Tag: LinkedIn

A BRAND WITH LITERALLY NO PERSONALITY

LinkedIn has become a platform of choice for me over the last year or so. I like the fact it knows what it wants to be and that it is a work in progress. Having met with some of the team, they acknowledge there is more to be done but that the functionality has been developed to benefit business.

There is no other platform that has taken ownership of becoming an online portfolio of CVs that gives businesses access to a global database of talent like LinkedIn – or certainly not that I have come across.

Company pages on LinkedIn

We manage the Company Pages for some of our clients and make sure to post a selection of news, articles and coverage. We also engage with other brands and businesses to keep the feeds interesting and informative.

As a business that never stops learning, we review other pages to see what companies are doing and what ‘tricks of the trade’ are working. Applying best practice, we can then make recommendations that we know add value.

Making contacts, or not!

This morning when I was reviewing my own LinkedIn feed, I came across an impressive ‘company’ page. It was visual, informative, punchy and had a tone of voice that appealed to me. The page was obviously updated regularly but what stood out as very strange was there was no contact.

I think the page had been set up as a person but should have been a company. So, to be clear, it said ‘Owner of widget business’ but the page was the brand, not the individual.

Inadvertently, I had come across a brand with literally no personality!

There were several reasons I found this odd, not least how had this person not realised that it was a mistake to remain nameless and how were people supposed to make contact?

LinkedIn is about connections and although company pages generate followers, it’s not the same thing.

The power of personality

I’m a big believer that ‘people buy people’ and this has worked in practice for us here at Open Communications. Many of our clients have been with us for years and we have worked with brand managers that come to us when they change company – one of the biggest compliments in our industry and not something we take for granted.

The truth is that personality is one of the very few things that a business has which is truly unique. Of course, companies can try to replicate the tone of voice, messaging and even visuals that a brand uses but it will never be the same.

There are always the values, story and culture that you can never quite replicate. Plus, most brands that try to be something they are not get caught out and it all goes horribly wrong. Authenticity may be a phrase that is overused, but it resonates with audiences.

Keeping it real

The lesson I learnt from this morning’s encounter was that I will make it my mission to ensure that every company director we work with takes full credit for their business on LinkedIn, giving those that want to make an introduction the opportunity to do so.

I will also explain the difference between a personal and company page so that they don’t make any mistakes that could cost them sales.

I can see no reason for having a ‘social’ channel and not being visible as a person. The whole thing really is quite baffling.

As a business that wants to attract customers, this really does need to be addressed and I hope that it is. The page deserves to get the attention that it is attracting but I expect that the leads it could convert are fewer than they should be for this very reason.

SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD NOT EXCUSE RUDENESS

adults-casual-cellphone

Billions of pounds have been spent to allow people to converse and communicate freely with each other, to share ideas and challenge concepts, to share thoughts and to learn, to create hope, generate support and nurture a space where everyone can have a voice.

What an incredibly positive and powerful movement.

Well yes, in theory, however in practice the irony is that it has become a growing beast and is being used for anything other than what it was intended*.

Hiding behind a screen

Social media is now a default position that gives anyone the ‘right’ to hide behind a screen and moan, bitch, shame, stir nastiness and share hatred. It is used to reach the masses with fake news and boastful claims and make others feel inferior at best and suicidal at worst.

Many will argue that this isn’t the case and that there is a lot of good that has come from social media tools. In part, I agree, but when reading the papers over recent weeks the truth is there in black and white.

Two recent headlines from the i newspaper as an example: “Depression and social media risk doubled in girls” and “Black Mirror star quits social media”.

The first refers to a study, which has found that teenage girls are twice as likely to shows signs of depression linked to social media than boys. The University College London has looked at the association between social and depression and the results are far from surprising.

The second headline quotes an actor, Will Poulter, who says: “In light of my recent experience I am choosing to take a step back, of sorts, from Twitter. I accept all criticisms and it’s been a delight to learn that so many of you enjoyed what many people worked very hard to produce. As we all know there is a balance to be struck in our engagements with social media.” He has been referred to as ugly by ‘trolls’ on the platform.

Let’s just take a step back.

Two articles which announce that young people are commonly experiencing signs of depression due to their use (and the misuse by their peers) of social media and a successful actor who can no longer watch in silence as he is torn to pieces by people who have no greater right to comment on this person’s appearance as he does on theirs.

When did this become ok? When was this headline hitting news? And, most importantly, when are we going to start to encourage the use of social media platforms for what they were intended – not to rant and rave in order to have a knowingly negative impact, but to share positive news and to become a platform to communicate for the right reasons.

Bringing it back to business

It would be unfair to ignore the fact that social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have provided brands with a platform to promote their products to a global audience and that increasingly intelligent algorithms allow for more specific targeting than has ever been possible.

The questions is the same however, at what cost?

Irrelevant of the budget, thought, creativity and man-hours that go into social campaigns it would appear that increasingly they are coming under the same scrutiny as any social engagement with people feeling that their negative and nasty comments should be shared and somewhat bizarrely responded to.

What many people that work outside of marketing may not appreciate is that it still takes people to respond to social media posts and they, like those complaining or sharing their ‘constructive thoughts’, have feelings.

I have seen some appalling examples of people who think that because they are hidden behind a computer screen can make the most terrible comments and expect a response within minutes.

Firstly, no brand – whatever the size – has a legal obligation to get back to a consumer because they feel they are worthy of that engagement. Secondly, if you are that kind of person, think about how you phrase a complaint and then consider how you would respond given the chance.

I have said this before and I will say it again, if you are posting to a social media channel for whatever reason, if you wouldn’t walk into the street and make those comments out loud then think twice and even three times before posting them.

You do not have the right to be rude

Social media does not give anyone the right to be rude.

For those who go on thinking its ok and that to be outwardly aggressive to the people on the other side of that Twitter, Instagram feed or Facebook account, I urge you to think about how you will feel when your child, partner, friend or family member comes home in tears from school, college or work.

Remember, if your behaviour is reflective of a bully – even when targeted at a brand – you are no better than the people that are directing the same hate filled bilge to your loved ones.  

Ends

*We know that there was a commercial rationale for all of these platforms and they were not based on a philanthropic endeavour to allow freedom of speech or communication across the globe. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s just assume that was the case.

Social media is not a sales tool

ta-da

With the continuing popularity of Facebook and the increasing appreciation of Twitter and LinkedIn as tools for business, people could be excused for thinking that these platforms should sit within the sales function of a business. After all, it’s a great way to ‘target’ an audience and to ‘push out’ information about a product or service.

However this is where many brands and businesses go wrong.

No one, and I mean no one, likes to be sold at. The world is full of marketing messages; just walking down the street and you will be greeted with a plethora of information, all carefully displayed on posters, banners, billboards and digital signage.

The truth is that we live in an era of over-abundance. The best campaigns will attract attention, not necessarily because of the copy that they use or even the imagery that they display, but often because they are simple and they are integrated; they are shared across several mediums, giving a consumer numerous opportunities to engage.

But what about those businesses that don’t have multi-million-pound budgets and those that have to make the most of every single penny? Many turn to social media as a quick fix and again, this is a mistake.

There are three mistakes that people make when they consider social media as a springboard to sales:

–          Social media is free

–          There are millions of people waiting to be sold at

–          Once people like my page or follow me they will buy my product

As a PR agency we try to explain to people that if you treat social media platforms as a sales channel you will immediately turn your prospective customers off. It goes back to the age-old adage, ask not what people can do for you…

The idea of social media was to share insightful and interesting information with people, not to sell at them. There are ways that you can add value through a Facebook page, which may seem like selling, such as offering money off and promotional codes, but the truth is that you are giving something back.

With the rules that are in place with Facebook, which will limit your audience reach unless you put a budget behind paid for advertising, it can be difficult to reach the volume of people you may need to make a real difference to your business.

This doesn’t mean that Facebook should be dismissed when it comes to sharing news updates about products but it does mean that it becomes a very expensive medium if all you are going to do is to pay to share a picture.

There is a balance, and that is why when we work with clients we explain that putting a plan in place that is carefully thought out and considered, that follows themes that will keep people interested and that will encourage them to come back time and time again is a better approach than sending out the same advert or trying to be quirky and falling short of the mark.

People are increasingly time poor and with so much information on the internet they don’t want to spend time clicking to links, accessing other web pages or viewing long and meaningless video. They want content that is helpful, informative and if at all possible, funny. This is what makes is shareable.

Using an example from the real world to put this into context, how would you feel if you walked into a coffee shop and you met someone for the first time and they started the conversation by asking you what insurance you have or whether you wanted an ISA?

For most of us this would make us feel uneasy and it would be more than probable that the next time you bumped into this person you would try to avoid them.

The same can be said for a brand. If you start to ‘shout’ your messages at people then they are less likely to want to engage with you. As an alternative, try to ask their opinion; what are they looking for, what would make the customer experience better for them, what do they want to see from you in the future?

Building brand loyalty isn’t easy, in fact, it is a long-term strategy of most businesses but a starting point is remembering that it is about building relationships. Customers want to feel valued and special. They want to know that you care and that you have them in mind, not your sales targets.

The automotive sector is a good example of an industry that has evolved with the times. Many dealerships have recognised that people research online before they visit a showroom and so they offer as much information as they can online.

You will find videos and podcasts, images and testimonials from customers. At this point you will also find a button which will allow you to visit your nearest dealership for a test drive. What they have done is to give you all of the information you need – that you are searching for. They have then provided you with the option to book a test drive.

The process is driven by you (no pun intended) – not them, which makes it feel less forced. What happens when you get into the dealership is up to the sales team but rather than jump on you and offer a knock-down price, as was once the case, you increasingly find that showrooms look like coffee shops that could rival leading high street brands with their skinny lattes and chocolate topped mochas.

The point is that to use social media effectively it isn’t about selling, it’s about communicating. It’s about building profile. Once you have a strong brand presence you can then start to turn engagement into loyalty. The process is not simple, it is not quick but over time it often works.

If your marketing is planned, sustainable and does not rely on the misguided belief that if you put thousands of pounds behind a Facebook post that it will make you a millionaire, a social strategy could become a useful facet to your wider marketing activity.

Content is king – long live the king!

User generated content has become an increasingly appealing option for businesses, not least because they can share their ideas, thoughts and passions at the touch of a button. In addition user generated content is cost effective and accessible – after all it’s your time that you need to invest.

Whether you have a company blog, or prefer to use social media tools to share your thoughts, there is an international audience just waiting to hear what you have to say.

What to consider

The problem with user generated content is that often once the excitement of uploading your musings wear’s off, businesses are left with websites and social tools that are clearly out of date.

What usually happens is that someone takes responsibility for uploading content, even getting the support of the senior team, only to then find that managing the process is constantly on the bottom of their ever increasing ‘to do’ list.

All this then does is reinforce that marketing and communication is not a priority for the business – whereas user generated content should be used to promote and showcase success and the value that a consistent approach can deliver.

How to manage the process more effectively

Many organisations choose a single person to manage all user generated content, which includes the drafting and uploading of all articles, but a better and more effective approach would be to pick one person from each team to submit an article of their choice.

This will then share the workload and empower those who are asked to contribute to do so on a less frequent basis. So, rather than having one person contributing to a company blog each week, you can share the workload by requesting that each team submits a blog once a month.

What you are also likely to find if you share the management of a company blog is that the content becomes more engaging and it gives people who are genuinely passionate about their job the chance to share their thoughts and have them published.

This will still require one person to chase and ensure that people do submit their copy on time however it makes the process far simpler and less demanding.

How to make it engaging

Some businesses can struggle with finding topics that they feel their visitors, followers, connections or fans will be interested in reading however it’s worth remembering that they have already taken a step to engage with you and without updated user generated content all you are doing is metaphorically turning your back on them – now that’s not friendly when you think about it!

To make things easier all you need to do is add the website, blog and social media to your weekly or monthly meetings. Create a calendar of events, activities, dates, products, services and subjects that are relevant to your business – you can then choose any one of these to expand on and share.

As an example you could be a clothing company and in which case you could consider the following; fashion, materials, manufacture, design or retail. There are lots and lots of things that could be covered.

Top tips

In order to get best value from user generated content, we would recommend that you keep it simple. Consider how you can share updates with your audience that will add some value.

Blogs as an example are a great way to share the personality of those within your organisation. Choose people who you know will want to contribute and who will get a real buzz from seeing their copy online – it will make life much easier than trying to drag content from those who would rather not contribute.

Put together a list of words that can be associated with your business and also the topics that are covered in industry magazines. What’s great about user generated content is that it’s your opportunity to have your say – obviously you need to be mindful that anyone can access your thoughts and there is a fine line between opinion and ranting – but it’s a great way to share your thoughts.

If you draft a simple question and answer document that can be updated in no more than 20 minutes you can send this around to the teams within your organisation and simply use this as a team update or ‘five minutes with’ section to the blog. This is really simple and should provide you with interesting and engaging content to share.

Clients and suppliers are a great resource as well. If you are proud of the work that you do with them then ask that they feature as a guest blog, sharing their thoughts and views with your audience.

There is no doubt that time and resource needs to be invested in generating interesting and engaging user content but once you start to see the value, which can be measured by increased web hits or shares, likes and retweets across social tools, it becomes clear that it can add real value to your business, while also raising your profile and positioning you as an expert within your field.

How often to post

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post or update user generated content but as a guide we would recommend that you update your blog once a week to start with. This will give you a realistic target and will encourage visitors to come back to your site or to share your comments more often.

Taking little steps to implement a strategy that you can manage internally is a great way to build on your marketing activities and if you really don’t have the time – you could always ask an agency for support.

At Open Communications we work with businesses to develop a strategy that they can manage. We offer full day sessions with up to 6 people from any one organisation able to get involved.

Getting people excited by user generated content is often the first hurdle to cross and making them understand the value and benefit that can be achieved as a result isn’t always easy. Working with a third party can do this quickly and give you the hints and tips you need to build a strategy that will last and deliver a return on investment.

Better still, if you work with a reputable company they should have examples of other businesses they have worked with who have seen the value and are putting steps in place to create interesting, engaging and up to date content that they share.

Social media policy, why bother?

It would be slightly strange as a PR agency if we put restrictions on the use of social media in our office. As we access so many tools including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube on a daily basis, the team would find it rather restricting if we put a cap on the time they were able to spend monitoring and updating these sites.

I don’t think our clients would be too happy either; knowing that although they rely on us to provide recommendations in relation to the management of their content online that we were limiting the time and sites that the team could access.

The same principle cannot be applied to other businesses however and that is why I feel it is so important that companies put in place a social media policy as opposed to blanket restrictions or bans, which limit or at worst refuse access to these tools during working hours.

 

Why not keep it simple and stop access altogether?

Many companies feel that if they stop people accessing the sites during working hours then the problem would be solved. Wrong.

All that will do is encourage people to use their phones, which will allow them to access the tools that they want to anyway, which in turn is likely to distract them for longer. This approach also sends out a clear message that as employees of the business they are not trusted.

How can you trust someone to support the running of your business yet not consider that they are able to make appropriate decisions when it comes to their use and access of social media tools? If you feel that you are unable to trust the team that you have around you to use these tools during allocated times or to reference the company appropriately then the problem isn’t with social media, it’s with staffing.

 

How could giving access to social tools possibly benefit my business?

Social media has become a recognised and valuable resource for people and if used correctly can be an asset to a business. The difference is how people choose to use the tools that they have access to. If for example, a person goes on Facebook to like the posts that their friends have put on their wall that is one thing but if they were to use Twitter to monitor thoughts on a given subject this could have a huge impact on a campaign or provide greater insight into an industry debate resulting in interesting content that could be shared with the wider team.

Many social tools are now used as search engines or for research purposes. They give great indication into sector specific activity and provide up to date announcements on industry topics and worldwide news.

Tools such as Twitter are also really useful when gaging general consensus on a given subject. Despite what some people may think Twitter isn’t all about reality TV shows, celebrity wannabes and sharing obscure hashtags with people you have never met.

Take the budget as an example. Many influential business people use twitter and it is a great resource for finding out people’s views quickly. With subjects like the budget you can determine what sectors will see the greatest impact of a given decision and how this could in turn affect your industry. You can also follow the media on Twitter, which provides you with a real time news feed that evolves throughout the day. You can’t pay for that kind of insight.

 

Social media isn’t relevant to my industry 

We hear this a lot when we start to work with clients until we explain what tools can be used for. Again it isn’t all about sharing pictures on the beach. Some companies will not gain great value from Facebook and others can see no benefit in Twitter, so don’t use them – but don’t discard all other platforms in doing so.

LinkedIn is a growing and popular tool amongst serious business people and can lead to some very interesting connections that you would otherwise be unlikely to make.

With LinkedIn the basic principle is that you ‘link’ with others that you know or have done business with in the past. The idea was that you wouldn’t get illicit requests and that if someone wanted to connect with you who didn’t know you, then other contacts could forward an invitation.

What is great about LinkedIn is that it has groups, discussions, news updates and personal profiles. Better still you can use the platform to share your own news with your connections, in turn keeping them up to date with the changes in your business or career.

Sharing information on LinkedIn is a great way to drive traffic to your website and to share your updated content online using business pages. Not only can you provide people with an insight into your organisation but also position your business as a market leader.

 

So what about this social media policy?

Having a social media policy in place means that everyone knows where they stand. It is a guide that can be referred to and used to provide employees with the do’s and don’ts of social media for business.

Due to the nature of some businesses, such as those within the legal sector, it can be difficult to allow employees to update their social feeds with any information from their working day as confidentialities and cases could be called into question if they were to do so.

Mindfulness is something that needs to be spelt out in a world that is increasingly digital. Some people don’t realise that what they are tweeting or sharing has the capacity to go viral and that it could be sent to a recipient that it wasn’t originally intended for.

This is why a social media policy can be the difference between online media positively impacting on a business and a potential crisis situation, which could secure headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Ideally a social media policy should give some direction; it should let employees know if they are allowed to use their own Twitter of Facebook accounts for business and if they are required to add a line to their profile stating that their views are their own.

It should also give updates on any social media activity that is carried out for the business and what implications making unsubstantiated claims about the company online could have. As an example, would sharing confidential information be a sackable offence or constitute a warning?

Although social media can be a scary medium to consider, when you think that it is a global platform to share your musings with, if used correctly, it can lead to great things and can raise the profile of a business to a relevant and respected audience.

Here at Open Communications we work with our clients to create social media policies that fit with their business. Like many things, one size does not fit all when it comes to social media and although we advise our clients to be overly sensitive in the first stages, what this does is provide them with a starting point and something that they can use that will evolve over time.

It’s certainly not all bad news when you consider social media policies. Having a simple document in place can empower your team to share the best stories you have with a relevant and receptive audience. You may even find that someone in the team is particularly passionate about a given subject and that they would like to share their thoughts and generate a positive debate, which in turn positions the business as best in class.

Generating content online in this way and sharing it can be hugely powerful and when used correctly social media tools can and do bring great benefits to a brand and business but don’t leave it to chance. Work with an agency that can give you guidance and will take the time to work with you to create a policy that will suit you and your team.

If a picture paints a thousand words…

If a picture paints a thousand words then what does your LinkedIn profile picture say about you? I have noticed over recent weeks that the pictures that people are using on their LinkedIn profiles are becoming less about professionalism and more about pout!

I am aware, as I should be, that social platforms are used by different people for different purposes and this is what makes them so appealing – but I have yet to find anyone who uses LinkedIn to socialise in the truest sense of the word.

Now call me cynical but this sudden influx of ‘the pout’, which would be better suited to Facebook, could have something to do with the recent changes to the privacy settings on LinkedIn, which now allows teenagers from as young as 13 years old to join the network.

Whereas I have no problem with career minded teenagers wanting to build their networks or to share their knowledge with the world – in fact, far from it – I do feel it is important that they know what they are proposed for.

Also, if schools and colleges are to promote the use of these platforms, as they presumably now will in career studies, the first thing that teachers need to explain is the pit falls – fundamentally, in this case, that LinkedIn is still a professional social tool and not Snapchat.

One suggestion would be that schools and colleges work more closely with agencies who are willing to invest some time in giving talks to students to advise on how to use social media for professional reasons and which platforms could work best, depending on their preferred career choice.

The problems arise because unlike Facebook, which blurs the lines when you consider consumer businesses, I don’t believe that this is the case for LinkedIn and so find it hard to understand why someone would want to display an image of them pouting proudly in their preferred ‘selfie’ but this could just be me.

In a world where we should be ever more aware of the audiences that we are sharing our information with, I find it hard to believe that professional people would really want to promote themselves under the description of potential recruit or business owner while brandishing an oversized glass of wine, an undersized ‘cleavage revealing’ top and a pout that a glamour model would be proud of – and that’s just the men!

As I said, perhaps it’s just me but can we ban the pout and stick with a good old head and shoulders shot – I would certainly be more inclined to do business with someone who takes a professional network like LinkedIn a little more seriously.

Or am I just getting old?