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!

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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

How the hell do I get this printed?

Commercial printing, digital printing, desktop printing, online vendors…. Arrg! How many times have you found yourself in this quandary: You have to print something, you have a deadline looming and marketing people are either unavailable, or non-existent? Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to get the best quality printed product on time and at a reasonable cost.

Commercial (or offset or lithography) printing: Colors are made up of four basic printing colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK or process colors). These colors are separated into dot patterns that when combined on paper create a full color image. A metal plate is made for each color with the dot pattern imaged on to it by a laser, the imaged area accepts ink and the non-imaged area resists ink.  First the plates are wrapped around cylinders in a printing press, inked and rolled onto another cylinder of softer material called the blanket. Next, the image is “offset” onto the blanket and rolled onto the paper.

Commercial printers can add some special touches such as varnishes, custom inks, die cuts, and just about any size and configuration you can imagine.

• Price: Very high price-per-piece for quantities under 1000 pieces. The more pieces you need, the cheaper it gets; you can pay just a few cents per piece when printing 10,000 or more.

• Quality: The best. You won’t get better quality printing than with a commercial printer. They have production managers who will work directly with you to make sure you get what you need, when you need it.

• Timing: Generally, give it a week. Depending on the amount of work on the floor they can be flexible with schedules to a point, but you won’t get an offset printed job back the next day.

• Best jobs to give them: Large corporate brochures, slick sales materials, books, packaging, quantities over 1000 pieces.

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CMYK separations from left to right: The cyan separation, the magenta separation, the yellow separation, the black separation, the combined halftone pattern, and how the human eye would observe the combined halftone pattern from a sufficient distance.

Digital Printing: Many commercial printers will have a digital option available. The reputable printers will offer you this option, if your quantity is small enough to take advantage of the cost savings of digital printing.

Digital presses are either laser or inkjet. Laser printing involves lasering your image onto a light-sensitive surface making the image area able to attract or repel toner. The image is then transferred to paper and fused in place by a heating element. Inkjet shoots tiny droplets of ink onto paper to create an image. This process provides near-photographic quality images but is limited to certain types of paper. Your printing rep will recommend different solutions based on the type of image you’re printing.

Digital printing is great if: you are printing fewer than 1000 pieces, you’re not picky about paper, you have a job that prints on letter-sized or tabloid-size paper, you have a job that needs to be done quick, you need a job completed quickly because this type of job can be printed within hours. Short run digital also allows you to personalize each printed piece; Names and messages can be pulled from a database and laser printed onto each page. Studies have shown that response rates rise dramatically when direct mailings take advantage of mass customization.

• Price: Very reasonable for up to roughly 1000 pieces. If you print more the per-piece price is better going the commercial route.

• Quality: The technology advanced so much with digital printing that it is very close to offset quality. Limitations are on paper stock and size of the piece.

• Timing: Digital printing companies usually give you a three day turnaround, but if the job is time sensitive, they can get it done same day.

• Best jobs to give them: Short run projects that you need right away.

Desktop Printing: The technology behind your desktop printer is the same as you’ll find in the larger machines but you’ll run into problems with managing the job at the office. Co-workers wanting to use the printer, paper jams, alignment and registration issues, problems printing on two sides and collating and binding contribute to printing a large number of pieces off your desktop printer a nightmare. You are much better off sending it out – believe me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.

• Price: Appears free until you add up all that expensive ink and paper you’re using up.

• Quality: Usually poor because copy paper will bleed, warp and not carry color well.

• Timing: The timing is right until you hit that first paper jam.

• Best jobs: For printing fewer than 50 sheets with minimal large color graphics and  basic staple, or 3-hole punch binding.

What about online print vendors? Be careful. There are great bargains to be had, but you really don’t know how reliable an online vendor is until you’ve used one. I would suggest using a few different online vendors for low priority jobs until you find one or two that have worked well for you. Online print vendors have good prices because they print in volume. They will gain a lot of jobs on one huge print run, limiting you to very few paper options and usually very long delivery times. Good luck finding anyone to talk to, if there’s a problem or you need to expedite shipping. There is usually no customer service person on your account and no flexibility to help meet your deadlines.

Price: Cheap! You’ll get inexpensive printing as compared to any of your brick-and-mortar printers, offset or digital.

Quality: It’s a crap shoot, if you find a few good resources guard them with your life. Whomever you use, you will be limited to paper stock and a long lead time.

Timing: Could be as long as three weeks depending on when in the vendor’s print cycle you submit your project.

Which do you prefer? Tell us your story below!

Sending your child to school for the first time

Recently, I was speaking to an industry group that hasn’t really done much with social media as a whole. It’s really not the group’s fault; this industry just happens to be heavily regulated when it comes to its communication to investors and end-users. But not surprisingly, as end-users have become increasingly active on these channels, the industry is now being dragged head first into social media and confusion seems to be fairly rampant.

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At the event, I fielded many questions about the concerns these people had about social media. As most of these questions revolved around strategy, and how to avoid any number of potential disasters, I couldn’t help but think how managing your company’s first social media campaign was just like sending your child off to their first day of school.

I know at first this may seem like a stretch but try to think of your “brand” as your first born child. As a marketer or public relations professional you protect it and you try to strengthen it with the right messaging, all in the hopes that your brand will grow to become something special. Of course, you are also nervous about sending it off to the public and losing complete control. It’s a scary world out there, and people can sometimes say things about your brand that it may not want to hear (like the first time your child comes home from school crying)!

Now, I am not the type of person to say that you have nothing to fear about social media. Running a social media campaign without a sound strategy is as foolish as sending your child off to school unprepared. The reality is though, that letting go of some of your control might be exactly what will strengthen your brand, as long as you take the necessary precautions, act intelligently, and monitor it closely.

By venturing into the social web with the right frame of mind and purpose, your brand will begin to learn things about itself that it may have not known before. By allowing your brand to be surrounded by open discourse and direct engagements with end-users, you will uncover new opportunities, and current brand reflections, that will only stand to benefit your marketing initiatives over time.

Remember, as your brand interacts with others, it has the ability to grow. Home schooling is rarely the best option.

Are you asking the right questions?

A client of ours is a prolific user of metaphor.  But those metaphors have proven effective in getting his points across.  The most recent one was a description of his role as a sales professional.  His first job, as he described it, was to identify his prospect’s wound.  His second job was to rub as much salt in it as possible.

Apt.  Grisly perhaps, but apt.

Let’s think for a moment about what he’s trying to achieve.  From the perspective of marketing and advertising, it’s exactly what we do on a daily basis.  Gone are the days of simply saying your product is there and it works.  We’ve all developed an immunity to simple fact-bast advertising.  Instead, you need to appeal to a client’s target audiences on an emotional level.  You need to show them that they have a need.  They need your service now in order to prevent something worse from happening that would cost more money down the road.

It works, right?  Yes.  But who wants to appear as a fear-monger?  We don’t.  Our clients don’t.  So that begs the ququestion markestion of how to expose (and maybe aggravate) a prospect’s needs without being too obvious about it.  How to do it a little more…indirectly.

One way is to ask questions. Loaded questions, to be sure.

A tactic that we often take is to first identify the problems our clients’ targets may have.  That’s the basis for everything.  Since they know their prospects best, they know exactly what frustrates them on a daily basis.  They know exactly what keeps them up at night.  They also know exactly how their services or products can be solutions for those problems.

Next, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the various people you’re targeting.  Think about what is important to the individual executive your message is reaching.  A pain that’s top of mind for a CIO, most likely won’t even be on the CEO’s radar screen. 

Imagine a scenario where your service could save your prospect significant money, because of a change in how their industry is regulated.  The CEO has probably heard about the regulatory change, but only understands how it impacts the highest levels of the organization.  The key here is to highlight the CIO’s pain for the CEO and get him thinking about how it could have a great impact on the bottom line.  Does he even know about this?  Does he know how to ask his employees about it?  Perhaps not.

The questions need to be seeded in the CEO’s mind.  If the CIO or IT Manager is your actual target audience, wouldn’t the most powerful form of advertising be to have the CEO start asking them about what they’re doing to address x, y or z?

Sometimes the most obvious approach isn’t always the most effective.

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.