of privacy and who owns what on the network is affecting usage.  Yes, they have had a lot of signups, but while the reviews are good, Facebook groups remains the active platform for now.


So we are entering into another cycle; one that will be difficult for the current players to understand.  It is a cycle that will be based on ethics and trust and it is something that cannot be generated by an algorithm.  This is going to take some work.  


And I will talk about that next week.


 

Engagement is where you find it.

I love it when great minds think a like.  First Brian Solis sets up the segue from low-level to high-level engagement, and then Dan Holden talks about what the most important influencers might be.  so today I can talk about where you find the highest-level engagement in your social media program

As a recap, since it was almost a week ago, the first level of engagement is made up of people that agree with you and give you kudos.  You know, the really intelligent readers ;).  The second level are the people who disagree with you and can include competitors.  these are people that can help you make course adjustments by giving you a reality check.  You don't have to accept what they say, but looking into the criticism can often make what you share so much better.

The most valuable of all engagement, however, is the expansion level -- the people that take your ideas and concepts to different levels.  It may start as either agreement or disagreement but goes deep into the issue and becomes a virtual partnership.  These are the people that link to what you have to say and send it out among their own networks.  These are the people to find and cultivate because they help you to understand yourself better.

Over the past few years, I've found a lot of these people.  Like Brian Fuller now back at EE Times and his boss Paul Miller; like the aforementioned Solis and Holden; like someone who may read this and give his own two cents to the concept.  Because of this interaction I have been able to better define my philosophy ad business model to the point that I can now get it across in a matter of minutes with very little Q&A.  Doesn't help with short budgets, but I know I can fit what I do into almost any budget around.  These relationships have also helped me escape the small orbit of the semiconductor world and explore new technologies, countries and cultures.  I've even entered the political arena in some areas.

But here's the thing, while there are tools that can help you quantify this kind of interaction, you can't really qualify it with tools.  You have to go out and find it.  Luckily, that's not as hard or time consuming as it may seem.

Hashtags, retweets are probably the most common ways of finding some of these third level influencers, but most of what you will find are second level followers -- the people that agree with you.  What is most helpful is linking multiple platforms.  I currently write five blogs on widely different subject to widely different audiences.  i also maintain 3 presences on Facebook, three on Twitter, one on Linked in (with participation in 2 dozen groups), one on Plaxo and about a half dozen other more obscure social networks.  Now if I was actually maintaining each of these individually, I would have no life and no home.  But all social networks make it possible to link to other networks and other social media platforms.  All of my presences on the social web are linked to each other, so when I post something in one place, it pops it in multiple places, like Facebook, Plaxo, and Networked Blogs.  

My readers pick them up there and, amazingly enough, begin conversations there.  Those of you reading this on the State of the Media site may wonder if I get much engagement here and, in fact, I don't.  I get about two or three comments a month here (which is actually more than a lot of blogs), but what you may not see are the conversations and comments going on about these posts in other platforms.  The most prolific area is actually Networked Blogs, followed closely by Facebook and then Twitter.  As it is, the 6,000 members of my worldwide network are pretty chatty and I get some great feedback from them.

This kind of following and feedback didn't happen overnight, however.  This network has been growing organically for about 6 years, when I really tarted getting into the social media scene.  I do very little promotion because I like to see how it can develop naturally.  If I put more promotion into it, I would imagine it might grow much larger, but right now I can handle it on my own.  What could you do with it if you had some staff to help?  What could you learn? And who exactly would be participating in the conversation?

That will be the subject of part three.

Macro/micromedia Part 2

Now that I got my rants on the business of media out of my system, I can finish my thoughts on Twitter.

Someone recently sent me a link to a Twitter "how-to" manual on Mashable that serves as a pretty good description of what it is and the features, but makes a pretty poor guide on best practices.  It basically treats Twitter as a typical mass medium, which it isn't

As I mentioned previously, Twitter is part of the mass media subsection I call micromedia and requires a different approach to communication than traditional mass media, or macromedia.  When you apply traditional communication approaches to micromedia, you will inevitably fail.

Take Coca Cola for example.  When they started out on Twitter, they were just pushing advertising and messages.  As a result, one of the biggest companies in the world could only garner 15,000 followers.  But in the past few months, Coca Cola has changed their strategy and is providing information and athletic celebrity connections through Twitter, as part of their Super Bowl and Winter Olympic programs.  The result is 500 million interactions and not a corporate message in the lot. Note the difference in the measurement:  Followers vs Interactions.

In contrast, their Super Bowl advertising only reached 100 million viewers with no measurable interaction.

Closer to our world, as a good example, is Best Buy, which uses Twitter in two directions, but only two.  One is for internal communications and one is for customer support.  In both cases Best Buy uses Twitter with a specific audience in mind with the goal of creating a conversation, an engagement between the corporation and the audience (employees and customers) on a specific topic.  Employees can make suggestions, point out issues and connect directly with each other. Customers can get real-time responses on product problems and questions.  And more to the point, they get them without alot of bother.  You have to get pretty specific with only 140 characters and you have to take a lot of emotion out of the mix.  No name calling, in  other words.  Much more efficient.

Bad practices on Twitter abound and are at the heart of a lot of the disaffection and abandonment of Twitter.  Corporations and individuals with a promotion-only (read one-way messaging) find they get ignored (no response) or get flamed.  They don't understand that this isn't an advertisement.  Lots of people don't get/like Twitter because all they see is a raft of links to ads and news releases and they walk away from it.  They are right to, unless they wise up and start blocking people who only or mostly only send those kind of links.  You have to do some culling to to get some value.

The real value of Twitter is four fold.  One, if you look at it as a place to find trusted sources, it will take some time (the culling process) but it will yield results.  That's my primary use for it.  I find good sources of information through Twitter on a regular basis, but I follow only a few dozen people.  

Second, Twitter can serve as a very effective alternate email system.  I maintain connection to several of my followers and followees through direct messages.  There is no spam.  None.  

Third, it can be a great measurement tool.  When I send out my rare press release, I never put it on Twitter directly.  i wait to see if it gets picked up and disseminated from any of my trusted sources.  If it does I know that the news has some real value.  And from that point I can feel free to retweet that.

Fourth and finally, it can connect disparate social media/networking platforms.  Not all the people on my Linkedin community are on my Facebook community, jsut as not all in both of those are on my Twitter accounts.  But by sharing tweets, retweets and links on Twitter to my other platforms I expand readership across all and foster the conversation.

And that's the difference between macro and micro media.  The latter is conversational and is best shared with a limited audience.

Macro/micromedia

I want to write something about Twitter... and a lot of other stuff, but before I do I have to establish a concept that I've come up with.

This blog has always been about the concept of mass media: what it is, how it's used, where it's going.  We all pretty much know that mass media is information sent to large groups of people and we identify it in traditional forms of broadcast and print.  Sometimes we look at Google, Yahoo, Bing and any other kind of search engine as a threat to mass media, but in reality it is just another form of it.  Google still pushes out a bunch of information to a munch of people so it is still mass media.

What makes online mass media the same as traditional media is that the goal is to get a response from 1 percent of the audience.  For example, in EDA, if you sent out a bit of communication to an audience of 10,000 people and you got 100 leads and maybe one sale, you would have more than paid for the effort.

But social networks are also a form of mass media, although different from search engines.  The difference is that while they are still putting out information to groups of people, the groups can be only a small percentage of the total audience of the niche and be more successful than even a Google campaign.  Why? Because the social network audience is not made up of the whole audience, but the RIGHT portion of the audience or, specifically, the 100 leads you would have gotten from the original 10,000.

Social media is an entire different segment of mass media from traditional media.  The rules are different, the practice is different, the success rates are different and in order to do it right you have to do it completely different than traditional media campaigns.  So I'm creating two separate divisions of mass media that I'm calling macromedia and microcmedia.

The macro division includes print, broadcast, website and search engine practices.  The micro division refers to Facebook, Linkedin, Google Buzz, blogs, status sites (Twitter).  I'm going to leave this at the front of State of the Media for a while for reference, but we're going to camp out here for a while.