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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