Your Marketing and Design Reading for The Weekend

Are you being asked to justify your use of social media for business or wondering if it's time to finally jump in to increase visibility for your company? This week's post covers several articles on social media in general, LinkedIn new features, Google+ and blogs. Because it is difficult to specifically tie revenue to social media activities (especially when you are a B2B company), the overall theme for marketers here is: "It isn't easy being social."

But My Business is DifferentImage of Tweets

Three things about this post hooked me: the title, the image of the cat and the first line: "Ever felt overwhelmed by social media advice?" I use my weekly blog post to give some order to the chaotic amount of suggestions I read. Yet I often find myself on the outside looking in because Affinity Express is not in an long-established business category like a printer or ad agency. Oh, and I love cats. It's especially challenging to know where to start when your industry doesn't use social media at all or the predominant opinion among your peers is that it is too casual or too personal. The author suggests this is actually the perfect time to start in social media because you will be ahead of the pack. I could not agree more. Not everyone at Affinity Express understands why we engage in social media but we offer Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter designs for our clients to sell to their end customers. How can we not use these sites for our own business? The post goes onto say that, when you are the first in a category, you can take inspiration from all kinds of other businesses and define what social media means and how it fits into your industry. As a result, what you thought was a problem—social media strategies not applying to your business—is really not a problem at all. It is an opportunity to learn to think differently about how social media can work for you.

Expand the possibilities how social media can grow your business:

  • Start following people from all different industries on Facebook and Twitter, including thought leaders and brands you admire.
  • Practice translating ideas that work for other categories to your business.
  • Get more personal on social media because people will want to connect with you rather than your business or brand—regardless of the industry (and what non-users think).
  • Look at what is working: check out social media sites and tools to get analytic information to better understand which of the content you share is sticky (in other words, generating clicks to your site, social sharing, comments, likes, etc.). Capitalize on what works and abandon what doesn't.

My favorite idea is the one about translating ideas that work for other categories and I plan to try this our for Affinity Express.

6 Tips for Using LinkedIn New Endorsements

You may have gotten a message or two lately notifying you that your skills have been endorsed (if you are lucky enough to have strong professional relationships with people who are savvy in social media). LinkedIn Endorsements are now an option on your LinkedIn profile. This feature is a good way to give yourself or your business more credibility. It is also a means to recognize and enhance your relationship with people you work with now or in the past.

  1. Add Some Skills: to be endorsed, you need to add skills to your profile and should do so in the order of importance to you.
  2. Endorse and Be Endorsed: when you view one of your first-degree connections, you are offered the opportunity to endorse the person for the skills on the profile. Then the skills you choose are added to their profile with a thumbnail image of you. As you endorse or get endorsed, the activity will appear in your LinkedIn newsfeed, creating more exposure.
  3. Get More Endorsements: the list of endorsements serves an instant overview that is easy to compare with your competition.
  4. Hide Endorsements: you have the option to hide endorsements from your public profile but, at this time, this choice cannot be reversed.
  5. Get Notified: when someone or a group endorse you, an email is sent to notify you who these people are. It's a good practice to send a thank-you note.
  6. Add More Skills: if someone wants to endorse you for skills you have not listed, you can choose to accept or not.

You do not have to show endorsements on your public profile but I think this is a great, fast way to provide and solicit input frequently in comparison to more detailed recommendations. Just finished a project? Request endorsement of the relevant skills!

New LinkedIn Company Pages Are Finally Rolled Out to EVERYONE

As usual, Hubspot does a good job of providing several examples of companies who participated in the beta for this new feature along with suggestions we can all apply.
  • Include a little about yourself in the image the way Dell did, since the About section has been moved to the bottom of the page.
  • Consider talking about what your company believes in to be more inspirational like Hewlett-Packard.
  • In the spirit of AT&T, give some attention to your Products & Services section of your LinkedIn page because it will now be more prominently featured on your home page.
  • If you struggle to find the right concept for your new cover photos, you can follow the example of Citi, which turn it into a timeline of their company history.
  • LinkedIn Company Pages now allow you to target your page posts to different parts of your audience and Hubspot uses this to good advantage.

We quickly created a design for our company page, so tell us what you think!

The Google+ Impact

This post answers some questions about the rel=author tag launched by Google in June. Google search results will now display Google+ profile information for the authors of content, as well as the author's picture and the number of people that have the author in their circles. The idea is to improve the credibility of the authors and increase click-through rates for results with the author tag.

Even if a user is not signed into a Google account, the number of +1s and the author images can be seen in the search results and on  the right panel.

This is not the same as a Facebook "Like". When logged into Google, users can see who  in their "circle" has previously given a page or article a +1, which means the user is more likely to visit the page. For brands, those in users' circles could be a major influence on where they click.  Also, a brand or Google+ user's previous +1 pages can be viewed on their profile. This is a signal of social relevance.

Google has added the ability to track the number of +1s through Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. As a result, brands can see how much traffic +1s drove to their sites, providing clearer ROI.

Obviously, Google is working to make Google+ a success and incorporate a social component to improve its organic results. If it works, any brand without an active Google+ presence will be scrambling to create one.

62% of Businesses Have a Blog. Here's Why You Should Have One, Too

The author explains that blogging has become a part of who he is, but it has especially helped him with sales and relationship-building. Thorough posts on topics of interest to his clients served as scripts that helped him overcome nerves and focus better during client meetings. It also gave him easy ways to follow up with contacts and provide value in his communications with links to helpful posts. As a result, he closed much more business and retained clients.

He aptly points out that some of the typical questions marketers receive about blogs are: Are things happening fast enough? When will I see ROI from social media? How can we get more conversions from our landing pages?

His response is that blog posts help to provide context for our methodologies, decisions and strategies. In other words, blog content helps clients see the big picture when they are focused on nitty-gritty details.

For Affinity Express, the blog builds credibility for us with clients in the multimedia publishing and marketing services industries because their customers are the SMBs marketers we speak to and try to help with our posts. We demonstrate that we understand the challenges of SMBs and help with our solutions.

It has also been an excellent way to improve our search engine optimization. We can't always get help from the busy internal team that designs websites for our clients, but we can write and publish blog posts whenever we want and ensure we appear on the first page of terms that are important for us, such as [print ad production] or [rich media ad designer]. As my friend and fellow marketer Dean recently noted, "When was the last time you went to a library to research something?" Today, we Google everything. That's why Affinity Express wants to be in those search results when companies search for "marketing production" and other relevant terms.

What tactics have you used to demonstrate tangible results and return on investment from your social media efforts? If you haven't established company pages and profiles, why have you been holding back?


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