Endorse my boxes!

I’m starting to enjoy LinkedIn again. I know it’s vital and a fantastic tool, but sometimes I get bored and want to play on something else. Why am I getting back into it? Well, just maybe it’s drawing me in again thanks to the quick and easy endorsement tick-boxes that LinkedIn has introduced. I’m not convinced it’s the right thing to do for the professional platform in the long term, but what it has done is made me open LinkedIn nearly everyday, whereas previously I’ve been a bit sporadic.

Despite my reservations, the feature gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling when someone who knows I can perform these skills pats me on the back virtually. I then in turn want to pass this feeling on to others. It’s a bit like ‘poke’ of ye olde Facebook days in its fun approach to what can be a daunting task if you’re not a great writer or gushing recommender. Maybe you know someone can do the task and do it well and you want to commend them for it, but you may never have employed their services.

Perhaps the endorsement feature’s value lies more in the personal relationship side of LinkedIn rather than in providing new business support which is what you get from a professionally written recommendation. I’m sitting on the fence at the moment as to whether it will truly devalue the more traditional recommendation and I’ll continue to endorse those that I know can do things well until such times as LinkedIn changes. So for now, here’s to sharing the warm and fuzzy feeling and thanks to those who bring a smile to my face whenever anyone endorses my boxes!

To tweet or not to tweet?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people recently, both here and in Germany, about why Twitter is such a useful tool. Now, don’t get me wrong, some individuals may never want to get involved in the tweeting world, but if you’re in business, then there are undeniable benefits.

As of February 2012, Twitter has 200 million* members. Not quite as many as Facebook’s 845 million*, but it’s a different media and should be treated in a different manner. It’s less about friends and more about engaging with strangers with common interests – and listening out for business opportunities.

I say ‘listening’ because for small businesses this is how you start on Twitter and how you effectively engage with Twitter users. Before you begin to tweet yourself (writing updates in 140 characters or less), use the search function, put in your keywords, competitor names, your name, follow trends (#) etc, and get a feel for what’s being said in your industry or locality. Just like when we first started using the internet for search, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find on Twitter. I’ve learnt a huge amount about my local area by following businesses and local folk and found activities for the kids which I probably never would’ve seen before. It’s all there in my Twitter feed, easy to read and instant. Fantastic.

The below video is from Yell and features BusinessZone.co.uk‘s editor Dan Martin explaining how to use Twitter to promote your business. It’s concise and useful, so have a look. If you’d like to have a look at my top tips too, that’d be great!

*data from comScore

Top Tips for Tentative Tweeters

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. I’m not the greatest Twitterer and, as with all things evolving and social, I’m always learning. But in my time on the tweet scene and rubbing shoulders with those in the know, here are my top tips which should help you engage the blue birdy world effectively:

1. At first, just listen. Follow others in your industry, including competitors and suppliers. Search and follow keywords and trends relevant to your business and locality.

2. When you’re ready, join in the conversation. Be engaging; ask and answer questions; create a dialogue that provides added value to your followers. People buy from people – personality is good.

3. Your followers should eventually become your target customers. Find them by following steps 1 and 2.

4. Twitter is public and searchable. Be nice. Don’t swear, stalk or argue.

5. Keep it up! As with all things social and shampoo, it will only be effective with regular use. (Let’s see how many read that bit!)

One of my favourite websites, Marketing Donut has this helpful guide to Get started on Twitter. Also have a look at the Marketing Professor for more on tweet strategy.

Fire the intern!

One of the hot topics of discussion we had today on our Social Media BTEC course, was who would you put in charge of corporate social media communications? Would you outsource to a specialist who would ensure the dialogue is professional? Would you get the MD or CEO to do it who probably knows little about the media but a lot about the company? Perhaps leave it to the IT geek with access to the latest apps? Or are you more likely to let the intern handle it because they spend their life on Facebook anyway?

Many social media disaster case studies exist (Nestle on Facebook, Kevin Smith and Southwest Air on Twitter and more http://mashable.com/2011/12/31/social-media-disasters-2011/) and have put the fear into some companies which prevents them from properly engaging social media. So how can we protect firms from making these mistakes and stop the knee-jerk sacking of the intern reaction?

The answer, as I see it, is advanced training for those who will be in charge of the social media interaction and a solid social media policy which is rolled out across the company, ensuring staff understand the company’s stance on all things social network related and what will and will not be acceptable behaviour.

You probably already have an email and internet usage policy, so now is the time to build your social media policy. Try the Policy Tool for Social Media. Let me know how you get on.

Social Media for Business

At the end of day two on my BTEC course, I’m learning so much my brain hurts a little. The content is relevant to everything I need to hone my social media skills and ensure I can provide a solid offering and clear strategy to fit a company’s marketing mix. It will, of course, constantly evolve due to the nature of the beast that is social networking, but I’m in good hands with mentors Mark Saxby and Martin Broadhurst from Status Social in Derby. Really looking forward to tomorrow and learning about Google+.