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Weekend Favs March 26

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Doodle – A great meeting and scheduling tool. This is a great resource for managing group meetings and events both in and outside of your organization.
  • Zendesk – This easy to use customer service software has AI-powered automations and dynamic workspaces that are perfect for small teams.
  • LinkedIn Newsletters – LinkedIn introduced a new feature, newsletters. This feature has potential to help drive reach and community for your brand.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Network

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for small businesses looking to grow their network. They boast 660 million members worldwide and over 165 million in the U.S. alone.

Because it’s a business-focused social network, having a presence on the platform is a necessity for those running B2Bs. But B2C businesses can thrive on LinkedIn as well. Since the network is all about business, many users are going there to seriously look for solutions to a problem they have (unlike Facebook or Instagram, where they might just be going to look for cute pet photos).

If you understand how to use the platform effectively, it can help you grow your network and get ahead of the competition. Here’s how you can do it.

Build a Strong Profile for Yourself

Your journey on LinkedIn all begins with a personal profile. In order to build trust, fill out your page as completely as possible. Include a photo, bio, and full resume. Strangers feel better about connecting with you if they can learn a bit about you from your profile. Plus, the more information you include, the more likely you are to find a meaningful point of connection with a stranger that can help you to reach out.

For example, if you’re both alumni of the same school, that’s any easy point of commonality for you to leverage in your introduction. A request to connect that comes along with a note like “I see you went to KU, too. Always nice to connect with a fellow Jayhawk!” will get you a lot further than a generic greeting.

Also include trust-building elements. LinkedIn allows you to ask your connections for endorsements. Reach out to a few former colleagues or clients already in your LinkedIn network, and get them to say a kind word that specifically outlines the value you bring to a work relationship.

Show How You Can Help Them

Once you do create your profile page, you can start reaching out to people. However, there are a few important rules to follow.

First, do a little research on the people you’re going to connect with. Are they really the right fit for your business? What can you glean about them from their profile that will help you write a tailored message?

That’s the important next step: Take the extra time to create a personalized message. There’s nothing less enticing to a prospect than a generic LinkedIn request to connect that’s clearly been copy-pasted to dozens of other people. Why should that person give you any of their time when you haven’t given them the time to do a little research into what they do? Plus, a generic message makes it all about you; a great sales pitch is about them.

Instead, take a look at their profile. Let’s say you’re a marketing consultant focused on SEO. Visit that prospect’s website and check out their presence on Google. Then drop them a line indicating you’ve done just that and that you already have a few suggestions on quick wins for improving their SEO, if they’d have some time for a chat.

That message is a lot more likely to get a response than something where you’re asking them to define their own problem. After all, you’re the expert—you should be able to identify the problem you solve all on your own! It’s thoughtful, personalized messages that are most likely to get you the add and help you grow your LinkedIn network.

Create a Page for Your Business

Depending on the type of business you run, it might also make sense to create a page for your business. If you’re a solopreneur, you might just need your own profile. If you’re running a local business with a distinct brand, though, there’s value in establishing a separate page for your company.

The rules here are much the same as they are across all of social media. When setting up your profile, make sure that your branding and messaging is consistent with your other online assets (website, other social media profiles, etc.). Fill out the profile as completely as possible, with a description, photos, and contact information. The more background information and ways to connect you can provide to prospects, the better!

You also want to include elements that build trust. Link out to your other social profiles and your website—the more substantive your online presence, the more legitimacy you gain as a business. LinkedIn also allows you to connect your business profile with the LinkedIn profiles of your employees. Take advantage of this feature, as showing that you have a real team of people behind the brand also helps build trust.

Plus, it also allows you to tap into the existing network of your colleagues. People who are already connected with them on LinkedIn will see your business’s name and profile, and may choose to follow you if they know you’re associated with a connection they already know and like.

Post Meaningful Content

Whether you’re posting content through your own personal LinkedIn profile, your company page, or both, you always want to focus on creating posts that start conversations.

Some social media platforms, like Twitter, require a more fast-and-furious approach to posting. With LinkedIn, it’s okay to take a slower cadence, and to share a mix of your own content and curated articles, videos, and more. Even if you’re sharing curated content, though, you want to include your own thoughts on the article or blog in a way that encourages your followers to engage with your opinion on the matter.

Using hashtags and mentions in your status updates can help expand the reach of your posts. Anyone following those hashtags has a chance of seeing and reacting to your content. And when you mention others, you grab their attention and are more likely to get a share or comment on that content, which then puts you in front of their LinkedIn network.

Once you’ve posted something that sparks a conversation, stick around to engage with followers and keep the discussion rolling! When people respond to your content, you should always respond back. And I don’t just mean a like or a one-word answer. Try to ask questions or comment in a way that opens up a back-and-forth. The longer you can converse with each prospect on a social media thread, the stronger your relationship becomes.

Use Ads Selectively

LinkedIn advertising can help you to tap into an even broader audience for your content. For most small business owners and solopreneurs, the most cost-effective type of LinkedIn advertising is sponsored content. This allows you to boost a post you’ve already shared.

When using ads, it’s important to be selective. Don’t go through boosting every post you put out; that’s a waste of both time and money. Instead, take a look at how each piece of content performs. Pick a handful of posts that have already done well organically and focus on those.

If it performed well without a helping hand, you know that the content was useful and resonated with your audience. Boosting the post will further its reach, and because you know it’s an eye-catching item, it’s more likely to grab the attention of new folks who are looking for a brand just like yours in their LinkedIn network.

LinkedIn can be instrumental in helping business owners expand their networks. Whether you’re a solopreneur or the owner of business with dozens of employees, whether you’re focused on B2C or B2B, there is a way to put this valuable platform to work for you.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Social Media.

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales Conversations

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales Conversations

 

The video above is a replay of a recent live webinar I hosted with guest Viveka von Rosen. Combined with the text below you should have a pretty good feel for how to use LinkedIn to generate sales conversations.

LinkedIn is the oldest social network. Everyone seems to be on it, but no one seems to know quite how to use it to generate sales conversations.

To help us take advantage of this massive opportunity, today I brought in Viveka von Rosen. She is the co-founder of Vengreso, a leading digital sales transformation company. She is also the author of two books on this very topic, LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand.

She talks with us about how to use LinkedIn to generate real sales conversations by sharing meaningful, engaging content. While she speaks specifically to LinkedIn today, the principles behind her advice can be applied across all other social networks.

Why is LinkedIn Important?

Ninety-four percent of B2B buyers view multiple pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately select. This means that if you’re not sharing content on LinkedIn but your competition is, your prospects will likely pass you by. Additionally, 75 percent of B2B buyers conduct research in social channels for products and services.

Meanwhile, the percentage of salespeople actually meeting their quota has dropped over a five-year period—it’s down to 53 percent. However, those salespeople who are using social selling have a 50 percent higher chance of reaching quota.

Building Your Personal Profile

On LinkedIn, you can’t just rely on a company page; you need to have a personal page in order to really connect with others. It’s between personal profiles where the conversations that lead to sales really occur.

This means that you need to create a strong personal page that showcases your brand. If your personal page is unappealing, sloppy, or lacks the appropriate information, you could lose a prospect.

  • Does your profile build credibility? People want to do business with those they know, like, and trust.
  • Does your profile show how you solve problems? LinkedIn is not the same as a resume—people viewing your profile want to know how you can help them. Think about including real-world examples of how you’ve helped past clients address their pain points.
  • Does your profile create conversation? Your profile should have rich content that attracts viewers. Once they’re there, make sure there’s a way for them to reach you. It seems basic, but make sure your phone number or email are on your profile so that people can actually get in touch!

The Importance of Sharing Content

If you go into LinkedIn with tunnel vision towards sales, you’re missing the entire point. Think about LinkedIn as a networking event—would you go up to someone at a conference and immediately ask them to buy your product or service? Of course not! The same principles of offline networking apply on LinkedIn.

The best way to get to know people on LinkedIn is to educate your audience. This positions you immediately as helpful and useful, which in turn builds positive sentiment. Suddenly, you’ve transformed from pushy salesperson to an advocate and thought leader in your industry.

What Does Content for Sales Engagement Look Like?

When thinking about content, it’s important to consider both the content you create yourself and the content you share that comes from other sources. Each type of content has its own set of rules to create the greatest levels of engagement and generate real interest and real conversations.

Whatever type of content you’re sharing, you want to be sure you’re doing it consistently. You should be sharing content at least once a day. One way to help you reach this goal is to establish a sharing community. Contact friends and influencers in your network, asking them to make a pact to share each others’ content. This will give you a steady stream of curated content to share with your network and will help to ensure that the content you’ve created is getting a wider reach.

Status Updates

Status updates on LinkedIn are very similar to updates on other social networks. There are a number of best practices for creating status updates that will get greater reach. Following these tips can help your posts get ten times greater visibility.

  • Include hashtags. Hashtag communities is a newer feature on LinkedIn that allows business owners to follow the topics they find most relevant. If you create content with a particular hashtag attached, it will likely be shared with the individuals who are members of that hashtag community. This gives your content a wider audience beyond your personal connections. The trick here is to not over-hashtag. Aim for three or four hashtag community hashtags and one additional hashtag that is unique to your brand.
  • Make mentions. When you’re talking about someone specific in your post, mention them so that they’re notified. You can mention others who are not directly a part of the update, but who might find it useful. Again, moderation is key; keep mentions to a handful of people who are influential and will find the material relevant.
  • Use all the characters. You’re allowed up to 1,300 characters per post. Be sure to use them! More characters means more keywords, which in turn means greater visibility. Research has also shown that longer posts are more likely to be read.
  • Use emojis. Emojis can be a great way to add some visual interest to your post and set you apart from the sea of text-only updates. Keep your audience in mind, and select emojis that are appropriate for your business and clientele.
  • Add native video, images, and links. Doing so will limit you to 1,200 characters, but the added visual interest can also help you to stand out from the crowd.

Native Video

Native video is uploaded directly from your browser or your phone and imbedded in LinkedIn. It is not the same as sharing a link that sends users to an outside video site, which LinkedIn discourages as it drives traffic away from their platform. Sharing native videos gets you more views and attention on the site.

Because video content can take a bit longer to create, it’s not necessary to share video each and every day. But know that native video garners incredible results, so the more regularly you can create and post video content, the better.

From tips and tricks videos that can help your audience solve relevant problems, to interviews with thought leaders, to the relatively new “about us” videos that you can put on your company page, there are a lot of great ways to create native video.

LinkedIn Native Video Tips

LinkedIn Articles

LinkedIn Articles used to have far greater reach. In recent years, LinkedIn has shifted focus to other forms of content, and so posting articles does not have the same kind of power to create visibility as it once did.

However, if you’re already writing a blog post for another forum and want to put it into LinkedIn as an article, it can help to amplify your reach beyond your company’s website. The posts are searchable, can possibly be distributed on a pulse channel, and the content becomes a permanent extension of your personal brand.

Amplify Your Content With Ads

LinkedIn advertising can help you to raise awareness and get the word out about your brand to a new audience. LinkedIn now allows you to sponsor content on your company page, which can help to build followers and reach for your content.

LinkedIn Ads

There are a number of different types of ads available to companies on LinkedIn.

  • Sponsored content. When you share an article, video, or images on your company page and you want the content to get greater visibility, you use this type of ad.
  • Dynamic ads. This option allow you to personalize your messaging to prospects, with ads that appear on the side bars of users’ LinkedIn pages.
  • Text Ads. Similar to the dynamic ads, but smaller and not personalized. Split testing on text ads is very simple. These are best utilized for top of funnel content.
  • Sponsored InMail. This allows you to send targeted messages to those who are most likely to have an interest in your business.

Dynamic ads, text ads, and sponsored InMail are significantly more expensive, so for small business owners, sponsored content is generally the most viable option. There are several types of sponsored content you can create: you can drive traffic to your website or content, build lead generation forms to collect contact information, or increase video views.

LinkedIn Sponsored Content

From there, LinkedIn will prompt you to select the specific post or video you’d like to promote. Next, you can indicate to LinkedIn who your desired audience is and establish your budget for the campaign.

It’s better for you to be specific in identifying your target audience. Establishing five campaigns to 1,000 people each is more effective than creating one campaign for 5,000 people. Creating audience groups allows you to segment your audience, personalizing the description on the same content you shared with other audience groups. This personalization can attract greater attention from each subset of your audience.

The other LinkedIn ads trick is that if you want more views, you should select pay-per-click, and if you want more clicks, select pay-per-view. This is a way to get the most out of your marketing dollars.

LinkedIn Ads Best Practices

Mine Your Engaged Network

It’s not enough to just create and curate great content; once people begin reacting to what you’re sharing, you need to follow through! Keep an eye on who’s liking and sharing your sponsored content. Hover over their names to learn more about them: Do they seem like they might be a good prospect for you? If so, reach out with a request to connect, thanking them for engaging with your content and opening the door for further discussion.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Social Media.

How to Dominate LinkedIn Marketing

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Sean Jackson

Marketing Podcast with Sean Jackson

LinkedIn holds such awesome promise, particularly for B2B marketers. So why are so few people actually taking advantage of it?

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Sean Jackson, the CFO and Partner at Copyblogger media and host of The Missing Link, a podcast about all things LinkedIn. We talk about marketing on LinkedIn, why content marketers are missing the boat on the platform, and what marketers and business owners should do to take advantage of LinkedIn.

Sean spends a great deal of time interviewing folks who have cracked the code on successful LinkedIn marketing and the tips he shares in this interview are priceless.

Seriously – I don’t say this often, but this could be the most profitable twenty minutes of content you consume in a while.

Questions I ask Sean:

  • How do you do business on LinkedIn without being pushy or spammy?
  • How can you tap into the power of groups?
  • What should content marketers be focusing to get the most out of LinkedIn marketing?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why LinkedIn is unique and deserves your time and effort
  • How to use the Pulse network and why LinkedIn users go there to be entertained
  • How to use LinkedIn ads and get great ROI

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Sidekick by Hubspot. Duct Tape Marketing Podcast listeners can get a free month by visiting http://getsidekick.com/ducttape

3 Depth Is the Secret to Sales Success

Going deep inside an organization is how you discover the best way to deliver value.

network mining

photo credit: henry… via photopin cc

It’s an essential prospecting skill, it’s an essential survival skill and it’s how you get and stay ahead of every deal and every competitor.

How many accounts have been lost over the years because a salesperson had a great relationship with a buyer, only to see that buyer move on?

By mining social networks to get a bigger view of your “buyer’s world” you can start to build relationships around them and potentially uncover new opportunities. If you’ve built an advocate in your original relationship, you may find that this approach makes it easier for them to open doors for you rather than simply asking them to make a referral.

It may not make sense for you to build a relationship with your contact’s boss’s boss, but it may be a very smart play for you to connect your boss’s boss with that person.

Social networks, such as LinkedIn, are very good at revealing connections between individuals as well as highlighting the basis of the connection. This information can become very valuable as you begin to work on a targeted prospect or try to win more business inside an existing customer’s organization.

Another very important reason for going deeper into organizations is to understand how a deal really happens. Have you ever had one of those deals just grind to a halt and eventually fade away just when everything seemed to be going great – your client was all thumbs up and talking about getting the PO ready to go?

Chances are the deal was killed by stakeholders you were not aware of – and the bigger the organization, the more stakeholders involved.

If you’re selling a software solution to a purchasing department, there’s a really, really good chance that IT, Sales, Operations and maybe even Finance are going to have a say in the who, what, when and where of the deal.

Use social networks to construct company “stakeholder maps” and start connecting with and understanding those crazy guys in IT as part of your mining. This doesn’t mean you’re going to start pitching everyone in the organization, but there’s a good chance that you can actually help your “buyer” better understand the real buying process better when you take this kind research approach. (That sounds like adding value and insight doesn’t it?)

In fact, I believe sales organizations should start compensating sales folks for this skill and action alone – over and about closed deals.

And that in the end is the job of sales today – to go deep inside an organization to discover the best way to deliver value.

24 Why The New LinkedIn Publishing Option is Worth Your Time

LinkedIn recently starting rolling out a new content program that allows LinkedIn profile holders to add long form blog posts. The program piggybacks a bit on the Influencer program launched in 2013 that features long form content from folks like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Maria Shriver and Mark Cuban.

LinkedIn has been on a bit of a content tear over the last few years snapping up tools like Slideshare and Pulse as well as creating programs like the Influencer program and building topic based communities inside of Pulse in an effort to battle networks like Facebook for more and more of your online time.

In announcing the latest publishing program LinkedIn had this to say:

“Starting today, LinkedIn is opening up our publishing platform to our members, giving them a powerful new way to build their professional brand. When a member publishes a post on LinkedIn, their original content becomes part of their professional profile, is shared with their trusted network and has the ability to reach the largest group of professionals ever assembled. Now members have the ability to follow other members that are not in their network and build their own group of followers. Members can continue to share their expertise by posting photos, images, videos and their original presentations on SlideShare”

The opening process is a rolling one and is said to only include about 25,000 profiles initially. If you are one of the chosen ones you should have received an email from LinkedIn alerting you, but you’ll also notice a little pencil icon in you status update box as in the image below.

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I’ve been testing the program and believe it has some real upside for many business owners and marketers.

Engagement is high

I’ve added four posts currently and all appear to be getting a nice amount of pageviews and engagement. The thing I noticed right off the bat and truly appreciate is the engagement is coming from people I don’t currently interact with so my content is gaining exposure into some new places.

LinkedIn automatically showcases the content as recommended reading for relevant profiles.

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Search results are immediate

All of the posts are showing up in Google searches for pretty specific content within hours of publishing. LinkedIn content has always been highly regarded by Google and this platform might offer content producers who don’t currently rank highly another vehicle.

And, while links you might embed in your posts are most likely the “no follow” type, with page views numbering in the thousands for most of my posts, I’ve got to believe those links are getting some clicks.

FirefoxScreenSnapz094

It’s about authority

Published content that collects social signals and shares does wonders for an author’s authority and for many the LinkedIn publishing platform might be one of the best places to get exposure, build engagement, pick up +1s and send Google an authority message.

I’ve decided to amplify the content outside of LinkedIn to see how much initial attention I can drive to it and I’ve also placed a link to my Google+ profile in the short bio at the end of each piece to help Google add this to my author profile.

I recommend that you take a look at this publishing avenue as another potentially potent place to distribute your message and spread your expertise.

29 My Content Amplification System

Today’s post is in answer to a direct request I’ve received a number of times.

Content AmplificationOf course writing good content is only part of the business challenge. You’ve also got to get it read. Some would say, and to a large part this is true, that simply writing something that people want to read is the first step in drawing links and shares, but you’ve also got to put your content out there in places where people do their reading these days.

The following is a sampling of my content amplification routine. I do this with each blog post in an effort to get that particular piece of content the greatest amount of exposure. Is this the perfect, all inclusive list, probably not, but it’s a routine that I can do in about five minutes and still give my content a chance to be seen by lots of potential clients, journalists and strategic partners.

After I hit publish I:

  • Tweet the headline and link with some context to draw the most interest using StumbleUpon link shortener su.pr – this syndicates the content to StumbleUpon and Twitter and starts the traffic exposure in both places.
  • Publish the post to my Facebook Page
  • Publish the post to my Google+ Stream – public, circles and extended circles
  • Publish the post to my LinkedIn profile – also share with several large groups
  • Bookmark the post in appropriate tags to Delicious
  • If a post has drawn a large number of retweets I may post to Twitter a second time during the day – I generally make this decision and schedule the Tweet for a specific time using TweetDeck’s scheduling function

A couple things worth noting:

  • I don’t use a service or tool to cross post this to all avenues as I think they all have their own personality and following and I take a minute to point out something different about the post in each network.
  • I participate in many other ways, unrelated to my own content promotion in each of these networks
  • I check back several times a day, depending on my schedule to participate in any conversations happening around the content, including comments on the original blog post
  • I have +1, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons above every blog post
  • I have links to share the content with popular bookmarking sites on the blog posts (sociable plugin) and in the RSS feed (Feedburner feed flare option)
  • I often highlight a particularly well read blog post or two from the week in my weekly email newsletter

So, what would you add to this list?

24 The Future of Social Networks Is Vertical

VerticalEven as social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook grow, in order to remain relevant they will need to evolve. In my opinion that evolution will contain the formation of vertical marketplaces. Social networks for artists, attorneys and consultants already exist, but none of them have attracted the kind of adoption that Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter enjoy.

Think about it, how many real estate agents, designers and accountants are on Facebook already? The tough thing about building a social network is to get the kind of adoption and participation you need to make the network a viable place to hang out. The major networks already have that and can tap it by creating networks within the network. The time might be right for outside players to insert vertical pushes if the networks don’t partner with associations and other data providers poised to offer an impact in a vertical market. (Seems to me that most industry associations and interest groups should be considering this kind of approach.)

Next week LinkedIn is announcing a partnership with a real estate industry player that will push to create a real estate portal on LinkedIn that can provide agents and consumers with commercial and residential listings within LinkedIn. A healthy recruiter community already exists on LinkedIn so a jobs database would be pretty easy to create. This approach would reach beyond the typical “groups” implementation to something much richer in terms of content and specific opportunities for engagement. Twitter lists combined with a Google search for job title or industry in a bio is one way to craft a list of any profession on Twitter. That process alone might be a good place to start. Look for more on this from the networks as they continue to evolve for business use.

Image credit: quinn.anya

19 LinkedIn Adds More Twitter Integration

One of the things that seems to be happening with many of the new online tools is integration. As users start to settle into how they plan to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, each of the tools seems intent on providing access to the other to allow you to do most of your work from one platform. Keeping up with multiple platforms is tough, but gathering as much data about the folks you do engage is very helpful.

For those who choose to use LinkedIn as their primary networking site there is good news. This week LinkedIn pushed even more Twitter integration into the Tweets app making it possible to add Twitter streams for all of your connections on LinkedIn. In fact, this moves the LinkedIn application towards being a full-fledged Twitter client as you can also create groups and reply and retweet right from LinkedIn.


Click to enlarge

If you have not done so, first you must install the Tweets application. Once you do that the Overview tab on your home page will allow you to see everyone you currently follow on Twitter, view their Twitter feed, and Tweet from your own account. You can also find other Twitter users to follow, based on your LinkedIn connections. This deeper Twitter integration should make using LinkedIn a richer experience for current users and create a great deal more sharing on the site.

Here’s another LinkedIn tip I borrowed from Chris Brogan.

Keep up on the status updates and network news from your LinkedIn connections by subscribing via RSS (see that little orange icon) and checking in on your RSS reader. I don’t know about you but I find this way more convenient than going the LinkedIn site and trying to read what’s been going on.

62 5 Ways to Use Social Media for Things You Are Already Doing

One of the biggest road blocks facing small businesses when addressing social media is the question of return on investment. With so little time devote to what’s crying out to be done, adding something else or something new like social media can feel like a real burden. Sometimes the only way to rationalize and prioritize something new is to understand the benefits in relation to everything else your doing and take a new view based on that understanding.

puzzleSo much of what’s written on social media amounts to lists of things you should do, get on twitter, blog, create a Facebook fan page, and not enough on why you might consider doing it. While all those tactics may indeed be wise, I would like suggest a number of ways to use those actions to do a better or more efficient job doing things you’re already (or should be) doing.

Start to think in terms of doing more with less effort, not simply doing more. If I can let small business owners get a glimpse of social media through this lens, they might just decide to go a little deeper. Here are five ways to look at it.

1) Follow up with prospects

I love using social media tools as a way to follow-up with prospects you might meet out there in the real world. So you go to a Chamber event and meet someone that has asked you to follow-up. Traditionally, you might send an email a week later or call them up and leave a voice mail. What if instead you found them on LinkedIn, asked to be connected and then shared an information rich article that contained tips about the very thing you chatted about at the Chamber mixer. Then you offered to show them how to create a custom RSS feed to get tons of information about their industry and their competitors. Do you think that next meeting might get started a little quicker towards your objectives? I sure do.

2) Stay top of mind with customers

Once someone becomes a customer it’s easy to ignore them, assuming they will call next time they need something or, worse yet, assuming they understand the full depth and breadth of your offerings and will chime in when they have other needs. Staying in front of your customers and continuing to educate and upsell them is a key ingredient to building marketing momentum and few businesses do it well.

This is an area where a host of social media tools can excel. A blog is a great place to put out a steady stream of useful information and success stories. Encouraging your customers to subscribe and comment can lead to further engagement. Recording video stories from customers and uploading them to YouTube to embed on your site can create great marketing content and remind your customer why they do business with you. Facebook Fan pages can be used as a way to implement a client community and offer education and networking opportunities online.

3) Keep up on your industry

Keeping up with what’s happening in any industry is a task that is essential these days. With unparalleled access to information many clients can learn as much or more about the products and solutions offered by a company as those charged with suggesting those products and solutions. You better keep up or you risk becoming irrelevant. Of course I could extend this to keeping up with what your customers, competitors, and key industry journalists are doing as well.

Here again, new monitoring services and tools steeped in social media and real time reporting make this an easier task. Subscribing to blogs written by industry leaders, competitors and journalists and viewing new content by way of a tool such as Google Reader allows you to scan the day’s content in one place. Setting up Google Alerts and custom Twitter Searches (see more about how to do this) or checking out paid monitoring services such as Radian6 or Trackur allows you to receive daily email reports on the important mentions of industry terms and people so you are up to the minute in the know. (Of course, once you do this you can teach your customers how to do it and make yourself even more valuable to them – no matter what you sell.)

4) Provide a better customer experience

It’s probably impossible to provide too much customer service, too much of a great experience, but you can go nuts trying.

Using the new breed of online tools you can plug some of the gaps you might have in providing customer service and, combined with your offline touches, create an experience that no competitor can match.

While some might not lump this tool into social media, I certainly think any tool that allows you to collaborate with and serve your customers qualifies. Using an online project management tool such as Central Desktop allows you to create an entire customer education, orientation, and handbook kind of training experience one time and then roll it out to each new customer in a high tech client portal kind of way. This approach can easily set you apart from anyone else in your industry and provide the kind of experience that gets customers talking.

5) Network with potential partners

Building a strong network of strategic marketing partners is probably the best defense against any kind of economic downturn. One of the surest ways to attract potential partners is to build relationships through networking. Of course you know that, but you might not be viewing this kind of networking as a social media function.

If you identify a potential strategic partner, find out if they have a blog and start reading and commenting. Few things will get you noticed faster than smart, genuine blog comments. Once you establish this relationship it might make sense to offer a guest blog post. If your use a CRM tool (and you should) you’ve probably noticed that most are moving to add social media information to contact records, add your potential partners social media information and you will learn what’s important to them pretty quickly.

If you know how to set up a blog already, offer to create a blog of network partners so each of you can write about your area of expertise and create some great local SEO for the group.

So, you see, you don’t have to bite into the entire social media pie all at once. Find a tool, a technique, a tactic that makes your life easier today and provides more value for partners, prospects and customers and you’ll be on the path to getting some real ROI on your social media investment.

What social media tactics have you discovered that allow you to do more of something you’re already doing?

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