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.

Where are you FRoM?

Ask a room full of people whether they have more free time now then they did five years ago and rarely do you see a hand go up.

Time, Attention and Trust are all in short supply, we’re optimising every moment, catching up, organising, on top of our other competing demands.

So, if this is now the convention of life – work/life blend, rather than balance, how should you change your business development approach to your customers?

Circles

Life seems to have gone full circle.  Being a proud Generation X, I’ve been schooled in the the importance of personal relationships.  During the late nineties and into the new millenium, businesses went a little CRM crazy, defining relationships by database fields.  It was all about your system.

Compare that to now.  Ten years on, we’re now talking about the importance of one to one, not one to many.  Traditional media continues to find ways to justify itself and social media has created hundreds of millions of individual voices.

Relationship building is becoming about the balance of how frequently you listen combined with how frequently you communicate (reception+transmission) at a one to one level.

Where are you FRoM?

If people are time starved, then traditional methods of reaching out to them may be less effective.  You’re networking events may not be so well attended, your e-shot open rate may be a fraction of a percentage, your direct mail may be directed to the re-cycle bin.

Using applications to stay front of mind (FRoM) with your customers and network are key.  Blanket bombing them with mailshots is a guaranteed way to put yourself in the “less relevant” box of their thinking.

Working smarter with tools like Linkedin and Twitter to create a simmer effect in your relationship isn’t hard.  Primarily it means that when they have a problem, you’re aware and – more importantly – you’re in their field of view as a potential problem fixer or trusted advisor.

Completing some training with a professional services company on Friday, I hit this point home.  Quite often, interventions by the professional services sector are event driven.  If you don’t have proximity to your clients (in range to listen) at their point of need, then you may well find a competitor through the door.  Use the technology that exists today, to make that job easier.

I’ve had personal experience of this over the years and it’s a timely reminder that you have to stay in regular, relevant, contact with the people that are important to you, if you wish to be the person they talk to in their moment of need.

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.

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.

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!

Are your contacts a network?

Obsession with the number of followers that you have on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin seems to be where a lot of people are at right now. As if, there is some sort of hard measurement technique as to how good you are at that particular activity or how popular you are as an individual.  It’s completely understandable, as normally, that’s how things are measured.  The more people you reach, the higher the chance of influence or response of say a mailshot or e-shot.

However, any marketeer will tell you that a mailshot mailed to a million homes with poor content or bad design, will have a low response rate.  A personalised mailshot sent to 1,000 homes will have far greater impact.  This is quite a good metaphor for the way social media works.   Car brands  do it all the time.  Low end brands put brochures in Sunday newspapers, Premium brands send personalised letters to target postcodes.

If you are obsessed with followers, hanging on to every new one and de-railing everytime someone unfollows you, you might be taking it all a bit too seriously.  I’ve learned over the last couple of years, that followers on Twitter come and go.  If you follow back everyone that follows you, you begin to manufacture your own junk news channel, it all becomes noise again.  So, choose who you follow carefully to ensure your content is of a high quality.

Additionally, having all these contacts can be a diminishing return. A network, is not a collection of thousands of contacts if you don’t actually know anyone (that’s a thousand contacts).  For me, my business network is people that I know and have met, I call this social2facial.   When you have met someone, you get to know them and build up trust (a key driver in today’s expectation economy).  You understand their objectives and goals better and you can work to assist them in achieving them by making introductions or recommendations to others. Interactions become personalised and more relevant.

Of all the people I know on Twitter, around 15% make it to my Linkedin network (where I store contacts that I have met).  They are the people whom I’m most likely to turn to for opportunities.  Conceptually then, I am using Twitter to identify people I’d like to meet after a period of engagement, then to take that relationship off-line to see where business might go.

Finally, I have limited time to be able to spend on social networks.  I run a big business and have lots of interests away from the office, so it’s all about a balance of how many quality relationships you can actually maintain on and off-line relative to the time you can invest.  If you have a huge pool, you might not be able to engage with them and end up being an information broadcaster, rather than a conversationalist.  Twitter expert Mark Shaw writes lots of great blogs around this topic, check him out.

What do you think?

The New Black(berry) Book

What is the modern day equivalent of The Little Black Book? Which is the one place, which – aside from all others – all your key contacts are kept?  Is it the address book in Microsoft Outlook (e-mail addresses)?  Your phone address book (text numbers)?  Twitter?  Linkedin? Facebook?

Most people no longer have one single place, probably multiple places.  Varying degrees of social media platforms with differing types of contacts on.  Thinking of my own situation, I use a combination of Outlook, Linkedin, Twitter and Gist.  Outlook primarily as there are a lot of people I know who are not into social media, I still need to keep a kind of e-mail directory of those.  I recently discovered Gist to suck together Twitter and Linkedin contacts so that activity can be tied together, it’s quite a clever little app, albeit a bit slow to respond sometimes (my woeful 0.5mb home broadband doesn’t help).

Even so, you should always keep a closer eye on your top contacts.  Gist allows you to prioritise your contacts, which is a decent feature.  That way, you get to see what’s really going on with your Top 10% of contacts and ensuring you stay relevant in their world. What is evident is that there is a large amount of online intelligence about your key contacts nowadays, digital breadcrumbs are scattered everywhere and applications which draw information together, filter and prioritise, will really help you to understand the challenges, movements and new connections that people you know are making.

By keeping tabs on who is doing what, you can add value to your network, help solve problems, make new connections and grow the number of people you know.  The more people you do know, the more opportunities seem to come and – ultimately – the more business you’ll win.

Social Media for Executives

Dont worry, this isn’t another 101 reasons for a business to be on Twitter, hopefully we’re getting over that one now, although I am still staggered at the number of small businesses that I meet who could benefit massively from micro-blogging.

Tonight’s article I want to focus on executives in business.  Why?   As usual, nothing gets real buy-in unless it comes from the top, is agreed by the top or understood by the top.  In many large businesses, the board is still dominated by Generation X Executive Directors.  As a result, there is a real danger of the business not staying relevant in the changing landscape of customer expectations.

To them, marketing means mailshots, sales means door-knocking and relationship managment means regular lunches or dinners with top customers.  That certainly did the business a decade ago, how things have changed.  Those things still matter, don’t get me wrong, but their priority has changed.

Social Media is something that all executives – in my view – should be practicing.  To keep an eye on their own organisation, their competitors and their customers.  A few examples: -

1)  I blogged recently about using the Linkedin company search tool to identify staffing movement in key competitors, this allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your industry.

2) A blog in itself is a fantastic way to communicate to staff, customers and potential customers about your views.  A great to underpin your key messages, strategy or positioning.  it’s ideal if you run a larger business where it’s hard to get round the floor.

3)  Twitter is a fantastic tool for reputation management and connecting your message directly to the people who may use your products or services.  There’s no quicker way to establish what people think about your business reputation than to read it in real time.

The key question is always, how much time is this all going to take? The answer all depends on the importance of managing your network and personal reputation.  For me, around fifteen minutes a day.  5 mins at the start of the day to catch up on any major network changes or messages sent directly to me aswell as preparing any Twitter links to send out, 5 mins over lunch doing the same and 5  minutes at the back end of the day to catch up.   In my time at home, I probably invest about another hour a week in total keeping up to date with my overall network and writing blogs.

And what is the financial reward? Return on Engagement is the new Return on Investment.  Like networking of any type, if you think that an immediate financial gain is the only thing that justifies your time, then you’re probably one of those executives I described in paragraph 2.  Looking back on a couple of years worth of time invested in business social networking at a personal level, I would say: -

  1. I’ve recruited key staff into the business at no cost.
  2. I’ve never been asked to speak at so many conferences ahead of my competitors.
  3. I’ve never been asked to sit on so many judging panels, increasing regional and national profile for Brother.
  4. I’ve been able to position the business as one of the leading voices on B2B social media in the UK.
  5. My network of peer to peer contacts has never been so solid.  I was described recently by the Manchester Evening News as “one of the most connected people in the North West,” and feel I have a great list of C level people I know that I can call on for advice or help.
  6. I’ve learned a tonne of stuff.  Twitter particularly is a like a free news channel that you can personalise to your specific taste/requirement.
  7. Lot’s of people that I know on social media networks end up buying our products, simply because they know me.
  8. The brand reputation has never been stronger.
  9. People bring opportunities to you first because you’re accessible (they might not normally make it to you due to your Corporate layers of gatekeepers/filters).
  10. You meet some really interesting people and all sorts of outside work opportunities/collaborations/friendships come your way.

Don’t be scared. As you can see, I can clearly demonstrate sound business benefits.  To get the same, you have to get started, throw yourself open to your audience and get engaging.  Don’t have someone pretend to be you, be authentic and Do It Yourself.

The CIA in Social Media II – Linkedin

There are lots of reasons why you’d want to find out a bit more about a company.  Whether they are a competitor you are looking to profile, someone you’re looking to join for employment or a sales prospect.  I’ve written previously about the idea of the CIA in social media, that is, the ability to research and investigate on-line.

A little used feature of Linkedin is the company profile option, which holds some fascinating information.

Here’s how it works. Let’s just say that I wanted to find out a little bit more about Manchester City Council.  Normally with any large public sector organisation, knowing where to start is a nightmare.  So, in Linkedin, go to your top box where you search and change the drop down box to “companies” from “people.”  Then type in “Manchester City Council.”

You’re search return should come to this page.  It shows that there are 501 people on Linkedin who work for the council with profiles on Linkedin, ideal if you want to look through and see a target for connection.  Your direct connections are shown and recent activity.  At the bottom of the page is shows who has moved jobs, great if you want to drop someone a line. 

Here’s the bit that most people miss.  On the right hand side of the page is a hyperlink to “check out insightful statistics about Manchester City Council employees.”  Click that and it should take you here.  Now if you just work yourself round that page and see what level of information you can see about Manchester City Council.  Right from the number of graduates they employ, how long people have worked there, where people live, where people go to when they leave, whose got a new job title and whose just departed.  All in real time.

This is a stunning research tool, particularly if you are a recruiter or in HR.  What’s really great is that you can click the link at the top that says “Follow Manchester City Council” and this – a bit like Twitter – will send you a weekly or daily digest update on what is happening, job title changes, job changes etc.  If Manchester City Council were – for example – a major account of mine (if I were a salesperson), I’d be following them and keeping right up to date with whats going on within the organisation.   If a trusted contact of mine had a promotion, I’d drop them a card.  If a trusted contact left, I’d want to know where they were going in case there were a chance of business somewhere else.

It’s a terrific feature in my view and – when used properly – another powerful reason why social media should not be ignored by business to business sales organisations.