Tagged: linkedin

Helpful Hint of the Day? Sign Up for HootSuite

hootsuite-logo-200x200Just a quick post today about a social media management tool that we’ve found to be extremely helpful for managing the myriad of social media accounts on behalf of clients. The tool is called HootSuite and as far as social media management tools go, we think it’s top dog.

If you’re a small business or even a social media maven that manages multiple personal accounts, this web tool will make your life about a million times easier. With an intuitive dashboard and features like link shortening and post scheduling, it’s the perfect blend of simplicity and power. They also have a GREAT iPhone app that makes managing your social presence on the go even easier.

After you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to link social media accounts that you manage to HootSuite. The simplistic design makes for a very seamless linking process. Just click “Add a Social Network” to get started.

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After you’ve connected a few accounts, use the navigation toolbar on the left to move from feature to feature.

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Clicking on “Streams” will bring up the page that you will see every time you launch HootSuite. This is your main dashboard and where you will manage your accounts.

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The social media accounts that you manage are represented towards the top as tabs. The vertical columns that comprise a majority of the screen are called “Streams”. Essentially, Streams are just dynamic feeds of information from the social media accounts you’re managing, like @mentions, direct messages, news feeds, and more. Selecting “Add Stream” on a particular tab will bring up a small window that lists the types of streams you can add, depending on the type of social media account contained in that tab (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).

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Once you get a few Streams added for each account, you can begin exploring all of the features HootSuite has to offer. Compose a status update or Tweet for any of your accounts, right from the ever-present “Compose Message…” field towards the top of the dashboard.

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The icons to the right of the input field allow you to attach an image, add your location, or even schedule the message to post at a later time or date. For you Twitter users, you can shorten links from here as well. Using this feature will allow you to track the number of people who have clicked on a particular link in the analytics page of HootSuite – a very useful feature, especially if you’re using HootSuite for business.

I can’t tell you how much easier life has gotten since signing up for this service. Being able to see all of our clients’ social interactions from one dashboard has been invaluable and has cut down our management time significantly. And even though this was just a quick run-through of the basic features HootSuite has to offer, I hope it has enticed you to sign up and start exploring what this powerful tool can do. The basic version is free and will allow you to do everything I mentioned above and more. HootSuite Pro is only $9.99/month and gives you access to pretty much every feature you’d want in a social management tool.

So whether you’re a growing business that’s looking for a way to simply manage your various social media accounts, or just a social media enthusiast that’s tired of logging into 5 different accounts throughout the day to manage your social life, HootSuite’s probably the solution for you. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

One Small Click for Man, One Giant Leap for…LinkedIn

Well, it took over 9,000 impressions, but SUM has finally received its first click on a LinkedIn ad! If you’re just joining us, I’m referring to the month-long saga that I wrote about here. Needless to say, we’re relieved that something has finally come from all of our efforts. 

So what made the difference? Well, we think it’s a couple of things. We were actually encouraged by one of our readers, Ellyce, to contact an account rep at LinkedIn to make sure there wasn’t anything technically wrong with our campaign. Thinking this to be an excellent suggestion, I reached out to the LinkedIn Customer Experience Team and led them through the experience we had been having with their ad service. I received a very prompt reply from an account representative named Julien, who was extremely friendly and helpful.

He began by offering up an apology for the experience we were having thus far (even though he knew LinkedIn hadn’t really done anything wrong) and continued by confirming that there wasn’t anything wrong with the campaign on the technical side. Obviously this was both relieving and disheartening.

He then offered up several suggestions for how we could improve our campaign. A lot of the ideas were slightly more detailed explanations of the LinkedIn advertising best practices that we had already found on their website, but he also provided some information that, in my opinion, proved to be the difference in the campaign, moving forward.

He let me know that, while our $2.13 bid per click was within LinkedIn’s suggested price range for the group we were targeting, it was at the lowest end of the spectrum and was affecting how many impressions we were receiving. He said that by increasing our bid by just a little, we would win more impressions on users’ profiles and should, therefore, receive more clicks. This suggestion seemed to once again confirm that online advertising is about playing the numbers and that more impressions will usually lead to more clicks.

So I took his advice and moved my bid up to $3.00 per click. Our impressions almost tripled within less than a week and we received our first click as a result. And the ad that did it? Believe it or not, it was the cat!

Cat Ad

Just goes to show that sometimes an out-of-the-box approach is required to grab attention on the internet.

And while a 0.019% Click Through Rate is still pretty atrocious, we are encouraged and content. After all, this is an experiment that we’re conducting for free with a $50 LinkedIn advertising credit, so the knowledge that we’re gaining more than makes up for a pitiful CTR.

Many thanks to Ellyce for suggesting we contact someone at LinkedIn and also to Julien for responding quickly and courteously, and for shedding a little light on the ins and outs of LinkedIn advertising.

Have any LinkedIn stories of your own? What do you like/dislike about this social giant? As always, let me know in the comments section!

LinkedIn is Playing Catch-up, But New Company Pages Might be the Answer

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LinkedIn – referred to by some (us) as the boring little brother of Facebook and Twitter – has just gotten a little more interesting. They have rolled out a new set of features for their company pages and while they seemed to be a little behind the eight ball in the past, we think this launch just helped them make up a lot of ground.

The improvements are listed in the promotional email we received as follows:

  • Large brand image
  • Streamline design
  • Greater prominence for status updates
  • Featured posts

The email also mentions that the new and improved company pages now appear on LinkeIn’s mobile and iPad apps. Definitely a plus for enterprises using the site.

It seems like just yesterday I was writing a very similar blog post about Twitter. After Facebook and Google+ launched cover photo functionality for companies, the other two social giants weren’t far behind. But LinkedIn is hoping that the extra bells and whistles will attract even more companies to the site and increase traffic, which will hopefully increase their ad revenue.

Our first impression of the new company pages is a good one. They have a sleek look and the new cover photo, which they refer to as a “large branded image”, doesn’t overpower you when you arrive on the page. And as a company page administrator, you are easily able to share articles or post updates, right when you log in. Here’s what our company page now looks like after updating our page. 

SUM Page

Interested in which companies are on top of their social media presence, we started perusing LinkedIn, looking for companies that have already updated their pages. Here’s a screen shot of Dell’s new company page.

Dell Cover

Compare Dell’s page to Sony’s, who is obviously a little slower on the uptake. 

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Most companies’ pages still look like Sony’s. Compared to the sparkly, new pages of some of the companies that have already made the switch, they look a little drab…nothing new on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn claims that their newer page design better highlights the products and careers sections of a company’s profile. The site allows you to either list out your products/services or add multiple customized product photos that can be scrolled through after clicking on the “Products” tab on a company’s page. Only a few companies received a sneak peak and were allowed to make these adjustments early. Dell was one of those companies and made use of the scrolling image option (see below).

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And while Sony was not let into the club early, they haven’t even take the time to list their products under the old layout. Tisk, tisk.

Sony Products

The LinkedIn update is definitely a positive one and a step in the right direction. Companies have been using Facebook to interact with customers for a long time now, but some Business-to-Business companies are still wondering if setting up and maintaining a Facebook page is worth it. They see value in connecting with people, but the CFO’s niece isn’t going to buy a million dollar airplane part. These new LinkedIn pages offer the branding opportunity that Facebook offers, but in a much more professional setting. This could be exactly what the social network needs to take the next step towards even more daily use. Well done, LinkedIn. We approve.

To give you a head-start on your new LinkedIn company page image, the dimensions are 646 x 220 pixels. And if you have any thoughts on LinkedIn’s new strategy for business customers, let us know in the comments section!

LinkedIn Ads: Are They Worth Paying For?

SUM was recently offered a $50 advertising credit for LinkedIn and, eager to increase our presence on the most popular business networking site on the planet, we decided to give it a shot. We have managed multiple ad campaigns using both Google Adwords and Facebook, but we had yet to try LinkedIn and were very interested in how their performance would stack up. 

The Good

Seemingly, LinkedIn has a lot going for it in the way of advertising; especially if you are selling less traditional, business-to-business products or services. The advertising platform gives you complete control over which users and companies see your ads. You can show different ads to different demographics by adjusting the filters, shown below.

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Each category can be broken down by multiple factors, giving you a huge number of target combinations.

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Also, the pricing is customizable and fairly reasonable. LinkedIn offers both CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPM (Cost Per Impression) ads, meaning you can choose to pay for only the ads that are clicked on or pay for every ad that appears on someone’s profile, in batches of 1,000. While there is always disagreement about which model is best, we have had good experiences with CPC using Google and Facebook, so we opted for that strategy. We are currently paying $2.13/click, definitely within the industry standard.

The Bad

The results of our campaign, I’m afraid, are quite grim. When using the CPC model, the metric of success discussed most often is the CTR or “Click Through Rate.” This rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your ad receives by the number of impressions your ad generated. For example, if your ad was viewed 1,000 times and was clicked on 10 times out of that 1000 views, your CTR would be 10/1000, or 1%. This seems low, but for some Google campaigns where ads are viewed thousands or millions of times per day, a 1% CTR can really add up. 

There is some variation when it comes to the average CTRs of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but generally Google comes in first with a CTR of around 0.4%, Facebook is second with a CTR of 0.051%, and LinkedIn is last with a CTR of 0.025%. The internet average CTR is 0.1%, so Google is really the only player performing consistently better than the average internet ad. Now, there is a lot of variation based on the type of ad, the target market, and many other factors, so these are just high-level averages. 

Here’s the bad news: Currently, our LinkedIn campaign has a CTR of 0.00%. Yep, you read that right – ZERO percent. And of course, the argument could be made that we don’t have a compelling offer or our images aren’t interesting enough, but we did A/B testing with various images and copy to counter this. We also researched LinkedIn advertising best practices before launching our campaign. As the weeks went by and the clicks remained absent, we adjusted our copy and our images in hopes of grabbing someone’s attention, but to no avail. The evolution of our ads is included below. As you can see, towards the end, desperate times called for desperate measures.

We started with simple and informative ads to establish a baseline measurement.

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After a few weeks, we didn’t have any clicks so we went to plan B. A few LinkedIn gurus suggested posing a question in the headline. So we tried that…didn’t work.

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After about a month, it got downright silly.

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So after one month, our ads had generated more than 5,600 ad impressions and not a single person had clicked on one. After letting those numbers sink in and giving it some thought, I have 3 possible conclusions:

  1. We are actually terrible at marketing.
  2. There is something wrong with the functionality of the campaign (i.e. links are broken, measurement isn’t working, etc.)
  3. LinkedIn is horribly underperforming and, fundamentally, not a good advertising platform.

For the sake of our business and our egos, I’m going to dismiss number 1 immediately. Not because we are God’s gift to marketing or anything, but because we have had very positive marketing results with both Google and Facebook ad campaigns in the past. Number 2 is definitely a possibility, but impressions seem to be reported accurately and reliably and we have checked the links again and again and they never fail to open. If it were a technical issue, it would be a bizarre fluke and I would hope their tech or advertisement departments would have caught the mistake by now. Which brings me to number 3 and my estimation of why LinkedIn is failing so miserably. 

The Diagnosis

One of the fundamentals in marketing is evaluating a target’s buying mood. If I sold health insurance policies, I wouldn’t stand outside a grocery store to promote my business. Do the people shopping need health insurance? Sure. But there’s no way that I’m going to convince someone to purchase a policy from me if they’re just dashing into the store for a gallon of milk. They are not in the right buying mood, even if they are my exact target customer.

This is what I think is happening with LinkedIn. People turn to Google for answers and information. If they are actively seeking a solution that your business provides, they type their keywords into the search box, which triggers your ad and…presto! They click on your ad and you’re in business. People are in the mood to be sold to, so they are more likely to click on ads that appear. And while Facebook cannot replicate this model, they are able to rely heavily on testimonial marketing, so their ads are relatively successful. 

Unfortunately for LinkedIn, their website does not fundamentally work with either of these marketing methodologies and I believe this is why they’re falling behind when it comes to CTR. When users are on LinkedIn, they are interested in checking up on colleagues or updating their professional information. Often times they have a purpose or directive when on the site and it rarely involves buying anything. If they are looking for solutions, chances are they’re scoping out potential people to hire, rather than paying attention to the ads that pop up on their page, even if they are relevant to their company’s needs. They are not in the right buying mood.

Prognosis

Luckily for us, we didn’t have to pay for any of this. If we had been paying, I would be getting in touch with an account manager at LinkedIn instead of blogging about it. But because we’re conducting this experiment for free, it has actually yielded a lot of value…just not the kind of value we were looking for when we set out. What this month of testing has done is help confirm our suspicions about online advertising:

  1. Online advertising is a total numbers game. In order to reach any significant number of people, you have to be making hundreds of thousands of impressions a month.
  2. If you are going to pursue an online campaign (which we are not in any way advising against), there are definitely some rules you should follow, but a lot of success involves trial and error. 
  3. The best in the game is still Google, but there’s definitely room for Facebook, depending on the product.
  4. LinkedIn is not a site that gets the buying juices flowing, so we think your time on the site will be better spent posting relevant articles and cultivating long-term relationships with colleagues and industry leaders.

So is LinkedIn worth paying for? Well, it depends. If you use the CPC method, you only pay when you actually receive clicks, so you don’t lose anything if your campaign fails, other than your time.

If you are still keen on trying LinkedIn advertising, start with a few ads and monitor how it goes. We would recommend never paying by impressions because LinkedIn just doesn’t seem to get users in the buying mood, so you’ll probably end up wasting money on impressions that don’t actually leave much of an impression at all. LinkedIn is a great tool for many things but this experience has shown us that directly advertising to customers may not be one of them.

We’ll keep trying different combinations of images and copy and if things turn around, I’ll be sure to let you know. If anyone has had more luck with LinkedIn advertising, we’d love to hear about it! Write about your story in the comments section below and let’s get the dialogue going!

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media – Let’s Cut to the Chase

WebLet’s face it – what started out as an exciting new platform for engaging potential customers, has become a sometimes shallow, polluted environment of over-sharing and “me, me, me” attitudes. I’m talking, of course, about social media.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think (when used properly) sites like Twitter and Facebook can have a profound effect on startups and small businesses and can allow you to develop relationships with people you would have had a difficult time connecting with several years ago. But the focus has shifted from using these tools in meaningful and effective ways, to merely signing up and running a half-hearted campaign with no real idea of what we’re doing and why. Enough is enough.

Below is a list of some of the most popular social media sites and a rundown of what they are designed to do and what impact they may have on your business.

 

Facebook: Perhaps the king of social sites, it’s hard to overlook Facebook. Having signed up for my profile when Facebook still required a college email address to do so, I’m quite familiar with this behemoth of a social site. In addition to being a good way to communicate with and receive feedback from customers and partners, Facebook has become a standard of legitimacy for most businesses. Are there exceptions? Sure. If you have absolutely no consumer-facing products or services and you work exclusively with one major company or client, then you can probably go without. But everyone else should have a profile for their business.

The cover photo provides an excellent opportunity to show off your branding and the enormous user-base makes it a great choice for large-scale messaging campaigns. But be careful; the sheer volume of users can also make it difficult for you to connect with the RIGHT people and you can end up putting in a lot of time and getting out little value.

Twitter: Twitter can be tricky. It is more about giving than receiving and building a large group of followers can take a lot of time. I try to use the 80/20 rule. 80% of things you tweet about should be adding value (sharing an article or interesting thought) and be related to your core competency. 20% can be slightly personal or humorous. By providing good info, rather than adding to the clutter, you will build loyal followers that are likely to retweet you and actually pay attention to the rare tweets that promote your business.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is made up of professionals from all over the world and is geared towards business networking and professional relationship building. This is not the place to constantly post about your latest product and doing so can irritate your peers and damage your reputation. LinkedIn is more of a “rainy day” social site. It is a virtual rolodex, of sorts, and it creates value by allowing you to stay in touch with and meet new contacts that could be key for your business some day. It’s not about the here and now, but rather about building a solid set of online contacts, facilitating industry discussions, and keeping apprised of relevant topics, as well as being an excellent tool when hiring for your business.

Google+: Google+ is relatively new to the scene, but it has grown quickly. With more than 100 million users, it’s definitely worth considering. Unfortunately, many consider its interface to be confusing and less than aesthetically pleasing. I tend to agree, but I have also discovered some inherent value there that may be worth tapping into. You can use the “Circles” feature to disseminate information to a targeted demographic, rather than blasting the information to all of your followers. Share things that may only be relevant to your local customers with your “Local Circle”. This gets your message to the right eyeballs, easier. Google is also starting to use their “G+” feature to help rank websites on their search pages. Websites with a lot of “plusses” (similar to “Likes” on Facebook) will start to show up higher on search results pages than their competitors. This feature should not be ignored.

Instagram: Instagram is a photo sharing app for Android and iPhone that was recently purchased by Facebook for a cool billion dollars. And with Facebook behind them now, it’s no longer a “hipster-only” affair and it’s worth paying attention to. If you have an exciting office space or do a lot of on-site work where photo opportunities are abundant, Instagram is a great way to show your followers a more personal side to your business.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a photo curating site that has been receiving a lot of press recently. Anyone can sign up and surf millions of pictures, looking for inspiration, a laugh, or just something interesting. Businesses have been signing up by the boat-loads and many are left wondering how to extract value from the site. If you have products that are visually appealing or very consumer-facing, Pinterest can be a good opportunity to get your work out there. But if you do B2B consulting or work mostly in the virtual realm, Pinterest might be a waste of time. Time is the most precious commodity in the startup world, so don’t feel the need to sign up, just because it’s the new, hip thing.

 

To sum it up, social media is a two-edged sword. These sites can be invaluable tools for connecting with customers and promoting your company, but they can also trap you in a time-sucking vortex of updating, posting, and sharing. The key is to choose the right websites for your business, outline specific goals for your social media presence, and post in a way that adds to the whole and elicits interactions.

So spend time thinking about what you want to get out of this experience and what you can offer others. When in doubt, default to a “less is more” mentality and be patient. The old idiom “It is better to give than to receive” should be your mantra every time you log into your accounts. So choose right, manage your time, and above all – have fun!

 

For more info on social media and how it can be customized to help your business, contact info@sumseattle.com and ask us about our social media offering.