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?


F*$! Jet Packs

A little Monday Madness for you.

Design. Writing. Attitude. All great.


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?


Facebook Rolling Out Email- and Phone-Based Ad Targeting

Facebook Email- and Phone-Based Ad Targeting Available Next Week

TechCrunch has a good summary of the new features available to advertisers.

[It] starts with a customer list that a business has already created — for example if I’ve given my email address to the bookstore on my block so that I can hear about future sales and events. Businesses will be able to upload those lists of email addresses, phone numbers, and user IDs to Facebook…

[Businesses] will have the option target their ads at that group, or they can further target their content towards a certain demographic (say, females between 25 and 45) within the group. The simplest use case: Most businesses have loyal customers who aren’t Facebook fans, so they can create an ad for those customers asking them to become fans.

Two questions that arose from reading this article: 

  1. What does this do for the advertiser?
  2. How does this affect Facebook?

The Advertiser

At first glance, I think this is very good for businesses advertising on Facebook. The longtime advantage of advertising on Facebook is the advanced targeting features, allowing you to reach the niche demographics needed for your business. As the sample use case above points out, a main benefit of these new features will allow a business to reach real-world "fans" of a business to encourage them to become Facebook "fans" as well.

Two things this does for the advertiser:

  1. Increases number of fans of business on Facebook
  2. Brings highly engaged fans to Facebook.

The second point is key. Engagement is a large part of EdgeRank and how your Facebook posts are seen in your fans' News Feed. Reaching out to those people who are already fans helps create the highly engaged community that will be a part of your business' social media marketing success.*

The Facebook

On the other hand, I think for the average user of Facebook, this is just one more intrusion into their personal lives with advertising.  As Facebook continues to push for more ad revenue, it is finding more ways to alienate it's core product: you. Moving forward, Facebook needs to find a way to balance the need for satisfying shareholders and customers at the same time.

* Social Media Today has a great article about Engagement and the effect different post types have on Engagement. Basic Point: Photos are King.


Iowa Web Developers and Designers Meetup

Picture from Karl Becker

Last week I had the great honor of joining my friend and app developer Karl Becker for the Iowa Web Developers and Designers Meetup in Coralville, IA. I was humbled by the amount of talent and passion that surrounded me in the room, but that talent and passion only inspired me to do better work in my own life. Here are some of my takeaways from the evening.

There were two presenters in the evening. Dan Sweeny of ActiveGrade presented on Web Design Principles, while Josh Krakauer of Sculpt talked about building a social media strategy. I tried taking some photos, but please forgive me for the dark projector room! Next time I'll use HDR!

I'm only going to be addressing Dan's presentation today, so come back later for more on my experience that evening!

Dan Sweeney of ActiveGrade addressing web design
Discussing hierarchy of design.

Web Design Principles

Probably a lot of common sense for an art major, or a design major, but for someone like myself who was wrapped in history, philosophy, and film, Dan's presentation was a home run. I've long struggled with creating something with good design, even though I pride myself on recognizing good design when I see it. Dan helped me understand some of the underlying reasons of what makes "good design," and how that applies in today's web design world.

I believe the biggest take home for me was Dan's point that a website should have a goal; whatever that goal may be, good design strives to guide a visitor towards that goal. While that has been a key point in my work, it was very beneficial to hear it from a design perspective an how good design drives decisions and behaviors as much as the content (if not more).

Example of using contrast in website design.
Example of poor web design. What's the goal? Where's the focus?


Spreading a Brand through Email Marketing

Make sure your marketing emails get to your customer's inbox!

In my day job, I spend a significant amount of time educating others on the best practices for email marketing. One of the most frequent situations I run into is the idea of sending a one-off message to a huge mailing list. Specifically, a mailing list that has been purchased, dug up, or otherwise not grown organically. These addresses are typically not current customers for us either.

If I get a 1% response rate on this, I’m happy!

The above quote is what I’m trying to avoid. Educated our sales team as to why we should avoid the “mass emailing” idea. The problem we run into is communicating the necessity of not using our email marketing for these “brand awareness” or “spreading the brand” mailings.

Target those prospects that have previously shown interest.

What you really should focus on instead of email as a “shotgun” approach, is to instead aim  our email marketing towards the prospects that have previously shown interest or reached out to your company in some manner or another (tradeshow, call, white paper download, etc). Through a properly directed email campaign, we can garner that prospects interest in our company’s offerings. When you take the “blast” approach, there are usually consequences that affect all of your future email marketing:

  1. When your emails are marked as spam by the recipient, you’re increasing the chance of all emails being marked as spam. This reduces the likelihood of all future emails reaching the inboxes of our prospects.
  2. And once a recipient marks an email from your marketing campaign as spam, your company’s reputation and image is reduced to “just another spammer.” Not something that we want to happen!

And these two consequences usually go hand-in-hand, and also are greatly multiplied when left unchecked.

So, the take-home lesson is this: Don’t use email marketing as a brand awareness tool, or spreading your brand name. Email marketing is better utilized for measuring the interest in your company and your company’s offerings.


NAB Withdrawal

Since leaving the television industry almost a year ago, I’ve transitioned into the corporate marketing world fairly well, I would say so myself. One thing I miss, however, is being a total gear head with television equipment. One of the very first tasks I was given at my last job over 4 years ago, was to handle the RFP phase, installation, and on-going maintenance of our studio cameras and our editing suites. Lots of technical details and minutiae, but it was fun! So, this gearhead is jealous jealous (that’s jealous-squared for those math-types out there) of everyone who is at NAB in Las Vegas right now. NAB is my favorite time of year, especially now with all the new cameras (Blackmagic, wha?) and exciting write-ups coming from my favorite people like Vincent Laforet and Walter Biscardi and Philip Bloom.

Maybe, I’ll take some vacation time one day to go out to NAB. Years ago, I dreamt of going to a keynote presentation at MacWorld. Obviously, that won’t happen anytime soon. So, today my tradeshow dream is probably NAB. Maybe CES, but I think NAB is still focused on getting things done, rather than all this consumer crap going on right now.

Later gators, John


Privacy and The Next Big Thing

Isigi promises herself to one day sit down and organize all her online subscriptions and back up all her files. But she’s accepted that there’s a price to pay for using the services. “At some point you just have to surrender control,” she said.

The key is to limit the information you put out there in the first place.

(via As Web sites come and go, so too could the information you entrust them with – The Washington Post)