Archive for the 'Social Media' Category

Is LinkedIn Slowly Self-Destructing?

I realise to my shame that it’s been over a year since I last posted to my blog, but what’s been going on at LinkedIn has me so riled that I need to vent . . .

The powers that be at LinkedIn have recently made three moves which I believe seriously dilute the power of this pre-eminent business networking tool:

  1. They Created Endorsements: While recommendations take time and thought to write, it’s way too easy to press the “endorsement” button. I’ve seen countless complaints that the endorsements are largely worthless, and many people (including myself) have received them from folks that we don’t even know! Caveat: I have been endorsed by a few connections for whom I have great respect, and I’m honoured – but I’m really addressing the larger picture here.
  2. They Killed Answers: The Q&A section of LinkedIn was incredibly valuable both for finding information, and for marketing oneself as an expert – I used both aspects with very positive results. Their recommendation to use group discussions instead is no substitute – it can often be pretty difficult to know which group to search in – and anyway, until I get some free time to sort myself out, I’ve maxed out my group memberships.
  3. And now the final straw:

  4. They Send Corporate Marketing-Speak Email That Promotes Spam: Have you noticed how many groups are being taken over by postings that say “Hurray! I have one of the top 2% most viewed @LinkedIn profiles for 2012.” These announcements aren’t in the Promotions section – they’re discussions. What part of this self-congratulation is a discussion???

    For the record, I did receive one of these emails, and I’m in the top 1% – which made me feel really special, until I figured out that since this is celebrating LinkedIn’s achievement of 200 million members, that puts me in the august company of 1,999,999 other distinguished profiles!

LinkedIn is by far my favourite and most productive social networking tool, and I still see return on the investment of time that I put into it. Just last night, it saved me from looking really stupid by sending an email to an old client, copied to his boss, without knowing that he had moved on. Now I have a new person to talk with at the previous client, and a connection at an entirely different company.

But I’m concerned about these recent developments – concerned that the changes being made are not thought through with business professionals in mind, and concerned that as the quality of the content is diluted, the quality of the connections will be too.

What do you think?

Seven Contrarian Resolutions for a Web Presence That Wins

Last week, I issued a press release suggesting that business and nonprofit owners and executives could benefit from some contrarian thinking when creating their web and social media strategies for 2012. My “contrarian” stance was prompted by Vint Cerf’s wonderful comment on my recent book:

“Some of the anecdotes are counter-intuitive . . .”

I took that as a great compliment!

Here are my counter-intuitive suggestions for your 2012 web strategy, based on some of my favorite rules:

  1. Avoid Industry Best Practices: unless you’re sure that you’re using valid comparisons, these can give you a false impression of your specific situation.
    Read more in Rule 4: Beware of Benchmarking and Best Practices

  2. Counter the Competition: many businesses are wary of giving away their “secrets” online – but not showing your expertise and track record can hamper your growth.
    Read more in Rule 12: Consider the Competition (available in full in the free sampler)

  3. Stop Taking “One Size Fits All” Advice: many “experts” hype their online marketing results – yet there are few really effective short cuts. Make sure that their tactics apply to your online markets and goals.
    Read more in Rule 15: One Size Does Not Fit All

  4. Ignore your Search Engine Rankings: – until you’ve figured out which of your keywords really pay off in leads and quality traffic, and then focus on those.
    Read more in Rule 22: Rankings Don’t Matter

  5. Attract Invisible Buyers: think about your behind-the-scenes influencers and decision makers, and create copy that engages them too.
    Read more in Rule 28: Talk to the Buyer Behind the Buyer (available in full in the free sampler)

  6. Beware of “Feel-Good” Numbers: “dashboard” summaries of web analytics reports are convenient for busy managers, but rarely tell the whole story – and can be quite misleading.
    Read more in Rule 35: Drill Below the Dashboard

  7. Feed the HiPPO: sometimes the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” (which can be both wrong and strongly held) should be overcome with proven web metrics data.
    Read more in Rule 37: Numbers and Testing Trump Politics (available in full in the free sampler)

Since it’s now halfway through January, these are probably the last set of resolutions that you’ll consider adopting. But do give them some thought – after all, last is not necessarily least!

3 Twitter Marketing Tips for Authors

I just came back from an amazing retreat for Berrett-Koehler authors.
Note: in full disclosure, I’m not currently published by BK, but I spoke for them recently, and had such a great time that I asked to join the authors’ co-op.

At the event, we talked a lot about how to use social media for both research and marketing. Here are a few tips for using Twitter that I found useful while working on my upcoming book:

  1. Use keyword hashtags. There are a lot of folks now producing daily digests and online newspapers (using paper.li for example), who find material by looking for hashtags (e.g. “#hiring” or “#leadership”.) If you tag your tweets with suitable keywords, you stand a much better chance of being picked up and retweeted.
  2. Track your own mentions. Make sure that you have two columns in your Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that track tweets about you – one column for your twitter handle, and one for your actual name. Then you can see all the places where you get picked up or retweeted as per #1 above, and thank / connect with those folks since they’re clearly interested in your content and hopefully looking for more.
  3. Look for possible LinkedIn connections. This one takes a little more time, but used judiciously has paid off for me. When someone follows me on Twitter I quickly check their profile to see if they look interesting. If so, I check them out on LinkedIn where there’ll probably be a much more robust profile, and on a selective basis, invite them to connect on LinkedIn too. I’ve met some very worthwhile people this way.

Several people at the retreat questioned whether other authors had received actual business from participating in social media. I have, which is why I continue to follow tips such as these!

Twitter Unfollow Tools – Does Automation Work?

Last year, I wrote a post called Social Media Mentions – Do Negative Seeming Words Harm You? In it, I argued that automated tools which calculate your online reputation can produce very misleading results.

Recently, a colleague with a major Twitter following told me that she’s used Twit Cleaner to purge her account. She thought it was very useful.

So, I decided to try it, and ran a report on my followers.

Apparently, 46% of the 703 Tweeps that I’m currently following are “potentially garbage.” Yikes!!

So, who are these people? Turns out that they include:

  • @GuyKawasaki – named because he mainly posts links, does very few retweets, and mentions very few others.
  • @CorbinBall (noted expert in the meetings technology field), for link spamming 55% of the time
  • @TerryBrock and @PFripp (both great and popular speakers), because they don’t interact with any of their followers
  • @SCSentinel (the Santa Cruz Sentinel – my local paper) because it’s largely an RSS feed
  • @BentleyGTCSpeed (Alan Weiss, my consulting mentor) because he doesn’t follow anyone back

Twitclean will unfollow all these “dodgy” Tweeps for me automatically, at the press of a button.

Now in fairness, there’s a host of other far less famous Tweeps in these, and more, categories. I’d probably never notice that I’d stopped following them.

But in the cases that I’ve highlighted, there are either some good reasons for their actions, or I don’t see the problem.

Guy Kawasaki (who in full disclosure has just given me a great endorsement for my upcoming book) uses Twitter to share all the online content that he and his associates curate. Alan Weiss has always been clear that he has no intention of following people back, but is a great source of ongoing pithy advice. Of course a newspaper is going to produce a news feed . . .

Automated tools can be very helpful up to a point – but they have to be programmed with certain criteria, and they’re not good at nuance. So by all means use them, but add your own review and judgement – otherwise you might miss out on some valuable resources.

Is a Twitter Stream Essential to your Event’s Success?

A couple of days ago, Hubspot published a blog posting called “5 Steps to Planning an Awesome Event with Inbound Marketing”. It’s generally a great piece, and as it says: “With the use of hashtags and the practice of live-tweeting, Twitter has become a great way for attendees to share knowledge and insight during events.”

Quite so. But the next thing they said got me thinking:

“These days, an event isn’t considered very successful unless people are talking it online while it’s taking place.” In fact, it’s no longer rude to use your cellphone during sessions (I assume as long as you’re tweeting or updating your status!)

Hmm – an event “isn’t very successful” unless folks are tweeting about it? Yet this morning, eMarketer reports that although 92% of Internet users in the US have heard of Twitter, only 13% of them have a Twitter account, and only 11% access their Twitter account at least once per month.

So what gives? Are all the people who attend conferences crammed into that 11% of users, so that lack of conference-related tweets implies an unsuccessful meeting? Seems unlikely to me. Or is it possible that the highly tech-savvy intersection of the meetings industry and the online marketing world are judging everything by their own very exacting standards? What do you think?

My Top Five Twitter Tips (with a Healthy Dose of Skepticism)

My good friend Vickie Sullivan recently asked for my favourite Twitter tips so that she could share them with her audience of high-fee experts.

I’ve been meaning to put the tips out on my blog, especially as I haven’t posted for a while ;-( Here they are – bear in mind that I’m writing for business professionals, so I’m not talking about using Twitter to follow celebrities, politicians or sports . . .

Three Do’s:

  1. Do Use it for Research, not just Marketing
    You’re probably already using Google News Alerts to keep up with the latest on your clients and areas of expertise (if you’re not, you should be!)

    Twitter is great for tapping into the chatter on these things too. Apps like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to set up search columns which automatically display the most recent tweets on any subject of your choice. See the latest buzz, and keep an eye on the competition!

  2. Do Time your Tweets
    92% of retweets occur within the first hour. So the time when your tweets go out is important.

    Think about the “peak viewing time” of your target audience(s) – are they business people or busy moms? Which time zones are they in?

    Use an application such as Hootsuite to send out your pre-written tweets at optimal times. You can send out the same tweet more than once to hit different markets, but don’t continuously recycle the same message – you’ll get flagged for spam.

  3. Do Track your Results
    Any tweet that you want to bring traffic to your website, generate sales or leads, etc. must contain a clickable link (too many folks forget to include this call to action and lose out on opportunities).

    It’s really important to track what you’re doing to evaluate results – you want to know what types of tweets work for you, and what times of day are best to send them.

    So, you also want to keep an eye on your Web traffic reports to evaluate your Twitter success. Do visitors from Twitter leave your site immediately, or do they produce the outcomes that you want?

    Since you’re restricted to 140 characters, using a free URL shortening service like Bit.ly is very helpful – and it also gives you automatic click-through tracking for every link.

And two Don’ts:

  1. Don’t Be Seduced by Big Numbers
    It’s a wonderful ego boost to have hundreds or thousands of followers. In fact, Peter Shankman recently referred to this as “the new penis envy!”

    But bear in mind that lots of people follow you because they expect you to follow them back as the accepted convention. So they don’t necessarily care that much about what you write . . .

    Notice who does respond or retweet your postings and celebrate your loyal followers. Just remember that quantity doesn’t guarantee quality on Twitter.

  2. Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations
    A recent survey found that over 70% of tweets get no response at all, and an average of only 6% are retweeted.

    Think about it – how many people are you following? How many tweets do you actively read every day, let alone click on any links, retweet or reply . . .

    Of course, it only takes one response that’s exactly the right one to make a huge impact. But don’t expect every tweet that you send to be life (or business) changing!

As with everything that I teach, the key to a successful investment of time and resources in Twitter is having a well-thought out strategy, carefully tracking results and tweaking what you do as you learn more about what works for you.

As Peter Shankman says, just don’t get carried away by all the hype!

The Top Three Strategic Business Blogging Mistakes

Yesterday I had a great conversation with self-described LEED geek Chris Moline, of Commercial Carpets of America. Chris is a former journalist, and has an information-packed blog about green flooring and carpeting.

Chris asked me what I saw as the most critical mistakes that business bloggers make.

Apart from the obvious one (which I model perfectly) of not posting frequently enough, there are two issues that I see all the time when I review a blog from the perspective of strategy and return on investment:

  1. Lack of clear branding and identity statements for the new visitor. If your blog is well indexed, a lot of people are going to find you via search engines. They’re coming to you with no context, and absolutely no idea of who you are or what products and / or services you offer. So you need to include some positioning at the top of your template so that they can easily find out more about you and your business.
  2. Lack of leverage and compelling calls to action. If this is a business blog, then presumably you’re writing it to attract new and returning customers. If you’ve ever heard me speak, you’ve heard my mantra “Every page of your site should have a strategy”. For every single piece of content, you need to decide what outcome you want from visitors – whether it’s to go to your Website to see more details of a product, or to send you an e-mail, or to sign up for your RSS feed. And you need to provide plenty of clickable links within your text to encourage this.

I’ve been reviewing traffic reports for a lot of blogs recently. Most of them exhibit one or more of these mistakes, and you can clearly see the result in the lack of response or good click-through rates. So take another look at your blog postings from your business strategy perspective – do you have a “Leaky Boat” blog?

Social Media Mentions: Do Negative-Seeming Words Harm You?

I was listening to an excellent Webinar last week with Jennifer Laycock of MarketMotive. Jennifer was discussing tools that measure positive and negative mentions of your brand in social media.

So I idly went over to SocialMention, and did a search for myself (ego is a wonderful thing!) And I found that there are more actively negative mentions of me than actively positive ones.

Why is this? My assistant has been sending out my article on “Leaky Boat Websites” and it’s been included in a number of places online. Trouble is that an automated tool like SocialMention can only follow the rules it’s designed with – and so it sees “leaky boat” and classifies those words as negative.

Of course, this is a problem with any automated tools – remember years ago when AOL decided to clean house, and closed down a breast cancer support group because their name included a “naughty word”?

So I’m asking myself: “Does this matter?” Is it really important to us to get a positive rating from sites like SocialMention? And if so, does that mean that we can’t write any online copy that’s positioned to say “we can fix your problems” because the “problem” words can trigger the negative scores?

Social Media – What’s the Cost of Not Doing It?

I just read a very interesting blog from Robert Patterson of MMG Worldwide, talking about measuring social media ROI in the travel market.

I was especially intrigued by the discussion of non-tangible factors in calculating “return on influence”.

It all got me thinking that another interesting question to ask, especially if you’re still thinking about whether all this is worth it for your company, might be: “Can I quantify the opportunity cost of *not* doing this?”

In other words, using the travel example, could a hotel somehow measure how many nights it costs them not to be doing a Twitter campaign when the comparable hotel down the street is? Hotels are very upset about negative reviews, especially those of doubtful origins or motive – do they know for sure how much damage they do?

Perhaps the only way to calculate the negative side is to jump in and see what difference it makes – but the article got me thinking . . .

Are Marketers Not Spending On Analytics, Or Are They Just Not Talking About It?

There’s an interesting article in today’s eMarketer about business executives’ plans for integrating social media and e-mail marketing in 2010. The report quotes from the “2010 Marketing Trends Survey” by StrongMail, which lists the various marketing tactics on which executives plan to increase spending.

But there’s no mention in the spending table of analytics or any method of evaluating the ROI on these activities. And the report states that 23% of marketers admitted that they didn’t know how to measure their results. Bill Wagner, Executive Vice President of StrongMail comments that “. . . companies need to adopt new tools and strategies to properly measure and monetize their efforts.”

So what’s going on here? Are marketers spending on analytics, and that’s simply not listed in the report? Do analytics come under a different budget? Or are executives really willing to put money, time and resources into campaigns without any idea of their return on investment?

Let’s say it again: 95% of the Websites that I’ve audited were leaving money on the table – and their owners had no idea . . .