LinkedIn Q & A Series Part 1: This Week’s Top LinkedIn Questions

The 451 Heat team is excited to announce our new LinkedIn Q & A series! In this series, we will gather frequently asked social media questions on LinkedIn and answer them here on our blog. We hope you find this helpful. Part 1 features this week’s top four LinkedIn questions about SEO, Facebook, measurement of social media initiatives and blog traffic. As always, please leave your comments and questions for us below!

social media strategist Boston

1. What are some basic SEO tips?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best marketing techniques when it comes to increasing the online visibility of a website, and is critical to any company that wants their website to be seen and found by their target audience. The actual process of optimizing a website is long and involved, but here are 5 quick and easy ways to start improving your online visibility today:

1. Use strategic keywords to find your audience –When someone wants to find something they will search for it in Google, or another search engine, by using keywords to describe what they are looking for. You will want to pick strategic and relevant keywords for every page on your site that describe what your services are all about and how they provide solutions to your clients challenges.

2. Use your title tags –Title tags are what appear in the title bar of your browser, and are one of the many pieces of data that search engines scroll when determining what the content on the page is all about. Use the strategic keywords you selected and give each page a unique title. Try to limit your titles to only include one or two key phrases to avoid keyword saturation.

3. Don’t forget about your Meta information – Every page on a website should be treated individually and should have its own unique description and Meta tags. Write a sentence or two that best captures the content of that page, and try to include your keyword in it. Try to limit your descriptions to 180 characters or less— the shorter the better!

4. Quality Content – Ensure that constant generation of fresh, interesting and relevant content is one of your top priorities. Get your keywords into your content wherever and whenever it makes sense. The key here is to keep your user experience in mind; do not flood your content with keywords that do not fit logically.

5. Links, links, links…and more links – Think of a link as a vote of confidence or quality that search engines use to determine the relevance, and therefore page rank, of a page on your website. The more votes, the higher the rank. Good places for links are article and news sharing sites, directories, and other similar sites.

2. How can you use Facebook to increase your brand awareness?

Create a corporate Facebook Fan Page and be social. A Fan Page is a way to connect with clients, prospects, communities and stakeholders, as well as to extend your brand reach, but it has to be interactive to succeed. CC Chapman, a well respected social media strategist, explains this in his About Face white paper, “[Facebook Fan Pages] offer a unique opportunity for brands to engage consumers, providing viral hooks to recruit new Fans, and recurring opportunities for existing Fans to re-engage. But to take advantage of this, brands MUST be social – creating content, sharing status updates, posting photos, hosting events and making regular contributions to the Community.” Opportunities on Facebook Fan Pages allow companies to engage and interact with Fans in a meaningful way. The applications allow for brands to promote their brand in a way that users can connect with and appreciate. Facebook marketing is a combination of interacting with Fans and contributing to a community, rather than broadcasting promotional messages.

3. How are you measuring the effectiveness of your social media marketing initiatives?

Any social media effort should be tied directly to an objective or goal for using social media. These goals are measurable. For example:

1.  If you are using social media to increase awareness, look for online brand mentions, retweets, your increase in followers/friends/fans etc., back-links to your website of Blog, or website visitors/traffic.

2.  If you are using social media to increase sales, track purchases made online (consider running specific promos only offered through social media), the number of captured sales leads, the number of people that signup on your website for a product demo, the source of web visitors through a free service, like bit.ly (http://bit.ly/), and the number of people you get to signup for an event where there is going to be a sales opportunity.

3.  If you are looking to use social media to aid in recruiting, track the number of candidates hired by your company that had originated through using social media. Compare that cost to what you had previously paid (or currently pay) in agency or job board fees.

4. If you are using social media for customer service, calculate the cost of responding to a customer’s request through normal channels (e.g. response time, resolved requests, etc.) and compare that to the calculated cost of using a social media channel to do the same job (response time, resolved requests, etc.). Also, with the increased ability to respond to customer requests, consider factoring in the increase in brand approval ratings.

There are also ways to measure how social media can be effective in reducing operational costs, and for employee retention and trainings. Contact us directly for more of a detailed explanation of the above topic.

4. How do I drive more traffic to my blog?

These five basic elements are crucial to driving relevant traffic to your blog.

1. Design an engaging, organized and stimulating blog. Timely content and catchy titles are important, but remember that an image is worth a thousand words. Many people respond favorably to stimulating visuals, so if you can find colorful, unique graphics that compliment your blog posts, you can attract and retain more readers.

Separating posts into categories is crucial to your blog’s organization. Blog readers want to find good information quickly, so it’s important that your blog is easy to navigate. Having clear categories with your posts properly tagged and organized into categories will make it easy for readers to find the posts that they’ll want to read most.

2. Make sure your blog has clear, basic information that is visible to all visitors

You want to make sure that your brand (personal or corporate) is represented on your blog and that your background information accessible.

Imagine a person who doesn’t know your business, your industry or anything about you at all. Blog with that person in mind.

3. Write fresh compelling content. Your blog should highlight timely, concise and engaging information, and should invite visitors to provide their feedback. If you’re not writing material that your audience is interested in, and you’re not writing it clearly enough for them to digest it quickly, then your blog will not be an effective tool in reaching and connecting with your audience.

4. Make your contact page highly visible and user-friendly. If you want your blog to have a significant ROI, you need to make it easy for your audience to contact you. Ensuring that you are easily reachable is essential to maintaining an open dialogue and interacting with readers in a meaningful way.

5. Your RSS and ‘Share This’ features should be highly visible to visitors

You’re starting a blog with objectives in mind and you know that it is going to take some time to gain a following of trusted readers. You need to make it as easy as possible for others to find you. The best way to start that process is to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe to your blog via RSS. Social bookmarks increase your reader’s participation and allow them to view themselves as part of your “community.” Once you’ve gained their trust, and their “buy-in” to your blog’s message, they will start to share your thoughts with their peers and your readership will continue to grow.

-AJ Gerritson

The T-Mobile Sidekick Data Outage: A Lesson in Social Media Crisis Management

If you haven’t heard about the T-Mobile Sidekick disaster from Perez Hilton’s tweets, or the thousands of angry Sidekick users sharing their feelings on social networks, here’s a little background: T-Mobile USA and Microsoft found themselves in a PR crisis after T-Mobile Sidekick users lost all of their personal data (calendar, contact information, etc.) because of data storage and connectivity problems related to Microsoft’s servers. Sidekick users battled these issues for over a week. Microsoft and T-Mobile USA warned the loss could be permanent. Now T-Mobile has recovered some users’ missing Sidekick data, and announced that customers who experienced a “significant and permanent” loss of data would receive a $100 customer appreciation card. T-Mobile said it has restored data services to Sidekick users.

sidekick

Perez Hilton, one of the Internet’s most notorious gossip columnists, has been an influential figure throughout this whole mess. He roused followers with angry tweets and helped boost #TMobileSucks to the number one trending topic on Twitter. Other users chimed in on Facebook and MySpace with angry status updates and notes. T-Mobile USA and Microsoft found themselves in the middle of a PR and customer service crisis.

Let’s look at some things the companies did right:
– Halted sales of Sidekicks: While Microsoft and T-Mobile tried to recover lost data, they halted sales of Sidekicks. They showed their commitment to customers by focusing their time and effort on trying to recover Sidekick users’ personal data, instead of trying to make more money off the device.
– Let furious Sidekick users ditch their contracts: T-Mobile recognized the problem with Sidekicks and offered subscribers new contracts with different T-Mobile phones. This allows them to retain furious customers who may have otherwise ditched the subscriber all together.

And now for what the companies did wrong:
-$100 dollar apology and month’s free data service: This was not enough for the angry Sidekick users who lost all of their contacts, calendar appointments, irreplaceable pictures, etc. T-Mobile should have offered more to show how apologetic the company was for the data storage failure.
-Did not give out replacement phones: T-Mobile should have given Sidekick users replacement phones until they could sort out the data loss. This would have helped ease the backlash of angry customers obsessing over their incompetent phones.
-Did not encourage regular backups of data: All carriers should promote and remind customers to backup data regularly.
-Banned angry customers from T-Mobile’s online forum: Banning angry customers only produces more angry customers. T-Mobile should have set up a separate forum for Sidekick users who were affected by the data storage lost and responded with swift customer service especially to those who were angry because of a significant loss.
– Did not alert customers via social media channels: Did we learn nothing from the Motrin Moms crisis?  T-Mobile should have made announcements via Twitter and other channels instead of directing customers to their website to find the information they needed. Providing updates directly to users would have helped to contain the intense backlash on Twitter and other social networking sites. Quick and informative messages broadcast on Twitter would have eased tension and customers’ anger.

Every company should include a social media plan for responding to and informing customers in the event of a crisis. The goal should be to keep open communication with customers and maintain any negative backlash. Roles and messages should be mapped out and flexible.

To avoid becoming a case study of what not to do in a crisis (like T-Mobile), start listening and engaging on social media channels now. Determine what tools you’re going to use to monitor and manage your brand. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a social media crisis without a plan.

How do you think T-Mobile and Microsoft could have handled the crisis differently? Did they do enough for customers? Tell us what you think!

-Cristina Lepore

Medium Regular with Milk and Four Sugars

Looking at the consumer landscape, it is easy to pick out brands that have been with us for as long as we can remember. Immediately, you might think of brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, IBM, McDonald’s and many others. Their personalities are emblazoned in our minds to the point where we can recite their popular jingles and possibly even draw their logos on paper. This is called, “unaided awareness,” meaning you have a subconscious attachment to the brand. This is due, in part, to the personal connections we have developed with these brands over the years. For example, I remember when I worked with my dad on my first summer job. I was 13, and every day, we’d wake up at the crack of dawn and head over to Dunkin Donuts. I’d get a donut or a bagel with some kind of juice. But, my dad would order a croissant and a coffee. He’d have it how he still has it to this day, medium regular with milk and four sugars.  We’d then sit in the car and talk over our breakfast until we had to punch in for work. Those moments with my dad are moments I’ll never forget, and Dunkin Donuts will always be a part of that story.

Dunkin_Donuts_logo

But, how is it that Dunkin Donuts and other long-standing brands like it, has managed to stay relevant to an ever-changing audience? It is about acknowledging the past and giving credence to the present. What does this mean? When we think about brands that have been with us for decades, some for more than a century, we have to realize that they have survived amid enormous cultural change. Including different generations of evolving mindsets, like my fathers generation as well as my own. For example, when Starbucks entered the picture and fixed itself upon global domination, Dunkin Donuts did not rush out to make its brand more youth oriented by adding gradients or cleaner typography. What did the company do? It stuck with its candy colored pink and hot dog font and just added a coffee cup next to their logo. It didn’t put on airs or presume to be something it was not. Dunkin Donuts, as well as other long-standing brands, has learned to adapt, but has not forgotten itself in the process. Many brands have created a presence for themselves through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, etc… Does this mean they have sold out? Absolutely not, it means that they have recognized the need to continue to stay relevant to their ever-changing customer base. If you look at other brands that have stood the test of time, this ethos continues to ring true. They all stay honest to their brand and their consumers, but still manage to adapt by leveraging change as an opportunity to further interact with their customers, responding to their questions, while also reaching new generations of consumers.

Does this really make sense? To this day, whenever I need a pick me up, where do I go? Even though Starbucks may be next door, I walk the few extra minutes to the Dunkin Donuts down the block, to get my medium regular with milk and four sugars

Q & A with New Media Marketing Innovator & Restaurant Owner, Justin Levy

justin-lcp-gradsmFor part four in our series of “451 Heat 1-on1’s,” we spoke with the General Manager of New Media Marketing Labs, Justin Levy. Justin, based in Boston, helps businesses understand the potential of new media marketing, including how to use social media tools like blogs and community platforms to listen to clients and drive business revenue. He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign,” and the Partner/General Manager of Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse.

To read more about Justin’s experience using social media to the benefit of his restaurant business, his new book, and his experiences working with Chris Brogan and New Media Marketing Labs, scroll on.

What first compelled you to engrain yourself in the world of new media marketing? Did you immediately recognize the potential that these tools could have for your restaurant business?

I have always used these tools as they continued to evolve. It first started out with forums, user groups, chat rooms, IRC and IM. Over the years it evolved into social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. Of course, the number of social networks have continued to grow and now there are a whole host of networks which make up the tools and core of new media marketing.

As it relates to the restaurant. I began experimenting with these tools because they were free and we needed to find ways to extend our brand. Our issue was never a quality of food or atmosphere inside of the restaurant. But, if no one is coming in and buying your stuff, then all of that other hard work doesn’t matter much. We began using new media marketing as a way to grow our brand, build community and leverage that community to spread the word about our restaurant.

Tell us about New Media Marketing Labs and what sort of brainstorming led to the creation of the popular events, Inbound Marketing Summit and Bootcamps?

New Marketing Labs is a social media agency that was founded by Chris Brogan. We opened at the beginning of 2009. At New Marketing Labs, our team works with medium and large businesses to help them use these tools to move needles that are important to them. We do this by helping them to develop a strategic plan with clear deliverables backed by a strong analytics dashboard. We do everything from strategic development to blogger outreach to manning listening and monitoring stations and a host of other activities related to using social tools to fulfill business needs.

Our Inbound Marketing Summit event is a 2 day conference that was formerly the New Marketing Summit. The New Marketing Summit has been around for approximately 3 years and was run by our parent company, CrossTech Media. When we started New Marketing Labs, we acquired the Inbound Marketing Summit from HubSpot and adopted the name. The Inbound Marketing Summit brings together some of the top thought leaders, marketers, brands, and agencies in the industry to discuss using these tools to take strategy and turn it into action. For 2009 we brought the Summit to 3 cities: San Francisco, Dallas and Boston on October 7th and 8th.

The Inbound Marketing Bootcamps are intensive one-day keyboard level training events. Topics typically include blogging, social networks, social media marketing, listening and monitoring, profile development, reputation management, and how all of this ties into business needs. By the end of 2009 we would’ve held Bootcamps in 5 cities as well as our private Bootcamps we do for brands.

You are currently in the midst of writing what should be a popular book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign.” Even social media savvy individuals and businesses seem to struggle at times to grasp how they should be using Facebook to connect and mobilize fans and prospects around their product or service. Will you address how Facebook should be utilized by B2B marketers to have a more effective reach and engage with potential buyers?

That is exactly the intention of the book. This book is being written for businesses and will, hopefully, provide them the concepts, strategy and tactical information needed to bring Facebook into the fold of their marketing plans. The book will provide a basic overview of features, deep dives into some of the tools that are important for businesses to understand, a review of some of those brands that are considered the “best in class” through their use of Facebook, and how to build a marketing plan that has Facebook as a main component of it.

Every social media marketer seems to have a slogan, or a concept, that they espouse when describing how best to use these tools for business (i.e. “listen to engage’, etc). What is your go-to?

While I have a lot of ways that I tend to explain how I believe these tools should be used by businesses, I tend to return to topics surrounding how these tools allow business to become humanized. Also, that we tend to want to do business with friends. By showing the human side of your business, it allows you to develop these personal relationships with your customers. In turn, they become fans of your business, product, or service and carry forward the message.

I also think that listening and monitoring is the most important thing that any business can do, especially when they’re just starting out. Conversations are taking place all around their brand, products, services, executives, competition and industry.  It’s up to them if they’re going to be part of that conversation.

What have you found to be the most useful social media tools for marketing your restaurant? Why do you think this is the case?

The most successful tools for our restaurant have been our listening and monitoring station, blog, video blog, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Flickr. Each of these tools allow us to have two-way conversations with our customers and fans. They also allow people to connect with us on a more personal level and get to see some of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a steakhouse. Tools like Yelp allow us a mechanism for feedback about what our customers like and don’t like.

What kinds of advice do you give to people who are just beginning to get involved with social media?

Start reading as much as possible. Subscribe to blogs that you find valuable and start following those people who you learn from on networks such as Twitter. Also, don’t think you need to start everything at once. You should lay back for a minute and observe everything that is going on and then set a plan on how you want to engage. If you don’t have a clear plan of how you intend to use these tools and what your measures of success are going to be, it will be hard to determine if you’re using the right tools in the proper manner.

Chris Brogan is obviously a very popular figure on the social media web. Can you tell us what the most important thing is that you’ve learned from Chris?

I’m constantly learning from Chris. I’m extremely fortunate to get to work every day with someone that I consider a mentor and a friend. Probably the single most important skill that I continue to learn from Chris is how to build community with trust at its core. In everything that Chris does, one of the reasons he’s able to be so successful is due to how hard he has worked to build and nurture his community. He gives everything he has to his community.
For more information about Justin Levy, visit his blog.

Social Media and Generation X

social-media2Although social media may seem to belong to teenagers and early 20 something’s, it has become widely adopted across all generations.  Online social network acceptance by American adults has grown by more than 400% since 2005 (courtesy of PEW).  Among the most intriguing adult demographics are the Gen Xers (those born between 1960-1979).

Gen Xers use social networking sites for both personal and professional use and therefore are more likely to carry several profiles and utilize multiple social networking outlets.  Overall, 17% or American Gen Xers visit social networking sites on a daily basis. LinkedIn, the Internet’s largest professional network, boasts a median user age of 40 and  according to PEW, 30% of 35-44 year olds have at least one profile on social networks (along with19% of 45-54 year olds).

Interestingly, female Gen Xers seem to be slightly more involved in social media on a regular basis than males.  In fact, females over the age of 40 are statistically more engaged in social media than younger women according to the website SheSpeaks.com.  In fact, females 45 years old and older used Facebook between January and March 2009 at a rate higher than any other category of users (eMarketer.com).

Clearly Gen Xers are becoming increasingly Internet savvy utilizing social media to make more informed purchasing decisions, find employment, engage with particular social groups (i.e. mommy bloggers) and stay in touch with family and friends through these most efficient and immediate methods. A recent eMarketer.com survey also found that social networks (67%) were more popular than email (65%) for mass communication.  Given the above trends in Internet social network use, Gen X’s use of social media is only expected to continue to rise. Keep an eye out for the new social media tools and technologies that spawn over the next few years—it would not be unlikely for them to be targeted to this demographic.