Tap into the power of LinkedIn in 12 minutes a day

LinkedIn is one of the biggest social media sites on the Internet. It’s usually in the top five, depending on how you measure size. But in terms of B2B activity, sales, professional networking and careers, it’s arguably No. 1. That’s because LinkedIn was built from the ground-up as a social media site for work, not play.

Many LinkedIn users are very active – posting updates, participating in groups and building their networks. But many aren’t. Too many users treat LinkedIn simply as a place to keep their résumé and virtual Rolodex.

LinkedIn logo

But an active LinkedIn presence can do so much more: It can lead to career opportunities, help build your professional network and even tech you new things about your field. But only if you use it.

Here’s how you can boost your LinkedIn presence and get much more value out of it in just a few minutes a day.

1. Grow your network. When you meet people send them LinkedIn invitations, and spend time every few weeks going through LinkedIn’s suggested “People you may know.” Over time you’ll connect (and reconnect) with people you might have otherwise lost touch with. When reaching out to link in with someone, don’t use the generic message. Personalize it a bit to let the person know why you want to connect.

Time needed: One minute per person that you add.

2. Update your LinkedIn status once a day. You can do this more often, but once a day is a good place to start. This is good way to share interesting articles about your field or, if you’re generating content on a blog or have a company website with periodic announcements, post that. Don’t be too pushy here, but share information in the spirit of helping other people.

Time needed: Three minutes.

3. “Like” or comment on one or two status updates from other people in your LinkedIn network. The idea here is to acknowledge their activity and touch base so they remember you the next time they have a problem you might be able to help them with.

Time needed: Two minutes.

4. Choose one group (just one, to start) to participate in regularly. Choose a group that’s active and relevant to your goals on the site. You can take part in conversations, start new threads and connect with people in those groups. This is networking, not sales, so the goal here is to be helpful. You don’t need to sink a huge amount of time into this, just pop into the group, review the discussions and see where you can quickly add a comment of value.

Time needed: Five minutes.

5. Respond to people who reach out to connect with you, comment on your status updates or otherwise seek to interact. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but it demonstrates that you are friendly and responsive, which can open the door to future interactions.

Time needed: One minute.

This is a small investment of time – 12 minutes a day, five days a week. Over time, this can lead to new professional relationships, career opportunities and business deals.

What else could you do on LinkedIn in 12 minutes a day? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The ultimate lifehack: Do the work

Want to be super productive, build fabulous wealth, write the great American novel and have six-pack abs? I’m about to give you the secret to it all, the ultimate life hack, the secret of the world’s most productive and successful people. Writer Steven Pressfield expressed it perfectly in three simple words: Do the work.

Do the work means start with the hard things, not the easy things. Don’t be lured in by the seductive dopamine rush of checking off easy tasks on your to-do list. Start with the hard stuff, the stuff that scares you.

Cover image from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

Image courtesy Steven Pressfield

Do the work means tackling the thing that you want to do the least, that some part of you is resisting, first. As success guru Brian Tracy advises, “Eat that frog” first.

Do the work when the work is building systems so you don’t waste time on repetitive, rote tasks that have to get done.

Do the work when the work is training and coaching others to do their work the right way the first time, so you don’t have to fix it.

Do the work when the work is difficult conversations with difficult people about difficult topics, to solve problems rather than continuing to endure them.

Do the work when the work is confronting your own innermost fears and weaknesses. Sometimes what stares back at you in the mirror isn’t pretty, but the work doesn’t care. Do the work anyway.

Do the work when you feel like you’re not smart enough, not experienced enough, not charming enough, not educated enough.

Do the work when you don’t feel like it. The work doesn’t care how you feel.

Even if you don’t become super wealthy, write a best-selling book, achieve six-pack abs or do whatever it is you’re dreaming, do the work.

Just do the work.

Note: Author Steven Pressfield, who I mention at the top of this post, has a new book out called Turning Pro. I haven’t read it, yet, but I will. I’ve read his other books on writing and creativity, such as The War of Art and Do the Work, the inspiration for this post. If you are doing anything that involves making something that wasn’t there before, doing creative work, trying to improve yourself or the world, you should read Pressfield’s work.

What would you do? Communications during high-stakes situations

What would you do if …

  • You ran an airline and a famous Hollywood personality was kicked off one of your planes for being “too fat” – and then started tweeting about it angrily to his 2 million followers?
  • You worked for a struggling newspaper company and, right after your board of directors awarded the CEO a $500,000 bonus, you had to announce layoffs?
  • You ran an oil company that experienced a disastrous drilling rig accident that killed 11 people and spilled massive amounts of oil into the sea?

I’ll be talking about these (real) situations and how the companies handled – or mishandled – them next week during a Biscuits & Business Networking Breakfast at Elon University’s Love School of Business (home to the nation’s No. 1 part-time MBA program). Business & Biscuits Networking Breakfast logo

The breakfast will give you a taste of some of the topics I will be covering, probably later this summer, in an executive education course on public relations.

The course is designed for managers and executives of businesses and nonprofits who want to better understand the role of public relations in protecting and enhancing an organization’s reputation, enhancing its brand and driving business. It will cover public relations principles, media relations, social media and crisis communications (the topic of next week’s breakfast). This is not necessarily intended for practitioners who are already familiar with these areas, but PR professionals are welcome.

If this stuff interests you and you’re in central North Carolina, I encourage you to contact Bethany Delk at the Love School and register for the breakfast. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Why you should attend ConvergeSouth

Blogs and social media are great, but you can often learn more, meet more people and have a richer experience attending conferences, seminars and other events in person. There’s a big difference between skimming a blog post in your RSS reader and the immersive, interactive experience of a conference.

That’s why, if you’re interested in social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and doing business online, you should attend ConvergeSouth 2010. (Disclaimer: I am one of the volunteers helping to put the conference together. I’m involved because I’ve attended several past ConvergeSouth conferences and I think it’s a great conference.)

So far, this year’s line-up of speakers includes:

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Six tips for getting more out of conferences

Don't just sit there. Make sure you get the most out of attending a conference or seminar. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/211097)

I recently attended Ragan’s Social Media for Communicators conference in Atlanta (which was excellent — the folks at Ragan did a great job finding speakers and putting on a great event). For 2½ days about 500 of us met at Coca-Cola headquarters and heard first-hand how some of the country’s best known companies are using social media.

In addition to getting a lot of good ideas about social media, I also came away with some thoughts — some new, some old — about ways to get more out of a conference or seminar.

1. If it is a social media event or if people will be tweeting about it, find out the hashtag (or designate one if no one else will) ahead of time. Bonus: start tweeting before the event to make yourself known to other attendees and meet them before you actually arrive.

2. Find other ways to organize attendees online. I started a Twitter list of conference attendees. After the Ragan conference, a fan page for conference attendees was started on Facebook and another attendee started a LinkedIn group.

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Why you should stop trying new social media sites

Google Wave. Google Buzz. Farmville. Foursquare. Gowalla. Yelp.

Maze

Don't get lost in the maze of choices social media offers. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1093677)

The list goes on and on. There are more social media sites, social media apps and cool online things that people are talking about than I will ever have time to fully explore. Even though I make my living in part by helping companies use social media, I can’t commit enough time to explore every new thing to come along. Chances are, you don’t have the time either. And that’s OK.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying the latest and “greatest,” easy to worry that you’re going to miss out on the next Facebook or Twitter if you don’t jump on a new site right away. In other words, it’s easy to forget why we’re here in the first place.

We’re here to have conversations, to learn, to market and brand ourselves, our businesses and our causes. Actually doing those things requires work, attention and focus. But the siren song of Google’s latest project or the newest game that all your friends seem to be playing on Facebook can be all too alluring sometimes.

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Five mistakes newbie bloggers make

Road closed sign

Some blogging mistakes can block your path. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/589399)

I’ve been blogging for about 10 years now. Along the way I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. A lot.

So, if you’re new to blogging and determined to be successful at it, here are five mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Not sticking with it.

Some bloggers see a lot of success relatively quickly, but there is no such thing as an overnight success. Even those bloggers who brag about how they took a new blog from zero to 10,000 subscribers in three months, or whatever, didn’t really go from zero to hero overnight. Chances are they put in years of work before they ever launched that “overnight success” blog, developing skills and acquiring tools to make a big splash quickly.

Whatever your goals are as a blogger, you’ve got to stick with it to see success. A good rule of thumb would be six  months of steady blogging before you begin to see significant traffic, readership or (if it’s a goal) revenue.

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Why you (or others) should make time for social media

Train

Don't miss the train on social media. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1106949)

Have you heard these lines?

“There’s so much noise and clutter out there, it seems as though social media hasn’t really matured enough to be a useful tool.”

“Social media’s fine for some industries, but not ours.”

“I just don’t have time for social media.”

Or perhaps the line is some variation on one these. There are still plenty of professionals out there who don’t think social media is that important. If you’re trying to convince someone who says these kinds of things, here are five arguments to help you.

1. Isn’t networking important to you? I would imagine there are very, very few professionals in any field who would say networking with others in their field isn’t important to them. Explain to them that social media sites are a tool to network online, and that you can network more efficiently and with more people through social media than you can with traditional methods. That doesn’t mean you should completely abandon phone calls, luncheon meetings and industry events, but social media can be a powerful tool for your professional advancement.

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How to strengthen your relationships

Handshake

Have you reached out and touched people in your network lately? (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/616726)

In social media it’s easy to get caught up in mechanical ideas of what building and maintaining relationships is about. Are you pinging your network regularly? Are you sharing content, creating value? Are you thanking people? In marketing, we start quantifying these things: How many tweets, how many retweets, how many followers or subscribers or fans?

And that’s fine. Except that it’s all just a way of dancing around the real issue: relationships.

I got an email last week from an old acquaintance (which I haven’t returned yet — sorry Jamie, I will). We’re connected via LinkedIn and she wrote to tell me what was going on with her life and to ask what was going on with mine. She said that she was trying to do a better job this year of connecting with her network. Good for her.

All of us should steal that idea and do the same. It’s not numbers of friends, followers or subscribers that are ultimately important, it’s relationships. That’s why it’s called social media, and that’s where its power lies.

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How to budget time for social media

Hour glass

You have limited time - use it wisely when it comes to social media. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1068015)

One of the challenges of social media is how to manage the amount of time that you could put into these activities. How much time, and how exactly you spend that time, will end up being a little different for everyone depending on your goals and strategy.

Here’s a framework to help you budget your time. This is especially helpful for personal branding and networking activities, where it’s harder (or seems harder) to just carve hours out of your workday for these activities.

Content creation

Do you blog? Do you write articles or white papers or create presentations that you share on Slideshare? What about podcasting? Creating original content can help you establish a brand and demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. It’s a very powerful strategy, and if you choose to use it you’ll want to set aside some time to focus on it.

  1. How much content do you want to produce each week or month?
  2. How much time do you need to devote to produce that content? How many hours is that each week and each day, on average?
  3. When will you put in that time? During your lunch hour? In the early mornings or late at night? On the weekends? Decide when and put it on your calendar.

In my case I’m probably averaging about 10 hours a week on blogging right now. You don’t have to spend that much time, but consistency is important.

Listening and reading

It’s important to keep up with what’s going on in your industry — reading blogs, articles and books, listening to podcasts, and generally keeping up with new ideas and conversation. How much time you spend on this will vary depending on your industry and goals.

Accountants need to keep up with the latest tax law changes. Doctors have to try to plough through stacks of medical journals. I try to keep up with the flood of books on social media that are being published and the many, many blogs on the subject. Since it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information available, it’s a good idea to decide how much time you want to spend on this.

  1. What do you need to keep up with? Books, blogs, professional journals, other sources?
  2. How many hours per week will you devote to this?
  3. When will you keep up with these? At night before you go to sleep? Can you listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your iPod on the way to work?
  4. Do you have a system to bring the most relevant content to your attention? Google alerts? RSS feeds? Some of the tips in this post on finding and sharing great content can help.

Conversation

Of course, social media isn’t very social if you’re not talking. That could include sharing content you find, responding to others in a variety of social media channels (including commenting on blogs), and even reaching out to people via email to connect offline. It also is the tool that allows you to turn mere online connections into actual relationships (whether they’re weak or strong).

1. What social media channels are most important for you? Twitter, Facebook, a specialized social media network on Ning or a forum devoted to your industry?

2. How much time will you spend on these channels? An hour a day? Three hours a week?

3. When will you spend that time? In short 15-minute bursts throughout the day? In a longer, more concentrated period a few times each week?

More tips

All of us have a limited time and energy, but the vast world of social media can suck up an enormous amount of that if we’re not careful. So here are some tips to manage that.

Focus. You probably have limited time, at best a few hours a days, to devote to this. So concentrated on the 20 percent of tools/sites/strategies that are going to yield 80 percent of your results. For me, these days, that means Twitter, writing blog posts and reading blog posts and books get most of my attention.

Be realistic. Don’t sketch out a plan that calls for 30 hours a week (almost a full-time job) of work on this, and then find out a month into it that’s it’s just too much. It’s better to start out with very modest ambitions. As you become more fluent with the tools, you’ll be able to increase your productivity by becoming more efficient and integrating these tools into your life.

Consider the rest of your life. If you’re going through a really busy period at work, going on vacation or caring for a sick family member, some of these actvities may temporarily take a back seat. That’s OK. Don’t burn yourself out or disregard other priorities just for the sake of keeping up with some ideal social media time budget.

Got ideas or questions on how to budget your time for social media? Please share them in the comments below.