10 tips to a successful social selling program that drives business results

Social selling is all the buzz in the B2B world. Social selling is revolutionizing sales like digital marketing changed marketing. With more B2B decision makers using social media and companies completing more of their buying cycle before they approach a supplier, social selling has become your company’s best bet. Research has shown that salespeople who use social media outperform those who don’t and exceed quota more often. But is it worth the effort?  How can you activate social media and content best practices into a powerful sales tool?

With highly-informed buyers needing salespeople who can provide relevant knowledge and help them tackle their business challenges, this blog post explores how to empower your sales team to meet these heightening customer demands. Learn what it takes to become the social selling expert at your company, including lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid when launching a social selling initiative. Learn about a framework for tackling social selling at your organization—including getting C-suite buy-in. And discover how social selling can help provide insights into your content marketing efforts.

Let’s first start with the definition of social selling.

What is Social Selling?

Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with clients and prospects. Social selling defined in 100 words.

Why Social Selling is Important

Social selling is a revolution for sales. Cold calls, qualifying leads, and sales demos are no longer effective as they once were. The new sales model is now about education, social media networks, and engagement. According to the Corporate Executive Board and OgilyOne, 60 percent of B2B customer research is conducted before contacting sales and 71 percent of salespeople believe their role will be radically different in five years.

The sales team is looking for a partner to help with this transition. Marketing is in a great spot to help since marketing is looking for more insight from sales on what content is being used and shared. According to Sirius Decisions, 60 to 70 percent of all company content goes unused. What content should marketing create more or less of?

Social selling is an evolution for marketing.

At its core, social selling is half social media and half content marketing.

Half Social Media - Half Content Marketing

Social selling is half social media, half content marketing. Marketing is in a great position to provide social media and content marketing advice to sales.

Content marketing and social media are two areas of marketing that have become too important for companies today to just stay within the marketing department.

Social selling is the next evolution of content marketing and social media.

Marketing has a great opportunity to provide their digital marketing expertise to the sales team who needs help in this area. Sales is looking for help with social media and their online presence. According to the Sales Management Association, two in three companies don’t have a social media strategy for sales, but 80 percent of sales teams would be more productive with a greater social media presence.

Most marketers, especially those at B2B companies, are tasked with better aligning with sales teams and enabling their sales teams with content and social media tips to better interact online with current customers and future ones.

The Rise of the Term “SMarketing”

With the growth of digital marketing and marketing taking on more of the sales or buying journey, the term SMarketing is rising in importance. SMarketing is the process of integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business.

SMarketing

Companies who have an integrated approach to sales and marketing are in a position to drive more growth and better target the ideal customers and retain current clients.

Now that you understand the importance of social selling, how does one create a social selling program? Here are 10 tips to launching a social selling program:

1. Explain Why Your Company Needs Social Selling

Buyers have more power in today’s world, thanks to the Internet and the rise of social media networks. As a result, their habits have changed because they can do more research online before interacting with someone. They can also ask more people about the products and services they are going to buy before interacting with sales. According to LinkedIn, 5.4 people are now involved in the average B2B buying decision; 75 percent of B2B buyers now use social media to be more informed on vendors; and 90 percent of decision makers say they never respond to cold outreach.

The Reality of the New Buyer

Buyers are self-educating before they make purchases, especially large ones. When was the last time you went to buy a car or TV at a store without knowing what type of car or TV you wanted? Did you know what types of “bells and whistles” you wanted?

Of course, you did.

You did all your research online before going to the store. And you may do more research on your smartphone while in the store.

Buyers are consuming more and more content before they buy online or in a store. Search engines like Google and Bing have created an “era of self-serve information.” Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study shows that consumers digest more than 10 pieces of online information before making a purchase decision. Therefore, companies today need to provide content that informs, educates, persuades, and retains customers or clients.

Buyers are changing the landscape for sales and marketing. Buyers have new knowledge expectations. They want advisors, not ready-made solutions. And they are including more people in decision-making process.

As a result, most buying cycles or sales cycles are getting longer.

The Corporate Executive Board has published excellent research about how the sales process or buying process has changed. They found that high-performing sales people are Challengers and the reason salespeople are successful is because it is all about how a sales person sells, not what he or she sells. They also published research on the key factors to create consensus in buying groups.

Frustration is occurring internally at many organizations. Conversations at companies today may be along the lines of something like this: “we’re losing deals to unlikely competitors” or  “our sales team is being engaged so far late in a buyers purchasing cycle, resulting in conversations about price and fulfillment” or “prospects are asking us ‘late funnel’ questions much earlier in the sales process.”

As a result, there is a shift at many companies where social selling is becoming more of the sales process since a majority of the self-educating is done before the first meeting with sales. Marketing and sales can no long take the “spray and pray” method or approach to finding new customers or clients. The new approach to selling and marketing is summed up well by Seth Godin in this quote.

Selling to People Who Want to Hear from You

Sales professionals, sales leadership, marketing leadership, sales enablement leaders, and C-suite executives will want to know what the outcome of social selling is at your organization.

Social Selling Outcomes

It is important to communicate the four main outcomes of social selling. They are:

  1. Thought leadership. Buyers choose sales rep that add value and insight.
  2. Brand. Build it over time so you become a trusted expert and are knowledgeable in certain topics.
  3. Competitive differentiation. Insights help differentiate you versus your competitors.
  4. Business conversations, not sales pitches. People don’t trust companies who cold call and are perceived as “spammy.”

Companies that provide value and insights are winning their customers or clients over. According to Corporate Visions, 74 percent of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to bring value and insight and according to Forrester, 82 percent of buyers viewed at least five pieces of content from the winning vendor. Check out these 107 mind-blowing sales stats.

The Social Seller Wins

Research has shown the sales person who uses social selling performs better than the sales person who doesn’t. According to LinkedIn, social sellers create 45 percent more opportunities; social sellers are 51 percent more likely to achieve quota and 78 percent of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media.

Now that you understand the value and outcomes of social selling, let’s talk about how you should begin.

2. Start Small With a Pilot to Get C-Suite Buy-In

To get C-suite buy-in, it is important to start small with a pilot. The pilot should be long enough to collect enough data to build your business case but short enough that it doesn’t take too many resources.

There are five key ways to get C-suite to buy-in on social selling. They are:

  1. Vision and strategy. It is important to demonstrate where you are now, and where you want to go or need to go with this initiative. Creating a maturity model, outlining your strategy for social selling, and communicating the business value of the initiative on a page can help paint your vision and strategy.
  1. Success stories. It is critical to have social selling champions internally who can help you show the value of social selling to your business.
  1. Case studies. It is important to see how other companies are taking advantage of social selling. LinkedIn and Sales for Life have good case studies for social selling.
  1. Competitors. One of the best ways to get the C-suite attention about your initiative is to look at your competitor’s plans and show them that your company is behind because our competitors have already launched this social selling initiative.
  1. Business case. It is vital to make your business case for social selling, not in promising immediate return on investment, but in documenting the process with a charter, what is in scope or out of scope for this initiative, who are the executive sponsors are, and what the timeline is for certain short-term activities. Executives at your company will want to know how well social selling can scale with a certain budget.

Following these five above tips and launching a small pilot can help you show some early results.

3. Show How Social Selling Integrates Internally

To ensure that your social selling program gets buy-in from key stakeholders, it is important to partner with others internally, especially leadership from departments such as sales, sales enablement, solution/product/services, human resources, and training.

Once you have identified the key departments internally, you should take the time to learn about how each department’s priorities and goals intersect with social selling. For example, at Forsythe Technology, we partner with our thought leaders in our pre-sales organization. We first started with our FOCUS Magazine authors. We also partnered with our pre-sales organization and select members of our human resource department to show them how social selling can help hiring managers and recruiters find candidates through social selling platforms like LinkedIn.

By getting input and partnering with other departments internally, you can share the budget. Here are five tips for justifying your social selling budgets. Sometimes other departments will contribute funds while some departments will just support the initiative. Social selling requires time and is an investment that will deliver more business benefits over time.

4. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

It is critical that your training for social selling is personalized and customized because each individual sales representative is different in terms of how much they know and understand about social selling. They also may be more of less digital savvy in terms of how much social media they use in their personal lives.

Personalized

Since one size doesn’t fit all, that is why I scheduled one on one classes via a Cisco WebEx with our entire sales team. It was important to personalize the social selling class to the skill level of the sales professional. It is important to show them the value of LinkedIn in a one-on-one setting rather than have them listen to an online course. While it doesn’t scale quickly, it provided more value to the sales team and helps spread the word about the value of using LinkedIn in meeting their goals. I summarized my 1 on 1 social selling class in this LinkedIn blog post. You should create content about your social selling class so your sale team can go back later and refresh what they learned.

One of the mistakes I made early on when I launched the social selling initiative at my company, Forsythe Technology, was to teach the sales professionals about all of the different social platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in a group setting. However, I quickly realized that our sales account managers needed focus on one social media platform to gain momentum. So I concentrated the social selling class on LinkedIn. It provided them with the most value and could show them how they could use the tool to be more productive in their daily activities and help them accomplish their sales goals. I walked them through how they could optimize their LinkedIn profile and how to take advantage of the tool. I also explain how LinkedIn inMails need to be customized and tailored to be successful. They also need to be helpful and not “salesy.” I also showed them how their connection requests should be customized to get noticed and so the other person who got the invitation accepts them quicker.

Customized

It is important that your class is customized so you can show your sales Tana how to play what I call six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Just like Kevin Bacon is connected with any actor or actress in Hollywood, a sales person is connected with anyone at any company. When I take them through the exercise of showing them how their network can be connected to any company by a 1st, 2nd or 3rd-degree connection, they instantly see the value.

I also walk through how you should check “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” on LinkedIn and how they should join certain LinkedIn Groups where their clients and prospects hang out. I emphasize that they should develop a social selling routine that works for them and enables them with tools like Google Alerts, If This then That, Newsle (now LinkedIn Connections in the News), Crystal Knows, and Charlie App.

5. Show the Power of Personal Branding

The next tip for a successful social selling program is to show your sales team the power of personal branding. If you look up the word branding on Google Trends, you can see the tremendous growth of the term. It has become more important in today’s social media world. Tom Peters in Fast Company quote sums it up the power of the power of personal branding:

Marketer for Brand Called You

Social networks like LinkedIn can help frontline employees such as sales professionals build their personal brand. By optimizing your LinkedIn profile, sharing relevant content about your industry, commenting with thoughtful insights to conversations in LinkedIn Groups, and liking or sharing other people’s content can help you grow your reputation and establish trust.

During my one on one class, I show them why a successful personal brand is important to our company brand. I reference my 10 steps to a successful personal brand. I explain how the profile is the first thing that a prospective client will see and that it important to make a good first impression with a professional image on a white background (we provided free professional headshots during our annual sales kickoff meetings).

I explain that they should add a summary section and that their summary should be written in first person, not third person. During my follow-up email, I provide them with helpful articles such as how to write a LinkedIn summary, 3 brilliant LinkedIn summaries and 4 highly effective LinkedIn summary templates for sales reps.

If we have time during the first call or follow-up calls, we discuss LinkedIn’s new social selling index (SSI) and what that means for them. I provide them with the link to get their SSI score and how there are four ways, according to LinkedIn, to improve your social selling index:

  1. Establish your professional brand 
  2. Find the right people
  3. Engage with Insights
  4. Build relationships

For sales professionals that have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, I show them that LinkedIn has included the SSI on their home dashboard. I encourage our sales professionals to explore LinkedIn Sales Navigator to see if they think it is worthy to upgrade.

6. Have a Plan for Follow Up and Reinforcement

A class is a great start but reinforcement is the key to making your social selling program successful and making the program stick over the long haul. According to Aberdeen Group research, companies that reinforce post-training achieve better business results. Ongoing education and reinforcement is critical to long-term success and keeping your sales team up-to-date with the ever-changing landscape of social media and LinkedIn. For example, what will Microsoft do with LinkedIn after acquiring them?

During the one-on-one class, I explain how the participant should set up calendar reminders in their Microsoft Outlook to share articles or block out time for LinkedIn. I tell each person that they may want to build in some time for these tasks when they are working on sales administrative tasks like filling out their weekly timecards or updating opportunities in Salesforce.com.

I also make sure that I have a follow-up email ready to send out immediately following the class that provides them with helpful links so they complete their “homework” that I assigned them during the class such as adding a summary section or adding their certifications or adding their professional headshot. In the follow-up email, I include an eBook from LinkedIn about the power of social selling in the buyer process, my personal blog post of the social selling class in article format, and 101 proven power words article may be helpful to reference for keywords in their summary and experience sections.

Once the class is done, it is important to establish a feedback loop with the team to learn how they are doing with their social selling. For example, I have participated in our new sales rep training classes and I schedule follow-up classes with sales reps who are interested in learning more about social selling. For example, two sales representatives want to meet with me monthly to give them the latest and greatest info on social selling.

To help with reinforcement, some social selling tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, PeopleLinx and TrapIt can help with these efforts. To find other social selling tools, you can check out some of the top social selling tools.

It is critical to have milestones and timelines in place as well. This could be included in your charter or strategy on a page we discussed earlier. They help with ongoing goal tracking and reinforcement so your program doesn’t lose its momentum.

7. Establish the Requirements for Success

Forrester Research recommends organizations shouldn’t rush into metrics since these metrics could create unintended consequences and pressure on your sales team. Once your social selling program is up and running, you can understand what types of metrics are working and then create some more sophisticated measurements when your organization social selling program has matured. However, I would recommend establishing some type of criteria for success. There are four important metrics worth examining from the beginning. They are sales, training, network (in terms of the growth of the sales team’s network on LinkedIn) and sharing (in terms of content).

Metrics

There are four key metrics of a successful social selling program: sales growth, training goals, network growth and content sharing.

Since social selling program is an investment, it will take time for your program to pay off and your metrics may change. However, the social selling program should have a baseline for initial metrics so you can see how the social selling program is performing. The metrics should be aligned with what we discussed earlier about how the program integrates internally. There should be at least one of the metrics that the departments mentioned earlier care about.

8. Help Sales Become Students of the Game

One way marketers can help sales is to help them become “students of the game.” When I mean student of the game, I mean being a perpetual student that reads, thinks and writes about their industry and profession. To help sales, marketing can show sales how they can follow their ecosystem of companies important to them on LinkedIn. I recommend the ecosystem consist of the following:

  1. Partners
  2. Competitors
  3. Analysts
  4. Clients and Prospects

There are also helpful resources for sales to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in social selling, sales and their industry. I recommend resources such as Sales for Life, HubSpot Blogs, SmartBrief, and LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

9. Serve Up Great Content To Share

Your content marketing efforts are critical to the success of your social selling program. Jill Rowley, a social selling evangelist, sums up the importance of great content for sales professionals today:

Content New Currency for Sales

To ensure that you serve up great content to share with sales, it important that your sales team and subject matter experts tell your marketing organizations what questions clients are asking them so marketing can create content to address those questions. To understand the power of answering questions, you should learn from Marcus Sheridan. The New York Times wrote a great article about how he increased sales by answering customer questions.

Marcus Sheridan sums up the importance of content marketing well and how important it is to sales.

Marcus Sheridan Content Sales Tool v2

This quote from Marcus Sheridan explains how content marketing helps your company establish trust with your clients and future clients:

Content Marketing Date Around

To create great content, you should think about your content marketing efforts in how much effort it takes to produce your content. For example, there is heavyweight content, middleweight content, and lightweight content. To learn the difference, you should read is your content marketing worth its weight in gold?

We created our recent data center eBook in the mode of this heavyweight-middleweight-lightweight content model and it has helped us refine and improve our content marketing strategies and tactics. For example, we created teasers for the eBook in the forms of teaser articles, SlideShare eBook promotion, SlideShare data center tips, infographic, and excerpt articles to promote downloads of the eBook.

For middleweight content, we follow the rule of thumb that the ideal length of an article should be 7 minutes or 1600 words. All of our articles on Forsythe FOCUS Magazine website are around 1600 words. These guidelines and other best practices have helped Forsythe Technology strive toward being a media company and operate like a newsroom. To help your organization figure out how to best organize itself for content marketing, you should explore ideas presented by Altimeter.

Altimer Content Marketing Organization

The Altimeter group shows companies how they can organize for content marketing.

You may also want to think about content marketing like Progressive CMO Jeff Charney thinks about content marketing. He says that Progressive’s content marketing should have, “the breadth of ESPN, the innovation of Netflix, and the original content programming of HBO.” As the world of owned media (websites and blogs) becomes more important with the rise of content marketing, earned (press coverage and word of mouth) and paid media (pay per click or banner ads) are still critical to a successful marketing strategy.

10.  Provide the Best Curated Content

The last tip for creating a successful social selling program is to curate the best content in your industry like a museum curator finds the best art for his or her museum. To help you create a culture of content curation, you should explore resources like this to help save you time.

Museum Curator

Companies should think about their content curation like museum curators think about their art curation.

According to research that explored the curation vs. creation sweet spot, the optimal balance for companies is a 60/40 ratio of content curation vs. content creation. 60 percent should be content curation and 40 percent should be content creation. This research was based on analyzing 150,000 social media posts.

Sweet Spot of Content

Research has shown that the content curation-creation “sweet spot” is a 60-40 ratio. 60 percent of content should be curated while 40 percent of content should be created.

At Forsythe Technology, we launched our content curation efforts by developing the inFOCUS e-newsletter, similar to SmartBrief e-newsletters, that provides an executive summary of noteworthy articles for business and technology professionals. To create this monthly e-newsletter, we work with a company that used to curate content for the President of the United States. The company’s editorial staff monitors 12,000 newspapers, business publications, websites, national and international wire services, and other periodicals, to compile one easy-to-read monthly summary.

In summary, we have found that finding and sharing heavyweight-middleweight-lightweight content establishes Forsythe Technology as a trusted adviser and our sales professionals as value creators who provide helpful ideas. We realized that we didn’t have to create our own content every day to help our clients and future ones. Our content curation has helped our content marketing efforts.

Bringing it all Together

Launching a social selling program is just like launching other initiatives. It is important to start small, go slow and start building the business case internally. It is a great time to be a marketer since social selling is an evolution of your social media and content marketing strategies so it is critical to incorporate social selling into your existing strategies and tactics. Determine a social selling leader and core team to lead the initiative, create training, determine the internal requirements for success, and explore social selling tools to help you with reinforcement. By knowing your end goal and what you are trying to achieve with your social selling program, you can launch a successful program. Remember, content marketing and social media have become too important to organizations today to stay within the marketing department. Marketing is in a great position to enable sales with their digital marketing expertise and take the lead in successfully launching a social selling program.

What tips would you add to this list? How did you launch a successful social selling program at your company?

The 7 Cs of a successful social media strategy

A lot of people and companies decide, after using social media for a while, that they need a strategy. Of course, that approach is like putting the cart before the horse.

To ensure success, you should think about your social media strategy in the context of the seven Cs.

1. Community

Like all good communication, it is best to start by determining your target audience.

  • Where do they spend time online?
  • What social media channels do they use?
  • How do they communicate on these social media channels?

Before your social media efforts can take shape, you should listen and learn about your community. For example, a B2C consumer goods brand such as Oreo, one of their top social media communities is Facebook. Their salute to the Mars landingwas a huge hit with their Facebook fans. For a job seeker, he or she will most likely find a community on LinkedIn because 93 percent of job recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates.

Finding out where your community interacts on social media is the first step of a successful social media strategy. It is important to first determine what type of conversations are taking place about your brand and in your industry before engaging in a community or building a community from scratch. If you decide that your brand should build a community from the ground up, you should learn from Mark Ragan, the publisher of the Ragan Communications’ PR Daily andRagan.com.

2. Content

After you figure out how your community engages with social media, you should next figure out what content you are going to share with your followers. For example, if you are looking to grow your personal brand, what articles are you going to share to highlight your expertise about your job or personal interests? If you are a company, how can you show your clients and prospects that you are a thought leader or that you are trying to make their lives easier? To learn more about the importance of content, you may want to read the Content Marketing Institute blog.

3. Curation

You can’t think about content, without mentioning curation. Curation is a way of sharing other people’s content and acting like a museum curatorBeth Kanter in her post Content Curation Primer says content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way. Rohit Bhargava in Manifesto for the Content Curator post defines a content curator as someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content a specific issue. Content curation is one of the easiest ways to share content because you don’t have to create anything. This leads well into the next “C”: creation.

4. Creation

Creation is the act of creating content online, whether it be in the form of text, images or video. If you have posted a blog post, uploaded a video to YouTube or took a picture and posted it to Instagram, you are in the creation business. One of the ways to help you create content is to create an editorial calendar. It may be helpful to use this editorial calendar template. If you don’t like spreadsheets, then you may want to consider using an application such as Divvy. For the more advance content creators, using a content marketing software platform such as Kapost should be something you consider.

What is the sweet spot between creation and curation? According to research, the sweet spot of curation to creation is a 60-40 (60 curation and 40 percent creation). You can always think about as the 4-1-1 ratio.

5. Connection

After you have either curated and/or created content, the next C is the physical act of sharing content. This C is about connecting with your community and getting a deep understanding of what your target audience likes about your social media activities and strategy. Based on measurements and data, what content are your communities attracted to and willing to share with their friends and colleagues?

Many brands today have created buyer personas so they can better understand and connect better with their target audience. In other words, personas are fictional representations of your ideal clients, based on real data about demographics, online behavior, along with educated assumptions about their history, motivations and concerns. On the personal branding side, you may want to use one of these 5 tools to manage your relationships online.

6. Conversation

This C is all about having a conversation with your community. This C is very similar to the community, but the important difference is the actual engagement part of communicating with your communities. To help you with this concept, learn the 3 key social media conversation starters.

7. Conversion

The seventh C is conversion. You can’t talk about social media without having a return on investment (ROI) conversation. The important thing to remember here is that your social media strategy should be tied to your business strategy. To help you get started, you may want to look at the 14 social media ROI metrics.

When thinking about this from the company perspective, it is important to remember to look at it two ways:

  • external view by your clients, prospects, and partners
  • internal view by your employees

To develop a successful social media strategy, it is important to communication, convince, and most importantly, convert social media into action, both externally and internally.

Whether your social media metrics are at your company, they will boil down to three main categories:

  1. awareness
  2. sales
  3. loyalty

On the personal branding side, social media is a way to help you advance your career—whether it be successfully climbing the corporate ladder or launching a successful business. You can judge the success of your personal social media strategy by whether or not you are top of mind with your network and whether it helps you get that interview or land that perfect job.

One of the ways to maximize conversion with your social media strategy, you may want to learn about the social media maturity model. According to Forrester Research, there are 5 main stages of social media maturity and adoption.

More than 7 C’s

In conclusion, a successful social media strategy should include:

  • finding and engaging your communities and/or building a new community
  • making sure you have the right mix of content curation and creation
  • connecting well with your community
  • having relevant and meaningful conversations
  • converting on your goals

Just like the 4 Ps of marketing has grown to the 9 Ps of marketing, I am sure there are more Cs than seven.

What Cs would you add to this list?

Optimize your LinkedIn profile: 10 steps you should take

LinkedIn is one of the most professional social media networks. Professionals sign up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two members per second.

I have had the opportunity to LinkedIn to hundreds of Forsythe Technology employees and students at Duke University.

Here are 10 things every career professional should do to optimize their LinkedIn profile.

1. Update your profile information

Make sure you add all of your basic info such as your full name, title at your company, location, correct industry, and company (linked to your company’s page).

Some key points to remember:

  • Add a custom background. The image should not be distracting and should be at least 1400 x 425 pixels in size.
  • Include a professional photo. Make sure you take the time to get a real professional picture taken by a photographer. Taking it on a white background is the recommended but it is up to you.
  • Your name should ONLY contain your name. Please avoid adding any additional titles, acronyms or credentials. Please keep your name clean and concise.

2. Customize your public profile URL

When customizing your LinkedIn profile, aim to just have your full name without anything else. If you have a more common name (sorry, John Smith) then you might have to resort to a slight modification. If you can’t add your full name consider adding your middle initial or “your company name” at the end of it. If you leave your company, you can always edit it.

3. Add important websites

Add important websites (LinkedIn limits you to three). Make sure you check off “other,” then add the Website title and URL so people quickly understand the website title. It is better to use “Other” than “Company Website” or any other pick list items LinkedIn provides.

4. Add or tweak your Summary section

Ensure your LinkedIn profile Summary section captures your overall career and specifically your current role at your company and how you help others and your company’s clients. This summary section is basically your elevator pitch in written form. Remember, LinkedIn is not your resume so make sure you are always writing in first person.

5. Make sure you have company logos for each of your positions in your Experience section

Go through your Experience section and make sure you have logos for each of your old positions. Please go to “change company” and find the correct company to ensure the company logo is set up. If your company was acquired by another company, find the acquired company, link it to that and then in Edit Display Name, change to XXX (acquired by XXX).

6. Add articles, blog posts, videos or work samples to your LinkedIn profile

Under your Summary section and past positions in Experience, there is the capability to “add a link” to your profile. Go to your Summary and add articles or blog posts you have written. Or you may want to add videos or samples of your career work.

7. Update your Skills and Endorsements page

Take a proactive approach to editing your endorsements by adding skills you want to be known for with your network. For example, you may want to add “Team Leadership” to your skills. You can’t change the order of these endorsements because LinkedIn has them ranked by number of endorsements for particular skills and orders them accordingly.

8. Follow companies to keep up-to-date with your ecosystem

At the top of LinkedIn in the black header, go to the white search bar and find some companies you want to follow. There are four main categories of companies that you should follow: 1) analysts; 2) partners; 3) competitors; and 4) clients.

9. Connect with “People You May Know” to grow your network

Make sure you have at least 501 people but only connect with people you know. LinkedIn will show how many connections you have until you hit 500. Once you reach over 500 connections, LinkedIn will continue to count. It says “500+” connections on your profile. Remember: People like to connect with “connected” people.

10. Update your LinkedIn status at least once a week and/or write via LinkedIn publisher

One of the pillars to social media success is how many people view your profile and sharing content consistency. Be sure to update your LinkedIn status daily or at least once a week with something that provides value to your network. You may want to put a reminder on your calendar to share an article. You should also think about publishing through LinkedIn.

What steps would you add to this list?

7 ways to avoid common PR campaign pitfalls

Managing a PR campaign takes a lot of hard work and effort.  To ensure success of your PR campaigns, you should avoid these seven common pitfalls or mistakes

1. No integration

A campaign is more than a news release.  Most successful campaigns know how to take advantage of a multi-channel campaign that uses online and offline PR tactics, including developing a media kit, writing a blog post, producing a video and/or podcast or event for key stakeholders.  If all the components of the campaign don’t integrate, the campaign has a lower chance of being successful.

2. Lack of alignment and availability

Think about the key stakeholders in your organization and how they are going to be affected by this PR campaign. Is your key spokespeople who works in another department available to talk at moment’s notice to answer questions on a blog or via traditional media?

3. Lack of proper positioning

There is nothing worse than not understanding how a PR campaign fits into your overall marketing strategy. Marketing positioning is very important for a product, brand or organization.  What is your company’s identity and how will this campaign reinforce an image that has been branded into the minds of your target audience?  How will this campaign help with search engine optimization (SEO)? In other words, does the PR campaign highlight all the keywords that your audience may type into a search?

4. Too self-centered

Make sure that you solve your customer(s) problem(s) with the PR campaign.  Make sure you think about how this will help your target audience.  A journalist is more likely to write about something if the PR campaign can help its audience.

5. No newsworthy components

As a PR pro, you need to put on your journalist hat and think like the media.  Why should anybody care? Or what is in it for me?  Be sure to read: What Makes a Story Newsworthy? It is very important that you read, listen and/or watch the media outlets you are pitching for the PR campaign.

6. Not sustainable

Often times, a PR campaign is great at creating initial buzz but is forgotten months later.  You should create what is called the PR longtail on the Internet. Making sure that the content you write today can still be applicable in some way tomorrow is important for long-term success of the campaign.   Also, make sure the concept of the campaign is created in a way that it can be adapted to many different audiences.

7. Don’t know target audience

Who is the audience for your PR campaign?  Make sure that you not only know what target audience you are trying to reach with the campaign but what media outlets or online influencers would most likely be interested.  Make sure you do your homework.

What would you add to this list?

10 steps to building and managing your personal brand

“All of us need to understand the importance of branding… we are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. … our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you,” wrote Tom Peters in Fast Company.

Are you branding yourself in everything you do and developing and refining your personal brand?

What is a personal brand?

Personal branding is also known as your career or professional brand. It is the way you present yourself to your colleagues and your network online and off. With the growth of LinkedIn, blogging, social networking and people use search engines all the time, it is important to portray your brand in a positive professional light. Just like a company differentiates itself to stand out from its competitors by identifying and articulating its unique value proposition, you should do the same. If you take a proactive approach to your personal brand, it can benefit your career.

There are 10 key steps to help you develop and take control of your personal brand.

1. Search the major search engines to search your name and its variations

What are the search engines saying about you? Is there someone else in the world that has your same name? Is your identity correct online? If there are variations of your name, have you search those names? The first place to start with your personal brand, especially online, is to find out what is being said about you and what information comes up first in the search engines about you.

2. Clean up your web presence

Are you looking to do some “spring cleaning” because you don’t like what you see? You may want to erase some of yourself from the Internet by using a tool like justdelete.me. This website ranks the process of erasing yourself from easy to impossible. Social networks like Twitter are easy to delete while others like Pinterest are impossible.

3. Proactive create your online reputation with free tools

Create your own personal website that lists all of our social networks with a free tool such as about.me Or brandyourself.com that will give you a letter grade relating how your name ranks in search results. Read 10 free tools to manage your personal brand and online reputationAlso, launch a blog (see step 7).

4. Claim your social media profiles and your personalized URL on LinkedIn

Have you protected yourself from cyber squatters when it comes to your social media profiles? To ensure you secure your desired username or vanity first, visit namechk.com to see if it is still available. You should also secure your personalized URL on LinkedInIt also may worth creating a Google+ account to ensure you should up on the right-hand column of search results. You may want to create a Twitter account to share helpful information with others. I found that my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to show up near the top of my search results since I share a lot of articles through these networks.

5. Buy your own domain name (even if you are not using it yet)

Do you own the URL of your name or blog name? If not, you should secure it at a website registrar like godaddy.com or networksolutions.comYou may want to read 3 reasons why buying a domain name for your child is a good ideaBy owning your own domain name, you can be sure that if you use that URL, you will rank high in search results. If you don’t own your name, you are leaving your online reputation in the hands of the unknown. Purchasing your name is about $15 a year. Read why you need a domain strategy

6. Set up an ongoing monitoring alert system

It is important to constantly monitor what is being said about you online. Set up Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alertsa free alternative to Google Alerts. When you create the alerts, make sure you put your name with and without quotation markets. You should also include the different variations of your name.

7. Launch a blog where you can publish content and show your perspectives

I found that my blog is ranked within the top 5 search results in Google. You may want to create and publish content on your blog using a platform like wordpress.com or blogger.comRead best free blogging websitesWhen you do start up a blog, remember the Internet is a copy machine. Think before you publish. If you get angry or emotional reacting to something you see online or someone else is provoking you, you may want to email yourself first or ask yourself: would my parents, friends or colleagues like to read this post? A blog is a great way to demonstrate your personal brand. It helps you position yourself in a way that you want to be seen. A blog helps you grow your network beyond your work colleagues, may position yourself as a thought leader at your company, demonstrates your expertise on a topic or topics and shows that you know how to write and communicate (skills your current and potential future employer value).

8. Take some time to get to know yourself and share helpful content on a regular basis

What do you want others to think of you as online? What types of articles do you share with others? Are they personal growth articles, leadership articles, career articles? What do you want to be known for? Your personal brand reflects who you are. It is important to really know your strengths and weaknesses and do what you love. If you can’t blog, do you share useful tips to your colleagues about the industry you work in or how to do PR or marketing better? By learning who are you and what you are good at, you can better take control of your personal brand.

9. Create your elevator pitch and key messages

Just like a company brand creates its elevator pitch of who the company is, why it is unique and different, and why you should care, the same goes with your personal brand. Do you have your elevator pitch created and validated? What are your core or key messages? A good example of where you should really have your elevator pitch down is your LinkedIn summary section or your bio page on your blog. That paragraph or two should sum up your personal brand in a short, concise and compelling way.

10. Develop a feedback loop with those you trust and evolve your personal brand

Just like company brands change over time, your personal brand is constantly changing and evolving. As you gain more work and life experiences, your brand changes to reflect who you are at work and in life so it important to build a feedback loop with friends, family, colleagues and others you trust so they are helping you polish and refine you and your personal brand.

As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said:

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Do you know people are saying about your personal brand online and off? Are you taking steps to build, polish and refine it? The key is to remember your personal brand is more than just your job, it is your career. It is the brand called you!

What helpful tips would you add to this list?

5 common social media mistakes and how to avoid them

Social media can help grow your personal and company brand, if done right. If social media is not done properly, it could send the wrong message to your community and it could hurt your brand. It is important that you don’t put your social media on autopilot and you don’t neglect it. Social media takes a lot of care and feeding.

We have created a list of five common social media mistakes and how you can avoid them.

1. Not customizing your message to the social network

How many times have you seen @ signs on LinkedIn? Probably a lot. Do you listen to those messages when you know they are for another social network? Probably not. What about learning about LinkedIn on Twitter? Are you really going to read an article about LinkedIn tips on Twitter? It is a common mistake that people make is not customizing posts for each platform.

The fix: Remember what the purpose is of each network is and its ins and outs. LinkedIn is a social network for professionals; therefore, your posts should be more professional. Facebook is a network for friends; so these posts should be less formal, more casual. Remember to cater your message to the platform. For some that is communications 101 but for others that is a common mistake.

2. No strategy

Have you ever asked yourself why you are on Facebook? What about Twitter? Are the people your company trying to reach on that social network? Are your friends still on Facebook or have they left for another platform like Instagram? Who are you trying to communicate with? Before you or your company joins a social media platform, ask yourself: why?

The fix: Create a social media strategy. Having an intern manage your company’s social media presence is a big mistake (here are 11 reasons why). A seasoned experience professional should be handling your company’s social media presence because he or she knows your business well and can avoid crises.

3. One-way communication

Social media is not a platform to blast messages one way. It is a way for people and brands to listen, learn and engage. How often do you see a brand or person never respond to a post or a message they sent? How often do you see questions or concerns go unanswered by brands and people? It shows a lack of understanding the true essence of social media: being “social.”

The fix: Social media is way to humanize brands (read: 20 tips on that topic) and open up possibilities for people to connect with people around the world. Social media is a platform for two-way not one-way communications. For everyone @ mention on Twitter, reply back. It doesn’t take a lot of time to say thank you to your followers who care about you or your brand.

4. Selling. Selling. Selling.

Social platforms are not for selling. People don’t join social media networks to be sold to. They join them to converse, see what others are doing and learn about the world. How often do you see posts about companies talking about themselves too much?

The fix: Share news and expert content that is helpful and shareable. Find a balance of posts that promote others and you or your company once in a while. Share content created by your colleagues and industry experts. Be helpful not salesy.

5. Inconsistent or no posts

How many times do you see a company create a social network but they haven’t posted in months or years? The page looks like a ghost town. For example, how many Twitter accounts have you seen where the person still has an egghead and has never tweeted? Inconsistent posting on social sites can say more to your followers than what you are actually posting. Would you work with a company that didn’t care about its social media presence? How you would be treated as a customer? Would you get neglected as well?

The fix: Make sure you post at least once a week. On some social networks, you may want to post once a day but you don’t want to clutter your followers’ feed. For example, Twitter is a much faster moving feed so posts can be much more frequent than Facebook. On LinkedIn, you may want to make an update at least twice a week because your home feed on that platform is getting more activity recently with the launch of sponsored updates.

What would you add to this list? What are you seeing that others are doing wrong on social media?

This post is courtesy of guest blogger Cassandra D’Aiello, social media manager at Perspectiv3

3 free image editing apps for social media

If you are active on social media, you know that social networking sites frequently change the look, feel and functionality. Look at what happens almost on a monthly basis with Facebook. Not to mention LinkedIn and YouTube. They both recently underwent a series of updates and changes.

One day you have a perfect background photo and the next day you don’t.

It is important for you and your company to keep up with these changes because it is a key component of making a good first impression and keeping your community coming back for more. They are more likely to engage with you and your brand with eye-pleasing images that make their experience on your pages enjoyable and fun. Not to mention, it also provides an opportunity to show off you and your company’s personality.

But social networking sites don’t make it easy.

Have you tried to edit your graphic or photos using Adobe Photoshop or your pre-loaded image editor?

Have you tried over and over to successfully maneuver your way through editing a picture to the correct pixel size that each social network requires?

As you may know, Facebook requires your timeline cover photo to be 851 x 315 pixels, Twitter requires your background to be 1920 x 1080 pixels and YouTube requires your header to be 970 x 150 pixels.

We feel your pain.

Below is a list of three photo-editing apps (with their pros and cons) that can help you edit you and your company’s social media images for free (now you won’t have to use image editing websites that charge a hefty monthly or program subscription fee).

1. GetPaint.net

Pros: Range of effects; straight-forward interface; and diverse menu items.

Cons: Software download required; limited brush types; and lack of layer effects.

2. Pixlr

Pros: Facebook compatibility; basic layer canvas feature; and no download necessary.

Cons: Limited import/export options; no frame options; and no option to save favorite effects.

3. PicMonkey

Pros: Easy to use; variety of editing and features; and blemish fixing tools.

Cons: Lack of undo option; many options not free; and limited fonts available.

What free image editing apps would you add to this list?

This post is courtesy of guest blogger Cassandra D’Aiello, social media manager at Perspectiv3