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Building badass leads on LinkedIn

(SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS) LinkedIn reported recently that 80 percent of business to business (B2B) leads were through their platform. Here’s how to take advantage.

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You should already have one

Any savvy business owner or entrepreneur knows that having a LinkedIn profile is critical, but how do you utilize your presence in such a manner as to make the connections that will benefit you most?

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Being more strategic about your biz

The new LinkedIn App which was released this year makes it easier to connect to a professional network by streamlining the mobile experience. You still need a strategy to maximize your time and efforts in establishing leads and building relationships for your business through LinkedIn, which now has over 400 million members. LinkedIn reported last year in that 80 percent of business to business (B2B) leads were through their platform, according to an analysis by social media marketing platform Oktopost.

The full guide (strap in, guys!)

The great news is that there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who share their tips so you don’t have to struggle through trial and error. That’s where influencers such as Crazy Egg and Hello Bar co-founder Neil Patel comes in. He leads readers through a thorough step-by-step guide on Quick Sprout to generate leads from LinkedIn on his blog.

If you are interested in generating B2B needs then will want to read his full article, but here’s a summary of his six step strategy with some of my observations:

Step #1. Optimize your profile for connecting
Patel emphasizes the importance of your first impression, which is can be made through 3 different ways – name and picture, tagline and title, and a message.

Having a professional photo is absolutely critical to show that you are a legitimate and credible person. Selecting a title that targets the specific position you would like to connect to is important if you want someone to check out your full profile.

Step #2. Create your own group
This step was an Eureka moment for me.

Patel states that “You’re going to invite potential leads to join the group you created. You’re going to leverage the group to get more connections and get more leads.” The key is to create a group that will “benefit your potential customers” and if you sell to local businesses, Patel further states that “it’s a good idea to add a location to the name of the group as well.”

A caveat that I would make is to confirm that a similar group does not exist. Also be cautious if using a name that is too narrow of a scope, or is related to a proprietary name both in the private and non-profit sectors.

Step #3. Create your hit list of potential customers
Patel suggests setting a goal of compiling a list of 500 – 1000 potential leads. While that number may seem a bit daunting when a LinkedIn milestone is to have at least 500 connections, Patel reminds us that LinkedIn has over 400 million users.

He suggests using LinkedIn’s built-in search function and to select for title, location, and industry.

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The title is significant in B2B sales as you’re “typically targeting the same level of employee/employer in each company” according to Patel.

While location can be important for some service providers, for web and application development sector this feature may not be as relevant if remote services are acceptable. Based on Patel’s example, a search I ran for “Chief Technology Officer” in six related information technology industries resulted in over 47,000 results. I then fine-tuned to the specific keyword of “Postgres” to determine who had knowledge of this database programming language, which narrowed down to over 200 results. For the purpose of creating a group, these keywords are too refined but this search does provide a starting list that can be put into a spreadsheet.

Step #4. Make initial contact with each member
This step takes the longest – contacting every person on the “hit list” by using the basic connection invitation – and involves refining earlier steps including #1 of creating your profile headline and photo. Incorporating your group that you created will “establish your credibility” in their industry according to Patel, as well as crafting a first impression to will improve your acceptance rate are critical steps. I agree with Patel that making a personal connection by relating and referencing to something from that individual’s profile.

One of the most enlightening points of Patel’s post is on how to send the request effectively. I’ve often struggled with which selection to make, especially if it requires the person’s email address which may have changed from previous contact. Patel recommends selecting the “Friend” option, because “Don’t worry about looking weird to users because you picked the friend option—they will never see it. That information seems to be for LinkedIn only.

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Don’t send too many invites out at once as you could trigger spam alert – monitor your acceptance rate and refine your method.

Patel recommends aiming for a 50% acceptance rate.

Step #5. Continue to engage
To summarize Patel’s recommendations in Part #1 of this step for member engagement:

  • Invite your new connections to your group
  • Be active in your group
  • Post content from tools and industry news – search Google or set alerts
  • Comment, like and share others posts
  • Track who does and doesn’t join your group, and re-invite later once your group is full active

As for making personal connections, Patel emphasizes to “forget about turning them into leads” and instead focus on building a relationship by sending messages through LinkedIn. To avoid coming across too strong, send several messages over a period of 2 – 3 months to a connection before soliciting a sales call. These messages can include a follow-up/thank you for connecting, useful resources, and references to interesting group discussions.

Step #6. Get off LinkedIn
It’s easy to be caught within the spider web of LinkedIn, between the multitude of groups, updates from connections, new posts, and more. Budget your time accordingly, but engage and foster your new and current connections in person when possible. Webinars and phone calls are great options, but if you can schedule some one-to-one time, even better! Take advantage of local networking events and conferences to engage your LinkedIn connections in real life to find real success with your B2B sales.

#LinkedInLeads

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Social Media

MeWe – the social network for your inner Ron Swanson

MeWe, a new social media site, seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

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Let’s face it: Facebook is kind of creepy. Between facial recognition technology, demanding your real name, and mining your accounts for data, social media is becoming increasingly invasive. Users have looked for alternatives to mainstream social media that genuinely value privacy, but the alternatives to Facebook have been lackluster.

MeWe is poised to change all of that, if it can muster up a network strong enough to compete with Facebook. On paper, the new social media site seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

MeWe prioritizes privacy in every aspect of the site, and in fact, users are protected by a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” MeWe does not track, mine, or share your data, and does not use facial recognition software or cookies. (In fact, you can take a survey on MeWe to estimate how many cookies are currently tracking you – apparently I have 18 cookies spying on me!)

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You don’t have to share that “as of [DATE] my content belongs to me” status anymore.

Everything you post on MeWe belongs to you – the site does not try to claim ownership over your content – and you can download your profile in its entirety at any time. MeWe doesn’t even pester you with advertising. Instead of making money by selling your data (hence the hashtag #Not4Sale) or advertising, the site plans to profit by offering additional paid services, like extra data and bonus apps.

So what does MeWe do? Everything Facebook does, and more. You can share photos and videos, send messages or live chat. You can also attach voice messages to any of your posts, photos, or videos, and you can create Snapchat-like disappearing content.

You can also sync your profile to stash content in your personal storage cloud. Everything you post is protected, and you can fine-tune the permission controls so that you can decide exactly who gets to see your content and who doesn’t – “no creepy stalkers or strangers.”

MeWe is available for Android, iOS, desktops, and tablets.

This story was originally published in January 2016, but the social network suddenly appears to be gaining traction.

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Reddit CEO says it’s impossible to police hate speech, and he’s 100% right

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Moderating speech online is a slippery slope, and Reddit’s CEO argues that it’s impossible. Here’s why censorship of hate speech is still so complicated.

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Reddit often gets a bad rap in the media for being a cesspool of offensive language and breeding grounds for extreme, harmful ideas. This is due in part to the company’s refusal to mediate or ban hate speech.

In fact, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman recently stated that it’s not possible for the company to moderate hate speech. Huffman noted that since hate speech can be “difficult to define,” enforcing a ban would be “a nearly impossible precedent to uphold.”

As lazy as that may sound, anyone who has operated massive online groups (as we do) knows this to be unfortunate but true.

Currently, Reddit policy prohibits “content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people […or] that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals.”

Just about anything else is fair game. Sure, subreddit forums have been shut down in the past, but typically as the result of public pressure. Back in 2015, several subreddits were removed, including ones focused on mocking overweight people, transgender folks, and people of color.

However, other equally offensive subreddits didn’t get the axe. Reddit’s logic was that the company received complaints that the now retired subreddits were harassing others on and offline. Offensive posts are permitted, actual harassment is not.

Huffman previously stated, “On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs.” So posting something horribly racist won’t get flagged unless there’s evidence that users crossed the line from free speech to harassing behavior.

Drawing the line between harassment and controversial conversation is where things get tricky for moderators.

Other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at least make an attempt, though. So what’s holding Reddit back?

Well, for one, moderating hate speech isn’t a clear cut task.

Right now, AI can’t fully take the reins because to truly put a stop to hate speech, there must be an understanding of both language and intent.

Since current AI isn’t quite there yet, Facebook currently employs actual people for the daunting task. The company mostly relies on overseas contractors, which can get pretty expensive (and can lack understanding of cultural contexts).

Users post millions of comments to Reddit per day, and paying real humans to sift through every potentially offensive or harassing post could break the bank.

Most agree that cost isn’t a relevant excuse, though, so Facebook is looking into buying and developing software specializing in natural language processing as an alternative solution. But right now, Reddit does not seem likely to follow in Facebook’s footsteps.

While Facebook sees itself as a place where users should feel safe and comfortable, Reddit’s stance is that all views are welcome, even potentially offensive and hateful ones.

This April in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) a user straight up asked if obvious racism and slurs are against Reddit’s rules.

Huffman responded in part, “the best defense against racism and other repugnant views both on Reddit and in the world, is instead of trying to control what people can and cannot say through rules, is to repudiate these views in a free conversation.”

So essentially, although racism is “not welcome,” it’s also not likely to be banned unless there is associated unacceptable behavior as well.

It’s worth noting that while Reddit as a whole does not remove most hate speech, each subreddit has its own set of rules that may dictate stricter rules. The site essentially operates as an online democracy, with each subreddit “state” afforded the autonomy to enforce differing standards.

Enforcement comes down to moderators, and although some content is clearly hateful, other posts can fall into grey area.

Researches at Berkeley partnered with the Anti-Defamation League recently partnered up to create The Online Hate Index project, an AI program that identifies hate speech. While the program was surprisingly accurate in identifying hate speech, determining intensity of statements was difficult.

Plus, many of the same words are used in hate and non-hate comments. AI and human moderators struggle with defining what crosses the line into hate speech. Not all harmful posts are immediately obvious, and when a forum receives a constant influx of submissions, the volume can be overwhelming for moderators.

While it’s still worth making any effort to foster healthy online communities, until we get a boost to AI’s language processing abilities, complete hate speech moderation may not be possible for large online groups.

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Social Media

Red flags to help you spot a bad social media professional

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social Media is a growing field with everyone and their moms trying to become social media managers. Here are a few experts’ tips on seeing and avoiding the red flags of social media professionals.

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Social media professionals, listen up

If you’re thinking about hiring a social media professional – or are one yourself – take some tips from the experts.

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We asked a number of entrepreneurs specializing in marketing and social media how they separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to social media managers, and they gave us some hints about how to spot whose social media game is all bark and no bite.

You can tell a lot from their socials

According to our experts, the first thing you should do if you’re hiring a social media professional is to check out their personal and/or professional social media pages.

Candidates with underwhelming, non-existent, out-of-date, or just plain bad social media pages should obviously get the chop.

“If they have no professional social presence themselves, that’s a big red flag,” says Chelle Honiker, executive director at the Texas Freelance Association. Another entrepreneur, Paul O’Brien of Media Tech Ventures, explains that “the only way to excel is to practice…. If you excel, why would you not be doing so on behalf of your personal brand?”

In other words, if someone can’t make their own social media appealing, how can they be expected to do so for a client?

Other taboos

These pros especially hated seeing outdated icons, infrequent posts, and automatic posts. Worse than outdated social media pages were bad social media pages. Marc Nathan of Miller Egan Molter & Nelson provided a laundry list of negative characteristics that he uses to rule out candidates, including “snarky,” “complaining, unprofessional” “too personal” “inauthentic,” and “argumentative.”

Besides eliminating candidates with poor social media presence, several of these pros also really hated gimmicky job titles such as “guru,” “whiz,” “ninja,” “superhero,” or “magician.”

They were especially turned off by candidates who called themselves “experts” without any proof of their success.

Jeff Fryer of ARM dislikes pros who call themselves experts because, he says “The top leaders in this field will be the first to tell you that they’re always learning– I know I am!” Steer clear of candidates who talk themselves up with ridiculous titles and who can’t provide solid evidence of their expertise.

How do you prove it?

According to our experts, some of them don’t even try. To candidates who say “’Social media can’t be measured,’” Fryer answer “yes it can[. L]earn how to be a marketer.” Beth Carpenter, CEO of Violet Hour Social Marketing, complains that many candidates “Can’t talk about ROI (return on investment),” arguing that a good social media pro should be able to show “how social contributes to overall business success.” Good social media pros should show their value in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

While our experts wanted to see numerical evidence of social media success, they were also unimpressed with “vanity metrics” such as numbers of followers.

Many poo-pooed the use of followers alone as an indicator of success, with Tinu Abayomi-Paul of Leveraged Promotion joking that “a trained monkey or spambot” can gather 1,000 followers.

Claims of expertise or success should also be backed up by references and experience in relevant fields.

Several entrepreneurs said that they had come across social media managers without “any experience in critical fields: marketing, advertising, strategic planning and/or writing,” to quote Nancy Schirm of Austin Visuals. She explains that it’s not enough to know how to “handle the technology.” Real social media experts must cultivate “instinct borne from actual experience in persuasive communication.”

Freshen up

So, if you’re an aspiring social media manager, go clean up those pages, get some references, and figure out solid metrics for demonstrating your success.

And if you’re hiring a social media manager, watch out for these red flags to cull your candidate pool.

#RedFlag

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