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blackboard with textYour company’s online presence is a huge opportunity to grow your business.

Unfortunately, it’s also an excellent opportunity rob you blind . . . of your time if you aren’t careful.  BUT . . .

Here are five (5) ‘basic’ options that will:

1.  build your online presence, and

2.  require very little time to maintain

Create a Google Alert for key brand, industry, client and competitive terms
You can create an ‘alert’ on Google for any phrase, name, competitor, client, etc. to stay current about their online mentions and activities.  I’m often surprised to learn what a client (or, competitor) is doing.  Often the only way I’d learn what they’re doing is when a Google Alert tells me about them!

Create Twitter lists of your clients, competitors and key media contacts.
Lists on Twitter are a great way to create highly targeted groups of key people for you and your business.  If a message is more relevant to some than others, have a list of those who are most likely to enjoy it.  At the same time, lists that segment your contacts can help you ‘tune in’ to what your clients, competitors, peers are saying.  Very helpful!

Create a Google Reader account and follow 25 ‘Top Dog’ blogs in your industry
People are talking, aren’t they?  But it’s hard to keep up, right?  Wrong.  So go to Google, create a Reader account and ‘subscribe’ to some great minds offering the best and brightest ideas for your industry.  A quick scan of recent posts will make you a ‘sparkling conversationalist’ at your next meeting with clients.

Use social media settings in your CRM and add Rapportive to your email
Wouldn’t you love a personal assistant who can whisper in your ear everything someone you know has been doing online?  Rapportive is a great plug-in / add-on that will do that for you.  It saves you time and makes you wise.  How cool is that?

Monitor mentions using tools such as TweetDeckHootSuite or SproutSocial 
These are called ‘Listening Posts’ for a (very) good reason.  They search out ‘mentions’ of you, your firm, your competitors, trends you’re watching, etc. and ‘deliver’ them to you.  Again, these serve to keep you ‘in-the-know’ about what’s important to you and, once you set them up, they work 24/7 for you.  Cool, huh?

KEY POINT:
Creating your total online presence begins by LISTENING . . . but it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming to do it if you use technology wisely! 

. . . UNLESS . . .  you can justify it, financially.

I just love it when a brilliant mind takes on a topic that’s so inviting of opinion that a clear conclusion seems highly unlikely. Drew McLellan did that in a recent post on MarketingProfs.com and it’s inspired this post from me.

coinsIs It Worth Being on Social Media?
I speak with a number of business owners who tell me that if they’re not doing social media, then they’re probably missing out in some way.

As a result, they set up social media profiles, create a facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, etc.

But when I ask them, “So, is social media working for you?”, they often can’t say.

If I then suggest that maybe they shouldn’t do any social media, they come back with, “But if I don’t . . . it’s going to cost me.  Look, maybe I can’t say that being on social media has made me money, but I’m concerned that not being on it will cost me money”.

So, as a purely defensive position, they engage in social media for their business but they’re not able to justify their time online in terms of real sales or value to their business.

Sorry, but that’s unacceptable.

How To Tell If You Should Invest Your Time on Social Media
If you can MAKE or SAVE money by being on social media, DO IT.  If not, DON’T.

Drew McLellan actually suggests a number of ways to assess if you’re getting value from social media.

Is Social Media MAKING You Money By:
Allowing you to stop doing something you’re currently doing?
Allowing you to extend or expand something you are currently doing?
Lowering your customer acquisition costs?
Connecting you to existing customers in an efficient way?
Creating a community specifically for your customers?
Making it easier for your customers to rave / create positive word of mouth?
Making you look ‘in tune’ with the times to my customers if you’re there?
Introducing you to new potential customers at a low lead-generation cost?
Making you easier to find (within the social network or on search engines)?
Improving your search engine results (so you don’t have to buy results)?

Is Social Media SAVING You Money By:
Shortening your sales cycle?
Creating credibility and trust faster among prospects?
Establishing you / your firm as THE expert?
Shortening customer service response time?
Creating a sense of accessibility for my customers?
Increasing trial of my products or services?
Allowing me to connect with more prospects at once?
Increasing repeat sales?
Will it increase upsells?
Helping me collect or leverage testimonials?

KEY POINT:
Social Media is never ‘free’.  The time you must spend online has a definite ‘cost’. If your cost/benefit ratio is not attractive, don’t do social media until you figure out how to make it make or save you more than it costs you to use it.

So it’s a NEW YEAR . . . and you may have made a resolution to use your social networks more in 2012 than you did in 2011.  Good for you!

Keep It Simple . . . Join Groups and Discussions / Make Comments and New Friends
While there are many things you could do to leverage LinkedIn, a very basic (i.e. easy-to-do) tactic that is also highly effective is to:

1.  Join / Explore relevant groups that interest you
2.  Observe what people are talking about in the group’s Discussions
3.  Comment when you feel you have something to contribute
4.  Follow-up any meaningful response with a direct message
5.  Invite the other person to connect with you

This is a very basic and DO-able process that will help you build your LinkedIn network with people whom you have connected to in a meaningful manner.

An Example:
Recently, I saw a post by someone in a group where I’m a member, made a comment and received a very nice response.

Here’s a follow-up message I received from another (new) connection after we connected on LinkedIn:

This happens far more often than most people realize. If you’re so inclined to grow your LinkedIn network, do it gradually.  Set a goal to find and comment on someone’s post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  When someone responds, if it feels right to do so, invite them to connect — and cite the common connection you both shared.  Slowly but surely your LinkedIn network will grow — as will the opportunities your LinkedIn community generates for your business or practice.

KEY POINT:
Growing Your LinkedIn Connections isn’t hard . . . just do the ‘basics’ consistently! 

To paraphrase the famous words penned by the English poet, John Donne (1572 -1631)  . . .

“No Website Is An Island”
Your website can not long exist, much less thrive if it is not connected to a larger system of online (and, offline!) media.

Wayne Gretsky, the hockey legend said, “I go where the puck is going to be . . .”.  That’s your goal, too — be everywhere you can be online (and, off) so prospects can find you easily.

You Never Know When or Where or How
People who are prospects for your products and services are on all kinds of media. They’re on social network sites like facebook and Linkedin. They send and receive tweets on Twitter, they read posts on blogs and they’re constantly searching online using Google.

This is why your business must be easy to find and connect with online. This requires creating quality content that’s Google-friendly and easily promoted on social media.

It also means dovetailing your online presence into your offline marketing activities, as well.

KEY POINT:
The entire web is an opportunity to build your presence and traffic — use it or lose it! 

We took a break yesterday from this theme of ways to use LinkedIn.  Now, it’s back to work!  ‘-)

An Example Worth Noting
The other day I mentioned that sharing your expertise on LinkedIn, by answering questions posed by other members, helps your VCR (visibility, credibility and reputation).  While looking at some questions on ‘marketing’ (my area — you look in yours!) I found a truly ‘killer’ response to a question on whether management consulting and internet marketing were mutually exclusive or, not.

In fact, I liked his answer so much that I ‘tracked down’ the person who posted it — a Carl Diamond who owns Diamond Website Conversion — a firm from the Seattle, WA area:

I then sent him a short note of appreciation acknowledging the superb quality of his answer.  Well, before the day was over, Carl had replied to me and we had become part of each other’s LinkedIn network.  More importantly, the foundation was laid for a possible future collaboration between us.

Will that ever happen?  Who knows.  But I do know this — if we never connected, the chance for something coming from this day would have been 0% — GUARANTEED!

KEY POINT:
Social networking is about planting seeds of opportunity . . . then nurturing those opportunities until they blossom! 

OK. LinkedIn is a great online venue for generating business opportunities.  Potentially.  But to realize the benefits of this powerful professional networking site, you need to use it.  Here are some ideas:

LinkedIn Answers
One of the ways you can get noticed very quickly by a significant and diverse group of people on LinkedIn is to simply answer questions other members are posting in hopes of finding good answers.  Merely answering questions in your area of expertise gives you great visibility to many LinkedIn members.

If your answer is chosen as ‘best’, that gives you some bragging rights on LinkedIn.  In fact, LinkedIn will post that on your profile for you.  Free PR!  it never hurts!  Also, whether you ‘win’ or not, if someone else likes your answer, they may check out your profile and then reach out to you directly.  Yes, it does happen!

LinkedIn Search
You have a lot of options here. One is to use LinkedIn’s ‘search’ function (upper right screen) to find a business you’re interested in.  Assuming the firm’s name pops up, click on it.  You’ll then see anyone you are already connected to as well as people in the business you may want to know better.  Now, generating some powerful and personal connections should be relatively easy for you to do.

More to come tomorrow!

 

Regardless which approach you choose to use (and BOTH is a very good option!) there’s one thing you must be sure to do or neither approach is likely to be productive.

The King and I
Yul Brenner, the iconic actor, was renowned for portraying the Kind of Siam in Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical, “The King and I”.  One of the songs in that play was, “Getting To Know You”. The lyrics are: “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you . . .”.  It’s a good idea to do this on LinkedIn, too.

It’s Not About You
Social media in general and LinkedIn in particular are not about marketing that interrupts other people.  You want to ‘blend in’ to join in with the LinkedIn member community.

Take the time to really understand who you may want to approach — directly or indirectly.  Study their profile.  View their connections to other people and groups on LinkedIn.  Learn what you both have in common.  Engage with people based on what’s interesting to them. You’ll be far more interesting to them as well.   And do this all before you ever approach anyone on LinkedIn for an overt business purpose.

KEY POINT:
Getting to know LinkedIn members before you approach them is smart!

With all the talk about using social media to promote your business, it seems like as good a time as any to look at how some people are using LinkedIn for just this purpose.

Two Options
If you’re going to use LinkedIn to promote business for you, you can connect with prospective clients and centers-of-influence directly or indirectly.

The former means using the ‘search’ function of LinkedIn to help you identify other LinkedIn members whose profiles suggest people who might find your services or expertise to be of interest.  You’ll also want to check out which LinkedIn groups their profiles show they belong to — because water (and, prospects) have a magical way of finding and connecting with their own kind.

The latter means using the many opportunities LinkedIn offers to help you make others aware of you and your expertise.  Typically, this means you’ll be using various ways of connecting with other members that are less direct.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a few of the more popular and effective ways you can use LinkedIn to promote awareness of and attract response to you as well.

KEY POINT:
LinkedIn is where you can find business opportunities and be found by them as well

You know of facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Biznik and that there are (literally!) hundreds of social media sites and networks.

You are also likely to have a ‘profile’ on them, too.  But, do you know . . . WHY?

Check out this 2 minute, 35 second video for a very compelling answer!

All the social networks do is help you become “part of the conversation” . . . that’s happening in the heads of your prospects and key people . . . right now.

Today’s post is dedicated to a lady named Kate Barber who founded a business (Big Steps Little Feet) that is truly amazing and wonderful.

Kate graduated university with a degree in Dance and became the director of a dance school in Sydney, Australia. While there, she discovered that learning to dance is not the same thing as dancing to learn.  To Kate, creative movement and dance is but a means to the end of a child’s self-discovery and joyful expression of creativty and not an end in and of itself.

Follow Your Passion, Kate!
Kate obviously loves children and the creative aspect of teaching children to experience the world through creative and contemporary movement i.e. dance. So she continued to study early childhood development and how creative movement plays a key role in the way young children engage with their environment, stimulate their creativity and develop their cognitive and physical abilities.

Passions Fuel Dreams and Make Them Real
In 2004, Kate started her own ‘brand’ of creative movement for young children that she called, aptly, “Big Steps Little Feet“.  It’s so much more than a dance school!  Kate uses creative dance for babies, waddlers and toddlers as a way to promote healthy development (physically, mentally and emotionally) while fostering strong bonds between parent and child.

Successful Results (700% Growth in Year 1) Reflects Market Alignment 
In her first year of operation as Big Steps Little Feet, Kate’s enrollment grew 700%.  Why? Because what she does resonates beautifully with her target audience — “Mums, age 35 – 45, who are well educated, have discretionary income and appreciate a quality experience for their children”.

Postscript
You might wonder how I ‘met’ Kate Barber and her lovely business Big Steps Little Feet — given that it’s in Sydney, Australia.  Actually, I was alerted to a question she posed on a marketing site (MarketingProfs.com) and I replied.  I then Googled the company and found her profile on facebook.  From there, I found a link to her website.

Several lessons here:

1.  Do what you love . . .
(life’s too short to squander who you are on what you don’t love to do)

2.  When you’re clear about what you offer . . . the right people will respond to you
(alignment / target market)

3.  The world is very connected if you’re ‘online’
Walt Disney was right . . . it IS a ‘small World’ afterall