LinkedIn Is What It Is: Personal, Employer, Business

LinkedIn Page

I opened the new LinkedIn Android app the other day and saw an unexpected message, “The One Stop Shop to Manage Your Personal Brand.” Because of my own hang-ups about the term “personal brand” I was taken aback. But like it or not, LinkedIn has become the place to manage your professional reputation.

It has also become much more than that. LinkedIn offers brands an ideal platform for employee communications — future (e.g. recruitment), present, and past. The social networks also provides B2B brands a great place to market.

For those that are still stuck in the Twitter and Facebook for brands universe (and maybe, just maybe Instagram, too), please keep in mind how big LinkedIn has become. More than 400,000 million people are using the social network to talk about their professional life. Let’s take a quick look at each of these three forms of communication on LinkedIn; personal, employer and business.

Personal Marketing

Profile Pic

With most people looking for work online today, LinkedIn has become a nexus to build a personal profile and network. There are many ways to stand out on LinkedIn and strengthen your presence.

LinkedIn profiles serve as a place for potential employers to check out your history. In many ways, the profile has become the modern resume. In addition, potential contracts and speaking opportunities can come through LinkedIn.

Attracting people to and making your profile stand out are the primary means of personal marketing on LinkedIn. Here are a few methods:

This latter point may seem obvious, but don’t post your cute dog pic on LinkedIn. If social media made a level of uncouth personality acceptable on the Internet, then LinkedIn became the social media place where the old school mindset of act in a professional manner still reigns. Many people and brands are relieved about that, too. Save the personal posts for Instagram, and button it up on LinkedIn.

Employee Communications

Lockheed

I remember when LinkedIn launched in the early 2000s. It was hyped as a place to network and find new jobs. After a period of time, employers started using LinkedIn for recruitment purposes.

Then LinkedIn built company profiles. Networking became smarter and you could identify past and present employees through search. The algorithms began sourcing news about company x, particularly when there was a clear tie between an employee and corporate page.

The reality for most brands is that employee communications should begin inside their physical and virtual walls and on their web site. It begins with culture in direct communications up and down the ladder. Another reality exists: Many conversations are occurring about brands out of those domains, and on social media sites like LinkedIn and GlassDoor.

With so many people talking about work and their future on LinkedIn, it can become the central hub of an HR and recruitment social media strategy. Here are some quick tactics to help facilitate that:

Market Your Corporate Brand

Adobe Marketing

Not only has LinkedIn made itself a great place to engage in employee communications, it has also become a fantastic marketing venue for B2B marketing. Conversations and content galore on professional topics ranging from IT security to digital marketing are everywhere.

Businesses that offer some sort of B2B offering — product or service — need to experiment with LinkedIn as a means to brand and generate initial content leads. Here are some ideas for your efforts:

  • Build an engaging corporate profile page that shows what the company does, and how it helps the industry and your customers). Use Showcase pages to highlight particular product areas and include calls-to-action to drive traffic to your site.
  • Use LinkedIn’s advertising platform (sponsored updates) to communicate with customers. This is a good way to extend the reach of your corporate profile.
  • Pulse Articles are also a great way for a brand to show thought leadership. Find spokespersons who are willing to use their profiles and publish articles, then promote them on your company profile page.
  • Consider LinkedIn sister brand SlideShare as a means to create content that engages prospective customers. You can integrate SlideShare into your page.
  • Manage a group to build subject matter expertise for your company

    . LinkedIn is in the midst of revamping its groups for better functionality and results.

What LinkedIn marketing tips would you add to these lists?

5 Tips for Posting Pulse Articles on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Pulse uses an algorithm to determine how it should source your post. It matches content to an industry professional’s interests. So if you are a healthcare provider, you won’t receive posts on accounting.

There are ways to optimize LinkedIn Pulse to better reach intended audiences. Here are some suggestions based on research:

1) Social Validation Ratio

Social Ratio

The LinkedIn Pulse algorithm uses as social validation ratio to determine how often it sources a member’s Pulse post, says data scientist Andy Foote. The relative number of views doesn’t matter. Instead, the percentage of likes, reshares and comments per view is what triggers a featured article in Pulse.

Sharing your post as soon as you publish is critical. Send it on to your most engaged communities. You need people to like, share and comment to achieve the right ratio. I can already see scenarios where people are gaming initial social engagement to trigger featured Pulse articles.

2) Timing Is Important

16034835974_291a672fe8_b

Because social validation drives success you want to publish on days when most people use LinkedIn. Those tend to be Monday through Friday during business hours, with an emphasis on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can further refine time-based optimization by targeting times when people are at their desks; before work, lunch hours, or the end of the business day.

3) Format Posts for Social Validation

16457685837_da4c013d5d_b

Creating strong posts means requires a few things to make content more share and comment worthy. These are blogging best practices, but just for the sake of being intelligent about formatting let’s offer a few reminders:

  • Use relevant and interesting images. There’s a reason why LinkedIn suggests a strong header image. But go further. Build subheads, and use a new image every three to five paragraphs. Or you can build a BuzzFeed-esque post with subheads for every paragraph. List posts do seem to go further than the average essay, but you better be sure the content is awesome. There’s nothing worse than a lame, self-promotional BuzzFeed hack. You can also embed rich media if you have good video content or Slideshares you’d like to add.

  • Titling is important to drive interest from readers. It should also be descriptive and match back to keywords that will signal to the algorithm which audiences will prefer the post.

  • Offer links to give readers additional insights and depth. LinkedIN’s editor recommends you do this as a matter of good form.

    The social network does recommend generous linking. As far as ranking content goes, LinkedIn’s Pulse algorithm is closely guarded, but if it is anything like Google’s, it rewards posts with strong links. Generally speaking, Google likes sourcing content with frequent and credible links, as it provides an extended and good user experience. Since Google actually indexes LinkedIn posts, this a good practice regardless of how LinkedIn factors links into its algorithm. You want to rank well with your post.


  • There are those that preach long form, and others who say short form matters most. Most of the posts I see succeeding on Pulse are greater than 500 words, but not more than 1000. Brian Lang’s research confirms this observation. At the same time given how few posts actually extend beyond 1000 words, it may be the odds of success are higher with long form.

4) Write for the Audience

16392158558_d1b2b952fa_b

It’s really important to keep content laser focused within the sector. The algorithm will source content to audiences based on keywords and phrases. And it will also exclude audiences if the content won’t appeal to them.

5) Tag Your Posts

BYY_600x400_Cards_0000_1
The 10 most overused buzzwords on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn specifically recommends tagging your posts. You can add up to 3 tags in each post, but you cannot customize the tags, instead using what LinkedIn has offered for categories. To add tags:

  • Scroll to the bottom of your post.
  • Click the Tag icon next to Add tags like consulting, sales, marketing…
  • Click into the text box and begin typing.
  • Select an available tag from the drop-down.

These five tips should help your LinkedIn Pulse Article go further than just a standard text-only piece that one might be tempted to post.

12 Ways to Boost Your Visual Media Performance

Tenacity5 Media released a new eBook this morning, Visual Media: The New Content Marketing Landscape. My colleague Erin Feldman is the primary author with a co-author credit to me. You can download it for free with no requirement to provide any personal information.

The eBook discusses the visual media era as whole, then seeks to help marketers adapt best practices. Generally, there is one overarching rule: Go mobile or perish. While the desktop is still used, its use is limited to particular tasks. To reach more people, think mobile first, desktop second.

Included in the paper are 12 tips for best practices across a variety of media types and social networks. You can see them in the above slideshare or simply scroll below.

1) Media

traditional-media1

Traditional media is not dead, but it does need to be supplemented with digital assets. Engage journalists by augmenting pitches with photos, videos and other visual resources.

2) Social TV

socialtv1

Social TV is not synonymous with newsjacking, but the tactic is relevant, particularly when capitalizing on the social furor surrounding live events such as sporting ones or the Grammy’s. Follow current events and programs, then share timely brand-related updates and images.

3) YouTube

youtube-redbull

YouTube isn’t replacing traditional TV viewing, but it is being consumed in larger and larger numbers. Brands seeking to create a YouTube presence need to think unique content rather than copy what they do on more traditional video platforms.
Aim to create high-quality, engaging content rather than just another television ad.

4) Pinterest

pinterest-nordstrom
Pinterest offers a captive, active audience. Tap into their interests by sharing images that they’ll love to “like” and re-pin. Pin images that depict your brand’s story and character.

5) Instagram

instagram-chobani
Instagram is ideal for user generated content (UGC). Give your audience a chance to tell the story, and they typically will. Grow your Instagram community by asking them to share photos of your product in action.

6) Facebook

facebook-medtronic2

Facebook is alive and well, but it’s increasingly visual. Ensure your placement in your fans’ news feeds by tapping into their visual interests. For increased Facebook engagement, post multiple photos rather than a single one.

7) Twitter

twittercard1

Twitter has gone the way of visuals, too. Make sure your work is noticed by using Twitter Cards to feature images and other information, such as a sign-up form.
Use Twitter Cards to feature full-sized images in the news stream.

8) SlideShare

slideshare-dell

SlideShare is not an online PowerPoint presentation. Other content can be uploaded to the site. In addition, it features robust search optimization capabilities. The presentation’s important, but don’t forget to optimize for search.

9) LinkedIn

linkedin-showcasepage

LinkedIn is visual, too. Present your company’s story and standout from your competition with Showcase Pages.

10) Flickr

Flickr

Flickr may be popular because of its storage and archiving possibilities, but the site gets plenty of traffic from people seeking licensed images for their own work. Capitalize on their needs by licensing your work. To increase awareness, license your photos so that people can share and use them.

11)Vine

vine-burberry

Vine is home to short video, so it’s not the place to tell your brand’s life story. Aim for sharing highlights and personality. Use your six seconds to let your brand’s personality shine.

12) Non-Traditional Conferences

nontraditional-conferences1
Nontraditional conferences are the way of the future. Blend your traditional event with digital for an increased return on investment. Use visual and digital media to generate stories before, during, and after an event.

Download Visual Media: The New Content Marketing Landscape for free with no requirement to provide any personal information.

Want more? Read 7 Signs of the Post Social Media Era.

Facebook Will Not Die Easily

Did you know that more than two million people still access the Internet through AOL dial-up services? Or that the company grew by 6% last year to reach $2.3 billion in revenue? While AOL is oft considered dead by pundits, the company is surviving just fine as a media company with a legacy dial-up business.

In August of 2012, I wrote that Facebook will decline like AOL. I think its worth revisiting given all of the hot debate over Facebook’s impending cancerous death.

Before I wrote the AOL post, I originally modeled a MySpace-like death for Zucerberg and company, but that was wrong. Facebook will not die a fast death. In fact, in the past couple of years it’s become clear that the full and complete collapse of the company is impossible.

Don’t get me wrong. On a personal level, I really dislike Facebook. I personally find a vast majority of the conversations to be mundane or toxic. I am not alone, many users have a wide variety of dislikes, according to Pew Research.

FT_Facebook-user-dislikes

Like Olivier Blanchard, I think marketers would be wise to develop alternate methods of galvanizing their social communities. There are too many warning signs for any risk-adverse person. Facebook is vulnerable. For example, it’s not the first social network for healthy swaths of the B2B and youth consumer markets.

At the same time, Facebook is almost ubiquitous across the Internet. It’s social share buttons are everywhere. Even with McDonald’s-like weaknesses, Facebook is far and away the largest social network. It has more than three times the amount of active users (900 million) than its nearest competitors, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Economies of scale of this nature don’t collapse over night, nor do they fall in a year. In fact, the only thing that could possibly destroy Facebook is an epic scandal of an unimaginable level… Or Rupert Murdoch buying the company.

What goes up, must come down. Much of the conjecture about Facebook’s death revolves the anticipation of Something Else.

Another parallel can be drawn to broadcast TV. In spite of cable, satellite and Internet-based on-demand video services, broadcast TV continues to survive.

2-Evening-News-Audiences-Decrease-at-ABC-and-NBC-Rise-at-CBS

Why? Because like other markets, the networks have a leadership share that’s hard to overcome. CNN, Fox, ESPN, Netflix, the Weather Channel, etc., may carve their niches, yet they cannot overcome the economies of scale that other networks have. As a result, the original broadcasters continue to purchase quality programming with top actors and newscasters, and sporting events like the NFL and the Olympics. Individual competitors can’t compete on this level day in, day out. As a result, a portion of the U.S. population retains a very basic brand loyalty.

Like AOL and the original broadcast TV networks, Facebook is never going to die. It will acquire other properties like Instagram. It will dwindle, it will likely decline, but Facebook will never disappear. The network is too big to completely fail.

What do you think?

Featured image by Louhan.

Breaking Up Google

It may be time to break Google up. At a minimum, the Justice Department should consider taking up antitrust action against Google again.

The search monopoly impacts almost every part of the Internet, from content creation to email to data collection. Every small change it makes creates far-reaching ripples.

Google takes these actions to drive revenue for its advertising products. Revenue is derived from a wide array of advertising properties, including search, YouTube, ads in products like Gmail, and the far reaching AdWords network.

So what’s the hubbub about? Consider how the company uses data sourced from Google+, Android phones, Chrome browsers, organic searches and soon its sensors (via the Nest acquisition) to customize ads. Contextual and creepy at the same time, Google uses all of the data collected from products to serve the ad beast, which in turn suggests products from paying partners.

In doing so, Google pushes the boundaries of fair data use. Further, whenever it alters its search algorithms, Google creates tidal waves across the media industry, and impacts every single business with an Internet presence. Because of Google’s size, every business owner and media publisher must at a minimum pay attention to these changes, if not yield to them.

Google, The Data Bully

Google Searching
Image by Charles Ovens

Consider how Google pressures sites and companies to provide their data for free. When content owners and publishers say no, Google often replicates the data or it launches a competive product to replicate the creation of that data. This basically tells every data owner to you open their database to Google, or face competition from the Silicon Valley giant. Don’t be evil, indeed.

In many ways, Google’s creation of Google+ sought to replace paid access to Twitter and other social network sites that bar public search crawls. By making Google+ and Google Authorship components of its search algorithm, Google forced Plus upon content publishers and website owners. As a result, Google+ is actively marketed by millions of websites across the globe.

What would happen if the Justice Department acted and demanded that Google pay its competitors, and that Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn social data received equal weight in Google searches?

I’ll tell you what. Most content publishers would stop trying to make Google+ work. A vast majority of those G+ social buttons across the social web would disappear like outdoor Christmas lights retired in the midst of January.

Google+ would collapse. And maybe it should.

In its quest to ensure data quality and drive more revenue, Google consistantly pushes the boundaries of privacy. The list of privacy violations is significant (scroll to the end of this Huffington Post piece). You have to wonder what’s going to happen with data from Glass and Nest.

The search algorithm changes impact every media and business across the world with an Internet presence. You can see the panicked Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda update posts that dominated the marketing and publishing interwebs over the past two years.

Last year Google deployed filtered emails based on keywords and data to create a less spammy email experience. Even Gmail filter changes impacted millions of people and businesses alike. I wonder how many companies have to pay to have their products seen in email ads now? Personally, I’ve had a few emails unnecessarily buried by the new tabs.

With many of these actions, Google forces content creators and site publishers to choose between SEO and smart business. Consider the placement of no follow links in press releases and now guest blogs. Now you can’t transfer Google juice in what should be common sense business activities.

I value organic growth by attracting people to my site more than I care about search algorithms. So I tend to ignore some of the finer points (keyword placement, no follow links on guest blogs I accept, etc.) in favor of a good read, but Google’s changes make me consider each tactic.

Case in Point: Guest Blogs are More than SEO

Guestblog

I read Google Web Spam Leader Matt Cutt‘s arguments last week to eliminate guest blog links from Google’s search algorithm. While I am certain Google sees more blog spam than the average person does, the recommendation to cease guest blogging is a flawed one.

In particular these statements were erroneous: “Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.”

Though Matt reversed his statement a bit with an amended title and a footnote at the end, this needs to be said loud and clear: Guest blogging is more than SEO.

Guest blogging is an attempt to introduce yourself (or a brand) and garner credibility with new audiences, the virtual road show if you would. In trade, you provide quality content. Even a respected author understands that.

Let me give you some examples:

I wrote a novel call Exodus last year that’s still realtively new. So I guest blogged last Wednesday on To Read, or Not to Read about the possibility of technology destroying us. It was a fun post that delved into post-apocalyptic narration and world building as storytelling devices. It also introduced the book to new audiences.

Then last Thursday I blogged about the coming Zombie Content Apocalypse on Copyblogger. Copyblogger is one of the top blogs in my business. It is always a great opportunity to offer a guest by-line there.

In both cases I delivered unique content to the sites. I believe the original content was useful and interesting to those communities. As a result, I gained a few new followers and contacts from these efforts.

If you told me I would be penalized by Google before I drafted the posts, it wouldn’t have stopped me. Guest blogs and articles remain a strong tactic. That is true with or without Google’s blessing.

This type of situation seems to happen with Google monthly, if not more frequently. And that is the problem with the Internet giant. Small moves create massive waves when you have all the power.

Google Is Threesome

GOOGLE-DRIVE-backgrounds-wallpaper

So how should Google be broken up? Personally, I think Google should be broken up into three companies to create a fairer Internet ecosystem.

The first is the search engine itself as a stand-alone product. When tied to other content elements on the Internet, Google search achieves insurmountable economies of scale. Google tends to leverage search, its various sepearate content mechanisms, and its software (Chrome and Android) for unfair advantages, most notably data mining and the weighting of Google+ in its search algorithm.

The second company would be software products, from Gmail to Android. Also included in this second company would be YouTube, Chrome, Feedburner, and other application elements. In many ways, search is search, and company x is content. We will call this company Google2.

Google3 would be comprised of the hardware companies. Glass, Motorola and Nest would be form Google3. Why seperate these companies from the group? Google clearly uses data to its advantage. Creating and acquiring new devices to capture data seems to be an evolving pattern here, and one that leads to a slippery slope. Separation creates a forced check and balance.

So there you have it, my vision for a safer Internet sans the Google Empire. Much like AT&T, the Baby Bells, and Lucent Technologies in the post telecom divestiture era, the three Google companies would all be very powerful in their own right.

Google Pays to Avoid Trust Busting

7985117705_7b6bb5f4c4_z

Like other big business lobbies, Google will likely avoid action or penalities for leveraging all of its business powers. Google pays to make sure its agenda is at the forefront of DC legislators’ and administrators’ minds. There are too many dollars at stake.

Washington, DC is a town built on special interest dollars. We all know this; the money involved is a central problem in today’s political gridlock.

Google was the largest tech lobbying company in DC in 2013 with $14 million spent. Ironically, this is a significant decrease over the prior year when Google faced antitrust action.

Though Google may be too powerful, it would take significant public outcry for Washington to act. Google knows the game and plays the system on every corner. We will have to continue dealing with Google’s data manipulation and Internet tactics.

It could be worse. While often overbearing in its moves, at least Google realizes that it can only grow by committing to better search, less spam, and useful information and data products. While I advocate for Google’s breakup, I’d much rather see this management team operating with these economies of scale as opposed to Facebook’s executives. That would be dangerous indeed.

What do you think? Should the government break Google up? Is the company too powerful?

Featured image via The Digital Reader. Capitol Building photo taken by me.

LinkedIn Endorsements Don’t Get Me

I receive a lot of emails from LinkedIn about endorsements for random skills. I am not quite sure what these endorsements really mean so I decided to dig deeper.

When people log in to LinkedIn, they are asked by a random algorithm to endorse people for certain skills. Mind you, these are skills that the computer program thinks folks would agree with based on whatever determinants it sources.

I was bit surprised to see what I had been mass endorsed for (see the above chart). In particular, media relations and public relations struck me as odd. I haven’t identified myself publicly as a PR pro since 2009. Yet LinkedIn still thinks this is a relevant endorsement. Further, I have not engaged in media relations activities since 2008. Yet its my fifth skill set.

Ironically, I have published four books, three in the past three years. And the last business book was on integrated communications. Yet, you won’t find either of those skill sets in the top 10. In fact you have to scroll further down to see them in the other skills.

LinedInEndorsements2

Here are a few quick observations about endorsements. Personal positioning or branding techniques don’t seem to matter to the algorithm. It doesn’t source your recent work, web sites, or even your postings for topics (again, I post on what I work and write about, not PR or media relations). Which in turn makes me think the algorithm can’t effectively garner endorsements about anyone’s actual work.

Others have levied significant criticism against LinkedIn endorsements, questioning their validity and value. Yet, some people do use these for their job searches.

I am much more likely to trust a recommendation because they are written referrals, but even those feel contrived. I get asked to write recommendations all the time. When I write one it’s authentic based on past work, but are others as discerning?

Thank goodness you have to scroll far down the profile to see these endorsements. They feel like a crowdsourced mess. That’s too bad because they had potential to provide deeper value than other influence metrics like Klout or Kred. In the end, I may just turn endorsements off.

What do you think about LinkedIn endorsements?

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog. I am on vacation until September 30th and will not be responding to comments. The floor is yours!