5-boring-industry-marketing-tools

5 Tools for Marketers in Boring Industries

I wrote the original version of this article originally for Relevance here. I’ve made a few changes in this version.

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5 Tools for Marketers in Boring Industries

Let’s get to the first point: get over yourself and your industry. That stigma of being in a boring industry is only going to hurt you in the end. Just because you’re not selling a sports car, beer or some sports team doesn’t mean you’re in a boring industry. No, it may not be the perfect industry for a Super Bowl commercial, but your business is interesting to a very important group of people: your leads. More specifically, warm leads.

Think of it this way. Would you walk door to door, knocking on strangers’ doors and pitching your product or service? Or would you rather have people knocking on your door, asking you to tell them all about your business? That’s the difference between outbound and inbound marketing.

So … now that you know you’re not boring to the leads who want to know about the problem your business solves, how do you overcome the stigma of stale? Content! From relevant content directly tied to your business to peripheral information tied indirectly to your “widget,” content can come in many forms.

I happen to run the marketing department for a mortgage lender. Talk about boring … who really wants to talk about a mortgage payment? Interest rates? Yawn! However, if you’re looking to buy a home, especially for the first time, you’re probably looking for a lot of answers! You’re likely also interested in many things about the home.

The key to be not-so-boring in your drab industry is to be helpful and interesting in delivering your message. In fact, as I prepared to talk about this subject at a major marketing conference, I decided that super models and fast cars are no longer the measure of what’s sexy.

 

Helpful is the new sexy.

Think about it. When it comes to business, a helpful company is an attractive one. Good customer service and friendly reps are sexy. We’re drawn to helpful, interesting content.

Below are the 5 tools I’ve found extremely helpful when it comes to marketing in a boring fascinating industry.

1: Buyer Personas

The first tool any marketer needs to have in their tool kit is the buyer persona. If you have little or no idea who your customer is, you’re starting off on the wrong side of the business development coin.

Buyer personas are a deep dive into your customers. It’s more than just demographics. Think of it as your customer’s stories. Get to know their demographics, their pain points (and how your company solves them), their technology appetites, where they “hang out” and gather information … really get to know them.

Develop buyer personas through interviews. Talk to your sales team about the people they work with every day. Your sales team is a valuable tool in your marketing. Ask them about their “usual” customer. Once you’ve developed your first draft, go back to the sales team and ask them if that person sounds familiar.

Share your buyer personas with your entire company. From sales to marketing to customer service to the receptionist, every person in your organization should know who it is you’re working with. Consider putting these personas on posters and hanging them in your break room or a hallway each employee walks every day.

2: Blog/CTA/Landing Pages

Blogging or content creation is the bedrock of inbound marketing. Research shows that companies who blog more than once per day acquire customers through their blog? In fact, according to HubSpot, 92% of businesses blogging multiple times per day drive customer acquisition through their sites (http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics).

But it’s not just about throwing some content on a page and hoping for the best. Your articles need to have purpose, complete with a call to action (CTA) that goes to a landing page.

What is a CTA? A CTA is the instruction in your article for the reader to take the next step. It can be text or an image, but it lets them know they have a place to go. Whether it’s for more information, a demo or another offer, the CTA moves the prospect through your process. Every article should have a CTA of some level, even if it’s as top-of-the-funnel as “subscribe to receive updates.”

What is a landing page? A landing page is the web page where an “offer” lives. A landing page has a form your prospect fills out in exchange for something of value. Guides, videos, case studies, research whitepapers and free consultations are all offers your prospects would give up contact information to view or download. A landing page and offer is what drives your next level of connection: email marketing.

3: Email

Email marketing is a lot like courting. This is where relationship develops. Here’s a scenario to imagine.

I’m a prospect, and I find your business because you’ve done your SEO and promotion well. On your website, you offer me the chance to download some terrific content that takes me on a deep dive into the solution to my problem, through your product or service. Now that I’ve downloaded your offer, you have my email address and first name. Maybe you’ve also asked pertinent questions about my situation. If it’s a B2B relationship, maybe you now know how many employees my company has, the area of the country we’re located and the greatest challenge we face.

Now that you have data on me and my business, you can create emails to speak to each of my points. Your emails can talk about the problem I’m having – my pain points. You can use the size of my company to craft a message speaking to the unique challenges of a smaller company – or larger one. Your emails can seem smart and connected – developing a trust from me that you’re helpful and knowledgeable.

Building trust through email marketing isn’t ridiculously difficult: offer more helpful content rather than just another sales pitch. Tailor the information to me as a buyer persona, so you know what level of information I require.

Email marketing isn’t just a way to “blast some email to a list.” It’s a way to nurture the relationship. With the right tools, you can see if I’m clicking links you’ve embedded in the emails. You can tell if I’m ignoring them, so maybe a change of subject line is needed. You can use data and personalization to help increase engagement.

The golden egg of email is the sharing of information. Think of it like this: if I tell my friends what a great experience I had at a specific restaurant, they’re more likely to try it than if that restaurant bought ads on a local radio station they listen to. Social proof is powerful. We trust our sphere of influence. Forwarding your business’ email to someone I think it might help means I trust you, and my friend trusts me … so they’re starting off with a higher level of instant trust. As you already know, referrals are golden. The best email marketing becomes a way for you to empower your leads (and customers) to become your very own promoters.

4: Social Media

Social media can take your marketing – and your customer satisfaction campaigns – to new levels. Whether it’s delighting current clients, developing business partnerships or looking for new customers, social media can really add to your communications portfolio. It’s also another way to empower an army of evangelists for your brand.

Let me say that I adhere to the philosophy of Dan Zarrella in that unicorns and rainbows need to be ignored. When it comes to social media, terms like engagement are an elusive measurement. However, I’ve also come to realize that social media is often a terrible place to sell.

Here’s what I mean. Think of most social media platforms as a social entity, like a party or gathering of friends. Would you want a random sales person interrupting your time with a sales pitch? Imagine you say to a friend, “I really can’t stand my apartment. I think it’s time to buy a house.” Some guy appears and says, “You should look at this no-down-payment mortgage option for buying a house.” What do you do?

As businesses, we look at social media as a place to reach new customers and sell them. But what if we looked at it as a place to develop relationships and deepen our connections to customers? What if social media became a place for us to find business partnerships that could become guest post opportunities?

When we look at social media as a real place with real people, we tend to interrupt less and instead offer content, empowering others to share. When we share and connect, we – as a business – become real. This strategy takes time and planning, and it can certainly include the things we already do like share articles, images and videos. But it also shifts our attitude from “always be closing,” to “always be connecting.”

Social media can be a powerful tool and PR opportunity when we’re using it for things like customer service and delighting our promoters. Just like any other business development strategy, it takes time, effort and strategic planning to pull off. You can’t simply have a Twitter account and never visit it. That would be like opening an office on a main street in town, keeping the lights on but never going in to answer the phones or talk to people walking in.

5: Video

Much like email marketing helps develop deeper relationships, video can add a very personal touch to your marketing and sales cycles.

When I was a TV news producer, I was friends with the on-air folks like anchors and weather personalities. I noticed something back then – people treat you like they know you even when they’ve never met you, simply because you’re “on TV.” Think about it – that anchor is in your living room every morning or every evening. As a viewer, you see them every day. You hear their stories and you trust their delivery of news. You get to know them through the screen.

Every time I’d go out to lunch with my on-air friends, someone would approach them and talk to them like they were friends. So often, it was the first they’d met each other. That video connection fostered a relationship that seemed reciprocal from the viewer. You can have the same thing.

When you create videos that answer questions about the problem your business solves, offers advice, gives information or positions you as the expert you add value to your content. Your viewers talk to you like they know you. That trust leads to deals and referrals. Video is powerful.

Think of all the questions you and your sales team hear. Every one of those questions can be a video or a series of videos you send to prospects. You’re answering their questions before they have them.

Here are tips from the trenches of a video marketing strategy:

  • Just start – Don’t be afraid of video. It’s not like you’re performing open-heart surgery. Even if you start with your phone’s video camera and you don’t upload the videos, get in front of the camera and begin to tell your story. Or find someone to be your “face.” But the key is to start. A marathon begins with that first step.
  • Be patient – Your videos will likely be average at best when you start. It takes time to build an audience and get better at video. This isn’t an overnight initiative. Someday you’ll look back on your early videos and wonder how you got through them. Patience pays off.
  • Get the right tools – You don’t have to have a Hollywood budget for the right tools. Consumer video cameras run in the hundreds of dollars now. But having the right tools is key. Keep in mind, we buy high definition TVs and enjoy quality video. As consumers we can be pretty forgiving, but video with bad audio, no lighting and the steadiness of a drunken sailor in a storm will turn us off eventually. Or right away. Get the right equipment from the start. You’ll need a camera, a tripod and a microphone. The microphone can be hard-wired or wireless, but it need to be an external mic that plugs into your camera. When shooting, be sure to take lighting into account. Light your subjects with natural lighting or lights, but make sure you can see them. Finally, editing software is likely available on your computer already. Start with that, then look at upgrading to an Adobe Premier or Final Cut.
  • Hire internally – Video production can get very pricy. If you want to create consistent videos, you’ll need to hire internally. A production house can produce a great “company” video. If you go this route, learn from them. You’re paying for more than the video – you’re paying for their expertise. Ask questions. Then when you’re ready to create weekly or monthly videos, hire someone and buy them the equipment to help you on the inside. Even if you think you only have one video idea, you’ll be surprised at what you can do. We create 2-4 videos every week at work. And we “just do mortgages.”
    • Who do I hire for video? This is a great question almost everyone has. My suggestion is to hire a TV news photojournalist with a few years of experience. They know how to tell stories through video. They’ve worked with reporters. They’re also paid terribly in the TV news world.
  • Be helpful. Be concise. – Video doesn’t have to be just 60 seconds. One of our most popular videos at AmeriFirst is 11 minutes long. But it’s full of helpful information. Your video should be as long or short as it takes to tell your story. However, a general rule of 2 minutes is good to follow. Help, inform and educate. Don’t go for that viral video hit. That’s not a solid strategy. Build your audience and you’ll drive leads.

So here is your rally call: Helpful is the new sexy. You don’t have to be in an industry that everyone clamors to be a part of. Your industry is interesting to those warm leads you’re trying to reach. Reach them with relevant content in a digestible manner. You can be sexy and not boring – be helpful!

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Lessons from a TV Newsroom: Trust and Test

After almost a decade in the newsroom at a CBS affiliate, and another 4+ years as a marketing guy – inbound marketing specifically – I’ve realized I learned some great lessons from my time in the trenches.

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1) Trust people.

When you hire smart, driven people and empower them flourish in their skills and desires, your team will be unstoppable. Squashing talent is a lonely world to live in, and a terrible way to do business.

Let your talented people help get your message out there. Empower them to help spread the love. Newsrooms can often be incubators for oppression. I’m not sure if it’s a fear of losing one’s job to the up and coming producer or the young reporter, but it’s hard to get ideas heard and validated. Don’t be that kind of business owner or leader.

Let your marketing team, that understands social media, teach you the benefits of it and the way of the new world, like AmeriFirst Home Mortgage has done and continues to do as we grow.

2) Test, test, test!

Even though callers to the newsroom would complain about “all the negative news” shown on TV, the most popular and shared articles online were about car crashes, child molester and embezzlers.

Even if you think you know your audience, they may not know themselves. You can track your online visitors to see where they came from, what they downloaded or viewed, and what they like. This tracking and testing can help you hone your marketing department into a finely tuned revolutionary machine.

In the last few years heading up the Welcome Home Marketing Team at AmeriFirst, I’ve tested everything from call-to-action button colors to using personalization in emails to smart (dynamic) content on the website. We’ve tried “how to” articles, lists, infographics, videos, big pictures … content testing can help you find the best-converting material for your leads. Test, test, test.

Gone are the days of “Always Be Closing” … we’ve ushered in the era of “Always Be Testing.” Let’s be scientific marketers!

Because of these 2 lessons, the “How I Turned Journalism into an Inbound Marketing Career” eBook is newly re-dsigned! Thanks to JannaThe What If Monster – it looks amazing! Check it out at the link below and please share with companies looking to hire a “new” marketer… and journalists looking for a change!

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Thankful For…

It seems to be an easy mark this time of year. Thankful social media posts are everywhere. #Thankful … 30 Days of Thankful … #ThankfulFor … all prompted by Thanksgiving. While it seems like an easy thing to jump on the bandwagon – the kind of thing I normally avoid – it actually got me thinking this year. The last year has been an amazing year full of too many reasons to be thankful. In fact, it’s been quite a great 4 years for me. So I thought I’d put fingers to keyboard and write a little something about my personal thankful list. And yes, it’s pretty personal.

I’m thankful for a supportive family – immediate and extended – that encourages me, doesn’t hold back their support and lets me know how proud they are of me. Thank you Sonya and my daughters for lifting me up. Thank you mom and dad for providing such a great base on which to build. The compliments I receive are passed on to you. And thank you to my grandparents – the legacy you all started is flourishing and it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than me in Talons Out Honor Flight. With this, I’m grateful to my sister-in-law Bobbie for asking me to be a part of showing Honor Flight the Movie, and letting me help launch this local hub. I’m thankful for the volunteers who help us at every event.

I’m proud to serve next to some amazing people on our board. I’m beyond thankful to the community (personal friends, strangers, businesses) that has stepped up to honor our Greatest Generation. This has afforded me the chance to meet some amazing men and women and hear their stories…the history of our country. I’ve been fortunate to speak in front of some terrific groups and meet some of our lawmakers, local state & federal.

In all of this though, is the chance to surround myself with heroes. Military and civilian alike, who give of their time, talents and treasure. From World War II Veterans to currently serving military, I am blessed to know our men and women who serve their country. Families of service members, supporters and others all have come together and continue to amaze me. Thank you.

My gratitude extends to my professional life. I enjoy where I work and what I do. When you love what you do, you never work, right? While it’s hard work, I certainly enjoy it. The support of the leadership team at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage means the world to me. Not only do I get the tools to ensure success, I’ve been able to build a team around me to take our efforts to an even higher level of success.

To top it all off, our successes get noticed. I have the privilege of sharing our story and the inbound marketing strategy & philosophy with people from around the world. From presentations at the INBOUND conference in Boston to a continuing education course at the Greater Kalamazoo Association of REALTORS… from interviews on podcasts to regular contributions in seriously cool marketing websites, I am thankful for the opportunity to spread the inbound message.

Finally, I’m thankful that all of this is possible through my faith in our Creator. I love my & Sonya’s church – Riverside Church – but it’s even bigger than that. My relationship with Jesus Christ has deepened over the last few years. After a divorce, I could have slid into depression or a destructive lifestyle. Instead I began to strengthen my faith. It’s not always an easy life – God doesn’t promise us that. In fact He promises us trials and tribulations. But I’m still blessed well beyond what I deserve. I only hope I can continue to pay it forward and bless others, and give God the glory when things go well. Without Him, it wouldn’t be possible.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. This holiday season, I hope your Christmas is blessed, your Hanukkah is joyous and your winter is filled with fun. Cheers.

Is a College Education a Waste of Time in 2014?

Is-a-College-Education-a-Waste-of-Time-in-2014I’m looking at my career path, and others I know, and wondering if college is for everyone. Is the traditional path of 13 years of school followed by another 4 or more of university, really the best fit for most of us?

Are companies who only consider people with 4-year degrees missing the boat on some fantastic talent? I published my thoughts on LinkedIn. Below is an excerpt.

In the current job market, many jobs require a college degree. Oftentimes these jobs require a 4-year degree. A lot of companies won’t consider you past the initial round without it. This is a huge mistake. Companies who do this miss out on too much talent.

This idea that people without college degrees don’t measure up to those with degrees needs to change. Some careers need long-term education. I wouldn’t want a high school graduate opening up my dad for a heart surgery. A lawyer without a deep knowledge of law would be laughed out of a courtroom or corporate boardroom. We wouldn’t want the scientist working to cure cancer to have dropped out of college in her first semester.

However, most jobs out there aren’t rocket science – or medical science in the above example. Rather, many jobs, careers or vocations could benefit from people with specified education based on current trends and information.

Read more here: Why University is a Waste of Time for Today’s Job Market

What do you think?

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

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Do I Need to be on Every Social Media Channel as a Business?

Do-I-Need-to-be-on-Every-Social-Media-ChannelI had an interesting chat recently with someone about social media. The question was basically, “There are so many different social media channels – do I need to be on all of them (as a business)?”

First let me say this: Social media is a personal choice. There shouldn’t be a requirement, and there really aren’t written rules about them.  However, I’m going get up on my marketing soap box a bit here and tell you what I’ve found in the world of marketing.

If you don’t “do social media,” then don’t.

If it’s not in your make-up to share tidbits about yourself with others, or hear from other people on their days (or see pictures of their kids, cats, dogs or vacations), then by all means avoid Facebook. However, if your job relies on personal connections and relationships, social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest can prove to be nice tools in your arsenal.

You don’t have to be on social media. You also don’t have to have an email address or a telephone. However, if you’re not ready to communicate with people in the manner in which they’re ready to communicate, then you’ll miss out on some of the benefits. Instead of simply avoiding the tool, maybe experiment a little with it, or learn from someone using it already…and see if you can put it to use as well.

Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram, Path, Tumblr, Pinterest … you have no shortage of sites to choose from in the social media sphere. So where do you go? All of them? Here’s my advice: find the one that matches your strategy and concentrate on that one first. If you decide to branch out, fine. But don’t spread yourself so thin that you don’t use any of them well.

Each social channel has a different use, audience and purpose. If you’d like to connect with housing market professionals like real estate agents, LinkedIn is a great place to spend some serious time. Be sure to join local groups and weigh in on the conversation. Don’t just sell, sell, sell.

If you’re into sharing personal stories with people and eventually getting around to occasionally mentioning how much you love your job, join Facebook and share what you want to share. You can then mix into the conversation once in awhile something like, “Headed to work on a Monday morning and I don’t hate it. I love helping people buy the right home with the right financing. Life is good!” This keeps it in people’s minds that you A) do mortgages and B) love what you do & your company.

If you have shiny object syndrome and you love to follow multiple conversations all at once, join Twitter. You can follow writers, sports stars, actors, real estate people and average people and spout off about whatever you want to in 140 characters. It’s a fun conversation, but it’s not for everyone.

Pick one and get good at it. Then if you want, branch out and try others. But don’t join all of them and leave your account unattended. The downside to being “on all social media” but not really being there is this: Imagine opening an office for your business, paying money on the lease and making a really great sign … then never showing up. If you’re not taking part in the conversation on that particular social channel, then you’re a ghost. When you’re a ghost, no one can find you. And those who do find you are scared to do business with a ghost.

So the short answer is find one social media channel to get good at and practice your art in. Then branch out some. Remember, each social media platform is generally indexed by Google. So if you want people to find you by name when an agent refers them to you, your name will come in Google associated with the social media channel you’re most active on.

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

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Content Marketing: Quality vs Quantity

Content-Marketing-Quality-vs-QuantitySo you’ve decided to dabble in content marketing for your business. Terrific. Content builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships, as you know, build business. The debate often had over content is whether a ton of content is best (for search engine results and the opportunity to share it all on social media!) or whether less content but higher quality is best (people share quality content!). My answer based on experience and research: both.

I’ll start with a simple idea: You can create amazing content, but if you’re doing it once a month (arbitrary time reference – there isn’t necessarily a magic time frame here) then readers won’t come back. They’ll forget about you. On the other side of the coin, you can create tons of content every day but if it’s crap, no one will keep coming back for more. So your goal is to create different levels of quality content regularly. Let’s dive into this philosophy.

What is “Quality Content?”

You can find differing definitions and levels of quality content. Sometimes readers want a long, in-depth piece of content like an eBook. Other times, it’s a nice infographic. Another great piece of content is an article – anywhere from around 500 words to maybe 1500 words. Imagine you’re looking for information on a new bed. As you search the web, you’ll find information on beds with memory foam, air mattress styles, movable beds and more. If you want to compare a sleep-number style bed to a memory foam bed to a conventional, and you find a buyer’s guide, you may download it. You might also watch a video that shows how they differ, and maybe a couple of testimonial videos from people who sleep on these beds regularly. What other content would you like to see?

Quality Content: Does Size Matter?

The length of content can certainly speak to quality. A 250-word “article” is unlikely to tell me anything of value about your subject. But maybe the article has a great picture or set of pictures, and the text just supports the images. However, as a general rule a word-count of 500 or more should get your ideas across in a concise manner. Conversely, an article of over 1500 words is more like an eBook or a couple of articles. If you want me to read that much material, prepare me. Let me download it in a PDF or other document. Then I know I’m in for a little bit of a read.

Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. Seth Godin can write a blog post of 100 words and his readers will consume it, share it and love it. Just remember: Seth has been publishing for years. You’re just starting – follow the rules for awhile before you decide to bend them.

“People don’t like bad content”

Define “bad content.” I say a video where a bunch of people dance non-sensically in weird costumes to a weird song for less than 30 seconds and it goes to black with no reason is terrible content with no point or purpose. Yet millions of people watched all different variations of the Harlem Shake, proving we love bad content.

Bad content is video with sub-par audio recorded on a mobile phone (not in widescreen) with no lighting, yet videos like this on YouTube see thousands of views and more. You can’t tell me we only like great, film-quality content.

However, bad content has a shelf-life. If you’re writing articles that have no sense of purpose, terrible writing style that makes it painful to read and you’re just sell-sell-selling people rather than educating or entertaining them, that’s bad content and will drive readers away in droves. If you were to find an article – back to the beds scenario – that talked about the kind of bed you were considering, but was written like a 6-year-old, would you trust that company?

How often should you publish content? You’ll find all kinds of varying answers to this question. At work, I publish daily articles (twice daily when I have the content), 2-to-3 videos per week and countless social media updates. Personally, I update once a month here – I should produce more but I’m not selling an agency so it’s more of a personal mission. But I produce a lot of social content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ so I’m still publishing.

My advice on the amount and frequency is to publish when you have relevant content for the audience you’re trying to reach. If you’re planning to publish one article every day but you find yourself scrambling for content, consider 3-times per week for awhile until you have the right content. Keep in mind, the content you’re looking for is right in front of you: Screw Sexy. Be Helpful.

You can also read a good opinion on frequency here: How often should you publish new content?

So yes, the perfect answer for “Quality vs Quantity Content” is BOTH. Walk a fine line between too much and not enough. Seth Godin could publish once a year and we’d come back for more because he already has an audience. You don’t. You’ll need some quantity. Just be sure to sprinkle different amounts of quality in there!

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

6 Best Practices for LinkedIn

I wrote this for an employee newsletter at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage. Our team members use social media to connect with home buyers and real estate agents alike. I thought sharing LinkedIn tips with them would be helpful. 

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LinkedIn is a great place to connect with other professionals. Sure, it can be a place to go job hunting. But it’s also one of the best places to talk “industry” with business referral partners, possible employees and peers. It’s like going to business networking event…from the comfort of your home or office.

Since LinkedIn is a more professional atmosphere, it’s helpful to follow some best practices. Not only will this help you maintain a business profile, it will also help to grow your LinkedIn network – a goal of many of us in the referral-business world. Here are a few best practices for the LinkedIn crowd.

Use a professional-looking headshot.

Those of us using Facebook know the importance of using a picture. How many times have you received a friend request and wondered who the person is? That photo avatar helps us know faces. In Facebook, we often use photos from vacations, pictures of kids/pets or maybe a group photo with friends. That works fine for the personal crowd in general.

Think of LinkedIn as an office. We tend to dress in business attire at work. We have certain manners and ways of interacting. We’re sober. Your LinkedIn profile should mirror this. Not only should you include a photo of yourself, but it should look somewhat professional and the person looking at it should be able to recognize you in person. Below are some examples of what not to use as a LinkedIn avatar (from real-life examples I’ve seen).

  • No beach/swimming pool pictures
  • No couple pictures with a significant other
  • No pets/children
  • Make sure the photo is not a long-distance shot

In other words, use a photo of you in front of a fairly boring background like your office with a fichus tree behind you. Take the photo like a medium-close up (head to mid-chest or waist is good). Don’t pose like a police mugshot in front of a white or gray wall.

Write a summary that tells a story

The summary is where you tell a little of your story. Make this a first person narrative so the person reading it doesn’t feel like they’re reading an obituary. It’s up to you, but including a little about yourself personally is a nice addition. For instance, include something about a hobby.

Fill out “experience”

“Experience” is where you give your work history. Don’t be afraid to go way back in your history. You never know when a past experience will speak to a potential connection. For instance, someone I know will more likely hire a person who has experience in the food service industry, specifically as waitstaff. As you fill out your experience section, be sure to list facts like actual duties in the job, accomplishments and successes. Finally, include volunteer jobs and internships. Just because you didn’t get a paycheck, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real job.

Recommendations – be willing to give them

Recommendations are essentially references. Ask people with whom you’ve worked to write one for you. Ask for specifics, like a success story or hard numbers from a project you completed with or for them. Be sure to also recommend others. Not only does this create a “what goes around, comes around” situation, but your recommendation will live on through their profile. A couple of tips on recommendations:

  • Be honest, not overly flashy
  • Use factual, specific examples
  • Recommend only those people whom you know, and with whom you’ve worked
  • Take time and ask with a personal note, being specific about your request

Join groups – and be active

LinkedIn groups are a great place to make connections. Join a local group, and take the relationship offline with networking events. Be active on group discussions by “liking” and commenting when you can. Just remember, it doesn’t really count when you just say “I like this” or “Good article.” Actually add something to the conversation in a respectful way. Discussions and comments can prove to be a great way to connect with people. Just make sure you’re not spamming the group. Vary the content and sources you’re posting, and spread it out rather than post a bunch of stuff all at once.

When connecting, make it personal

6-Best-Practices-for-LinkedIn

Personalize your connection message.

LinkedIn allows us to connect with people all over the world. Keep it personal. Just because LinkedIn suggests you connect with someone in San Diego, California doesn’t mean you have to connect with them. However, if you think it would be an interesting connection and mutually beneficial, send a personal note on why you want to connect. Don’t send the generic message LinkedIn automatically sends. This means you’ll have to click on the person’s name, visit their profile and send an invitation from there. Expert tips:

  • Make a template for different connections
  • Use their first name as a greeting
  • If you don’t know them personally, explain why you’re connecting

Connecting with others is clearly the point of LinkedIn. Reach out to others in your area that might have something to share with you, and vice versa. Real estate agents, builders, home service professionals (decorating, plumbers, electricians) and other housing market professionals can be great connections.

LinkedIn can be a great place to make business connections, a powerful tool for recruiting, referral business and for learning industry news. Following some basic best practices will help you create a robust profile and a beneficial LinkedIn experience. Connect with me, too!  http://www.linkedin.com/in/danielmoyle

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(creative commons photo credit LinkedIn logo)