September 2, 2014

5 Steps to Unleash the Power of Your LinkedIn Presence

LinkedIn logoIn my travels around LinkedIn I have noticed that many people are not clear on how to best utilize what, in my opinion, is the best social media platform available to businesses today. So I created this tutorial for you explaining how I am leveraging LinkedIn and what is working particularly well for me. There’s a lot here but if you blockout an hour or two and work through the steps, I think you’ll find it time well spent.

More than just a social media platform, LinkedIn is the largest professional network with millions of users around the world. Whether you are marketing to other businesses or straight to consumers, a solid LinkedIn strategy can help you meet your goals. Every time someone visits your LinkedIn profile is an opportunity for you to engage – for branding purposes, for lead generation, or to get an introduction.

That is, if you do it right.

Step 1 – Set clear goals

The first step is to have a clear understanding of what your your LinkedIn goals are:

  • Do you want to cultivate relationships with your “2nd Customer” (people in complementary but not competitive services)? For example, if you are a behavioral therapist, consider connecting with speech therapists so that you can refer business to each other.
  • Do you want to market your products or services? Have you developed a program to help IEP Teams, Service Providers and Parents coordinate calendars and share information? LinkedIn is a great way to connect with educators, advocates, and other agencies who would like to know what you have to offer.
  • Boost credibility – As service providers, your prospective clients may Google you for information. Having a professional profile, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, in addition to your website will definitely help.
  • Create an online presence – if you are just starting out and aren’t sure what you want your online presence to look like, then LinkedIn is a great place to start. For example, if I was just starting out as a Virtual Assistant today, I would begin with my LinkedIn profile. I’d use it to network, gain visibility in the search engines, build credibility and learn how other top VAs are marketing their services. Then I’d create my website.
  • Google search resultsDo you want to increase search engine visibility? Google, in particular, loves LinkedIn profiles – so much so that they are often ranked higher than the general information sites, like whitepages.com that typically come up when you Google someone’s name.

 Step 2 – Optimize your profile

The key here is to demonstrate who you are, who you help, and how you help them – in a reader friendly way that also uses your top keyword phrases

  • Secure A Vanity URL

Your LinkedIn personal profile will have numbers after your name if you do not go in and reset this feature. A vanity URL not only looks cleaner and more professional, when people review your profile, but it’s crucial to locking in that 1st page listing on Google. Here is my URL as an example: linkedin.com/in/sandrapearson

To optimize your URL on LinkedIn, go into your profile and select “Edit Profile.” Then under “Find your URL” in the top area, hit the “Edit” link. If someone else has your name already, try using your name plus your business or occupation, i.e. susansmitthspeechtherapist

  • Optimize these primary sections with your top keywords
  1. LinkedIn description screenshotTitle/Headline – don’t just keyword stuff this, make it readable by humans and search engine friendly.
  2. Experience – don’t go all the way back to your first babysitting job. A good rule of thumb is your current position and any past positions that relate to your current objectives (but no more than 3).
  3. Summary – Don’t be too formal but do be careful to use good grammar, spelling and punctuation. Make it “professionally conversational” (think business casual dress), like you are having a first meeting with a prospective client.
  4. Specialties – not only a great place to let people know more about what you offer but this section also helps people find you when they are using LinkedIn’s search function.
  5. Have a Call to Action – Invite them to your website or if you offer a free report, let them know about it.
  • Website links

When you add your website(s), get more marketing mileage by using descriptive phrases. Select “Other,” from the dropdown menu to add your own description. You can describe the web links with search-rich phrases that you want to be searched and found on. You can also use more than one link to the same site. For example, I use my home page and my blog page. You can have up to three links and I suggest you use them all.

  • Add your Twitter Account

When you update your status on LinkedIn, you can also update Twitter. To link your Twitter account, go to your profile, select edit profile and follow the steps to add your Twitter account(s).

  • Add your blog

Your blog posts can also automatically post to your profile. This is a great way for your contacts to read your thought leadership posts and connect to your content. Click on “More” in the menu bar and go to Applications.

  • Arrange the sections of your profile to showcase the items you want to highlight.

Go to the “X” box of a section. When you mouse over the X, it gives you the option to drag and drop areas.

  • Add Video to Your Profile to introduce yourself and your services

There are two applications for adding video to your LinkedIn profile – the Google Presentations app and the SlideShare app. You can also use Box.net. This is the method I prefer; it just seems to be more reliable.

Note: You can find out more information on implementing these features in the LinkedIn help section.

Step 3 – Connections

The general consensus among LinkedIn experts seems to be to add everyone who asks. I don’t completely agree with this. Add everyone within reason. Take a look at their profile. Not everyone has put a lot of work into theirs and that’s OK, but is it at least professional? Are there misspellings and bad grammar? You are judged by the company you keep.

Also, beware of people who have 0 connections. OK, everyone has to start somewhere but often these are spam profiles. You can always check back and accept them later if they add some connections.

LinkedIn Search resultsAnd jump in and invite connections yourself too. Don’t just sit in the corner and wait to be asked to dance. Under “Search” select people and enter the keyword phrases most likely to show the people you want to connect with. Take a look at their profiles and start connecting.

Tip: Don’t send the generic LinkedIn invitation. Personalize. If you saw their profile in your search results, say so. Say something like, “I saw your profile and I think we may be able to help each other. Let’s connect! Or if you see someone in a group who has shared some good tips, let them know that. Say, “The information you share in the Wonderful World of Widgets group has helped me to improve my sales efforts. I’d like to connect with you.”

Keep in mind that, like other social media platforms there is something to be said for quality over quantity. Then again, it’s not an either/or kinda thing. You can have both with just a little effort.

Step 4 – LinkedIn Groups

There are two ways to use Groups to expand your reach.

1. Leverage other people’s groups

You can be in 50 groups at a time. While this may seem like a lot, you can quickly find that you have reached your quota. So be selective and find groups where your audience hangs out (or people who connect to your audience).

Before you start to participate, carefully review the groups profile (under More) and the rules (in the upper left corner). Be sure to play by the rules and play nicely. For example, some groups are very tightly focused on their topic and don’t allow off topic discussions and promotions.

Once you are comfortable and you understand the personality of the group, start by participating in Discussions. Then as you become even more familiar with the group, start your own.

As you get to know people in the group, connect with them to grow your network.

2.Create your own group

You can own up to 10 but don’t just create them to have them. Be prepared to actively manage the group.

Being the owner of a group gives you authority and credibility as the Leader of the Tribe. It’s also a great way to build a community of like minded people that you can help and who can help each other.

I started my group, Online Marketing for Special Needs Services, because I wanted to merge my knowledge of Internet Marketing with my commitment to helping People with Special Needs and their Families. I had found through my site, Our Special Families Village, that many service providers wanted to offer information and services online but did not know how to go about doing it. This group offered the perfect opportunity to help them with information, find service providers with information I could share on my site and expose my services as a Virtual Assistant.

Online Marketing for Special Needs LI GroupTo set up a group:

  • Name your group using keywords that people are searching for, not your company name. For example, my group is Online Marketing for Special Needs Services, not ePro Virtual Assistance.
  • Create your group (under groups in the menu bar) and fill out the form as completely as possible. Be sure to have a complete profile and rules ready.
  • Create templates for your messages and enable auto-send.
  • You might also consider having a special landing page on your site that welcomes your group members to your site. Consider offering a special report or ecourse just for them. Include the link in your welcome messages.
  • You can email your group once per week. This is a good way to let members know of group happenings they may have missed. You can also promote your own services if they are of special interest to the group.

Step 5 – Advanced stuff

Check out the other applications available under the “More” button. Some popular ones include Events and Polls but my favorite is the Amazon Reading List. I am interested in sharing business related information with my contacts and group as well as demonstrating to prospective clients that I’m staying on top of the latest trends. Sharing the books I’m reading is a great way to do this.

Answers is another great way to demonstrate your knowledge and build credibility. You’ll find the link under the “More” button

  • When you respond to an answer, share it publicly. This is not the place to sell but rather to inform and to build credibility.
  • Follow up privately and add value to original answer. Again, don’t sell but if you have an article on your website or some other resource to share,then this is an appropriate place to share it.

A few words about the other pieces of the Social Media/Networking Puzzle

I have completely abandoned my ePro Virtual Assistance Facebook page. I have left it up, just to demonstrate my understanding of Facebook pages and there is a message there explaining my reasoning but that’s it. I do use Facebook for Our Special Families Village because my audience on that site is Special Needs Families and Facebook is where they hang out.

I do have Twitter accounts that my Facebook and LinkedIn updates, as well as my blog posts, are automatically posted to but I don’t “work” Twitter like I do LinkedIn for ePro and Facebook for the Village. And I’m not into Pinterest at all. I don’t think it’s necessary to everywhere all the time. I suppose it’s my quality vs quantity philosophy again!

How Do You Link In?

There are other things you can do on LinkedIn, like have a Company Page, but these are the ones I have found to be most effective. Have you found any other ways to work LinkedIn? Please share them in the comments.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.

And don’t forget…

you can opt-in to receive my goodies here:


Please don’t worry – I promise I will never sell, give away, fold, spindle or mutilate your information!

Enjoy!

Sandra

The Art of The Comment

I think we can all agree that an excellent way to network online is to read and comment on the blogs that our perspective clients read. But just saying something like “great post” or “you make excellent points” isn’t going to get us very far. We need to put as much thought into our comments as we do into our articles and blog posts.

Here are the elements of a good comment, well at least in my opinion.

1. It’s imperative that you actually read the post or article.

Trust me, if you try and make a thoughtful comment when you haven’t read the article it will come back to bite you in the, well, you know where.

2. Start your comment by repeating the point of the post, proving that you understand.

Don’t regurgitate it word for word, rather restate it.

3. Give unique advice that supplements the original idea.

Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation and found a different solution. Be careful here that you don’t upstage the author, but rather acknowledge their expertise and then tactfully offer your take on the situation.

4. Use a personal story to back up your advice, making it more concrete and interesting.

For example, elaborate with a story about how you used what you are advising with one of your clients.

5. With all of that in mind, keep it simple. Choose your words with care and be as brief as you possibly can. You don’t want your comment to be longer than the original article.

Check out my article, The Blog Comment that Doubled my Business for an example. I made that comment a long time ago, before I really learned these principles. Even so, it’s pretty darn close. And trust me, in this case, close was good enough!

So that’s what I think, what do you think?

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.

And don’t forget…

you can opt-in to receive my goodies here:


Please don’t worry – I promise I will never sell, give away, fold, spindle or mutilate your information!

Enjoy!

Sandra

The Crucial Social Media Marketing Principle You Must Understand

Use social media to drive traffic to your website or blog, not the other way around.

In other words, don’t post that “visit us on Facebook” widget on your site. Do post stuff on Facebook that directs people to your site.

For example, I occasionally post about my free eBook, The VA Biz 101, on the Our Special Families Village Facebook page. Instead of posting the download link however, I post a link to my site and direct them to the graphic to click on to find the eBook.

The idea is that I want to drive traffic to my site by offering people something of value. It doesn’t have to be an eBook, it might just be your latest post. But it’s something that will help them in some way.

Keep in mind that most of your social media posting should be about helping your community rather than promoting your stuff. I aim to share something from a complementary (not competitive) page several times a day. In order to do this for Our Special Families Village, I like complimentary pages such as Autism Speaks or Connie Hammer’s Parent Coach for Autism. I will also like or comment on other pages to increase awareness of my page with their communities.

Sprinkled within these posts are my own blog posts that I promote on Facebook. Once a day I will also promote something back on my site. For example, I might post something like:

“Are you the mom of a special needs child who struggles to care for them and also bring in an income? I’ve been blessed to be a Virtual Assistant and this has allowed me to work from home and care for Matthew. If you’d like to learn more,  go to Our Special Families Village and click on The VA Biz 101 graphic in the footer.”

Thanks to Derek Halperen at Social Triggers for teaching me this and a whole lot more!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.

And don’t forget…

you can opt-in to receive my goodies here:


Please don’t worry – I promise I will never sell, give away, fold, spindle or mutilate your information!

Enjoy!

Sandra

The Blog Comment that Doubled My Business

 

I recently got a phone call from a prospective client who was interested in outsourcing his internet marketing. I asked him how he heard about me and he mentioned a comment I had made on a blog post over a year ago.

While I was thrilled to hear it, I wasn’t surprised. That one blog comment doubled my business in one month and continues to send me leads.

A little background

In the Fall of 2009 Traffic Geyser and VAClassroom teamed up to offer a Traffic Geyser Virtual Assistance Certification program and it looked like something that would be a helpful service and fun to do. So I signed up and received my certification. The next step was of course, to market my new services so being an Internet Marketing and Social Media Specialist I got to work – wrote blog posts, posted to my Facebook page and Tweeted it. And I commented on a few blogs.

And one blog comment changed everything.

Anatomy of the blog comment

So what made that comment so successful?

Let’s start with where I posted it. I went to where my market hangs out – the Traffic Geyser site. I knew there would be people there who were fired up about what this search engine marketing tool could do but I also knew that many of them were busy doing the stuff that needed to be marketed and might need help doing the marketing. They were doing what they do best, now I needed to show them what I do best.

And I didn’t just say something inane like, hey, great post. Here is what I wrote:

Hi Mike,

As a Traffic Geyser Certified Virtual Assistant I really appreciate these resources. It’s great to know what the Traffic Geyser tools can do but this helps my clients and me to leverage them to their fullest.

I look at it this way – Traffic Geyser is like a Ferrari and I’m not leaving in in the garage.

Thanks!

Now let’s break that down a bit:

Hi Mike, – nothing big here, just makes it friendly.

As a Traffic Geyser Certified Virtual Assistant – this was early in the program and not many people realized there were not only VAs who could help but ones certified by TG. I let them know I was a TGVA and started to establish my credibility.

I really appreciate these resources. It’s great to know what the Traffic Geyser tools can do but this helps my clients and me to leverage them to their fullest. – So it’s not just good enough to know the tools, you gotta know how to use them. Most of Traffic Geyser’s customers either don’t have time to learn it’s intricacies or they don’t want to. And I drove home the point that I do know these tools and can use them for others.

I look at it this way – Traffic Geyser is like a Ferrari and I’m not leaving in in the garage. – One client told me that when he read that he got scared. He can drive a Ferrari but how the heck does he maintain it so that it goes as fast as he wants? His solution was to contact me.

Thanks! - again just adding a little personal touch to keep things friendly.

And that opened the door. The door was the link to my site. I let readers know what I could do, why having me do it was a good idea and where to find me.

The Icing on the Cake

The post that I commented on is not behind Traffic Geyser’s membership wall. They use it in their promotions so even people who don’t use Traffic Geyser can find me. And they are people who might need my services.

Enough about me

So what can you do?

  • Find the blogs and forums where your market hangs out.
  • Contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Lead interested readers to your site.

It’s not rocket science and it’s a ton of fun. That’s the Good News.

The Bad News?

It’s positively addicting. Keep in mind that these people you are bringing to your website are there to see more. So your website needs to step it up to the next level. That might be signing up to your email list or contacting you for a quote or whatever is appropriate for your site. And if you’re hanging out in forums all day then all that stuff gets neglected. Be sure to leverage your time well by finding quality sites where your market hangs out. Then get in, get it done and get out.

And get down to business.