Value-added Discussions – A Linkedin Best Practice

In a recent discussion within the LinkedIn Franchise Executives group a question was asked about how best to present products and services to group members. The question stemmed from a revision in group rules put in place to keep the group focused on its objectives of exchanging ideas, sharing information, and promoting best practices within franchising. By attempting to eliminate the clutter of self-promotion, MLM opportunities, and even franchise opportunities, revising the rules was seen as the most practical way to retain group members and increase participation.

Here’s the question and my response regarding value-added discussions…

Question: “Outlining some guidelines is an excellent way to embark and start bringing a format or platform to enhance value to the group, congratulations on your initiative.

Please tell us at what point information and value added discussions should be introduced to the group in your mind. I think anyone here is interested in gaining value and as well, sharing value, but it all sooner or later leads to developing new business, directly or indirectly, that is mutually beneficial. There is a fine line between “advertorials” and “value exchanges”. Are you able to define further what format, discussion or response you think would serve the reader and the writer (group members) best? ”

Answer: “I believe value-added discussions can be introduced at anytime. However, I do believe it’s a social networking best practice to “earn the right” to do so by getting to know group members, participate in group discussions, and contribute to the same.

Then, based upon a perceived group or industry need, I suggest initiating a discussion about that need (or challenge / issue). Certainly, one can lead into presenting within the discussion details of their product and how it could satsify the need, address the challenge or resolve the issue. The key is not to immediately shove the product or service down members’ throats.

I believe what is often overlooked or ignored, is that group members, especially ones being sold to, have knowledge about franchising, are aware of the needs, challenges and issues the industry is facing, and may actually be aware of the companies providing services and products in the area of concern. What they may not be aware of is the person presenting a company’s products and services. And, people buy from people, right?

So, I recommend anyone with the objective of selling products and services be a person first, by developing relationships with group members. Then, be perceived as an expert in your field by sharing knowledge and experience through participation. I believe sales should follow…

As an added note, I believe the same process works within other social media including Facebook and Twitter, with platform appropriate modifications to plan.”

This post originally published January 2011.


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Effectively Using Linkedin

linkedin-logo1As social media continues to gain steam and obviously is not going away, more and more people are looking to participate. Unfortunately, many are intimidated and quickly give up. I routinely work with individuals, in both personal and business settings, explore and understand social media and its benefits. I have found simplicity is key in getting started.

I would like to share my response to a question previously posted on Linkedin, “If there was one piece of advice you would give someone who was new to Linkedin or had not really been effective at using it. What would you tell them or show them?”

The most important piece of advice I would share is defined in my own “Triple P Tripod” plan. A tripod as everyone knows, stands on three legs. If one leg isn’t as strong as the others, is different in length, or is missing altogether, the tripod falls. At best, it precariously stands when leaned against the wall only to fall at the slightest movement. The triple “P” refers to three action words, Personalization, Participation, and Patience.

Personalization – Just as when you enter a room full of people, it’s your personality and how you handle yourself that gets you noticed. On Linkedin, the same holds true. Starting with your profile, make sure it reflects you as you want to be perceived.

Misspelling and poor grammar are akin to an open fly or a skirt tucked in pantyhose at an in-person event. Yes, you’ll be remembered, but for the wrong reasons. Enter discussion groups with grace. In other words, without being obnoxious or obtrusive. Develop your own style, your own points of view. Just as when you leave an in-person event and thank your host and say adieu to the people you have been conversing with, also thank individuals that took the time to answer the questions you posted in a LinkedIn group. Keep in mind, as in anything that is written, your words will last forever as they become your personal stamp.

Participation – It’s important to participate in various groups on Linkedin. Be proactive in groups you’re directly interested in as well as “collateral” groups that touch on your areas of interest. For instance, if you’re interest is in franchising, you would most likely join several franchise groups. Now, look at entrepreneur, small business and marketing groups.

When posting a question in one group, post it in the others to gain a different perspective. For example, the question, “How would you define franchising?” is answered much differently in a franchise forum than in an entrepreneur forum. Certainly, much different in a marketing or sales forum.

At first, I would recommend responding to posts to get a feel for how it’s done and more importantly, a feel for the group. It’s always best to test the waters with your toe than it is to just jump right in. Yes, there may be sharks in the Linkedin waters and they’ll attack at the first sign of weakness.

Next, post simple discussions and remember to respond to and thank each person that has taken the time to participate in “your” discussion. As you’re comfortable, start your own group. If you’re very interested in a particular group and are unhappy with participation or feel membership is lacking, contact the group owner and offer to to help recruit members as a manager of the group.

Patience – At first, a newcomer to Linkedin will feel overwhelmed. Actually, that may be putting it mildly especially if you’re less than experienced in social networking, or texting and sending instant messages by phone. Take a deep breath and understand this is not rocket science. Take it one step at a time.

Preview the Linkedin Learning Center and refer to it again and again. Use the Help section. Search online for articles and tips on using Linkedin. Explore all aspects of Linkedin as a kid in a candy store. You’ll find things you never knew existed about Linkedin that can help you achieve your objectives. After considerable time working with Linkedin, I’m still amazed when I discover something new, either by accident or by learning from others.

To this day, I’m excited by signing in to Linkedin and exploring new groups, uncovering new opportunities, seeing who responded to my last post and who commented on my last response, and most importantly, meeting new people and developing online relationships that over time turn into rewarding personal relationships. I’ve actually connected with one of my boyhood heroes, a former ballplayer turned marketing executive, on Linkedin, that I now communicate with on a regular basis!

Happy networking!

Effectively Using Linkedin was originally posted on the franchisEssentials site November 2009.


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An Hour a Day with The Big Three Social Networks

I often hear many individuals state they don’t have enough time in a day for social media. Well, I know we can all squeeze in an hour of social media work somewhere, but the key is to do it efficiently to accomplish doing it effectively.

Just like eating an elephant, take one bite at a time. Never try to do too much at one time. And, try to make all your social media activity relevant and in line with your goals and objectives for entering social media in the first place. Once you’re past the development stage of setting up accounts at the Big Three social networks, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, including establishing “complete” profiles, dedicate 15 minutes to each network which I recommend doing so at the beginning of the day. Total time spent – 45 minutes.

Check previous days’ activity, making sure to use each networks “notifications” features effectively. Respond to direct comments and requests accordingly. Check discussions and respond as necessary, review other individuals’ responses, always keeping an eye open for new contacts. Post a discussion, status statement as appropriate Again, keep your goals and objectives in mind. Last, post a few tidbits of information through links to items of interest to your target group. Hey, I hate to beat dead horse here, but make sure everything you do is in line with your goals and objectives for being involved in social media in the first place.

Establish Google Alerts so you know what is being said about you or your brand throughout the day. As you check your email, whether by computer or mobile device, take a glance at any alerts that have come through, and only immediately address negative comments. Then, at the end of your day, take five minutes to review each of the three networks activity, respond only to activity that is very pertinent or urgent, and mentally prepare for your next morning’s activity. This will give you some time to think about discussion responses, etc. Total time spent – 15 minutes.

Shortcuts and Tools Help!

As for posting links to tidbits of information, as you progress through the day, keep an eye open for information through newsletters you subscribe to and in reading news online. When you find something of relevance, bookmark it for later in the day. Use tiny urls to convert long links to manageable links and to accommodate 140 characters within Twitter. Learn how to use key tools such as Facebook applications that convert your Facebook activity to Twitter activity, and applications that enable you to post in advance throughout the week.

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011


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Starting your social media program with the “Big Three”

Once your social media strategy has been developed, the resources have been committed and everyone is on board, it’s time to put the plan into action. Just like when you first started to read and count, you began with the “Big Three” of A-B-C and 1-2-3. Well, in social media, we’ll start with the Big Three of L-F-T, otherwise known as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some very simple activity highlights that should help you along:

LinkedIn

Develop company LinkedIn profile
Each LinkedIn group has a discussion feature
Start out responding & answering questions
Earn the right to post questions / discussions
Be proactive in LinkedIn Q & A forum

Facebook

Create Facebook page for your brand
Frequently post items of interest & links
Routinely post information about your concept
Utilize photos, videos & blogs

Twitter

Post links that “touch” your franchise concept
Post links to your concept’s website and blogs
Post links to press releases, events and appearances
Search and follow celebrities for causes to align with
Research followers’ profile and follow significant individuals
Search and follow individuals and companies within ideal franchise profile
Post general items of interest and importance to your concept and franchise customers

As you progress in your social media efforts, follow the list below to enhance the foundation you’ve established with your activity:

Develop and promote a company blog
Develop and promote webinars
Post photos on Flickr
Post videos on YouTube
Explore niche social networks
Explore internet radio
Tag, Tag, Tag, wherever possible
Link to social networking sites
Integrate efforts with traditional strategies

Simple enough, right?

I look forward to your questions and comments…

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011


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Are Your B2B Social Media Efforts Making You Blue?

As many franchise executives continue to express doubt and frustration as a result of their unsuccessful efforts to utilize social media effectively for B2B purposes, the ideal social network is right under their noses, and one where most of them already have a presence. I’m talking about LinkedIn.

Now, I’ll be the first to agree that Linkedin could be improved in many areas, but from the standpoint of achieving B2B objectives with social media, I believe LinkedIn is the place to be.

To that end, below please find several articles about how and why LinkediIn should be your go-to social network when your objectives are purely B2B based.

4 Proven Ways For Generating Business Leads On LinkedIn
from Lead Views

Considering LinkedIn is so popular and so effective when it comes to B2B lead generation, at LeadFormix we tried to research and find out, what kind of activities within LinkedIn help with lead generation. The research is based on visitor data collected across websites of 289 B2B clients of LeadFormix. All of them have some kind of presence on LinkedIn, it could be an employee profile or company profile or some group activity. In this post I will not discuss the report, but how B2B marketers can use the findings of this report to improve their lead generation efforts on LinkedIn. READ MORE

LinkedIn’s Mario Sundar on getting the most out of your network
from SmartBlog on Social Media

Mario Sundar is LinkedIn’s first social media expert. Having been with the company since 2007, you could argue that no one is more knowledgeable than Sundar about LinkedIn, and the ways that it can be used by busy professionals. I recently asked Sundar a few questions in hopes of gleaning some of his knowledge. READ MORE

5 LinkedIn Business Goals
from Heidi Cohen

LinkedIn isn’t top of mind when marketers discuss social media marketing. Yet unlike other forms of social media marketing, LinkedIn can help achieve business goals effectively in a business environment that doesn’t require expensive content marketing and advertising to get noticed. READ MORE

Which Social Network is Right For B2B Marketing?
from Digital B2B Marketing

When you consider what social networks can become key marketing channels for your business, there isn’t one right answer. Take a quick look at the very different sharing patterns of the three sites below. READ MORE


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Targeted Franchise Lead Generation through Social Networking

I usually explore social networking groups specific to the area such as the inHouston LinkedIn group and inHouston social network on Ning if I’m trying to generate leads in the Houston area. This type of group is relatively easy to target and expand beyond based upon member recommendations and suggestions. Work the crowd as if you were in a room.

In addition, I focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit my franchise candidate profile. From there I drill down to individuals in the local area. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. I would search out networking groups spefic to teachers, education, etc. I may participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be recognized within the group. There’s always a spin you could use. Next, I seek out members from the specific area I’m targeting and communicate what I’m trying to accomplish. It’s been amazing how many times I’ve wound up with a candidate in California that is willing to jump at an opportunity in Texas. It happens.

I also focus on groups that can provide me with referrals such as insurance agents, realtors, financial planners and attorneys. Again, if you’re proactive within networking groups it’s relatively easy to enlist support and gather information.

Lead generation through online networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within the groups, you almost windup with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out as simple as posting a thought provoking discussion, some back and forth interaction with a responder and the responder saying,”what is it that you do?” Next thing you know, you’re discussing an opportunity and the door is wide open.

Most times it takes considerably more effort but I’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for a reason. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out opportunities and make money. It sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring.


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A Few LinkedIn Tips

Let me help make your LinkedIn experience more satisfying and effective.

When posting a url to a discussion, be sure to post it in the “Additional Details” box below the “Enter a Topic or Question” box. By doing so, your link will be active and all a reader has to do is click on the link. If the link is placed in the “Enter a Topic or Question” box, the link will not be active. Therefore, in order to access the link, the reader must copy and paste the url into the browser before being able to access your site.

My own research, okay, trial and error, has shown that active links are four times more likely to be accessed than links that have to be cut and pasted. Be sure to include “http://” to make the link complete. The same is true when posting within responses to discussions as well.

Hope this helps, even just a little bit.

Just starting out with LinkedIn? Watch the video below.


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What Do Franchises and Franchising Experts Do On Social Media?

franchisenote-logoHere’s an article that was posted on Franchise Note on October 2, 2009, by Business Blogger and Webpreneur, Ivan Widjaya. Thank you, Ivan, for including some very flattering comments about my social media activity within franchising.

What Do Franchises and Franchise Experts Do On Social Media?
by Ivan Widjaya

Franchises are getting along well with social media. Although I cannot present you with analytical data and stats, I can see that franchises are taking benefit from the social media, in term of brand awareness and franchise information (including promos, events, polls, etc.) Eventually, all of those will be translated into more customers and revenue.

With various strategies, plans and purposes, it’s enlightening to learn and observe what franchising people are doing in major social media. Let’s do our brief exploration in three social media behemoths – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Franchising on Facebook

Facebook offers franchises and franchise experts opportunities to build and engage network that will buzz your franchise businesses and services, creating a strong awareness on the Net that could very well get franchises more business.

Let’s take the people I connect with (a.k.a. friends) from Franchise Note’s Facebook account.

As for franchises, I consider WingZone Franchise as one of the better franchisors’ account on Facebook (WingZone also has other Web 2.0 presence, namely Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.) It is full of interesting updates, giving us the example of what franchises can do with Facebook.

For example, WingZone post a notification of free chicken wings in a certain area of operation – Of course, this will create buzz, as well as brand awareness, and eventually send people to Wing’s store to get some free wings (and buy some other stuffs.)

As for franchising experts, I consider Paul Segreto’s Facebook account to be interesting. He is using a mixture of updates, ranging from personal updates (e.g. posting a video about a dog helping one of his canine friends in need) to professional updates (e.g. informing about his another webinar series in October.)

Franchising on Twitter

Twitter is the fastest growing social media that is predicted to exceed Facebook in popularity. The appeal is on the 140-character ‘tweet’ that allow Twitter users – Including those in franchising – to share info quickly.

From my Twitter account, I usually follow those that I know, was recommended or think they are interesting. I read those I follow (for franchising topic, I recommend Joel Libava’s) for several times in a day (in fact, I check and re-check my Twitter account dozens of times a day.) The updates are basically a comment with a link to the source or reference (and yes, about 50 to 60 percent of the tweets I received are either for Internet marketing purposes or promotional efforts.)

If I can’t seem to follow the updates I like, I read franchising updates in the form of Twitter’s search widget from Franchise Note sidebar (somewhere in FranchiseNote.com’s right column.)

Similar to Facebook, but in 140 characters or less, Twitter updates you with short blurbs (That’s why Twitter is called a micro-blogging platform) of those you follow. It’s nice to see those franchises and franchise experts are having a chit-chat, allowing you to see a hint of their focus, vision and characters.

Franchising on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is pretty similar to Facebook, but to highlight, the ability to present a resume-like profile page and endorse your contact is what making LinkedIn stands out. Professional recommendations are powerful tools in getting you the buzz and new clients, especially if you are providing professional advices (i.e. franchise consultant)

If you are into franchising (or at least, want to learn about franchising) I suggest you to join one of the LinkedIn group for franchises, Franchise Networking (more than 2,800 members), where you can read articles and follow/participate in discussions on franchising topic.

You can learn more about the background of the franchise owners and experts you know or follow from the profile page – Take Paul Segreto’s profile as an example: You can learn that he attended college at Wagner College and 12 people have recommended him so far. If you are interested in his services, reading his profile page is pretty much giving you an idea or two why he is one of the authoritative voices in US franchising.

And yes, reading through Paul’s LinkedIn profile makes what’s inside my LinkedIn profile looks insignificant.

Any thoughts to share? Please share yours by commenting to this article.

Has LinkedIn Run Its Course?

LinkedIn logoIs LinkedIn missing the boat in keeping up with Facebook? Is it due to inability to utilize various applications, tools, etc. in making the social networking experience more enjoyable and less regimented. Hey, one can’t even make text “bold” in a discussion!

Would the ability to post actual audio and video within discussions enhance the experience? Has LinkedIn just become a social networking HR site and nothing more? If, and when, the economy turns around and unemployment falls to more respectable levels, will LinkedIn activity decrease significantly?

Personally, I do believe LinkedIn is missing the boat, but I would love to hear your opinion as well.

Please Note

Within 15 minutes of posting this discussion on a Linkedin group, I received the following response that I now feel compelled to share with my readers, along with my response to the same which should clarify that I am, in fact, a Linkedin proponent and only am looking for added enhancements and features to LinkedIn.

Owner of a Marketing Group responded: “Has LinkedIn run its course? Not even close. If you feel it has, move on, and stick to Facebook, period. We have had remarkable results, 20+ new clients in 2009 alone, due to LinkedIn. But, then again, we have a tangible service. How is the “Social Media Coach” biz treating you? If it were not for LinkedIn, I doubt you would even be brandishing that fancy title. Please keep that in mind when being negative about all the benefits that a 100% no-cost LinkedIn account can produce.”

I responded accordingly: “Just because I asked a question, does not mean I am negative. If anything, I utilize social media to encourage participation, which is an integral part of successful social networking.

Further, as much as I utilize LinkedIn, I would like to see more features and enhancements, just as I would with Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. And, the best way to get LinkedIn to take a look at adding the same, is to discuss the same within the groups. More than likely they are already considering the features I mentioned. Maybe some more discussion would move them along.

I would highly recommend you consider adding Facebook, Twitter and other social media to your LinkedIn activity and your 20+ new clients might have been 40 or more. Integrating all types of social media together, and with traditional marketing, has proven quite successful for many businesses and is advocated by many leading social media experts.

Last, I’m a firm believer in the positive, and in developing and strengthening relationships with everyone and anyone I can help, or that can help me. That being said, I’m amazed you’re as successful as you claim with such a condescending attitude and your lack of ability to see beyond the obvious. So, please consider this social media coaching on the house and with my sincerest compliments.

Oh, and by the way, if you truly embrace LinkedIn and all it has to offer, I would think you would have followed a very common LinkedIn tip, and check an individual’s LinkedIn profile, including connections, group membership and discussion activity, before engaging that individual. In my case, you would have certainly realized I am a LinkedIn proponent by the number of my connections and extensive group participation both in posting discussions and responses alike.”