Getting started with LinkedIn hashtags

Are you using hashtags on LinkedIn? Although everyone takes hashtags for granted on Twitter and Instagram because it’s how it’s always been done, few know that LinkedIn introduced hashtags a year or so ago, specifically to help users reach a wider audience with their content.

It makes sense to start using them, but before diving in head first, you need to know how to use them appropriately, and to optimise them ensure your content is discovered by others outside your immediate network.

Firstly, take a look at the ‘Explore the Hashtags You Follow’ feature, that LinkedIn introduced to encourage its users to post and search for specific hashtags, by making use of the ‘Your Communities’ section on the left-hand side of their LinkedIn feed. This section enables users to more easily manage hashtag use and conversations, by clicking on the pencil icon to add hashtags to their list.

In addition, users can click on any hashtags they’re following to keep an eye on, and join any conversations that is being had around them. Next, they can click ‘Show More’ to view the complete list of LinkedIn hashtags that they are following. The list can be customised by using the ‘Pin’ icon next to the relevant hashtags the user wants to show.

Pinning the most relevant hashtags saves users a few steps, and keeps those hashtags top of mind every time they go on to LinkedIn.

Lastly, the ‘Discover More’ feature helps users to discover new hashtag suggestions. This is an awesome way to see how many followers a specific hashtag has, which is a good way of knowing whether or not they should be using that specific hashtag. And following a hashtag is easy – simply click on the ‘+’ symbol and it will be added to the list.

LinkedIn marketing: How to make it work

LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that debuted in 2003 and aimed at professional development and networking. Think of it as the ‘business social network’ that is not only useful to professional individuals, enabling them to post their accomplishments, articles, and resumes; it provides a platform for organisations to post jobs, highlight their new products and services, and network with potential prospects.

For businesses, there are few tools as effective for collaboration as LinkedIn. It allows for highly targeted marketing efforts, as they can share best practices, grow their business networks, and position themselves as thought leaders within their sectors.

In this series, I will teach you everything you need to know to get settled on LinkedIn and start making it work for you. I’ll show you how to set up a profile for your business to maximise the LinkedIn opportunity, and will highlight things like how to target prospects through the platform’s features, and how to groom a professional network.

Let’s start with setting up a LinkedIn business profile. This isn’t difficult at all and will be used to build and grow brand awareness, as well as to promote your offerings to existing and potential customers.

To begin, click the “Work” dropdown at the top righthand corner of the homepage and from the options, choose “Create a Company Page+.” From here, upload your company logo and banner image for the page. From here, it’s even more straight forward. Start posting any company updates from your page, that you think will be helpful and of interest to your audience. Think carefully about the content you post; it must be designed with your audience’s requirements and interests in mind.

Next, you will start promoting your page to garner more interest and followers. This can be done by creating LinkedIn Showcase pages for particular products or solutions so that your message can be tailored for the different segments in your audience.

Remember that it is also important to keep your Business LinkedIn profile updated, as this will help you attract new followers, and remain relevant. Inactive profiles suggest that no one could be bothered, or that your company isn’t very popular. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your profile positioned to engage with and attract new followers.

There are lots of ways to do this, including refreshing your LinkedIn profile’s branding, for example, the background image and suchlike. Moreover, add rich media, such as video links to your profile, and make sure they are both relevant and active and refresh this content regularly. Ensure that all your links work – nothing chases away a prospect that bad functionality and broken links. Do regular ‘audits’ of your connections. Cull those who aren’t relevant, and reconnect with those who are and those who can help you grow your brand.

Keep a close eye on your LinkedIn activity to increase visibility and views, and check your company page often to make sure that all your new images and updates are correct. We do this because, like many other social media platforms, LinkedIn sometimes makes changes to its profiles that users are unaware of.

The reason for all this checking and re-checking is because LinkedIn, like many social media platforms, often makes changes to its profiles that you need to be made aware of.

Building trust through content marketing

Building trust through content marketing

Content marketing is about more than building a brand and connecting with customers. Sure, it’s about telling a story, and offering information on your product or service, but deep down it’s about more than this – the brands that do content marketing really well, are those that build trust with their customers.

And with content marketing being the lifeblood of all brand-customer interactions, good content can help to foster strong relationships with future customers, while poor content can drive them away forever. This is particularly true in the age of information overload we live in, with thousands of blogs being posted every day. Videos, social media, micro blogging, email….… and we haven’t even mentioned advertising. We are all bombarded with information every second, so how do we ensure that we stand out? Is it the quality of the content, or the frequency? Both are important, sure, but what is ultimately more important? Creating the content that builds trust between your brand and its consumers.

So how do we do this? Firstly, you need to define your audience and the outcomes you are looking for. Who are you writing for, and why are you writing for them? Decide on the goal of your marketing campaign first. Once that is taken care of, you need to decide on the type of content you will produce, how often you’ll produce it, and where you will share it. Doing this properly, and putting information in places where your audience will benefit from it, will show them that you are interested in them, and understand their needs.

It also helps to understand how effective your content has been. Analytics can help here, as using these tools will automatically let you know what has been effective, and more importantly, what hasn’t. Knowing what is being read and shared, will help you tailor future content, and ensure you produce stuff that your audience really connects with.

Finally, be patient. Trust isn’t build overnight, it takes time. Set reasonable expectations and manage them appropriately. No content marketing campaign will work until you have built that trust, but once it is there, the sales process will not only be quicker, but far easier too.

Content marketing, where did we go wrong?

The vast majority of businesses today are trying to harness the benefits of content marketing, yet only a small fraction are confident that their efforts are successful and productive. Even worse, about half their content is entirely unused, unread and unwanted. How can this be? If you think about the fact that only a few million blogs existed a decade ago, and now we over a billion today, where did it all go wrong?

A few years ago, you could happily post blog after blog on your website, frantically direct as much traffic as possible through your various social platforms, gather gazillions of inbound links, target a slew of keywords, and voila! You were right up there on Google.

Controlling your messaging and attracting new business used to be child’s play. No more. Anyone who understands Gartner’s Hype Cycle, that separates the genuinely viable from the doomed to fail, will realize that we are now in the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and content marketing, instead of being the silver bullet it was hailed as a few years ago, has hit the deck.

As with all the over-hyped channels we saw before, it peaked, and then more and more people jumped on the bandwagon, it slumped. Moreover, the more marketers cling on, the less effective it becomes. There’s no putting lipstick on the pig here.

So what to do? We can’t just quit; we are all too invested. What we can do, is rewrite the rules, and reinvent content marketing to make it as powerful as it once was. In the immortal words of Mies van der Rohe, ‘less is more’. One of the major problems today is that we are drowning in content, it is too much, yet consumer demand for it is static. There is only so much we can consume before we get content fatigue, and stop processing and sharing.

People are publishing for the sake of it, and they need to stop. Publish less, and post well, when you have something of value to say. Optimise existing content, and generate more ‘evergreen’ content that doesn’t lose its value over time. Throw out the old, hang on to the relevant.

Make sure all your content is accurate, and focus on quality. Work on your headings, make them relevant and eye-catching. Choose keywords that matter. Content should always be fresh, exciting and relevant.

Also, remember, how you distribute content is nearly as crucial as the content itself.

Google’s algorithm now favours the real experts, not just anyone on a soapbox who enjoys the sound of their own voice. All search engines are growing increasingly picky, infused with machine learning and AI, making keyword rankings unpredictable as they understand concepts and can separate the wheat from the chaff. Even Facebook employs cunning tricks to keep people from leaving their pages.

It’s all about one thing, helping the right people find the content they want, when they want it. Make sure your content is interesting and engaging, to draw readers in and hit the high rankings.

The content marketers who will succeed in the future will be the ones who have learned from the past, and who will adapt to today’s demands.

Give your sales cycle a boost with automated lead nurturing

Marketing campaigns often start well and attract good leads. However, this the easy part. Keeping those leads happy while guiding them through the path that leads to the sale is the hard part, particularly if your sales cycle is a long one.

Don’t make the mistake of bombarding potential customers with content and disturbing them with unsolicited calls. It is annoying and counterproductive and only ends up pushing them away. Rather nurture these leads with valuable content that gives them a true understanding of the benefits your products or services offer – before your salespeople make the call.

Step in automated lead nurturing. Although marketing practitioners believe their nurturing campaigns are working, too often they are not. Harnessing the power of automated lead nurturing as a core element of your inbound campaigns guarantees that all your leads receive quick responses and receive the content that works for them. In this way, no lead is neglected, and no content goes to waste.

Remember that although many leads may be qualified, they aren’t always ready to make the purchase. They may well be willing to learn more, and happy that you understand their challenges, but are not ready to sign on the dotted line. The trick is getting them there, which is far more difficult with long sales cycles, as is often the case in the ICT industry.

Sometimes, there just isn’t enough content to last the full length of the sales cycle. Sometimes leads fall off the radar. Too often, leads become annoyed by being spammed with the same old information. Bottom line? You’ll end up with wasted effort and lost sales opportunities.

Automated lead nurturing is the answer to these challenges. Leads that are nurtured are far more likely to translate into sales, and automating the lead nurturing process that used to be laborious and time consuming really works. It enables the systematic and ongoing nurturing of all leads with the appropriate content, at the appropriate time, and it tracks exactly where each lead is within the sales cycle. This makes feeding your future customers the right information at the right time child’s play and ensures that no lead is forgotten, and no opportunity missed.

Getting B2B social media right

In the early days of social media, many brands spent their time getting as many ‘likes’ as they could, creating dialogue around their products or services, and pushing special offers. However, savvy B2B marketers bided their time, waiting to see how it would all play out in terms of social media and technology, and what could happen to really drive their businesses forward.

Today, it’s not enough to have tons of likes and followers. Well, definitely not in the B2B space at least. The real power of social media is user data, and getting that data isn’t about likes and basic conversations. There is a huge demand today for B2B social media campaigns that truly nurture prospects, drive real interest among users, and harness user data more effectively to shorten the sales cycle.

So where to start? Forget the occasional post approach, you need to change your way of thinking, from ‘once off’ to ‘ongoing’. Once-off campaigns just aren’t cutting it any longer. To shorten the sales cycle, you need a continuum of conversation, and should plan a series of engagements that go beyond a three month campaign. This allows potential customers to familiarise themselves with your solution, and gives you the time to gather and employ all that lovely user data.

Next, don’t limit your presence to one social network or another. Be wherever your prospect might be, which is all over the Web. All experiences need a consistent message, shared across a wide variety of platforms. And don’t forget about mobile, we all browse, buy, consume, bank, from our mobile phones. Excluding that platform from your efforts is a huge mistake.

Collect and attribute data. We all know what B2B marketers need to know about their customers, and this goes beyond scratching the surface. Naturally they are interested in finding out what their business interests, but don’t stop there. They also want to know what makes them tick on a personal level, and this is the true magic of social media.

A virtual treasure trove of personal data is available whenever an individual takes part in a social media campaign. Clever B2B marketers can take this to a whole new level when they know the right questions to ask, as well as how to effectively analyse how users are interacting with the campaign.

Finally, remember that data isn’t worth anything unless you have the right tools to gain insights from it. This is where having a great CRM tool comes in. It helps you design more targeted messaging, and helps to attract, retain, and satisfy customers to grow your business.