It’s been more than a year, and I’ve been planning big changes. Watch this space. I promise great things…
Recently, I signed up for a LinkedIn Premium account. As a result, I’ve noticed an increase in people who have viewed my profile. It’s also allowed me to view a lot more full profiles, and I’ve started receiving far more connection requests from strangers.
LinkedIn is the place where I should be making new business connections. The problem doesn’t lie in the increase in requests, it lies in the fact that I don’t know these people. Why would an engineer in India or telecommunications analyst in the Philippines want to connect with a marketing professional in Toronto? Good question, and one I can’t answer… because neither of these individuals told me why they wanted to connect with me.
Which brings me to the first of five common LinkedIn errors I’ve seen recently.
Error #1 – If I don’t know you, tell me why you want to connect with me
LinkedIn pre-populates a message that allows you to simply push a button and send your connection request to anyone in the world, without typing a single word. If I already know you, or if we share a number of connections within our community, I’ll most often accept this request.
However, if I don’t know you, I want a reason to connect. Perhaps that telecommunications professional saw something in my profile we have in common. Maybe that engineer in India and I could have started a global engineering/marketing empire. Unfortunately, we’ll never know… simply because neither of these people told me the benefits of connecting with them.
Error #2 – Hey, is that your cat?
LinkedIn is for professional networking. So why do so many people use unprofessional photos? A clear, professional headshot is not that difficult to obtain, and if you can’t afford a professional photographer, find a particularly talented friend. Dress up a little, and make sure the picture is in focus. And please, avoid the following:
- iPhone pics
- Pictures of your pets, children, your last vacation, candids of you and your besties at the pub last weekend or a particularly pretty landscape shot
- No photo at all. The standard photo box makes your profile look incomplete. The last thing you want potential employers or clients to think is that you leave projects half-finished
Some people are concerned about privacy or potential discrimination issues that a photo may open them up to. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be true. But the truth is, even if the interviewer hasn’t seen your LinkedIn picture, they’ve judged your appearance even before you’ve opened your mouth when you show up for your interview.
Error #3 – Check Your Spelling and Grammar
This should be self-explanatory. Having spelling and grammatical errors is the akin to having these same errors on your résumé – it looks sloppy and won’t get you further than the virtual waste paper basket. Asking someone to proofread your profile is smart.
Error #4 -Over-used adjectives and jargon
If you read enough LinkedIn profiles, you could be convinced that everyone is a “passionate”, “dynamic”, “creative” “self-starter”. I’m fairly convinced that’s NOT the case, so why make your profile instantly forgettable by using the same language as everyone else? Use a thesaurus to find different adjectives to describe you.
Also? Not everyone who views your profile will be in your industry. Try to avoid industry-specific jargon as much as possible so that anyone who reads it will easily understand what you do. A friend from a different industry should be able to read your profile and easily understand what you do.
Error #5 – LinkedIn Is Not Your Résumé
I know that sounds odd. It’s a professional networking site, so why shouldn’t you cut and paste your résumé? Here’s why:
- People don’t read on the Internet, they skim. Brief bullet points or very short paragraphs with clear headings make skimming easier
- LinkedIn provides you with a chance to be more creative. You don’t have to worry about being confined to a two-page paper résumé, or worse, making sure the information is readable using résumé scanners. Tell a creative story about who you are and what you offer others
- LinkedIn is about what you offer others, not about what you’ve accomplished – tell people what you can give to them, not what you’ve done
There are tonnes of other frequent errors, but there are the ones that will make your profile look at best, incomplete or at worst, sloppy, to potential employers or clients. Fixing your profile, and taking time to review it and update it frequently will make your profile look polished and professional.
Way back in June, I was fortunate to have attended The Art of Marketing to see some of my marketing and communications idols speak. The morning was electric, but the afternoon kicked off with a panel discussion that was, in comparison, relatively subdued. And there was one comment uttered that left me incredibly unsettled. One of the panelists referred to community management as the new entry level position in the marketing world.
Entry level position. Let’s think about this for a minute. Companies are hiring recent grads with little real-world corporate experience to handle a very public role within their organizations.
Most articles I’ve read have discussed who should be in charge of social media and community management from an age perspective. Often, the younger employees (the Gen Y cohort) state that they should be in charge because they grew up as “digital natives” and understand how to make connections online. Many older employees are torn – either they don’t understand social media (and are not wiling or able to put in the time to do so) or they understand the role of online communications as a tool within their marketing mix, and are either willing to learn more, or delegate community management to another individual.
There’s no question that younger employees did grow up far more immersed in social media than those in the C-suite. They’re also likely quicker to adopt and adapt to new platforms than their older counterparts. But, much of the experience younger employees bring to the role of community management is personal. Chatting with friends on Facebook or sharing Tweets, Vines or Instagram photos of your weekend adventures is a very different experience than using these platforms to build brand credibility and engage online audiences.
Meanwhile, the senior executives have had years of experience developing strategies, identifying target audiences, market analysis – and they’ve likely been front line in responding to a crisis or two. These are experiences younger employees have rarely had before entering the work world. These are skills that are required to be a good community manager – especially since the online world moves fast and situations can spiral out of control quickly.
Personally, I don’t buy the age-based arguments. Community management should not be an entry level role, period. The employee in charge of your brand’s social media presence needs to be mature enough to handle talking online in your corporate “voice”, the potential for communications to quickly descend into crisis communications should an angry customer decide to use a very public forum to berate your company, have the technical abilities to be able to use the platforms and listening tools to their best advantage and finally, be able to either create or add value to your company’s social media strategy – they need to be able to own some part of that process so that they understand the responsibility they have to represent the company online appropriately.
Bad choices can (and have been) made when communicating online with customers and/or prospects by people of any age. What the role of community manager really takes is someone who has a considerable amount of tact and diplomacy, the ability to diffuse situations quickly and appropriately where needed, and a whole other range of skills (see my post What Makes A Social Media Expert?). And those skills need to be valued appropriately. It doesn’t matter if your community manager is an incredibly mature 20-something in their first job out of school or a 40-something who has been in the marketing industry for a while, but really “gets” social. Hire and compensate appropriately. And remember, the reputation of your brand depends on your community manager.
A while back, I took a bit of a blog break. And during the month or so of not posting consistently, everything that could have turned my world upside down, did. Fortunately, among the bad, there was a lot of good. My little sister got married, I have some exciting new things potentially happening on the career front and my loved one was released from hospital and is doing really, really well.
Throughout that time, the biggest thing I didn’t do was continue to post regularly. Any content manager will tell you that consistency is one of the most critical indicators of success. And I’ve been guilty of just the opposite. To remedy that should I find myself in a month-long, seemingly endless round of life making my plans on my behalf, I’ve decided to prepare myself using a few content “cheats.”
Pre-writing a few posts
I plan to pre-write some “evergreen” blog posts to put up for when I my focus can’t be with my readers. It’s not fair to my followers who count on weekly content to not read a post in more than a month. And it also undermines my credibility – I can’t be telling people to post consistently if I’m not doing so. Evergreen posts are posts that have a timeless appeal – they’re just as relevant when they’re written as they are a few weeks or months later.
If I don’t have time to compose a full length post, concentrate on writing a short one – even a few well-chosen words is better than no post at all.
Putting myself on a schedule
I schedule my writing time for others. I schedule my social media posting times. I schedule everything else about my life… except my writing. It’s time that I should be guarding just as fiercely as I guard the time for my morning runs. Right now, I’m shoe-horning it in between all the other stuff I do, and that’s not okay.
If I’m at a loss for a topic (hey, it happens to everyone) and that’s what’s holding me back, I’ll check out what’s happening in the world and comment on it. (and there’s always something happening in the marketing world to comment on).
Experimenting With Other Mediums
Podcasting, vlogging, infographics – there are so many other ways besides writing to create and distribute content, and I’m certainly exploring alternatives to writing a post. The bonus? Visual content is shared much more frequently than written content on the web.
I’m curious about how you schedule your writing time, readers. Let me know in the comments how you work consistent posting into your schedule.
Over the past few weeks, the same Tweet has been showing up in my feed. To paraphrase, it basically says that more people than really should be are calling themselves social media experts. Three times, I’ve asked the person who sent the Tweet for clarification and three times, I’ve not gotten an answer. So, I suppose that’s one trait we disagree on – engagement. I believe a willingness to engage with your audience is critical, but clearly, this individual does not. Since I haven’t gotten my answer from the originator of the Tweet, here are the basic traits I think social media experts should have.
1. An understanding of marketing and communications strategy
When you or your company decide to jump into social media marketing, it’s not just a matter of opening a bunch of accounts across a number of platforms and just starting to blog, Tweet and post whatever is on your mind on any give day. Social media is an additional piece of your overall marketing mix – and you need to plan accordingly. What platforms make sense to reach your particular audience? What are you going to say to them? What messages make sense online? What will you do to engage your online audience? How often will you post to your blog (keeping in mind consistency is critical)? Is your online message consistent with your offline message? Are you ensuring that you’re talking with, not at, your online audience?
2. A willingness to talk to your audience
Social media is just that: social. It’s about two-way conversations instead of just pushing out your messages. When you put yourself and your business in front of your customers on social media platforms, it’s a given that they will use these channels to talk to you. And you need to be willing and able to listen and respond appropriately (people are always watching). Putting someone in charge of social media who doesn’t have excellent customer relations skills may mean the difference between positive customer interactions and swift, possibly earned, negative attention.
3. A sense of urgency
The speed at which social media moves in unprecedented in the business world. Customer interactions take place faster than ever – it’s easier to send a Tweet to a company than it is to pick up the phone, send an email or (if you can find an actual physical address on a website) write a letter. You need to be willing to respond just as quickly. Oh, and publicly, too – unless someone sends you a direct message, all of your interactions will be out in front of everyone online.
4. The ability to be “real”
Posting marketing messages to your social media sites of choice without having a personality is not what your audience expects. You need to be willing to have a human voice, and be willing to engage customers in discussions about subjects other than their products or services. Sometimes, even adding your community manager’s name to your Twitter profile will help add a personal touch to your interactions.
5. A willingness to take the time
Social media may be a cost-effective way to promote your message and engage your audience, but it does take time. Budgeting enough time to strategize your activities, respond to customers, see what your competitors are doing and measuring and monitoring your successes and failures is critical.
6. The ability to sort out the good from the bad data
Monitoring and listening are critical to knowing what’s happening in your company’s world. What are people saying? How often are they talking about you and your competitors? Where is your traffic coming from? There is so much data to gather about your online audience, but it takes someone with great analytical skills to use the listening tools, interpret the data and offer an honest view of your online reputation.
I could devote pages and pages of my blog to the subject of social media expertise. But, I’m going to leave it to you – what traits would you suggest make a person a social media expert and why? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Last night, an old friend from high school passed away. I found out about it this morning, predictably, through Facebook. Although she and I hadn’t had a face-to-face conversation in nearly two decades, I knew from keeping in touch via social media that she had married her high school sweetheart (a man she fell head over heels for the moment she met him) and together, they raised two wonderful boys.
My friend was my age. Yes, she had been sick for quite some time, but she was my age. I’m sure both of our 16-year-old young and foolish selves would have looked at our current selves and thought we were old as dirt. Only my friend won’t get the chance to be old as dirt. She won’t get the chance to dance at her children’s weddings. Or bounce a cherished grandchild on her knee. Or live her every dream. And that’s not fair.
My family has survived a lot in the past few months, but we’re all still here, and still together. Today, I made it a point to live in the moment to honour my friend.
I went on a field trip with my son’s class, not caring that the wee hands gathered around the table at the art studio were covered in white glue were leaving messy prints on my t-shirt. I picked up my kids and headed for the park after school for nearly two hours, letting them run around in the dirt, all loud voices and running feet. I bought them each an ice cream cone, and enjoyed one myself (a scarcely affordable luxury right now in our home). For once, I didn’t nag them about the melting ice cream dripping onto their hands and down their shirt fronts. I just watched their faces as they enjoyed their cones, revelling in their joy. My children don’t know I lost a friend today. They’re barely old enough to register the finality of death. All they know is that mommy hugged them extra tight this morning. And bought them ice cream this afternoon.
Life’s too short is a cliche, but in my friend’s case, that cliche couldn’t be truer. Rest in peace, my friend. You will be missed and always loved.
First, an apology. I haven’t written a new post in a very long time. It was not my intent, and any content manager worth their pay (me included) would typically lose their mind over an untended blog – think of the valuable online cred you’re losing! But, as the Beatles song Beautiful Boy says, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans (for a deeper explanation, see my last post, I Am Grateful). Since that post, my loved one was happily released from hospital, but then my daughter and I got sick. I lost a couple of great opportunities, but then uncovered more. Now I’m back with a clearer focus and a huge appreciation for life. Apparently, being faced with mortality does that to a person.
Back to the post at hand though…
On Wednesday June 5, me, and 1899 others, were privileged to attend The Art of Marketing Conference here in Toronto. The speakers were a veritable who’s who of the marketing/creative world – David Usher, Seth Godin, Jonah Berger, Charles Duhigg and Biz Stone. I found out Tuesday afternoon that I was the lucky winner of a ticket (otherwise, I would have never been able to attend) from Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. (Special thank you shout-out to Tibor Shanto).
While all the speakers were amazing and so, so inspiring, one comment stood out to me. Just as Seth Godin was leaving the stage, he said, “create a ruckus.”
Such a simple phrase – and one that would take many of us back to Max’s words from Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are (Although the correct phrase is, “Let the wild rumpus start!”). But for grown-up me, I thought about it. How long has it been since I created a ruckus about something I was passionate about? How long has it been since I questioned the status quo? The answer struck me almost as quickly – it’s been too long.
We all get caught up in the day-to-day. The hustle and bustle. The crazy thing we called life. But I’m thinking lately that all of the events that have happened to me and my family over the past six months have led to this moment. This challenge to create a ruckus. I am so, so ready.
My ruckus will be simple and quiet. But it will be all mine. And, Seth, if you’re reading, consider this your challenge accepted.