Thursday, May 31, 2012

Promoting your brand through personal networks

by Matt Owen 

One of my regular tasks is to run through the comments on the Econsultancy blog and sweep up any spam comments.
We currently use a learning filter, so while it does let through the odd comment shilling pneumatic lubrication while simultaneously blacklisting reasoned, in-depth comments about SEO, by manually updating it, it gets better (at least, that’s the theory). 
Checking out all the comments is also extremely useful for me, as it gives me a daily digest of what users are talking about, what their consensus is and which issues are of importance to them in general.
We all benefit from this as we can use it to make our content more relevant. 
Now, this may seem like a random fact about my rock n’ roll lifestyle, but bear with me, it all makes sense in the end (and apologies in advance for length and lack of concrete answers). 
Recently one of our users asked why Econsultancy, as a company, aren’t generally active on LinkedIn. Given LinkedIn’s user base, you’d be forgiven for assuming that it would be our first social port of call, but we certainly don’t cover LinkedIn anywhere near as often as we do Twitter, Facebook or even Google+. 
The truth is that we are active on LinkedIn, but possibly not in the way you might think. 
Unlike Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn doesn’t make it particularly easy to maintain a branded, unified presence. Yes, there are company pages available. Our own page currently has a couple of thousand followers, and we do update it regularly with news and new products. 
We also showcase our conferences and other events on LinkedIn and run a few small groups, one for those starting out in e-commerce and digital, and two for users interested in multichannel and data analysis respectively. 
They aren’t huge and aren’t particularly busy, but again we update regularly and they are useful points of call for anyone who may not be aware of our extended offering, who want to network or who use LinkedIn groups as a news source. 
One of the main reasons for this is that, despite the obvious difference in size, LinkedIn could technically be considered a competitor to Econsultancy, albeit not a direct one.  
Ultimately, we’d much rather users headed over to our own forums, or became members and updated their on-site profiles, rather than hanging around in satellite groups. 
We offer a more focused agenda than LinkedIn, with a specific target audience, but there’s still room for crossover. After all, there are literally millions of marketers and professionals from associated businesses on LinkedIn, so it would be rather foolish of us not to want a slice of the pie wouldn’t it? 
So how do we (and you) get around this?

Making social media personal

Along with comments on our own blog, I also run a lot of searches on LinkedIn (along with forums, Quora, Reddit, Twitter and more) specifically in the Q&A section. Here’s a screenshot of a netvibes account I use to keep an eye on all of this:
From Early 2010 until mid 2011, we targeted these questions, but not as a single entity. LinkedIn specifically promotes the value of the individual and close personal networks, so I would curate a few relevant questions each day and distribute them in an all-staff email with links. If they had time, members of staff were encouraged to dip in and answer a few questions. 
If they felt like linking to a relevant blog post or a report, then so much the better. 
A lot of people do this, but here’s the important bit: We always answered the question in full. Links were added with a ‘there’s some more in-depth information here if you’re interested’ qualifier. No hard sell (No sell at all for that matter), just exists’. 
LinkedIn's forums are full of people posting answers, but a huge amount of them read 'Our software can help you with this', or 'suggest this expert:' with little value in doing this, because it's just spam. It doesn't look good and isn't helpful.
We also made a game out of it internally. We added a ‘share’ link to the site. When logged in, each member of staff could click this and would receive a unique code to share. Staff members were assigned as ‘campaigns’, with prizes for the member driving the most traffic or the most revenue each month:
And it worked incredibly well. While last touch conversion relays a very limited view of social value (especially so in Econsultancy’s case), in this case it’s an excellent benchmark for success. 
Here’s our total LinkedIn last touch revenue from July 1st 2010- July 1st 2011: -- Find out the results  and the complete econsultancy article

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