Increase Social Media Engagement with Photos!

Today is the start of a new series at JohnWiedenheft.com – Infographic Wednesday!

Infographics are a GREAT way to get a lot of information across in a highly visual manner that attracts lots of eyeballs. Today's example is no exception:

It's been said before that the easiest way to increase engagement on your social media networks is with photos. Here's an infographic from new iPhone app Overgram mentioning some stats on engagement (see towards the bottom of the graphic).

How do you use photos in your social media?

What we can learn from Thanksgiving and Black Friday

I am thankful that…

Social media is changing the way that families and individuals celebrate the holidays. 

It's almost as if the holidays season doesn't exist anymore if there's not pictures posted on Facebook. The flip side of that coin is the thought among your respective Facebook "friends" that if YOU don't post something about how YOU'RE celebrating, then you must be thankless or a Scrooge.

What can we do about this?

I propose not that we stop posting our holiday pictures or status updates on Facebook, but to take the time to reflect on not just the meanings of the respective holidays, to use the break from our busy-busy lives and focus on the important things in life.

Speaking of social media, there's been a story that's shared on Pinterest and Facebook recently. Here's one of the ways it was posted:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.' The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend. 

A reminder during this hectic time of the year to step back and really enjoy the important things in life. Happy Thanksgiving.

Why I Like Teaching Instead of Telling

A colleague of mine asked me the other day about my website, "What's your goal with your website? What do you aim to accomplish with it?" She asked this not as a negative critique, but as a curiosity question. 

I thought it was a brilliant question. So many times people say, "You have a website? Good for you!" and they don't really give more than a cursory glance at the website. It hit me, I do the website, this blog, for the purpose of sharing my experiences and perspectives on social media and email marketing.

I've found that while I read a lot of blogs and articles on social media marketing, a lot of those sites fall into one of two areas:

1. How to use the latest shiny toy, or 

2. News about the latest shiny toy.

While articles on the above two topics are important and worth reading, I don't want or need to talk about those items on this website. You can get that almost anywhere else, and those blogs could do it better than I can. That's what they're there for.

"So, why AM I reading your website?"

I've noticed that the sites and writers I gravitate towards one a regular basis are those that provide a deeper understanding, an explanation, of the material at hand. When Pinterest became a huge hit, there was story after story about how much traffic it was driving, and how it was helping brands. But rare was the blog that made that information relevant to the small business, or the non-profit, or the university.*

I love asking "Why?"

There is no better feeling in this world than someone who asks you "Why?" It's your chance to not only teach someone else about a topic, but also a chance to give yourself a deeper understanding of the topic. And by teaching that topic, in this case social media, you might even learn something from the student.

Learning the "how" of the shiny new toy is important for the short term, and it's definitely exciting to accomplish a task you haven't done before. But instead of moving from shiny new toy to shiny new toy, learn the "why" of what you're trying to accomplish.

*Note: In the case of Pinterest, I was blown away by this post on Pinterest at SocialMouths. When Pinterest was making the rounds of all the social media blogs, I thought this was the best example of going past the hype and showed you the "why" of Pinterest's importance.

Should I have two LinkedIn profiles?

Superman via Flickr user Dunechaser

I'm not necessarily sure how often people run into this conundrum:

I have two different professional careers. Should I have two LinkedIn profiles?

Some examples of people I've seen ask this question:

  • Realtors
  • Musicians
  • Freelancers
  • Consultants

I took a few moments to let this question sink in, and marinate, just to try and figure out how I would use two LinkedIn profiles.

I couldn't find a reason. And it looks like other people have come to the same conclusion.

Imagine having two profiles, each one connecting to different people. How would you know who to connect with or what account to login to? Or, imagine having to duplicate invitations, doubling your work. Networking is hard enough.

Or this:

I view a Linkedin profile as a place to share information about yourself even when you are not pursuing another full-time position.  In that case, I would put both positions assuming there is no conflict of interest or other concerns.

LinkedIn is an extremely mature social network, and you should treat it as one. Don't beat around the bush, pretending that by day you're a mild-mannered reporter, and by night you're flying around the world saving Lois Lane (okay, well that's just in my dreams!). My point being, you don't have a secret identity, and if you did, would you really be putting it on social media? No.

My advice to you dual-career superstars? Put both careers in your LinkedIn profile. Why would this be bad? It's not unless you use the second job as a distraction from your other job. If you're a go-getter at both, your employers will see that as a benefit to having you on staff, not a detriment. It also tells your connections on LinkedIn what you're involved with. Someone may connect with you because you're on the board of the local "Green Thumb Social of America," rather than your professional experience "increasing efficiencies 54% in FY12, saving 13.5% on the allotted budget." 

But don't take my word for it, what do you think? Take a look around your LinkedIn connections and I think you'd be surprised just how many are two, or even three-career superstars.

Is there really discussion in LinkedIn discussion groups?

LinkedIn News

Here's the impetus for this post. I got on LinkedIn today and was doing research for my day job, i.e. looking at LinkedIn groups for the equipment leasing industry. Within one of those groups, I found several people posting links to their own articles, either they've written or ones from their employer's website. I felt this kind of rubbed me the wrong way, so tonight I set out to see how prevalent this practice is, and if the size of the LinkedIn group affected the prevalence.

LinkedIn connections

We've all see the mass connector on LinkedIn who has 500+ connections, is a member of 50+ groups, and retweets all their latest from Twitter. And we've seen those LinkedIn groups where there is link after link, but no discussion, no comments.

Lots of people are drawn, at first, to the big groups, the ones everyone is a member of. In the social media world, it's the "Social Media Marketing" group with almost 450,000 members. Yes, we have large numbers, but is there interaction? I looked at the 20 most recent discussions (as of 11pm CST, Oct. 1, 2012) and here's what I found:

Spam Comments in LinkedIn Discussions
Hey! I liked my own post! Hooray!

  • 19 of the 20 discussions linked to other articles
  • Of those 19 linked articles, 3 had spam comments already attached to them (all from the same spammer).
  • 1 linked article was "Liked" by the Original Poster
  • Only 1 linked article had a comment that wasn't spam or from the Original Poster.
  • Only 1 asked a question of the audience, i.e. looking, asking for participation from the group
  • Most of these 20 articles were no more than 60 minutes old, with the most recent having been 2 minutes old.

Now, I'm going to look at a much smaller LinkedIn group, the Business Technology Association (This is a group in the equipment leasing industry, where I spend my time during the day.) The BTA group has roughly 2600 members, or almost 0.5% of the Social Media Marketing group. Let's look at the 20 most recent discussions of this group:

  • 12 of the 20 discussions were links to articles written by the Original Poster, or the OP's employer.
  • None of the 20 discussions had comments, or likes.
  • 1 discussion was a job posting
  • 3 of the discussions were "Industry Insight"-type articles, i.e. discussions providing deeper info on a trend within the industry
  • 2 discussions were links to news articles related to the industry
  • In the 20 most recent, some articles were posted as much as as 6 days previously.

Pimping Yourself

Yes, you heard me, and that's what I'm calling this practice. Now, I realize what I've looked at above is just a snapshot in time and probably not representative of either of the groups I've mentioned over the long-term. The next step in this is to see over a week what type of interaction there is within these two groups and whether the trends continue or not.

It is important to promote your business, your services, and how you can help others achieve success. I believe, however, that there is a balance to behold as well. That means linking to industry articles that speak to your point of view, yet from a neutral vantage point like a news outlet or industry periodical. Say for every 3 industry articles, you link to something you've written.

Don't Forget Dialog!

Only one discussion out of 40 asked for participation.

Notice what was missing from both of the groups? Discussion. Nowhere to be found were people commenting on the articles. Only one question-type post was found out of the 40 aforementioned discussions. I promise you, you will find better results where you find discussion and engagement. I'll address these two topics (followup and LinkedIn engagement) in two future posts.

Until then, let me know in the comments what you think about LinkedIn. Have you found it of value? How do you use your profile and connections?

Devil’s Advocate on Facebook Advertising

Let's be clear: I have not ever paid for any type of advertising on Facebook. So, there are many people who probably have better insight on this than I ever will. That said, I ran across an interesting comment on an article about the "New MySpace".

What also makes this new venture interesting is that many bands (particularly the smaller ones who rely on exposure to their fans) are more than a little fed up with Facebook's throttling of their audience. Anyone with a Page on Facebook (whether band, fan or other) will have seen for a few month snow that anything they post will only "reach" (ie, appear on the timeline of someone who has opted to read your posts by Liking that Page) about 20-50% of their audience. Want to reach more? Then they have to "promote" their post by paying to reach more people, or begging those who do read their posts to spread them around for them – which is why Facebook is such a dreadfully spammy place to be right now.

From my perspective, I haven't thought about EdgeRank like this before. My viewpoint of EdgeRank has been that it "forces" marketers to create high-quality and engaging content. If the content is not engaging or relevant to the brand's fans, then that content will not be seen in a fan's News Feed. Makes sense to me.

Now what "FiniteMonkey" said in his above comment takes the glass-half-empty viewpoint. EdgeRank works this way to "force" marketers not to create engaging content, but to "force" marketers to buy sponsored posts and other paid media on Facebook. Smart perspective. I'm definitely not saying that I disagree with the perspective. In fact, I think it's naive to think that Facebook doesn't believe this is the case at some level.

To apply this argument to MySpace is also interesting.

Though it's been largely replaced by newer social networks, Myspace has managed to stay afloat thanks to the constant stream of musicians on the site, who still use it as a marketing platform.

A marketing platform. Exactly what Facebook is trying to become to make money, while avoiding becoming a marketing platform to avoid losing its main product: the user.

So from a brand / marketer / business perspective, maybe the new MySpace will have an easier time to monetize social media than Facebook has had as of late. The question on everyone's mind, though, is will there be anyone listening?

Inspiration and Goals

My wife and I traveled to Chicago two weeks ago to cheer on her younger sister's first half marathon. We had a blast running on Lake Shore Drive, finding the best place to see her sister, getting some good laughs and pictures along the way.

What stood out for me, though, was just how much I was inspired by being a part of a race, even if it wasn't my own. My wife and I did our first half marathons last year. Soon after, I developed bursitis in my right knee and it hasn't been the same since. My wife just signed up for the same half, but I won't be joining her on the course this year. Instead I'll be cheering from the sidelines.

What inspired me was just how excited everyone was and how supportive we were of someone else's goals and their achievements. I really believe we all need a little inspiration in our lives and to celebrate when we've accomplished a goal we've set for ourselves.

What inspires you?

Making Content Work for You and Your Business

I recently came across a great article on ExploreB2B by Susanna Gebauer entitled "7 Ways to Get Content to Work for Your Business". In fact, I've re-read it a few times now to take it all in and here are some of the takeaways I've had from my readings.

Here were Susana's 7 tips:

  1. Utilize Other Great Content
  2. Tweet Your Own Content
  3. Fuel Conversation on Your Published Content
  4. Use Content to Inspire Discussion on LinkedIn
  5. Run or Partake in Interviews
  6. Write an Article About a Person
  7. Make it Easy for Readers to Access Related Content

I could write a post about each of these tips, but I think Susana's done a great job providing examples. So, go read her tips. Now!

Okay. Back?

What'd you learn? What I learned is this: dialogue.

Dialogue you say, what are you talking about?

When you look at the theme that ties each of those tips together is about what you're doing as the content creator. Tip 1, Talking with the person who has inspired your content. Tip 2, Engaging your followers with content you've written. Tip 3, Conversation! Tip 4, Discussions! Tip 5, Conversation! Tip 6, Making someone else feel important. Tip 7, Get your readers to find more on the topic.

I'd love to have some dialogue! What do you all think?