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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Social Media… A Jungle for Franchising?

Franchising is no stranger to change. The industry adapted well to the internet when it integrated its then traditional marketing at tradeshows with development of elaborate websites. Next, the industry adapted again as it integrated its marketing efforts and web presence with franchise consultants and brokers through a multitude of franchise portals.

Well, as Bob Dylan once wrote, “…the times they are a changing.” Much has been written and spoken about weeding through the many tire-kickers experienced on the internet, shuffling from one portal to the next with the same non-objective to “see what’s out there.” The franchise industry has literally seen thousands of these leads with no purpose, no chance of ever presenting a franchise opportunity.

Instead of trying to catch fish in a wide open ocean, why not direct your attention to the fish in a lake, pond or even, a barrel? That’s correct, a barrel! In searching for qualified franchise candidates, we, as an industry, need to locate the barrels of candidates that exist in the market today. How do we accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task? We need to embrace new technology and integrate the same with traditional efforts. Specifically, Social Media and all it has to offer.

Social Media is truly extraordinary, consisting of many different aspects beyond the familiar LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There are wikis, webinars, blogs and podcasts, just to name a few. But there are others as well. To the many, the thought of stepping foot into this jungle is daunting, and therefore, the journey continues to be delayed. So, as the old adage of how one could eat an entire elephant (of course, one bite at a time), it’s necessary to take small bites out of the Social Media elephant and step through the jungle carefully, one step at a time – using all the tools at our disposal to reach our destination… our objective.

The following is a discussion on a blog by Michelle Bonat originally posted in 2008 but still very relevant today. Michelle discusses taking small steps towards integrating Social Media Marketing with classic (traditional) marketing programs.

Babysteps…How to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs

Social media marketing is most effective when it is an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts. But how do you jump into social media when you already have some really effective classic marketing programs in play? Here are a few ways you can babystep into the world of social media by leveraging the good stuff you already have.

1) Maintain a single consistent marketing strategy through classic and social media marketing.

Your goals, objectives and messages should be consistent across all of your marketing. Sounds simple, but unless you define and enforce this it won’t happen.

The good news here is that you don’t have to re-figure this all out just for social media. It is really just taking your existing marketing platform and extending it.

2) Extend your reach – Reach out to your influencers in ways that they like to communicate.

Use your existing marketing knowledge about who influences your product’s purchasing decisions, and use social media tools to create a discussion with them where they hang out.

Some specific examples: Are your influencers kids? Get on the social networks catering to the younger set. IT buyers? Figure out which bloggers are influencing this community. Mobile sales professionals? Deliver content in a mobile enabled way, such as Twitter.

3) Invite your customers into the process.

While you are planning your next product, refining your messaging, or even launching a marketing campaign, figure out a way to get your customers involved whenever possible as early as possible. When you do this they feel that they have been heard, feel more engaged and valued, which results in a tighter connection with your company and product. It also gives you the benefit of upfront input. A product that people actually want? Described in a manner that speaks to them? Wonderful!

A good way to on-ramp this customer involvement include online communities (public or private, even a public group on an existing social network). You can even ask them to deliver their thoughts in video form by way of a contest – “describe what our product means to you”.

4) Turn an online forum into a social media hub.

Make people feel more at home by adding profile information and allowing the posting of pictures (or pointers to a picture posting service like Flickr).

Recognize that you have to give to get. Start a genuine conversation with your audience by having company employees contribute to the forums in their own words. For example, instead of just asking for feature enhancements suggestions, tell them what direction you are headed and, if possible, the timing for these enhancements (without giving away too much info). Then ask them their opinion.

Try these few tips to help ease into a social media program that leverages your existing marketing – and you will soon be on your way!

Note: This post was revised from earlier post on this site, “Web 2.0 – A Jungle for Franchise Development” (Mar 2009)


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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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