LinkedIn – the one to watch for 2018

LinkedIn – the one to watch for 2018

LinkedIn has been seen as the dull relation of the social media family for years, lacking the sparkle of Facebook or the edginess of Twitter.  People might have had a look every now and again, when they were looking for a new job, or to see what an ex-colleague was up to now, but not much more.

Just as the geeks will inherit the earth, LinkedIn has been rapidly catching up with other social media platforms, going from 120million to 500million users in the last 6 years.  Not only that, 100,000 organic articles are published each week on LinkedIn, making it a valuable source of content and a powerful platform for building your own brand.

There are a variety of reasons why I think LinkedIn will be the one to watch in 2018 and why you should be making the most of it.

  1. It’s not Facebook or Twitter.

You will hear grumbling from various corners of late that LinkedIn is ‘becoming more like Facebook’, and I admit, I am the first one to furrow my brow at those click baity maths puzzles, and people talking about their pets. Whilst there is some merit to this, it still has a long way to go and for the most part LinkedIn is still strictly business.

I’ve noticed over the past year, an increasing number of people becoming uncomfortable about the blurring of the lines between a professional and private life.  Personally, although I have a Facebook business page, I don’t have business contacts as Facebook friends.  I’ve tried running two Facebook profiles but I don’t really have the time or the inclination to do it well.  My Facebook profile is for my friends and family – and mainly I spend it watching video content of dogs in costumes or the latest Jonathan Pie.  It’s the same with Twitter. I wrote a blog, a year or so ago, highlighting that company Twitter accounts, with their scheduled posts, would turn people off Twitter and that seems to be the case.  I still love Twitter, and manage far more successfully to maintain a professional and personal account. My personal account is just Brexit, the patriarchy and The Archers.

And through the parted crowds marches LinkedIn, with the ability to share content, written and visual, but in a purely professional context, without having to worry that your new connection has seen your holiday photos.

This means that it is much easier to align your personal profile with your company values and brand ideals.  This is especially important if you are working with a team who might either ‘not do’ social media or prefer to keep work out of it.  LinkedIn gives them a platform to present themselves professionally and promote the company at the same time.

  1. LinkedIn have upped their content game.

LinkedIn led the field with content, by launching the Published Posts feature a few years ago.  Published posts serve as a personal blog on your profile, and can be a godsend for professionals who don’t necessarily get space on their company website.

Professionals looking to become influencers in their industry can reach thousands of people through published posts, especially if they can create talking points which people are keen to debate.

LinkedIn have also recently unleashed native video, allowing users to upload video directly rather than share a Youtube clip.  This can only grow as more and more users take advantage of it.

Not only that, but LinkedIn’s acquisition of Slideshare goes even further in sharing meaningful content.

  1. Anyone who’s anyone uses LinkedIn

41% percent of millionaires use LinkedIn, and of all the social media platforms, it’s where you’re most likely to find the people you want to speak to, regardless of whether you’re in sales, running your own business, or want to progress your career.  The fact that you are connecting to real life people, rather than anonymous company accounts, means you can build much more meaningful relationships than on other platforms.

As a networking tool, LinkedIn is second to none, and you should certainly be making sure that you are sending a connection request to everyone you meet in real life.  I’ve had at least 5 referrals through LinkedIn in the last couple of months and it’s certainly the first place I go to look for potential partners.

If you are in Sales, and need to find solid prospects, then the paid Sales Navigator is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s not cheap but allows you to pinpoint exactly who you’re looking to connect with and start to build a relationship with them without having to go in for the hard sell.

And the better the professional content becomes, the more conversation is created and the better the network gets.

I could go on, but that should be enough for now.

If you would like your team to be making more of LinkedIn, then get in touch about our in-house LinkedIn Training or book onto our January Workshop

New LinkedIn Layout – The Good, The Bad and the Annoying

New LinkedIn Layout – The Good, The Bad and the Annoying

A brand new LinkedIn layout has been rolling out.  Mine dropped into my laptop a few weeks ago and I’ve been finding my way around.

I can see why they’ve done it.  The new look is slicker and a little more in keeping with LinkedIn as a social platform rather than a cumbersome CV directory.  It’s also a offensive move towards increasing monetisation, with quite a few of the free features taken away.  Once again, you can’t blame them for trying.

And quite a few features have been removed from the new layout for your own good.

I’m particularly annoyed as it means I have to completely rewrite my LinkedIn workshop and, indeed replace quite a few of the sections but it’s not all about me (honest).

Here are the major changes

Advanced Search

LinkedIn search has been an amazing feature for finding new leads and prospects. This has now been reduced.  One reason, is that it encourages people to upgrade to the many, more expensive Premium versions of LinkedIn.  However, on the plus side, I also think LinkedIn has seen a big rise in spammy connection requests and messages of late, which this might go some way to reduce.

What used to be Advanced Search has now gone, leaving just a regular search box.  There is an additional ‘search for people with filters’ option at the bottom but it’s nowhere near as powerful as it once was.  The  generic keyword filter has been removed, along with terribly useful Postcode radius search.

You can still search by job title, and by individual location, but it is nowhere near as useful as it once was in finding potential interested contacts.

Maybe that’s the point

New LinkedIn Layout Advanced Search

LinkedIn as a CRM

Another feature that has disappeared from the new layout, is the ability to tag your contacts and save non-contacts into useful and orderly lists.  This is whole section of my workshop I can just whip out which is a shame as it was really useful.  However, not that many people used them and you couldn’t export the tabs.

Break out the bunting though, because both of these features are still available if you fancy forking out over £50 a month for Sales Navigator.

The only real solution to this is to bite the bullet and get yourself a decent CRM.  There are plenty to choose from.  I use Hatchbuck. Other CRMs are available but that will have to wait for another post.

*** IF YOU HAVE ADDED TAGS IN THE PAST YOU CAN STILL ACCESS THESE IF YOU EXPORT YOUR DATA (see below) ***

Who’s Looking At You is now a priority

The home feed looks a lot cleaner than it did, although I still find the ad placements annoying.  However they have brought to the forefront (well left hand) who’s viewing your profile and also now who’s viewing your most recent post.

New LinkedIn Layout Who's looking at you

New LinkedIn Layout Post analytics

As well as knowing you whether people are actually seeing your posts and some clues as to who they are, it also recommends other content for you to share

Although not the most useful thing in the world, it does help keep you focused on whether your activity is actually worth it.

 

 

The new LinkedIn Layout gives you a snappier profile

You take centre stage

New LinkedIn Layout Profile picture

Your profile picture is smaller, but you are very much given top billing in your own profile, with your Headline given more prominence than your current employer and education (although they are still up there).

Make sure you go back and edit what yours says about you.  You want your headline to be just that, and remember is doesn’t have to be your job title.

Also, your summary is shortened in the main view and any media you have added is now under the ‘see more’ section.  Annoying, but best make those first few lines snappy.

Lower visibility for published posts.

Now if you ask me, this is why you’re not allowed nice things.  Published posts were initially part of LinkedIn Pulse, and only available to a selected group of LinkedIn members who could be considered influencers.  The original intention is that they would be opinion pieces from leaders in their field that would promote and encourage discussion.  Then the rolled it out to all users.  In principle, it’s a great alternative or addition to having a blog on your own site, and gets you in front of people where they are willing to read what you have to say.  However, I’ve become increasingly irate over the past 12 months as people have used them for click bait sales messages, and flimsy posts that really should have been status updates.

So LinkedIn have done the following

  • your network is no longer notified when you publish a post (THIS is annoying)
  • Rather than give prominence to all your published posts on your profile,

LinkedIn Published Posts

But you only have yourself to blame, remember that!

Higher visibility for recent activity

What they take away with one hand they give back with the other, and they have now given much higher visibility to your recent activity.  This used to be quite hard to find in a hidden drop down list.  Now however, it’s much easier to stalk potential clients, like and comment on their posts and hang out where they are likely to be passing.

You now have to request your data

It used to be fairly easy to export all of your contacts to a .csv, for you to import into your CRM system or whatever you wanted to do with it.  Now it’s a little  more complicated – but it’s still possible.

I recommend you do this as soon as possible, just in case they decide to make it harder

  • Go to My Networks (top menu bar)
  • Then click to see your entire list of connections on the left hand side
  • Now click on the Manage Synced and imported contacts just above that Toyota ad
    Request your data
  • Now click to export your data

Export your data

 

Or if you want to make things easy for yourself and you’re logged into LinkedIn, just click here

Now I could go on, but I’m not going to because I could be here all day pointing out the minutia of changes.

However, on the whole I think it still works.  Those tools which have been removed will frustrate some but actually make others work all the harder to get good results.

What do you think?  Do you like the new layout? Which changes in particular have made a difference to you, good or bad?  Let me know.

If you need a little help finding your way around, book yourself in for a one-to-one coaching session.

 

Who do you think you are talking to?

Who do you think you are talking to?

How to identify your target market

The wonderful thing about digital marketing is that now, the world is your oyster.  You can talk to anyone on the planet who has a Twitter account, and sell your goods and services to anyone you like, whatever your target market.

This can also be bewildering.

The first question I always ask my clients is “Who’s your ideal customer?”  All too often the answer is ‘anyone’.  This is ultimately an unhelpful place to start. Like an enthusiastic toddler in their first game of tig, if you try chasing everyone at the same time, you’ll end up with no one.

You need to pick your target market – and focusing on a handful of people will help you to define your messaging.

This needs to be at the forefront of your marketing and don’t think of attempting to design your website, branding or take to social media before you’ve done it.  Once you know your target market, your activity then becomes a doddle.  You know exactly who you are talking to and what they want to hear.

If you don’t, then you try to please so many people, your message ends up as bland and indistinctive.

Every business is looking for a person who

  1. Has the same worldview
  2. Has a problem you can solve
  3. Has the time and money to give

Once you’ve found them, they then need to

  1. Be engaged with your product
  2. Understand and appreciate what results you can bring

Starting with number one

Is it really that important that your target market has the same world view?

Well you’re not asking them to marry you, so arguably it doesn’t matter that much.  Depending on the strength of your convictions, you may not turn business away because of it because they’re not really your sort.

However, there’s no denying that these people will be your easiest customers to find, convert and are most likely to become your champions. These are the people your marketing needs to be aimed at – the rest may follow along regardless.

Simon Sinek

The easiest customers to reach are those you have the most in common with.  You know in person when you just click with someone, the conversation flows and you know exactly what the other means.

The first rule of  social media is to be authentic, honest and as natural as possible.  Your ideal client will like you for it or, as I said recently to a client “they’re going to work out they don’t like you when they meet you so save yourself the bother”

However there needs to be a Venn Diagram in there somewhere of what is you, what is your client, and what you have in common.  If you can try sticking to the common ground, you’ll be quids in.

Some of my favourite brands make me feel like I’m one of the gang – that we would get on if we actually met.  Similarly, I’ve made some great relationships through social media months (and even years) before I meet them in person.

Build-A-Client

Start with your fantasy client and pick one very specific client at a time.  Build a full and proper picture of them – not just their job title.

Maybe consider it more like dating.  Age, gender, location are all vital factors, but then define even further on your key attributes and characteristics.

We may as well be sitting on the sofa next to you.

We may as well be sitting on the sofa next to you.

What do they care about? This does not mean that you have to nail your political colours to the mast (even if you have them) but it does mean that you need to work out where their sensibilities are likely to be.

  • Are they concerned about the environment?
  • Are animal rights likely to be important or not a factor?
  • Are there any particular social causes and campaigns they are likely to be interested in?

I find I can judge a company instantly on their choice of quotes on social media.  If they sound like a reject from The Apprentice, then they are probably not for me.

  • What are their hobbies likely to be?  Are they outdoorsy, interested food, culture, sport, fashion
  • What style of images would they most respond to?
  • What TV programmes are they likely to watch?  What music?
  • What are they likely to find funny?

What do they drink?  What supermarket do they shop in? Where are they likely to go on holiday? What brands to they buy? Do they care who wins X Factor?

They might sound like irrelevant questions, but it’s a really useful exercise to build your target market profile.  If you want to really have some fun, find some pictures to go along with it.

Just putting it out there as an example of what your dream client might look like ….

 

“But I thought I was supposed to be being myself, not pleasing others!”

Be Your Own Beyonce

Once you have given this some thought, your social media ‘voice’ becomes easy to find.  Put yourself in Beyonce’s shoes and you can craft an online identity which is authentic and honest but also perfectly reflects the brand that you are trying to create, rather than a warts and all profile.

You don’t need to start talking about yourself in the third person, but think carefully about which parts of your brand are for public consumption – and which ones aren’t. For example, I am a fairly vocal political sort, but I try to tone it down on my professional accounts. I will share some things, often with a social media slant, but I don’t use it as a soapbox.  I have a separate Twitter account for shouting at Question Time.

It’s about values rather than partisan issues.  I’m quite happy to tweet about Hillary Clinton because I don’t really want to work for anybody who would consider themselves a Donald Trump supporter.  I’m more than happy for them not to pick up the phone.

But here’s some rules to bear in mind

  • Sometimes it’s a matter of volume.  The odd tweet so I know that you like football and support West Ham, but a running commentary of the game, no thank you.
  • No oversharing. By all means give me an insight into your private life, so I can understand a little more about you but think ‘Hello centre spread’, rather than a tabloid expose or radio phone in rant.
  • Remember that social media posts never really go away. A full and frank Facebook post might be cathartic but is it really what your brand wants to say?
  • Friendly and approachable does not always mean ‘cutesy’.  If you’re not that sort of brand, don’t feel you have to be just because it’s social media.
  • Don’t be mean or offensive.  I shouldn’t have to say any more

Hopefully, you now have a clear idea of your head of the people you need to reach.  In future blog posts, I’ll cover more on how to track them down and build relationships.

What criteria do you use to decide who your ideal customer might be? Biscuits? Favourite Friends character?  Let us know in the comments below.

In the meantime if you’d like some help with defining your target marketing and branding, then get in touch for a consultation.

 

The Introverts’ Guide to Social Media

The Introverts’ Guide to Social Media

Hillary and the social media generationLast week, there was a photo of Hillary Clinton, taken by Barbara Kinney, that was shared of 8,000 times on Twitter.  It showed the crowd turning its back on her, so that they could all get a selfie while she was in shot. This made my blood run cold.  It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad about this, more that it would never occur to me.

There was a recent article arguing that selfies, rather than a sign of narcissism, were a way of people saying hello to the world, as if they were standing in front of you, rather than beside you.  This made me feel more kindly towards them, but only a little.

Which way they point their camera is yet another way to categorise people, in much the same way as people love to divide people into introvert/extravert bags.  Personally, I’m either a very talkative introvert or a slightly miserable extravert – the jury’s out.

For those in the introvert camp, social media can seem a pointless place, and many people choose not to bother at all; they take one look at the headshots, self-promotion and the endless chatter and head for the hills.

However, if you prefer the quiet life, it can actually be a powerful weapon.  Used wisely, it can do wonders for your business.

So here’s 8 reasons why social media is great for introverts, and some killer tips for making it work for you.

  1. You can be yourself, whatever your niche

The first rule of social media is to be yourself, which plays into your hands very nicely. If you don’t see why you should talk endlessly about yourself, don’t.  If you don’t like selfies, don’t take them. You need to find your voice and stick to it.  Not everyone is going to like it, but that’s OK, you don’t want to do business with them anyway. You don’t need to talk to the masses, start small and connect with people who you are genuinely interested in and want to engage with. Twitter in particular is perfect for finding like-minded individuals, rather than having to talk to the crowds. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sending 10 tweets a day; listen to others, take an interest and build up gradually with the people who matter to you.

  1. Everyone is the same font.

This sounds obvious but it’s true.  We’ve all been in meetings where someone has dominated proceedings, or events where you can’t seem to get a word in edgeways. There will always be someone who shouts louder and has a firmer handshake, who can interrupt just that little more effortlessly. They might not be better qualified or more talented, they just make more noise. Social media is a great leveller.  Short of PERMANENTLY USING CAPITAL LETTERS, no one can shout louder than anyone else, and everyone’s voice is given equal weight.  You can take your time to join in without the ideal moment passing you by. 

  1. You can plan what you want to say

It might look like social media is all off the cuff, spur of the moment stuff, but actually planning is key.  If self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, stealing yourself to think about it in an orchestrated way can really help.  Also drag someone else in to talk it through with.  What would other people be interested in?  How do they see you and does that match up with what you want.  Then you can begin to tell your story in the way that you want.  It doesn’t have to be all at once, but gradually over time.  This gives you time to think about it, to amend, to reframe.  Using a scheduling tool such as Buffer or Edgar allows you to map it all out and then review it, so you won’t be struck down with panic because you can’t think of anything to write.

  1. You can do your homework

In the same vein, it can also help you with your offline networking too. Meeting new people can be hard work, however experienced in business you are.  If networking fills you with dread, social media is a great way to do a little research beforehand to make you feel more comfortable.  Some might call it stalking but I like to call it ‘taking an interest’.  Look people up on LinkedIn or Twitter, find out what they’re interested in, what their passions are and you’ll find conversation much more engaging and effortless than going in cold. “I read your article on Linked In” is a great ice-breaker or even “what did you think of Game of Thrones finale”

  1. You can have meaningful conversations

What I love most about social media, and Twitter in particular, is that it is very easy to get to the nub of something quickly.  Yes there’s lots of high fiving and shouting out and name checking this that and the other, but actually it’s incredibly easy to talk about the things that you want to, without the small talk.  Track down the #hashtags of things you are passionate about, causes you care about and have expertise in, and begin to talk about those issues with the people who care about them.  I have great conversations on Twitter, not just about social media but politics, protests, issues, passions and ridiculously poor jokes.

  1. Set yourself some boundaries

I spend my life on social media but I have rules which I stick to.  I think this is important to not only preserve a sense of self, but also respect your privacy and that of those around you. So

  • I don’t identify my children on Twitter by name. There might be the odd photo but these are few and far between.
  • I am not ‘friends’ with clients or business contacts on Facebook
  • I don’t feel the need to be visible or trumpeting my whereabouts all of the time. A lot of the time I’m watching and listening.  Think more tiger than elephant.
  • I take regular breaks from social media all together. I don’t use it holiday, I have regular periods when I just need to walk away.  That’s fine – everyone is still there.
  1. You don’t have to leave the house

This is not carte blanche to turn into Howard Hughes, and I do recommend getting out of your pyjamas, but actually digital marketing allows you to keep up with contacts, and what’s going on in the industry without having to be the life and soul of the networking party. It won’t do all the time, obviously.  You do have to get out there now and again, and nothing beats face to face interaction; however a little judicious planning on social media allows you to be far more selective about who you spend your time with. You never know, you might even progress to Skype (even WITH the video on)

So there you have it, marketing yourself on social media doesn’t have to be one big Donald Trump rally. Obviously if it really leaves you cold, you can outsource it completely, but there is a danger that you lose some authenticity along the way.

If you’d like some help, I offer (in person) one-to-one training, consultation and support services which will set you on the right path, as well as open workshops should you be feeling in a sociable mood!

Why LinkedIn is not Tinder (and other lessons)

Why LinkedIn is not Tinder (and other lessons)

There’s been quite the hoo-ha on social media over the past few days over what is and is not acceptable behaviour on social media, in the workplace or just in society at large.

In case you missed it, Charlotte Proudman publicly shamed a connection on LinkedIn after he sent her a private message complimenting her on her “stunning” profile photo.  Cue outrage, mud-slinging, muck-racking and all sorts of other filthy metaphors on both sides.  It’s no real secret that I’m a paid up member of the “Feminazi” and my uniform lies (unironed) in the wardrobe ready for action at a moment’s notice, so have discussed these at length.

However, there are more general lessons to be learnt here about how to behave on social media.  We spend our lives judging situations, behaving appropriately and adjusting our actions as we see fit.  Social Media is no different. There is a time and place for everything, just as there is in the real world.

Here’s the “cut out and keep guide” to appropriate behaviour and the lessons we can learn.

  1. Facebook is your office party. Whether you have a job or not, a business Facebook page or not, it’s helpful to consider it in this way.  You can laugh, you can joke, you can be charming.  You can talk about football, Game of Thrones or where you got those shoes.  You can even have a few drinks. But bear in mind that someone is always watching and could potentially come back and bite you on the arse.
  2. Twitter is your open plan office. I think a bit more work goes on on Twitter.  In between there is banter, there is chatting about what’s going on, there are asides to people but everything is out in the open and you can be ALWAYS overheard.
  3. LinkedIn is your management meeting or job interview. So very different rules apply.  If you wouldn’t say it in front of your board, or in a job interview, then don’t say it. Certainly don’t use it to crack onto strangers. (Maybe you would say such things in a meeting too, in which case drag yourself to HR immediately and get some help). Keep it professional.  That doesn’t mean you can’t show personality, opinions or charm but in a way that shows you are someone people want to do business with, not the office clown (or sleaze).
  4.  You don’t know people.  The strange thing about social media is that very often you are talking to people you don’t know.  Therefore it’s important to make qualified judgements about what is and is not acceptable to a stranger (even if you have watched the same TV programme or attended the same event).  What I find most baffling about Alexander Carter-Silk is that he, an intelligent man, read ‘researching the legal and policy approaches designed to combat female genital mutilation’ and ‘strong background in working with vulnerable women seeking legal support’ and thought “I know, I’ll tell her she’s pretty, she’ll love that”  I’ve unfollowed a couple of people whose sense of humour I don’t share and winced at a few over-familiar comments.
  5. Be careful who your friends are. It’s my policy not to be friends on Facebook with business associates or contacts. Whilst I have nothing really to hide, Facebook is where I can be off duty and, more importantly, I can rely on the fact that my friends know me well and understand the subtext of my posts.  Context is everything.  The papers have been dragging up Charlotte Proudman’s comments about various men on Facebook.  However context is everything.  We don’t know the relationship she had with those people, the running jokes or any of the background.  It’s very difficult to get across sarcasm when you can’t see a person’s face.  It’s all too easy to make assumptions that the other person may not share.
  6. Manners cost nothing.  There’s some nasty people out there and I come across all sorts of people across the client accounts I manage. Everyone feels they’re entitled to an opinion (which they are) and that everybody else needs to hear it (which they don’t).  Also, the person you’re talking about can usually hear it too, even if you didn’t meant them to. There’s heated debate and a difference of opinion and then there’s abuse.  Don’t confuse the two. Ever.
  7. Be yourself. Actually you have no other choice.  Both Proudman and Carter-Silk behaved in a very instinctive way.  They couldn’t help themselves.  Actually I think “human rights lawyer brushes of message as one of those things” would be equally as headline worthy. You can try to be someone else but the mask will always slip so best be as authentic as you can.  The downside of this is, if you’re an archaic fool the rest of the world will soon find out.
  8. You have no control.  I suspect neither of them thought it would end up on the front page of a national newspaper.  However it did and there was little that could be done to stop it.  I read Jon Ronson’s book on public shaming over the holidays and is a fascinating and cautionary tale.  Be careful out there.
  9. This just confirms what I’ve always said about the importance of good profile photos.  

Social Media is a new playground/battleground that we all need to master and it’s no longer enough to plead ignorance or misunderstanding.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Take your Social Media offline – & bring cake

Take your Social Media offline – & bring cake

Social Media Marketing is nothing new. We’ve all been doing it for generations. Those people who use it most successfully know that it’s really nothing to do with marketing at all; it’s about relationships.

Social Media is not an objective in itself.  It’s there as a tool to make the real life tangible world better, to get know people better and to make loyalties stronger

And every agony aunt knows that the key to developing rewarding, long lasting connections is listening. Remember, two ears, one mouth.

I was on the receiving end of this recently from my lovely friends at Buffer.  OK, they’re not my friends, they’re thousands of miles away and wouldn’t recognise one if they ran up with a bunch of flowers.  I am a customer, I give them money (what’s more, I encourage other people to give them money).

“Make a friend first and a sale second”

However they listen.  They care about their customers opinions, feedback and loyalty … and not just online either.

Witness a recent exchange.

Now this is lovely enough.  They showed their appreciation in a timely and friendly manner, they were chatty, looked like they cared.  However, they also turned it up a notch.

A week or two later, on a full Friday afternoon, I received this on my doorstep

Send cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say I was overjoyed. Noone can be uncheered by cake.

Now you can’t send gifts to every person cheeky enough to ask.  However what’s the lesson here, apart from the obvious?

Your online activity should be making the real world better.  Thankfully, the world of cold calling and knocking on doors is fading (much to my relief).  Social media allows you to build friendships and loyalties that might begin online but will reach far beyond your keyboard.

The Key to Social Selling

 

1.  Use social media to listen, not just talk about yourself.

It’s far too easy to use social media to promote what you do and how you do it.  But like a bore at a party, you’re not going to win many friends that way.  Use LinkedIn and Twitter to listen to people, find out the issues they are facing and the problems they need solving.  Set up Twitter notifications so you don’t miss key tweets from important people, create a list of prospects, tag key contacts in LinkedIn or try out their Sales Navigator to do your research.

 

2.  Take an interest, make them feel special.

Use social media to find out more about your clients and find common ground.  Talk to them about their interests, passions, hobbies.  People want to do business with people they feel some affinity with, not just because they need their product.  Even from behind a screen, people want connection.  If you’re following a particular hashtag for a TV programme, sporting event, or news item (or even #TheArchers), filter to see tweets from ‘people you follow’ and strike up conversations with people you know.  Love Game of Thrones?  I bet someone else does too.

 

3.  Talk to them as you would talk to them in person

I’m always surprised when people say they don’t know how to reply or comment on social media, as if it’s another planet.  However I get it.  It can feel awkward to talk to someone you’ve never met, that you can’t see.  However, imagine you are doing it in person.  Say it out loud before you write it down to make sure it is something you would actually say if they were standing in front of you.

 

4.  Enter the real world 

It can be tempting to keep social media exactly where it but it’s a tool to help you make better actual real life relationships, not a goal in itself.  Pick up the phone, hand write a letter, arrange a meeting.

Random acts of kindness can really make you stand out from the crowd.  No you can’t send cake to every customer or prospect, but now and again a thoughtful gesture can go a long way.  There are other brands that do this very well too.  Virgin Atlantic have been known to send random gifts to twitter followers for no apparent reason.  Not only do they build great loyalty, it’s great PR too.

 

5.  Don’t frighten the horses 

You need to be careful. There’s a fine line between attentive and creepy stalker.  Interact with people directly, before you contact them in person.  Don’t try the “I’ve been reading your LinkedIn updates from afar for some time now” approach in an email.  It’s a bit weird.  Likewise, be careful with friend requests on Facebook.  I very rarely accept a friend request on Facebook from business contacts.  I don’t want to share my holiday photos and children’s antics with them.  If I did, I’d put them on Twitter for all to see. Professional interest, healthy distance is the key here.

So there you have it.  How do you go the extra mile for your online contacts?  Do share in the comments below.

Oh, and if in doubt, my favourite cake is coffee and walnut.