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Are you using LinkedIn effectively?

Use LinkedIn to Establish Your Presence as a Leader in Your Field

Having discussed the benefits of using Twitter and Facebook to enhance your business, it seems fair that some time should be spent exploring another medium that can be invaluable to your organization: LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is significantly different than traditional social media sites, although it shares a few common traits. Therefore, it is important to understand and approach LinkedIn from a different perspective. Since its primary purpose is dissimilar from other platforms, treating it like Twitter or Facebook is a grave mistake.

These few basic facts about LinkedIn help illustrate why it is important to use this social media network wisely:

  • Worldwide, over 65 million business professionals have LinkedIn accounts.
  • Almost half of the people with LinkedIn profiles have some degree of decision-making and spending authority within their organizations.
  • The average annual household income for people on LinkedIn is over $100,000.

What is LinkedIn?

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are dedicated primarily to the sharing of information in one way or another. LinkedIn also facilitates information sharing, but its primary purpose is networking – connecting people with common interests, for personal and professional enhancement. There is an element of marketing involved, but it is much subtler and more focused than on other sites. There are two main approaches to engaging on LinkedIn, but it is generally better to focus on establishing a business presence and a solid reputation prior to beginning any sort of active marketing.

Establish a Profile

Profiles on LinkedIn can be personal or organizational. Generally, it is a good idea for small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs to have personal profiles; key employees should have personal profiles, as well. A business profile also is advantageous for organizations that eventually want to actively market on LinkedIn.

When building your LinkedIn profile, you may want to consider dating site profiles as an example. You will likely not find a boring laundry list of facts on a profile; rather, you will discover inspiring, appealing, and attractive descriptions of what one individual person may offer another. Capture that individuality. You want people to see your profile as professional yet also unique – something they will remember when they think about you and your industry.

Build a Large Pool of Connections

When your profile is completed, take advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer, and become connected to as many people as possible, without engaging in anything remotely similar to spamming. Send connect requests to everyone with whom you are personally or professionally acquainted: friends,  business associates, former classmates, people who know you through work, school, church, or family. Remember: The primary purpose of LinkedIn is networking, so you want to be visible to as many people as possible. You also want to find people whom you can help (not just those who can help you), since the people you help are more likely to recommend you to others, thus expanding your network as broadly as possible.

Find and Participate in Groups with Similar Interests

Groups are a vital element of LinkedIn. They vary widely, and there are normally multiple groups that share similar interests or target your specific industry. They can be excellent sources of professional development, and they can provide insights that you would not ordinarily have on your own. Be careful not to dive in too quickly, however; avoid coming  across as arrogant and domineering. Some may get the impression that you are simply there to market. Take a little time to gauge the participants, and get used to how they converse with one another; then add your own input to existing conversations. Try to help and serve others prior to asking them to help and serve you.

Once you feel comfortable in your groups, introduce topics about which you would like feedback, and ask for the input and advice of others. Only at that point is it advisable to engage in anything resembling traditional marketing, and, even then, the best approach is to mention something you are planning on providing to the public, asking for suggestions and advice on how best to do so.

When you take the time to build quality  relationships with group participants, they will be much more likely to end up purchasing goods or services from your company – and the likelihood that they will recommend you to others in their own network will increase exponentially.

Create a Company Page on LinkedIn

A company page on LinkedIn is another important tool for many business owners. Small and large companies alike can benefit from a company page. It’s easy to create, provides a platform where you can deliver consistent branding and share content, and allows you to not only engage with your followers but provides deeper insights about who is paying attention to what you’re saying.

Actively Market on LinkedIn

Once you are ready to promote your work or business more actively, the following actions can help you do so effectively:

  • Post regular status updates on your personal and company pages. Focus your status updates on the professional and unique things you are doing. Educate others about what you are doing, without actively engaging in direct marketing approaches. Frame everything around how you are helping other people fulfill their needs. Avoid Facebook-style rants, personal photos, politically charged posts, and other potentially offensive commentary on LinkedIn.
  • Use messages and invitations sparingly. The worst thing you can do on LinkedIn is become seen as a spammer – or merely a marketer. Remember, the goal is to achieve mutual benefit, not just increase sales.
  • Try LinkedIn advertising. If you have a direct-marketing budget, LinkedIn’s paid advertising is relatively inexpensive, and it can be targeted at the most likely consumers and clients you have already identified.
  • Pay for an enhanced membership. LinkedIn offers various upgrade options with specific areas of focus. These include one for sales, as well as for HR  and employee acquisition.

LinkedIn is different than typical social media sites, but, if used properly, it can be just as effective for you and your organization. Simply  remember the difference in primary purpose, and tailor your approach accordingly.

Take a page from Arlo Guthrie and connect with your audience by telling stories.

To Make It Memorable, Tell a Story

Last year on this day, we were in Boise, Idaho (the town Shadra spent most of her life) to see Arlo Guthrie in concert. We go to a lot of concerts, but this was a bucket-list kind of show – the 50th anniversary of Arlo’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant.” It was an important tour to catch for those of us who were too young to see him perform the song the first time around. Arlo tends to avoid playing “Alice’s Restaurant” unless it is the 10th anniversary of the song, so if you want to hear it live, you may need to wait until the 60th anniversary.

The concert was an incredible experience. We walked out of the venue feeling we’d spent the evening sitting across from Arlo. It wasn’t simply the songs that left an indelible impression; we’d heard most of them before, many times. And we have faithfully watched the movie, Alice’s Restaurant, every year at Thanksgiving.

So what made the performance memorable?

It wasn’t simply Arlo’s singing that made his performance “stick to [our] bones,” as our Boise State poetry professor might say.

What made Arlo’s performance memorable was the stories he told.

The man can tell a story! And as he weaves a narrative, you’re pulled into the time and place he’s revealing, and the people in the story become tangible. And as he speaks, you feel like he is talking only to you – that if you were not sitting there listening, the story would not be worth the telling.

We can all take a page out of Arlo’s book when it comes to engaging with our audiences. Whether you’re writing, giving a speech, or meeting with a client, it’s the stories you tell and the attention you give to your audience that are going to plant you and your message firmly in their memory, not your presentation, pitch, or hard sell.

Tell a story. That’s how to connect with your audience.

The best way to prevent being sued for the images you use is to make sure you have the proper licensing for them.

Don’t Get Sued for the Images You Use

It happens with alarming regularity: bloggers, writers, and businesses are being sued for the images they use on their websites and in their print marketing. The most notorious company to go after even the smallest blogger who doesn’t even have an income from their blog is Getty. Getty can be a nightmare to deal with. Women in Business offers a guideline for handling a Settlement Demand Letter from Getty.

Image Licensing and Copyright

Using someone else’s image for your commercial work (even if it’s not making money) is considered theft. It is really no different than someone copying pages out of your book or off your website and selling them as their own work. The best way to prevent being sued for the images you use is to make sure you have the proper licensing for them. Better yet, choose the following types of images:

  • Public domain images. These images have been used on a government website or have been released by the artist to be used for any reason without credit. You can easily find public domain images (or easily attributable images) at Wikimedia Commons.
  • Free images. There are a number of sources for images that have come about almost as a response to the stranglehold Getty is attempting to have over stock images. One of our favorites is the work of Ryan McGuire at Gratisography (the creator of the image used on this blog). Additional free image sources appear at the end of this article.
  • Your own images. Grab your phone and snap a photo! There’s nothing more satisfying than taking the precise picture you want to accompany your own words and deliver the message you want to deliver.

If you do have to use a licensed image, there are cost-effective stock images available from reliable companies who aren’t sue-happy.

Our Favorite Paid Image Sources:

Bigstock Photo

Our Favorite Free Image Sources:

Stock Snap
Je Shoots

When Customers Visit Your Website, Make Sure They Stick Around

by David T. Bruce

We have discussed the importance of remaining visible in the social media community, making the analogy that regular blog posts and social media updates are as important to your business as are product placements in a brick-and-mortar business. We can extend this analogy to the store front – the customer’s first impression of your business. If what people see on the outside is attractive, they are liable to come inside. The book is judged by the cover, so to speak. However, if what the customer finds inside is lacking, then they are as liable to leave and not return. Once the customer is inside, you have to give that person a reason to stay and a reason to come back. The same goes for your website.

Many websites employ phenomenal graphics that are pleasing to the eye, focused on creating a landing page that draws consumers in. Often enough, however, the implied message on a landing page is not what is found within the pages of the site. If your information is negligible, superfluous, or repetitive, your customers will not stay. This is even more critical online than it is in the brick-and-mortar world. You only have a few seconds to keep consumers interested enough to keep exploring your site.

As you develop your content marketing strategy, make sure that what you advertise on the cover of your website is what your visitors will find on your web pages. And be sure to fill your pages with relevant, current and content that is regularly updated. Engage your audience and encourage them to engage with you. Not only must you provide your visitors with what they think they want, you must provide them with what you think they need. Provide relevant content and share meaningful links to other significant content.

Yes; how your website appears is critical. But the content inside your website is the stuff that defines who you are and what you have to offer visitors. Ensure that you give your website content as much attention as you would your website storefront, maybe even more so.

Writing and Grammar are Important, Especially in a Virtual World

by David T. Bruce

Most of us would never consider going to a job interview wearing less than our Sunday best. Our hair would be properly groomed, our teeth would be brushed and our oratory skills would be as polished as our résumés. What we wear as business professionals matters, because people draw conclusions and form first impressions about us based on how we look and how we promote ourselves.

Perhaps an advantage of working in front of a computer screen or from a handheld device is that you don’t have to put on a front if you are having a bad hair day. An advantage of working from home and building virtual professional relationships is that your clients and co-workers don’t have to know that you are working in your sweats or pajamas. On the Internet, clothes don’t make the man or woman. You can make your first impression based on your credentials, your résumé.

Another powerful way to make a good first impression – or not – is in the way that you use language. Simply put: Words are your wardrobe. As your résumé communicates your experience, your choice and use of words reflects your professionalism, your voice and your personality. Consider the number of business letters, blogs, emails and tweets that you post, each highlighting these attributes. Poor grammar and sentence structure, as well as communiqués sprinkled with spelling and proofreading errors, communicate either a language deficit or a lack of attention to detail, leaving the reader with a bad first impression of your skills and ultimately of you as a professional.

Poor grammar is indeed a communication crisis that becomes evident when we speak and when we write. And improving grammar certainly doesn’t mean that writing needs to become snobbish and long-winded. On the contrary, in many instances, writing can be improved by using smaller words and shorter sentences.

Given the immediacy of social media and the expediency in which communication is delivered, the benefit of taking time to write, edit and proofread professionally becomes fundamental. Review your grammar rules and review your writing before sending, posting or tweeting.

Will Rogers said that “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and in the virtual business realm of the Internet, that chance has global implications and may  instantaneously become extinct with a click or a swipe. Conceivably, you might not get a first chance to make any impression. So make your impression count.