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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

Can you legally monitor your employees’ online activities? Kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are they ways you are monitoring your employees online even legal? Did you know there are illegal methods? Yep.

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Edward Snowden’s infamous info leak in 2013 brought to light the scope of surveillance measures, raising questions about legality of monitoring tactics. However, the breach also opened up broader discussion on best practices for protecting sensitive data.

No company wants to end up with a data breach situation on their hands, but businesses need to be careful when implementing monitoring systems to prevent data loss.

Monitoring your employee’s activity online can be a crucial part of safeguarding proprietary data. However, many legal risks are present when implementing data loss prevention (DLP) methods.

DLP tools like keystroke logging, natural language processing, and network traffic monitoring are all subject to federal and state privacy laws. Before putting any DLP solutions in place, companies need to assess privacy impact and legal risks.

First, identify your monitoring needs. Different laws apply to tracking data in transit versus data at rest. Data in transit is any data moving through a network, like sending an email. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) requires consent for tracking any data in transit.

Data at rest is anything relatively immobile, like information stored in a database or archives. Collecting data at rest can fall under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which typically prohibits unauthorized access or disclosure of electronic communications.

While the SCA does not usually prevent employers from accessing their own systems, monitoring things like Gmail accounts could get messy without proper authorization.

Who you’re tracking matters as well regarding consent and prior notification. If you’re just monitoring your own employees, you may run into disclosure issues. Some states, like Delaware and Connecticut, prohibit employee monitoring without prior notice.

The ECPA also generally prohibits tracking electronic communication, but exceptions are granted for legitimate business purposes so long as consent is obtained.

Monitoring third party communications can get tricky with wiretapping laws. In California and Illinois, all parties must be notified of any tracking. This can involve disclosures on email signatures from outbound employee emails, or a broad notification on the company’s site.

Implied consent comes from third parties continuing communication even with disclaimers present.

If you’re wanting to install DLP software on personal devices used for work, like a company cellphone, you could face a series of fines for not gaining authorization. Incorrect implementation may fall under spyware and computer crime laws.

With any DLP tools and data monitoring, notification and consent are crucial. When planning monitoring, first assess what your privacy needs are, then identify potential risks of implementing any tracking programs.

Define who, where, and why DLP software will apply, and make sure every employee understands the need for tracking. Include consent in employee onboarding, and keep employees updated with changes to your monitoring tactics.

Protecting your company’s data is important, but make sure you’re not unintentionally bending privacy laws with your data loss prevention methods. Regularly check up on your approaches to make sure everything is in compliance with monitoring laws.

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Social Media

Should social media continue to self-regulate, or should Uncle Sam step in?

(MEDIA) Should social media platforms be allowed to continue to regulate themselves or should governments continue to step in? Is it an urgency, or a slippery slope?

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Last week, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook suffered a massive outage around the world that lasted for most of the day. In typical Internet fashion, frustrated users took to Twitter to vent their feelings. A common thread throughout all of the dumpster fire gifs was the implication that these social media platforms were a necessary outlet for connecting people with information—as well as being an emotional outlet for whatever they felt like they needed to share.

It’s this dual nature of social media, both as a vessel for content that people consume, as well as a product that they share personal data with (for followers, but also knowing that the data is collected and analyzed by the companies) that confuses people as to what these things actually are. Is social media a form of innovative technology, or is it more about the content, is it media? Is it both?

Well, the answer depends on how you want to approach it.

Although users may say that content is what keeps them using the apps, the companies themselves purport that the apps are technology. We’ve discussed this distinction before, and how it means that the social media giants get to skirt around having more stringent regulation. 

But, as many point out, if the technology is dependent on content for its purpose (and the companies’ profit): where does the line between personal information and corporate data mining lie?

Should social media outlets known for their platform being used to perpetuate “fake news” and disinformation be held to higher standards in ensuring that the information they spread is accurate and non-threatening?

As it currently stands, social media companies don’t have any legislative oversight—they operate almost exclusively in a state of self-regulation.  This is because they are classified as technology companies rather than media outlets.

This past summer, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia suggested that social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, needed regulation in a widely circulated white paper. Highlighting the scandal by Cambridge Analytica which rocked the polls and has underscored the potential of social media to sway real-life policy by way of propaganda,

Warner suggested that lawmakers target three areas for regulation: fighting politically oriented misinformation, protecting user privacy, and promoting competition among Internet markets that will make long-term use of the data collected from users.

Warner isn’t the only person who thinks that social media’s current state of self-regulation unmoored existence is a bit of a problem, but the problem only comes from what would be considered a user-error: The people using social media have forgotten that they are the product, not the apps.

Technically, many users of social media have signed their privacy away by clicking “accept” on terms and conditions they haven’t fully read.* The issues of being able to determine whether or not a meme is Russian propaganda isn’t a glitch in code, it’s a way to exploit media illiteracy and confirmation bias.

So, how can you regulate human behavior? Is it on the tech companies to try and be better than the tendencies of the people who use them? Ideally they wouldn’t have to be told not to take advantage of people, but when people are willingly signing up to be taken advantage of, who do you target?

It’s a murky question, and it’s only going to get trickier to solve the more social media embeds itself into our culture.

*Yes, I’m on social media and I blindly clicked it too! He who is without sin, etc.

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Social Media

Deepfakes can destroy any reputation, company, or country

(MEDIA) Deepfakes have been around for a few years now, but they’re being crafted for nefarious purposes beyond the original porn and humor uses.

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Deepfakes — a technology originally used by Reddit perverts who wanted to superimpose their favorite actresses’ faces onto the bodies of porn stars – have come a long way since the original Reddit group was banned.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence (AI) to create bogus videos by analyzing facial expressions to replace one person’s face and/or voice with another’s.

Using computer technology to synthesize videos isn’t exactly new.

Remember in Forrest Gump, how Tom Hanks kept popping up in the background of footage of important historical events, and got a laugh from President Kennedy? It wasn’t created using AI, but the end result is the same. In other cases, such technology has been used to complete a film when an actor dies during production.

The difference between these examples and that latest deepfake technology is a question of ease and access.

Historically, these altered videos have required a lot of money, patience, and skill. But as computer intelligence has advanced, so too has deepfake technology.

Now the computer does the work instead of the human, making it relatively fast and easy to create a deepfake video. In fact, Stanford created a technology using a standard PC and web cam, as I reported in 2016.

Nowadays, your average Joe can access open source deepfake apps for free. All you need is some images or video of your victim.

While the technology has mostly been used for fun – such as superimposing Nicolas Cage into classic films – deepfakes could and have been used for nefarious purposes.

There is growing concern that deepfakes could be used for political disruption, for example, to smear a politician’s reputation or influence elections.

Legislators in the House and Senate have requested that intelligence agencies report on the issue. The Department of Defense has already commissioned researchers to teach computers to detect deepfakes.

One promising technology developed at the University of Albany analyzes blinking to detect deep fakes, as subjects in the faked videos usually do not blink as often as real humans do. Ironically, in order to teach computers how to detect them, researchers must first create many deepfake videos. It seems that deepfake creators and detectors are locked in a sort of technological arms race.

The falsified videos have the potential to exacerbate the information wars, either by producing false videos, or by calling into question real ones. People are already all too eager to believe conspiracy theories and fake news as it is, and the insurgence of these faked videos could be created to back up these bogus theories.

Others worry that the existence of deepfake videos could cast doubt on actual, factual videos. Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University says that deepfakes could lead to “deep denials” – in other words, “the ability to dispute previously uncontested evidence.”

While there have not yet been any publicly documented cases of attempts to influence politics with deepfake videos, people have already been harmed by the faked videos.

Women have been specifically targeted. Celebrities and civilians alike have reported that their likeness has been used to create fake sex videos.

Deepfakes prove that just because you can achieve an impressive technological feat doesn’t always mean you should.

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