By now, many of you know I am a huge fan of LinkedIn. The social media platform is the choice for business to business (B2B) connectivity. It can help you network, build creditability, ferret out information and leads, and basically rock your social selling efforts.
Yet, what if you are going about LinkedIn all wrong? Unfortunately, just joining LinkedIn and creating a minimal profile will not help you build your business. In fact, it might scare off your prospects because you look like an amateur. With 400 million members (122 million in the U.S. alone) and the addition of two more members every second, you cannot afford to ignore the power of LinkedIn.
So, how do you currently measure up your LinkedIn profile and activity? Not sure? Here’s my top eight signs you are using LinkedIn Wrong.
No Photo – People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. How can someone get to know you if they cannot see your face?
Non-Professional Photo – Did you quickly crop a photo of yourself from an event? Sure, maybe you looked great that day, but the random bits of people (arms, shoulders, etc.), the busy background, and the poor lighting can make you look like an amateur. Your best option is a photo shoot with a professional photographer, but if that’s not possible, enlist the help of a friend or co-worker—just pay attention to background and lighting.
Weak Professional Headline and/or Summary statement – These two sections are your place to shine, so don’t ignore them. Use the headline to succinctly state your value, and then use the summary to give connections a little insight on why you do what you do.
Resume Wording – Sure, LinkedIn can help you find a job, but if you are using the platform to build connections and grow your business with social selling then the Experience section needs to focus on the client and how you can add value to your clients – not just list out job experience like a resume. Specifically, what expertise and services do you offer that help alleviate your clients’ concerns and issues.
No Thought Leadership – Your LinkedIn updates provide an ideal way to share your smarts and build your credibility. Whether you create fresh content or curate and share relevant news (with a few of your own thoughts as to why the article is important), aim to post something at least once a week. You can also use LinkedIn to share content on your website by providing a summary and a link to the information (which helps drive traffic to your website).
Not Doing Your Homework – Before you meet with a current client or a prospect, use LinkedIn to gather valuable contact insight. Pay attention to what they say about themselves, and how they say it. Perhaps someone is very curt, to the point and favors bullet points; great, now you know to be the same with your interaction and presentations.
Not Cyber Sleuthing—Even with the non-paid version, the LinkedIn Advance People Search can help you find prospects by keywords, location, title, company, industry and more.
Forgetting Your Manners—Send potential prospects or someone you met at a meeting a personalized connection request rather than using the standard supplied text. Also, let them know why you want to connect with them, any references, and if you have met, where you met.
I hate to slam the (refrigerator) door on cold calling, but frankly it’s quickly become a thing of the past. Businesses don’t want unknowns knocking at their door or calling on the phone. In fact, a recent survey shows cold calling fails 91 percent of the time!
Today, business to business (B2B) selling is following the same digital path as the business to consumer (B2B) process. Yep, now more than half of all B2B purchasers research you backwards and forwards on social media. They want to know who you are, your thoughts and your reasons for doing business. They want a relationship; they want a connection.
Bottom line: You need to leverage your social media presence and create a social selling strategy. Social selling uses social media to elevate your brand and build your business to rock your sales. Today, over 78 percent of sales people who use social media outsell their peers. You need to win the mind-share battle by attracting instead of chasing sales.
Think of social selling as an element within your social marketing plan, as the latter also includes brand perception and awareness, public relations, your website and much more. With a little know-how, planning and purpose, you can create a social selling strategy that helps you do the following:
Gather critical contact and company information
Establish yourself as a reputable thought leader on key sites
Make meaningful connections to build your business
Rock your sales
Thankfully, you don’t have to be both a financial services professional and a techie to figure all this out in order to become a social selling rock star. To start, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s complete and a clear representation of you and your services from the client perspective (check out Filling Your LinkedIn Restaurant with Quality Connections for more information and a downloadable tip sheet).
Once you can proudly stand behind your LinkedIn profile, you need to start making the site work for you by identifying and growing your connections. LinkedIn, which crested the 300-million member mark this year, provides a number of great ways to ferret out prospects and learn more about current connections.
You also want to become engaging, and no, I don’t mean charming at parties! You need to participate in conversations, provide thought leadership by curating and creating content, and join appropriate regional and industry groups.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, relax and breathe deeply! I can help! In fact, I have a new eCourse launching soon. Social Selling for Financial Advisors is for anyone in the financial services arena. It not only addresses social selling from a general sales standpoint, it also recognizes the compliance issues people in the financial services arena face. Together, we can nail down your social skills and rock your sales.
Apparently LinkedIn has heard the saying “no time to rest on your laurels”. The number one social media site for business professionals is now in the midst of rolling out an entirely new homepage design that is more reactive to your personal activity.
Launched in March, the updated interface makes “it easier to discover and interact with what matters most to you,” according to LinkedIn. Don’t worry if you don’t have the new design yet, LinkedIn is providing the new interface to its 347 million plus members in phases (and won’t grant requests for early access).
Website redesigns are pretty common these days as sites try to stay fresh and adapt to new technology changes and preferences (yes, I even redid my ShoeFitts Marketing website a few months ago).
The new LI website also reflects a more digestible magazine format with chunks of information in boxes, sidebars, and icon tabs. Since the site tracks your activity and adjusts accordingly, some of the information will change daily.
Here are the key modifications you can expect to see with the new homepage design:
Abbreviated profile – The top of the homepage now features a boxed area with your photo and the first few words of your headline. Make sure both your headline and summary statement are current, personal, and compelling. You can also vary what you see by adjusting the “This is what your profile looks like to” either yourself or the public.
Activity options – Just below the profile box are graphics and links to “Share an update”, “Upload a photo”, or “Publish a post”. You may also see “Your recent activity”, the (number) of “people who have viewed your profile in the past 90 days”, suggested (number) for “Grow your network” connections, “Your recent activity”, and/or your (number) “profile rank in the past 30 days”. “Your recently visited” information is now gone from the homepage.
Keep in touch – To the right of the profile box are suggested ways to maintain contact with current connections based on their recent activity and history. This section might show someone has a new job, work anniversary, or a new profile photo, and you have the option to “like”, “comment” or “skip” the suggestion. Once you act on, or skip all your connection suggestions, this area reverts to a “people you may know” box.
Notify your network? – This option is now on your homepage rather than buried in your settings so it’s easy to turn on or off. If you are making changes over several days or even a few hours, consider placing this in the “No” position until you are done so your connections don’t see every little nuance you change in your profile.
Reconnect with your colleagues – Here you’ll see some of your current contacts along with a “continue” button that looks for new connection possibilities by searching your email databases. Be careful with this feature as you want to carefully consider your connection requests and manage them one at a time rather than sending out a blanket broadcast.
Ads and Posts – Suggested ads are still off to the right and posts by your connections follow all the new profile suggestions and activity. However, posts are now in two columns, with a photo or logo on the left and the text on the right. This serves as yet another reminder to make sure your profile is professional as it now stands out more than ever when you create a post.
The LinkedIn changes are welcome and not surprising. More and more websites react to your activity and interests. Once you have the new homepage, see what you think of the changes, and then let me know your thoughts!
With over 300 million users, LinkedIn is a gold mine for busy professionals, but does your profile say you are networking and building business or looking for a new job? Don’t think there is a difference? Think again.
The personae you put forth on LinkedIn is critically important for establishing your value statement, your expertise, and your background. This is one of the first social media for business-to-business connections.
Indeed, LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for college-educated adults pocketing annual household income of $75,000 or more. Plus, it is the only social media site with more people aged 50-64 than aged 18-29.
So, how you project yourself matters! If your profile resembles a resume rather than a business outlook, you give viewers the impression you’re looking to jump ship and are not committed to your current job! Clearly, the last impression you want to make!
To create the right impression, first consider these key LinkedIn Profile essentials:
Headline – Provide a concise description to tell your why or value statement (120-character limit).
Summary – How and why did you arrive at your job/company? What makes you and your services special? How do you help your clients? Don’t go on an ego rant with irrelevant “wins”. Your clients and prospects want to know why they should do business with you instead of someone else.
Job Experience – Your roles and responsibilities are important, but only as they relate to your clients. Remember, you are not trying to sell a future employer, but show a client you have the skills and experience necessary to help them!
Media attachments – Visuals help break up the sea of text, so definitely add media attachments with SlideShare or other apps to offer added information or helpful infographics.
Don’t forget to consider your LinkedIn engagement and usage as well. Make sure you maintain a customer focus with the following:
Content – Offer your expertise on industry and company insights, and share articles and other posts with commentary to indicate the relevancy. Aim for a couple posts per week and schedule them in the morning when you are most likely to catch reader interest. However, don’t post just to post; quality is always paramount.
Links – Provide links to your company website and LinkedIn page. Be sure messaging is consistent across all channels so you don’t confuse your clients and prospects with mixed signals.
Connections – Build your network by considering clients, prospects and industry thought leaders. Use the Advanced search feature to find people by job keywords, title, company, or location. You can fine-tune possible connections even further with the additional search fields available with a premium membership.
Groups – Utilize LinkedIn Groups to join industry organizations and local business-oriented associations and chapters. Be a good listener first, and then engage with thoughtful commentary when you have something to offer. Also use Groups to grow your connections; be sure to pick the shared Group option when you send a connection request.
I’m sure it’s either happened to you or you’ve seen it play out. You attend a social event and wind up talking to a young adult, perhaps new to the workforce, and most likely clueless about investing. You try to expound the merits of getting started early. You may recommend a book, tell them about your own mentor, or offer them a quick overview of dollar cost averaging (or the miracle of compounding). But, you’re well aware of how this conversation will end: this overwhelmed twenty-something will politely thank you and immediately discard everything you’ve said. Investing often seems daunting to newcomers. There seems to be too much information to get started, so many younger professionals get a late start, and then find they must struggle to catch up to their peers.
Last Sunday, I attended a luncheon hosted by my friend Beth, held in celebration of her husband’s retirement. Beth has a huge family; there were guests of all ages. A scenario unfolded that was similar to the investment situation. Curiously however, the roles were reversed. A twenty-something, Celia, was offering advice on starting social media marketing for a new business venture. She was chatting with Kyle, a middle-aged lawyer who just left a big firm to start his own practice. By the end of their conversation, he seemed to wave her away; I saw confusion and what appeared to be a look of fear on his face. Over dessert, I asked Kyle what he was afraid of when it came to social media. He admitted that while he had a simple website, when it came to any further actions, “I know I’ll do it wrong.”
The Name of the Game
As some of you know, the most popular social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—walk you through the steps of getting a page up, running, and published within an afternoon. Have a cup of tea, relax, and let your mouse do the work. Whatever you do, do not dismiss the name of the game. Social media is designed to be social and, you know, fun. Since professionals, businesses, moms, and teenagers—representing users from so many countries possessing a wide range of tech savvy—access these interfaces, the set-up processes are low on frustration and difficulty by design. It’s all very intuitive and getting started usually entails filling out a form, which is the first step toward your business name being populated into the Facebook search user base. We call that “visibility.” The only way to “do it wrong” is to not do it.
On Being “Good at it”
Tech firms in Silicon Valley have embraced this philosophy and quote to reinforce the importance of proactivity: “Done is better than perfect.” This maxim is rumored to be plastered on Facebook’s office walls. Leveraging social media is akin to any game you’ve ever played. You may have liked the game the first time you played even if you weren’t so skilled. The more you do it, whether chess or social media, the easier it gets and the more nuances you perceive and understand. However, just establishing a social media presence isn’t a nuanced process. That is the single most important lesson here. You don’t have to be an expert at the game on Day One. You just have to play.
I suspect the fearful ones are afraid they may break the Internet. (“What if I accidentally post a check-in at my boss’s house on every Facebook status?”) Honestly, it’s a little ambitious to believe that any of us are capable of breaking the Internet, because like the cockroach, it can survive just about anything. The Internet will always grow and morph and adapt to new terrain, prevailing more resiliently than ever.
Ultimately, the purpose of the Internet is to answer our questions. (Seriously, how did we survive before Google?) If, in fact, you believe that you’ve broken something, just ask the question. You’ll soon realize you are not alone in whatever life dilemma you face: “Why does my cat attack my feet?” or “Did I break the Internet?” (No, you did not.) And, for a really useful application of Google, you can search relevant questions such as, “How do I un-tag people on a Facebook status?”
What is the moral of this story? Giving in to fear of the unknown is a mistake. The rewards of social media participation are too great to be overlooked. It’s time to get Nike on yourself and “Just Do It.”
As you’re preparing to dive into social media, remember that you need to have a comprehensive archiving solution in place so that you’re able to meet regulatory requirements while getting your social on.
AdvisorTweets’ parent company, Smarsh, is based in Portland, Oregon, a city known for its great beer, fabulous food, and quirky approach to life. Portland’s unconventional style is never more evident than when grown adults agree to hurl themselves down a local hill in homemade soapbox carts.
Portland’s PDX Adult Soapbox Derby, around since 1997, features a brave group of racers willing to face speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, enclosed in a tiny vessel. Prizes and bragging rights are awarded for categories such as Best In Show, Lifetime Achievement, Best Engineering, Crowd Favorite, Best In Art, Most Original and, you guessed it, Best Crash. But, before a racer even begins to head down the hill they may wish to have a clearly defined strategy. (Who would ever consider careening down a hill with a curve named “Blood Alley” without one?)
The same goes for social media. Regulatory hurdles have created challenges for firms in the financial services industry, placing many advisors at the bottom of the leaderboard. Now many firms want to simply hop in the cart and get into the race. In some instances, you may get lucky; usually, you’ll leave prospects on the sidelines wondering about your brand, your customer commitment, or what you’re selling.
Your strategy need not be overly complicated and complex. By adopting a simple plan with a built-in that allows for the unexpected, you’ll be in the race instead of watching your competitors zip past you on the social media autobahn.
1. What is your social media goal? This is the most critical component of your strategy. If you haven’t clearly defined your true purpose for using social media, you’ll likely miss the finish line altogether. Social media is such an expansive arena; identifying a goal may be difficult. Keep it simple. Perhaps start with one or two achievable goals and expand as you gain confidence. Here are some ideas for initial strategy:
2. Who is your audience? This is a natural complement of the purpose and goal factor. When defining your audience, be specific as possible. While many advisors’ practices tend to court either individual wealth clients (business-to-consumer (B2C)) or institutions and organizations (business-to-business (B2B)), these are broad definitions that won’t serve you as effectively. Can you narrow your scope to clarify by gender, generation, socio-economic group, or by business type, size, or location? These specifics will guide you in the process as you create content, reach out to influencers, and grow your group of followers and connections.
Tune into the right channels. There are hundreds of social networks worldwide—the exact quantity is ever-changing as networks frequently enter and exit the internet. Your audience, as well as compliance restrictions, will provide you helpful clues as to which social platforms are appropriate for your business needs.
Facebook: The average user of the largest social media network—67% of online users are active Facebookers—is a 30-year-old female, city dweller who commands an annual salary of at least $75,000.
Twitter: In 2012, Twitter—the fastest growing social network saw a 116% increase between Q2 and Q4 in the 55 and over user demographic and an 81% jump in the 45–54 age range.
LinkedIn: The financial services realm is second only to information and technology (IT) in industries represented on LinkedIn, a platform that offers opportunities for B2B and B2C, alike. The average LinkedIn user earns $109,000 a year and visits the site to research companies and products.
Google+: Don’t underestimate this social network; Google+ has more active users than Twitter. G+ boasts a largely male-dominated audience (two-thirds) with a worldwide reach. The network interaction tends to focus on technology-centered topics of dialogue. The opportunity to create impact is here and waiting.
Instagram: Two-thirds of the top one hundred brands have a presence on Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing social media network; ninety-eight percent of brand photos are user-shared to Facebook.
3. Who will create and curate content? Notice the subtlety in this question? Creating completely original content at all times, is an unrealistic goal, considering the staffing levels at most firms. Thankfully, many social media geeks suggest a ratio of 30–40% of original content posting combined with 60–70% made up of sharing and interaction. This approach goes hand-in-hand with the intention of giving before getting. Here are some additional considerations:
Who will manage your social media effort? Will you use internal or external resources? In either scenario, do they have the necessary expertise – and financial services marketplace knowledge – to portray your firm’s voice and expertise?
How will you oversee the content development and compliance reviews? Your name is likely on the door or otherwise associated with a valuable book of clients and relationships. Your social media efforts must positively reflect the vision of the firm.
A quarterly or annual editorial calendar will help you get a bird’s-eye view of monthly or weekly themes and can provide context for content development.
What smarts are you going to give away? Social media is a prime opportunity to define yourself as the expert in your field. Sharing your “know-how” can put you in a position of the “go-to.”
What compliance guidelines must be taken into consideration? There are strict regulatory guidelines associated with social media participation for financial services firms; depending on your business structure, you may also have broker-dealer policies to abide, as well. Before you broadcast anything, ensure you’re fully aware of, and in accordance with the rules and regulations.
What is your call to action? What do you want your audience to do as a result of engaging with you? In some cases, you may simply raise awareness, educate, or interact with your community. However, as you consider sharing your proprietary content, it’s important to keep profit clarity. How will this affect your bottom line?
4. How will you interact? As you conceptualize your online presence, do you envision your persona portrayed as a person or a company logo? (In financial services, people buy from people. Keep this in mind as you consider your options.) Will your voice be playful or professional? The platform may help you make this decision. Facebook campaigns are often humorous, visual, and more casual in nature; LinkedIn posts are centered on business, personal or professional development topics.
5. How will you adjust course? Preparing for the unexpected is an important aspect of your social strategy. You’ll want to have flexibility built in to help you shift focus if the economy takes a turn or if an extraordinary life or world event happens. Social media is social, and keeping the human element of interaction in mind builds authenticity and credibility. For example, you wouldn’t want a stream of your automated business-centered posts to continue on when local families or business are in the midst of, or recovering from the aftermath of, a natural disaster.
One of the more daunting tasks of social media management is handling the possible online presence of negative commentary regarding you or your firm. There’s always potential for a less than favorable review; having a social media or online presence doesn’t preclude that. In an optimal situation, any issues of client dissatisfaction would be resolved prior to the broadcast of details on the Internet; unfortunately, it can’t always be avoided. By addressing issues publicly, in an authentic, credible voice, you send the message that your firm cares about providing a high level of service. Accolades are easy to receive; having the tough conversations while people are watching may help you map out a plan of necessary changes to decrease the chance of future mishaps.
6. Document your success criteria. Social media is a segment of your overall marketing outreach strategy. Like marketing, it will take some time to learn the landscape and make an impact. In the past, many firms simply focused on the quantity of followers or connections. These days, trends point to quality: quality of leads generated, quality of engagement, and quality of web activities.
It may seem counterintuitive, but starting at the finish line—the place you want to be when a social media plan is established and functioning as intended—and working backward, offers great insight into having valuable conversations in appropriate platforms, using an effective voice. By defining your route and the various avenues to pursue (via the guidance of a sound social media strategy), you’ll reach your destination safe and sound.