Social media productivity: Have an impact online, while still having a life offline

Friday I presented at ConvergeSouth 2012 in Greensboro. I gave a talk about how to use social media productively, by which I mean getting results without having to spend 18 hours a day online. Below are my slides.

If you’re interested in having me speak to your group or conference on this topic or any of the other subjects I write about here, please get in touch.

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.

Why you should ignore what GM and Chris Brogan do online

I saw this morning that Chris Brogan, one of the social media world’s A-listers and guiding lights, has closed his LinkedIn account, which included more than 16,000 contacts and 143 recommendations. Many of us would kill for a network that big and that strong, but apparently it wasn’t working for him.

LinkedIn logo

Last week, GM made headlines when it announced, just days before Facebook’s IPO, that it was canceling its $10 million ad spend with the social network. It wasn’t getting the return it needed apparently. Others have also criticized Facebook’s ads (Ryan Holliday of American Apparel, for example).

Does this mean you should dump LinkedIn? Maybe cancel all your Facebook ads?

Unless your Chris Brogan or GM, these incidents don’t mean anything. Play your game, not someone else’s game.

Easy to say, right? But the question is, how do you actually do that? Are we never supposed to pay attention to what others are doing? Are there never lessons there? Fair enough.

Here’s how you play your own game.

1. Know what your goals are.

2. Know how your going to measure those goals and what metrics are going to account along the way. (For anything online, report bottom-line measurements to the boss, but you’ll need to measure other things to actually move toward those sales-and-profit-oriented objectives.)

3. Start doing stuff to try to move those metrics in the right direction. Yes, should look at case studies, listen to the experts and evaluate your options based on your own experience. In other words, take your best guess. But you won’t know what will work and how well until you actually do something.

4. Once you start doing stuff, per step 3, then you can figure out what’s working (and try to make it work better) and figure out what’s not working (and fix it or stop it).

Rinse and repeat.

It’s really not that hard.

So, a giant car maker dropping Facebook ads and a social media A-lister dropping LinkedIn is interesting. But it has nothing to do with your marketing efforts.

Do you disagree? How are you evaluating your digital marketing efforts? Please leave a comment below.

 P.S. I need to say that I think Chris Brogan is a smart guy and I think he’s right about 90 percent of the time when it comes to social media. But my point stands: Listen to what he says and think about it means to your business, but don’t blindly mimic him, or GM or anyone else.

Beware of bad advice on social media metrics

Lately, I’ve seen a slew of articles — like this, this and this — bashing the use of certain measurements in social media and online marketing efforts.

You mean Facebook page “likes” don’t matter? The amount of traffic to your website is irrelevant? And the number of Twitter followers isn’t worth counting?

Tape measure

Photo via {a href="http://www.sxc.hu/photo/507636"}Gastonmag{/a}

Whoa, Nelly, let’s slow down a bit here. Those metrics do count, and if you’re in online marketing or social media, you should watch them closely. The key is understanding what they really mean and how to use them.

The experts are right in that if these metrics are the only thing you measure, your online efforts are doomed. If you tell the CEO how many people “Like” the company on Facebook, then that person has every right to fire back with “How is that driving our sales?”

So yes, report the metrics that count to leadership: How many new sales leads your efforts have generated, how much increased revenue (or better yet, profit) you’re responsible for, how much you’ve boosted awareness of the brand. That’s all good and well.

But actually driving those numbers in the direction that makes the boss happy requires more insight. You’ve got to know what levers you can press to move the bottom-line numbers. The best way to figure this out is to understand what kind of sales and marketing funnel you’re working with. (If you don’t know what a sales and marketing funnel is, here’s a good explanation.)

Boost the top line to drive the bottom line

Let me give you an example here. Let’s say your target metric is the number of website lead-gen forms you get potential customers to fill out. Before people can fill out the form, they’ve got to visit your website. And even once they’re on the website, they have to believe that they can trust with their information, that you can deliver something of value to them (hopefully the product or service you’re selling), and that it’s worth their time to give you their contact information.

To start with, let’s say you’re getting two leads a day through your online form. And let’s say you’re getting 20 visits a day to the page with your lead-gen form, and 200 visits a day to your website. One way to increase the number of leads you get is increase the number of visits to the lead-gen form and, a farther up the funnel, increase the number or website visits you’re getting.

This is based on a pretty basic sales principle: If you want to close more deals, make more calls.

I think of these kind of metrics as “top of the funnel” stats. They’re not numbers you necessarily include in your report to the boss, but they are numbers you need to monitor, understand and move if you’re going to deliver the bottom-line results the boss wants.

Four tactics to take corporate social media to the next level

In most companies, social media lives in marketing and/or corporate communications. That’s fine for brand and corporate efforts, but if your company’s social media activities are restricted to just those two functions, you’re not getting everything out of social media that you could be.

Social media and the corporation

Photo credit: Dell (which has successfully used social media for more than just marketing and public relations).

Companies should think about social media at two levels:

  • The brand level, which typically involves tactics such as corporate Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, corporate blogs and formal social media campaigns.
  • The employee level, which requires empowering as many of your employees as possible to engage with the outside world using social media tools with the goal of doing their jobs better.

If your company has on-staff recruiters, a sales force, R&D specialists and customer service staffers who are not using social media, chances are they’re not as effective as they could be.

So how do you go about implementing something like this? Here are four steps I’d start with:

  1. Write (or, if needed, revise) your social-media policy so it is simple and clear for employees to follow, and not only protects your company, but also encourages employees to tap social media tools to do their jobs better.
  2. Deliver training in social media for employees in sales, business development, human resources, customer service, R&D and other nonmarketing, non-PR functions.
  3. Provide ongoing support for employees using social media in their professional capacity. That could include everything from arranging for professional photographs for LinkedIn and with other social media profiles to paying for social media apps for employees’ smart phones. You might even think about retaining a social media coach to work with individuals.
  4. Develop a formal process to help new employees understand how they can (and should) use social media. Chances are they won’t have gotten this training in their last job.

If you have other ideas about companies can move their social media activities to the next level, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

Why you should have multiple email accounts

I have a confession to make: I’ve had something on my to-do list for several months now that I’ve been procrastinating on.

  • “Record all email accounts and passwords in one place.”

Over the last few months I have been using Clipperz to store my passwords for various accounts. I spend a lot of time online, so I have a lot of passwords. But I’ve been procrastinating on rounding up my email addresses and adding them to Clipperz. The problem is that I have a lot of email addresses, including some I don’t use that often, and I dread the thought of digging them all out and figuring out what the passwords are.

A better solution, you might say, is just to have fewer email addresses. But multiple email accounts are useful.

In fact, if you only have one or two email addresses and you’re active online – especially if you’re doing things for clients, employers or others – you need to use more email addresses.

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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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Four things readers want

News conference

Publishing news about your niche or topic area is one sure-fire way to attract and retain an audience. (Photo: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/106233)

What do readers want? And not just readers, but viewers, listeners – audiences for all media. If creating content is part of your marketing strategy then you’ve got to figure out what content your audience wants. What kind of blog posts, ebooks, podcasts or videos will attract the most people, get shared most often and keep your brand uppermost in people’s minds?

What they want is likely to boil down to four kinds of content.

How To

How to be wealthier, how to be sexier, how to be slimmer. How to do something — create a great Facebook fan page, sell more life insurance or bake the perfect cake.

Bookstores and libraries are full of how-to books. Magazine covers are scribbled over with how-to headlines – “How to get your guy to ____” screams Cosmo. And the Internet has become a treasure house of how-to content of every type.

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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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