A shout-out to LinkedIn — and my colleagues

Free, organic marketing — that takes time. But it has at least one advantage: if you build and nurture a good LinkedIn network, the leads that come from it are very well qualified.

social networks unite the world

Last week I completely forgot the 10th anniversary of my business.

But LinkedIn remembered. They noted it in my colleagues’ newsfeed.

So throughout the week I was pinged with a few a dozen “Congratulations!” messages from friends from around the world. Many of these folks I’ve talked with in recent months, but some — well, one was a madly creative, rather intimidating woman I knew 10 years ago at Apple. We both left at the same time and went off to make our ways in the world. She remembered me? Wow.

I answered each of the messages, using the opportunity to catch up, and came away from the experience pretty impressed with LinkedIn.

I was even more impressed a few days later when the CEO of a small software company contacted me to do a project, mentioning that a friend (one of the folks who’d congratulated me on LinkedIn) had recommended my work. Today I’m starting on a fascinating new web-writing project. I’m pretty sure that the LinkedIn anniversary message reminded that colleague about my work, and led him to recommend me.

Clients often ask me what social media activities will get them business immediately. The answer? Buy Google ads. Free, organic marketing — that takes time. But it has at least one advantage: if you build and nurture a good LinkedIn network, the leads that come from it are very well qualified.





Social Media Survival presentation

A social media program that makes perfect sense today is likely to be significantly out of alignment in 18 months.

Last night I spoke about social media at Lee Schoentrup’s class on public relations writing at the University of Washington. This is the sixth year I’ve done the presentation. I think when I started, with blogger Peggy Sturdivant, all we talked about was…blogging.

Six years later, the list of social media tools I cover goes on, and on, and on. While in the past I’ve focused on social media strategies for particular tools, this year I revamped the presentation to focus on the need for a social media strategy that can roll with continuous change. I pointed to trends affecting social media, including:

  • Crowds (crowdsourcing, etc.)
  • Increasing use of mobile devices to create and access social media content
  • The return of organic content after the recent obsession with SEO

It’s clear to me that a social media program that makes perfect sense today is likely to be significantly out of alignment in 18 months. Who knew two years ago that companies would be getting mileage out of Facebook and Pinterest? How many companies are providing a good experience for the growing number of people who visit their blogs (or Facebook and LinkedIn pages) using a smartphone? How many are even aware of the social media consequences (good and bad) of sprinkling “Like” and “Share” buttons around their web pages?

I changed the topic of the presentation from “Social Media Success” to “Social Media Survival.” It’s a jungle out there.

Members of the UW class who would like to download a PDF of the Keynote presentation will find it here: SME – UW – 2013.

Three tools for getting a head start on the new year

tree snowThank you so much for following Writer Way in 2012. Thanks for your comments and feedback, and for telling friends who are interested in writing and online communications about the blog.

Like everyone else, I’m crazy busy (or at least I think I am). I’d like to work more efficiently in 2013, so I’m collecting a few tools I believe will help me do that. Here’s what I’ve come up with, thus far:

  • A cheat sheet for sizing images for Facebook, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (Courtesy of econsultancy.com)
  • Free project management software. I like the old-fashioned GANTT chart for trying to visualize and analyze who’s doing what, when, and which projects and tasks are interdependent. GanttProject lets you do that — so you can stop trying to run projects with Excel.
  • Inexpensive time-tracking, expense-tracking, and invoicing software (cloud-based). While I wouldn’t call Harvest elegant, I’d say it’s surprisingly full-featured and easy to use. For $12 a month, I get a system that lets me handle an unlimited number of clients, projects, and invoices — plus I can access the Harvest site from a browser or an iPhone/iPad app. (There’s even a free version that lets you track time and do invoicing for two projects — a great way to find out if Harvest is for you.)

Try ’em out. Let me know what you think — and what else you find that helps you get work done.

Happy Holidays! See you in 2013.

— Karen

Why I avoid Google+

Google+ won’t let you integrate multiple Google mail accounts into one Google+ identity, and that makes using Google+ a frustrating time suck.

Friend? See you on Facebook.

Colleague? Talk with you over on LinkedIn!

Neighbor? Acquaintance? Let’s have some fun on Twitter.

Fellow traveler? I’ll follow you on FourSquare.

But I just got an email notifying me that someone I like added has me on Google+. This fills me with dread. Why? Follow me on my journey down the surrealistic rabbit hole of Google+.

First, I click the link “Add to circles” in the email so I can add my friend. It takes me to Google+, which invites me to join.

Interesting, because I already belong to Google+. (Under two Google email identities, but more on that later.)

Unfortunately, sometime in the past few days I used a third Google email address (I have several) and now Google considers me logged in as that third identity, which does not belong to Google+ and is never going to.

I now have to log out of Google and log back in — which is requires me to refer back to the original email from my friend to see which identity she has “added” me under.

Yes, I know that Google has a system that lets you switch identities without logging out and logging in — but that “switch” only works for certain Google online apps and not for others. I use several, and can never keep straight which ones let me switch — until I try switching and a few screens later find that I am still stuck in the original unswitched identity.

So I log out and log in.

Hmmm. There is now no sign of my friend’s invitation, but I do see my Google+ stream (or ripple, or whatever they call it). There are a few posts from people I’m interested in, and several posts by some guy who just can’t shut up.

By now, I’m completely derailed. I go back to the email and tell my friend how she can find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Problem solved.

Sorry, Google+. Your failure to let me integrate multiple Google mail accounts into one Google+ identity makes visiting your system a frustrating time suck — and even the literate content my friends post there won’t make it worth the trouble.

2 keys to great content strategy

The first key to great content strategy is knowing the organization, its audience, and the available tools. The second key is using that information to build realistic plans and options.

This is based on my contribution to a recent LinkedIn discussion (started by Boston web designer Craig Huffstetler) about what a content strategist should do.

1. A content strategist is responsible for knowing 4 things:

  • The communications needs and expectations of the target audiences
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the available communications tools
  • The resources (time, money and expertise) the client organization has to use the tools
  • The messages the organization wants to communicate

2. Based on that information, the content strategist builds realistic communications strategies and options.

When creating those options, it is important to:

  • Resist the lure of the tools. I see a lot of content strategists insisting that organizations use the hottest social media tools and channels — even when the organization’s audience has zero interest in receiving information through those channels.
  • Build on the existing strengths. I keep encountering organizations that have committed to content plans that, in order to succeed, would require 20 times the amount of time, money or expertise available carry them out. The plans fail — and the tools get blamed (“Facebook just doesn’t work for us!”).

The hallmarks of a great content strategist are a firm grip on reality and the ability to help the client face that same reality.

When the results come in, your client will thank you.

Twitter? (yawn) Don’t bother.

Advertising? Twitter has jumped the shark and is diving for the bottom with the fail whale hot on its tail.

My clients are, of course, anxious to get the most mileage out of their blogs by teasing their posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

By looking at statistical analyses of the blogs, we can see which of those teases are actually attracting readers. It’ll be no news to anyone that in most cases, the Facebook referrals are on the way up. Referrals from Google searches remain strong, and LinkedIn referrals are stable. But Twitter?

Young businesswoman sitting at desk yawning at Twitter
Are we tired of Twitter? (Photo: iStock)

Hello? Hello? Is anyone using Twitter any more?

I realized with a shock that I’d stopped using Twitter myself. I spend more time scanning Xydo.com (“social news evolved”) and paper.li newsletters (sent to me by email) and visiting Facebook (for community and social information) and LinkedIn (for hardcore professional networking news).

What’s going on with Twitter?

News that in two months Twitter will be injecting un-removable advertising posts into my Twitter stream was the signal that, for my purposes, Twitter has jumped the shark and is diving for the bottom with the fail whale hot on its tail. Enough users already are degrading Twitter with 40 posts a day of meaningless marketing babble that managing a Twitter stream has become a royal pain; stuffing advertising into the mix will soon raise stream-quality levels to unacceptable.

Is your website ready for 2011?

Six quick and easy tweaks that can take your website or blog from looking sloppy and out-of-date to savvy and professional.

The start of the new year is one of the best times to touch up your website, blog, or LinkedIn page. I’m not talking about a big, expensive overhaul or redesign: I’m talking about quick and easy tweaks that can take you from looking sloppy and out-of-date to savvy and professional.

This checklist will point you in the right direction:

  1. Check dates. If you’re talking about something happening in 2010 in the future tense, or if you’re featuring a 2010 event on your “upcoming events” page, fix it — fast.
  2. Watch out for use of the word “new.” My ebook Take Control of iPhone Basics came out in October, 2010. I can probably get away with calling it “new” for another or month or so and then it’s simply “my ebook.”
  3. Check photos. If your website has pictures of your storefront taken three years ago, when the awning was a different color and you had a different sign out front, it’s time to get a new photo. Same with your own photo — you may have been cuter and slimmer five years ago when it was taken, but everything from the haircut to what you were wearing is probably dated.
  4. Scrutinize your client list and list of recent projects. This is the time to add the new capabilities you offer, list your most recent clients, and perhaps remove from the list former clients under new management, or who no longer use your services.
  5. Clear out the clutter — especially in your sidebars. Check your blogroll or links lists to make sure these websites are still active (you may be astonished to find out how many changed URLs or ceased operations). If you’ve added links to several videos, books or images, take a hard look at the page and prune it down to the one or two you most want people to visit.
  6. Finally, test all your links. It’s the Internet; things change.

A few words about testimonials

If you come across a detailed, comprehensive testimonial — for an individual or for a company — you can pretty much be assured that it’s well deserved.

To get a good reputation, you need to do more than just please clients and colleagues. You need to get them to talk to others about how pleased they are.

And, to get a really great reputation, you need to focus their talk — make sure it’s falling on the right ears. Telling other people what you want them to say about you, and to whom? Is this getting complicated? It sure is.

Starting small: Linkedin recommendations

If you use Linkedin, you’ve probably gotten a request from someone to write a recommendation that will appear under on the person’s profile page. How did this strike you? Was it something you wanted to do? Was it easy to do? Did you feel comfortable doing it?

I ask these questions because I struggle with recommendations — and writing them should be easy for me:

• I’m a sole proprietor, so I don’t have to ask my boss if it’s OK to gush about another company.

• I’m a professional writer, and it’s relatively simple for me get out some words of praise, be they glowing or merely reserved.

And yet, I struggle with these testimonials. Am I writing what the person wants me to say? Am I writing what their prospective clients would want to hear? (And are those two things even aligned in the requestor’s mind?)

The Big Time: corporate client testimonials

I bring up these issues because I’m often asked to help craft endorsements and testimonials about companies from their clients.

If doing a two-paragraph recommendation for a former colleague on Linkedin has its challenges, the issues with corporate client testimonials can be massive.

Does this customer-service policy make me look fat?

Typically, a company sales staff would love a client organization to write a testimonial that hits on each one of its strategic sales points. Let’s say that for Company A, those are

• trendy design

• rapid delivery

• customization of the product (on large orders)

• local service contractors for rapid repairs

The problem is that few customers are involved with all four sales points. The company that loved your trendy design and quick delivery has never called you for repairs. The company that loved your customization and needed a quick repair had no need for rapid delivery and barely noticed your product design.

It may also be that the customer who loved the design and delivery was disappointed when the repair work was bungled.

And yet, the expectation is that the client somehow sees you exactly as you see your (idealized) self.

Talk is cheap; hard data requires senior management

The sales force’s “dream” testimonial is filled with numbers that substantiate the customer’s high opinions of your work and quantify the difference your product or service made in their operations: With your service contract, they experienced 50% less downtime than they had while getting service from your competitor. As a result of your product’s trendy design, they doubled their sales to 20-somethings and high-spending homeowners.

Ah, but the problem is that the store manager or buyer for your customer’s organization has no authority to reveal that business-sensitive data. They know that the CEO or CFO of their company would need to sign off on it — and might well decline to make that sort of business data public. All they are authorized to give you are kind words and soft generalizations: They love your great customer service, and 20-somethings like your nice designs.

The CEO or a VP of Company A could, of course, ask his or her counterpart at Company B to make the endorsement. But, in practice, that sort of “ask” is rarely on a CEO’s or VP’s radar.

The good news

I’m not leaving you with much good news if you’re in the business of soliciting or writing client testimonials, but there is a silver lining for those of you who read them: If you come across a detailed, comprehensive testimonial — for an individual or for a company — you can pretty much be assured that it’s well deserved.

Twitter calms down

Shih Wei points to this SFGate article by Howard Rheingold as the best “why use Twitter” piece she’s seen. What I like about it is that it’s something you could send to a non-Twitter user, even someone completely uninterested in social media, and they’d “get” why many people like Twitter.

As Howard points out at the beginning of the article, Twitter is settling in to the online landscape, and there’s a shakeout happening. The trend-happy types are decamping for the next hot thing, and a core Twitter community is emerging.

I’d been drifting away from Twitter in the past couple of months, using Linkin for professional networking and FaceBook for personal networking. It didn’t help that my Twitter account got hacked last month and I had to grit my teeth and apologize to hundreds of people for the inconvenience spam messages from my hacked account had caused them (it was the first time in more than 15 years online that I’d  been hacked). But the advent of a lists feature in the Twitter interface has made things more manageable and encouraged me to give Twitter another try.

%d bloggers like this: