Linkedin Requests

I’d like you to join my professional network on Linkedin.

How many request do you get when someone just fires through the standard invitation?  I get loads.  But, rather than ignore them or just accept a request from someone that I don’t know, I send this reply: -

Hi (Enter Name Here),

Thanks for your Linkedin request.

I generally only connect with people I have met in person or have been recommended to by someone I know.

If there is an opportunity you would like to put my way, a mutual benefit to us connecting right now or I’ve simply forgotten we’ve met, please drop me a note and would be happy to consider.

Phil

So, what does this do?

It sorts out the collectors (speculators) from the real connectors (trusted contacts).  Collectors are people that are just randomly wanting to connect with you, offering no value to the connection.  Linkedin is the place where I keep contact of my network, that is, people that I know.  It’s mostly people that I have met, but occassionally I do connect with people that know my trusted contacts.

A Quality Invite

When you know someone personally, it’s OK – in my view – to send a standard request.  I still choose not to, opting to always add a short note to personalise it.

If you are looking to connect to someone that you want to approach as you have a mutual opportunity/common connection/reason to connect, but you have not met in person, then add some commentary why you are sending the request or you are likely to end up on the reject list.  It doesn’t need to be war and peace.

Example

Hi XXXX,

We haven’t met but we share XXX as a mutual connection.  I think we share a number of common connections/or an interest in XXXX and think we would benefit from knowing each other.

XXXX always speaks highly of you and noted to me that you are someone that I should connect with.

Kind Regards,

XXXX

Do you see what a different impact that might make to a potential connection?   It says, “I’ve thought about this, there is some benefit to us knowing each other and this is a personal note.”  Do that and you should ensure more connections.

3 Years on Twitter

This week saw me click over three years as a user on the Twitter platform,  how time flies.  It’s become part of my everyday business life and an essential part of my personal growth and network development.

This blogpost is not going to be one of those “reasons to be on Twitter” blogs, hopefully the world is over that one.  I do however want to share some outcomes, experiences and learnings that have come to bear over the last three years to encourage others: -

 

Early Days (Followers 0).

  • A bit random  Not really knowing how best to use the platform.
  • Not having a genre.  Tweeting all sorts, business and personal.
  • Following anyone that would follow me back.  No particular selection process.
  • Bit too focused on numbers of followers and how to acquire more.  A zero sum game.
  • Used the basic web interface.  Found it frustrating and missed so much good content.
  • Exchanged messages with a lot of people that I knew who had early adopted it – it meant I got to know a few people better.
  • Sent too many Tweets.  Didn’t realise that if you “machine gun” tweets out, it adds nothing.

Mid Term (Followers around 1,500)

  • Switched to Tweetdeck –  it all made a lot more sense.
  • Set up search columns.  Realised the tool is much more powerful than just following people/follow backs and could be used as a live “google search” on the terms I wanted.
  • Saw the potential for personal learning (following great people and their insights), following journalists (trends) to see what is new in technology.
  • Realised that it’s better to create a genre for my account.  Business, Leadership, Innovation, Environment, Sales, Marketing, Trends,  Social Media.  Keep it focused on those elements, less about me, more about them.
  • Accepted that followers is about engagement and influence.  People will come and go as there tastes/jobs/lives change.  Follower numbers are fluid, as I follow/unfollow, people will follow/unfollow me.
  • Realised it could be used to effectively drive traffic to websites and blogs –  providing the content has been filtered, is of good quality and enriches your audience.  My blogposts are my own unique thoughts, not content from others.  The more people see it and agree with it, the more likely it is they’ll stick with you.
  • Started unfollowing people.  Realised that there is no benefit to having Twitter followers if you have nothing in common with them or  never interact with them.  Otherwise, they are just meaningless numbers.  Actively began to disengage with some followers, happy that my follower numbers may reduce – they didn’t, they’ve continued to grow.

Now (Followers around 3,600)

  • No focus on followers – just on good content to share.  Review everyone that follows me to see if I can learn anything from them.  I don’t target followers, have a number in my head or see it as any kind of popularity KPI.
  • Still a big focus on personal learning -  Seeing what’s hot, new, changing.  Using that to develop insight for personal development or company direction.
  • Supporting Corporate and Personal Reputation.  Being accessible as a business leader within a large multi-national brings opportunities to our door first.  Great outcome as you can have first refusal on exciting initiatives.
  • Filtering.  Using search columns and interesting people to see great stuff and share it.  I don’t send anything out unless I have personally read it and see it of value.
  • Network Development.  Twitter is my trawler net of contacts to meet in person, then add to my Linkedin network.  My ratio of Twitter followers to Linkedin network is around 6:1 and continues to grow.  That’s where I can distinguish who is an “associate” relationship, rather than someone I consider to be of longer-term value.
  • To develop insight around individuals or businesses.  To start/develop conversations with people to assist in the development of intelligence for business development purposes or opportunity engineering.
  • To stay in contact with people in my wider network and underpin relationships.  A chance meeting becomes much more meaningful when you can refer to something that has recently happended to the third party.  I use filter columns in Tweetdeck to track important people, like a “live” electronic little black book.
  • Housekeeping.  It’s important to regularly review who has gone inactive, what your last 10 Tweets say about you if someone looks at your feed (delete stuff if you think it stepped outside your genre), thank people for RT’s and mentions, review the profiles of people that follow you to ensure that they fit your desired  intention for your Twitter feed and – more importantly – keep the feed going with some regularity and frequency.
It’s very satisfying when someone says to you “I really like your Tweets, you always share interesting stuff.”  There’s the point, if it’s interesting, of value, filtered, original and adds value to your network – your followers will grow.
Remember the film “field of dreams” with that famous line “if you build it, they will come.”  Twitter is no different, see it as a long term investment in your personal learning, network growth and reputation.  If you build a feed which is of value to others, they will magnetise towards you.
The world has shifted and it’s amazing to have been there when life changed.  When people’s  lives became transparent, when an individuals right to reply shifted large brands thinking, when disasters and major events unfolded with the people, rather than the news channels.
Status updates are an amazing thing, they are powerful, insightful and give you an ability to zoom in on the world, on personal conversations, on opportunity and ultimately – people.  Here’s to the next three years.

Linkedin hits 100M Users

Business to business social networking site – Linkedin - hit a new landmark today, by signing up it’s one hundred millionth user.  They created this infographic to make the occassion, which tells the story pretty well.  You can read their blog about it here.

Of all the on-line networking sites, Linkedin has stood the test of time.  Based upon a business model of being the ultimate feeding ground for the recruitment industry, it’s evolving its business model beyond straight recruitment and much more into connecting people with wider products and services.

Of the 100M users, there are around 1.3+ billion connections between members and around 79 million job transitions/changes have been tracked by the site.  That’s one hell of a database, so you can see why that would be of value to marketeers.

Beyond just storing your profile and connecting with people, many folk don’t ever really unearth some of the real benefits that Linkedin can bring a B2B organisation.  I’ve previously blogged about Linkedin maps visualiser and researching customers/competitors, two features which most people are amazed by, when you mention them.

In addition, you can create closed communities for customers, common interest groups, get questions crowd-sourced answered, aswell as do the obvious, find new people for jobs.

It’s an out and out B2B platform. Most small businesses don’t realise how powerful it can be for search.  Set up a company page, add your products onto it and then get users of the products to provide endorsements.  That sort of information is loved by the search engines.   If you want to take it to a really sophisticated level, you can start to point products at people with specific job titles, highly targeted.

If you check the infographic, you can also see, that the platform is primarily used during the working day, or on mobile devices – post work, indicating that it’s seen as a serious tool, particularly in America and Europe.

It’s no surprise to me that Linkedin continues to grow. I find it a great platform for researching and keeping track of people.  Most people I know only do the basics, profile and connect with people that they might know.  That’s often where it ends.  However, with a bit more time invested, you can get an awful lot more from it.

I think Linkedin will continue to grow unchallenged by the likes of Facebook and Twitter.  It does a completely different job, in a B2B environment.  Their user subscriptions will continue to grow as they expand into new markets and I’m sure it won’t take them too long to hit the 200M mark.

Creating a new blog

I posted the other day about the benefits of blogging.  Don’t be mistaken that it’s hard to get a blog going, because it’s not.  Here’s how my 12 year old son set up a blog in about 12 minutes over the weekend.  Seriously, if a 12 year old can do it, you can too.

-Go to blogger com.
-Make up a name for your blog (if it’s already taken, choose another).
-Choose a template.
-Get blogging.

If you want to get really fancy, you could choose a dedicated URL for your blog by visiting somewhere like 123-reg.co.uk and buying yourself a name, then pointing that name to the URL of your blog.  I’ve recently done this with my cycling blog, whose previous URL was http://philsroadbikingblog.blogspot.com (bit of a mouthful) to www.race-pace.net (shorter and punchier).  URL costs me £10 a year.

So, back to my son.  He wanted to sell a few books and things to friends at school.  So, we set up a blog.  Bought a URL for £5.99 and off he’s gone.  You can see the result of his work so far at www.epicprices.co.uk.  He’s even added some Google advertising on to earn a few pennies (that’s my boy) and is sharing the link in Facebook to give exposure to his friends.  It really is as simple as that.

So, whether big or small.  Have a think about what a blog could do for you.  You could be up and running in under twelve minutes.

You need the blog?

Small businesses. Got a product or service which is unique or some specialist knowledge? Yes?  Are you writing a blog? Yes (finish reading here).  No (read on).

Blogs are a powerful tool.

More powerful than most small businesses might imagine.  Google will love you. Google loves new content, which is unique, rich and gets better results for its searchers.  The more specialised your blog, the better.  So if your knowledge or product is quite specialised, you will get found more often and go higher up the search rankings.  The more you post, the more visits you get, the more quality visits you get, the better you begin to rank in the future.  Simples.

People trust authentic, well written blogs more than they do adverts. Sharing expertise, offering knowledge, solving problems is what it’s all about.  Don’t forget that the second most popular search platform on the planet is Youtube.  Creating Vlogs (video blogs) is another great way to drive traffic to your site and grab a high ranking.  If you look at a standard google search page nowadays, you’ve given the option of web, images, blogs and video, each one offering different results.  Use your unique photos and ensure they are tagged, that way people searching for images will also be drawn back to your site.

Getting Started

I’ve previously posted my top tips for bloggers, check it here.  One tool that I’ve used since then is Google Wonder Wheel.  A brilliant way to establish what the key search terms that people are using.  Here’s an example relating to road cycling.

The Power of the Wonder Wheel

In the search term you can see the term “road cyling blog” and the search results will appear underneath as normal (guess what at time of writing, my cycling blog is ranking #1 on Google – proves it works).  If you look at the left hand navigation, look underneath shopping and hit the link which says “Wonder Wheel”.

What this then reveals are the top alternative terms that people use to get that result.  As you can see, terms like “road cycling blogger” and “cycling training blog” appear.  The trick is to then use these terms in future blogposts.  Not all of them, couple at a time.

The more you click on each of the spokes, the further it drills down, so you can really get to the nitty gritty of your subject and the phrases people are using.  This is powerful stuff and will really help you to match your future content, to the search terms people are using.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Notwithstanding this post, which is a bit longer than I would normally write.  If you keep your blogs, short and snappy, with original content (don’t copy and paste someone elses, use your own knowledge and expertise) you’ll be surprised at what impact they can have.  Often large Corporate sites don’t have content which changes regularly, this is where you can steal their thunder by posting up to date news/reviews and thought leadership.

Another example.  Last week top bike brand Boardman launched a new range in London.  I got wind of this, quickly researched the new range and got a blogpost up.  For the first 3 days I was #1 on Google for anyone searching for the new model “Boardman Road Pro Air 2011“.  It’s dropped down to about #4 now as the big cycling sites with massive traffic kicked in, however I’m still there – front page on general search but #1 on blog search.

My point is.  Without a lot of effort, you can intelligently drive more traffic to your website, by blogging.  More traffic means more impressions, more impressions should lead to more conversions if your sales funnel is right.

Top 3 Box

Ever heard of the concept of Top 3 box? This describes your prospective customers shortlist which they will be walking around with in their head, when making a key purchase.

In times gone by (not that long ago), a multi-million pound branding campaign would be needed in order to be one of those top 3 on the consideration list.  Today, if you work at proximity (using social media), you can ease yourself onto that list by being around at the very moment when the customer may be close to purchase, by listening.

This gives smaller businesses a crack at the title, particularly niche and boutique brands.  Outside of work, I’m a passionate road cyclist.  I worked with a bike brand to launch them on social media and we increased consideration of their brand from 25% to 90% through regular engagement.  Doing a consideration survey, there were a staggering 25 brands on the unprompted consideration list, so this was quite an achievement.  A stack of the other brands weren’t even using social media platforms - pretty poor when the audience is so engaged with the sport.  Some of the larger brands were simply broadcasting, with little real interaction. #fail

By always being around, you’ll be front of mind.  By being front of mind, you will be part of the conversation and ultimately the consideration.  Don’t be too pushy, be helpful and chatty buyers will resonate towards you.  You can then ride off into the sunset with more customers.

Linkedin Maps Visualiser

Linkedin have just launched a new tool called visualiser.  It takes your network connections then cleverly groups your connections visually, based upon connections that you have in common.

From the clusters that get generated, you can quickly understand the myriad of connections that exist between your contacts, whilst also getting a graphic visualisation of the types of people you are connecting with.

For example, this is my map.  In the blue area, I can identify these relationships as being people I know in the Manchester/NW area.  Orange is connections from the office equipment industry, green is industry connections in the I.T. space and pink staff or colleagues.  The larger the node, the more contacts that individual has.

By clicking on any one of the nodes, you get a quick profile of the individual aswell as a quick visualisation of all the people that you are both connected to.  It’s a great way of quickly establishing who you have in common, across industries or regions.

Infographics are becoming de rigeur in helping us process information in today’s time strapped, data driven world.  I think this is a pretty cool new tool that will help you take stock of your network at a macro level. The more you play with it, the more it makes sense.

Personally, I limit my Linkedin connections to people that I have met or know in person, otherwise it becomes a bit of a zero sum game, thousands of people you don’t know.  Quality over quantity any day for me.

Re-wiring the world

Earlier today on Twitter, I posted this infographic about how social media has emerged over the last ten years or so (I love infographics by the way). 

It’s a game changer and has led to a re-configuration of the world and we are all living through it, some actively, some as bystanders.  What I think is most interesting is the emergence of all these businesses which have entered the market in the last ten years- Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Youtube.

Pre- 2000, many of these didn’t exist as businesses.  If you have a look back at the infographic, you can  how transient social media has been as a technology.  A continuum of ideas, start-ups and failures waiting for their moment for social media traction to grip.  And it has.

I began to think what the next ten years of that infographic might look like and how the worlds wiring is going to change again?  Augmented reality linked to geo-location may take us on a whole new journey of interaction and uncover more possibilities to stay in contact, in real time.  Mobile phone tariffs may offer gigabytes of data in their tariffs, not megabytes.  Mobile phones may need terabytes of disk space and ultra-high performance batteries to keep up with us and our need to update. 

Life-caching is at an unprecedented level.  A detailed breadcrumb trail on you and your movements on a moment by moment basis is being recorded in the cloud.  Life is being recorded in incredible detail for future historians to marvel over, they will be able to replay your life in microscopic detail.  What you did, who you knew, where you went.   Want to see what I mean?  Create a book using Twournal of your Twitter feed.

All I know is, you haven’t seen anything yet in terms of where the cloud or social media platforms may take us.  It’s a hell of a time to be alive to witness it.  Here’s an article on Harvard Business Review which outlines some of the upcoming social media trends for 2011, have a quick look and see whether you’re geared up to be involved.

Social Media Guru

I finished my talk at the Go Social bootcamp last week with a few points about social media, a couple of them were “Beware the Guru” and “Smell the Coffee.” Interestingly Milo Yiannopoulos of The Telegraph wrote an article on a similar subject last week, which seems to have stirred some strong opinion.   Social Media Editor at Haymarket Gordon Macmillan, quickly put up a spirited defence on social media blog, “The Wall” which you can read here.

I was asked earlier by Twitter user @sarahpowell1988 what my view of this was.   I’ve made a number of posts over time on related issues.  There are a lot of consultants our there jumping on this bandwagon, describing social media as if it were some silver bullet.  My stock response to this is, “it isn’t.” One of my favourite sayings (which you can see in the talk) is “It’s a horse, not a Unicorn.” Social media is just one thing you should do to add to your existing range of activities, it’s not mutually exclusive and is not going to rescue you in a recession.

I am contacted by agencies trying to sell me social media (rather than an on-line strategy) all the time.  A few of them have been sent away with a flea in their ear for not doing their homework, they generally get pointed to this blog rant.  Enough said.

Like anything that’s flavour of the month, you’ll get your self-proclaimed experts who will give the other experts a bad name.  Social media networks allow anyone to package themselves nowadays and – during recessions – businesses want new initiatives to engage with customers.

However, you’d be a fool to ignore it. You have to distinguish fads from trends.  Fads come and go, trends stay.  Social media is a trend. Platforms may be transient over time, however the principal of status updates, right to reply, web 2.0, however you want to put it, will remain.  Got a complicated product?  Simplify it by putting a video on Youtube.  Need to reach out to a specific person in a Corporate?  Linked is your short cut.  Want to pick up on real time search for an audience looking for your product?  Twitter is where it’s at.  These are three really obvious ones.

Milo’s point I think boils down to this. You need to be able to distinguish between someone who knows what they are doing as part of an overall digital strategy, with clear delivery credentials who can show results.  You might need to cut your way through a jungle of people that claim to be something they are not, what’s new, however due diligence remains as an important part of any new partner you deliver in to your business.  If you’re rigorous bringing experts in, you’ll filter the flaky self-proclaimed gurus out.

Go Social

Yesterday, I did a short talk at the Go Social Bootcamp in Manchester.  I called my talk “Social Media Sucks (or Bucks?)” to highlight that many leaders of large businesses don’t get social media as they can’t see what return on investment it gives. 

You can view the presentation here, it should show the main reasons why leaders should get involved.  Clearly, it’s missing a load of narrative, if you want to hear that, come hear me speak!