After a mind-blowing October and November, I’m finally getting back to the Series on how to leverage Linkedin from an enterprise perspective. However, technically-speaking, the last post for ICMG was really along the same conversation. A popular post in terms of views, that post amplified the specific activities for a typical professional to influence and impact their professional environment. Yes, Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Organizational Voice (OV) are both REALLY BIG deals.

Speaking on eWOM at World Usability Day

Speaking on eWOM at World Usability Day - funny image!

You can look at this enterprise topic from multiple angles. Two angles for sure are:

  1. How do we as Clients, Partners, and Fans engage WITH the Brands we do business with?
  2. How do we as Brands earn, foster, and build engagement FROM our Clients, Partners, and Fans?

I’d like to shine the light on the latter. Restated, what specific activities can we as the enterprise do to earn engagement and interaction from our Clients, Partners, and Fans, specifically within the Linkedin environment. And how will these efforts payoff in measurable ROI.

A note to readers. If I may be quite direct, as I’ve been saying for the last three years, “Lurking is Lame”. I’ll go further than that now – it’s quite unacceptable to consume only, never Comment, never Share, never add value. Here’s the thing: If you’re going to take the time to absorb content, and if you find it helpful, don’t you see how just walking away without contributing is a bit off? It would be like attending in person a session that someone put effort in to develop, and that you paid for in either time or money, finding value in it, and then simply walking out without even taking the time to acknowledge, stop and thank the speaker, perhaps grab a business card for follow-up, or asking a question or making a comment during the session. So please consider some sort of action – do something with the content you consume. At a bare minimum, if you like the post, Share it. It only takes a few minutes to add value. Make a habit of it. (Btw, that adds to YOUR ORM and OV, right???)

First, what does it mean to “earn” engagement FROM our Clients, Partners, and Fans? I’ll use the analogy of the conference again. Suppose you are a new member of an association and you go to the first couple association meetings. At those meetings, you (and probably your boss) are so excited to be in the presence of all these new, targeted prospects, and driving so hard to justify the expense, that you go up to everyone you meet, introduce yourself, and immediately launch into a pitch about your products and services. So for two meetings in a row, you done nothing but “sell”. No listening to what others do, no volunteering to help the association in some way through your talents, no fostering conversations at the breakfast tables, instead “just sell baby”. Obviously an extreme example (though not really, I’ve seen this recently as I’m sure you have as well), but you get the point. If this were the case, would you reasonably expect anyone in the association to give you any positive props or mentions at any point at all? Probably not.

Now contrast that with the flip side. All you do is listen and volunteer and never mention exactly what you do. So everyone ‘Likes’ you but no one has any idea why you’re there or what you do. Also an extreme example on the other end of the spectrum. Also not appropriate.

Relative to the concept of ‘earned media’, the holy grail lies somewhere in between. That’s the goal, that’s the target. How do we do enough selling/marketing so that people know what we do and we stay top-of-mind for that function (and rank high in search along the way), but we also listen, help, and add value along the way? And what is that balance? I’ve heard it said that you can think of it in terms of a 10:1 ratio – 10 acts of added value for every 1 act of selling.

It’s critically important to understand this point. Earned media is/will be an essential element in the near future of sales and marketing.

What does “Earned Media” look like inside of Linkedin? Here are the spots to look for earned media and mentions. Once you understand the locations, and then combine that with the a for-mentioned concept of sales-versus-valueadd, you’ll quickly get the point. Again these are all Linkedin spots:

  1. Company Page Recommendations
  2. Company Page Status Updates
  3. Individual Recommendations
  4. Individual Status Updates
  5. Group Mentions
  6. Answers Mentions
  7. Company Buzz Mentions
  8. Twitter-integration Mentions
  9. Of course, Employee Mentions
  10. Employee Activities

These are a few of the hot spots. If you know any others, please Comment.

So what to you do with these and where does earned media come into play?

Company Page Recommendations:

Obvious caveat: The brand must do a great job in adding value and servicing its clients. “Astroturfing”, or getting your brother-in-law to say something nice about you in spite of poor service, inflated prices, etc., will be discovered and exposed, and will further exacerbate the original problems. Trust that.

Sample Linkedin Product Recommendation on a Company Page

Sample Linkedin Product Recommendation on a Company Page (click to enlarge)

Once you have the Company profile in place on Linkedin, be sure to add the tabs that allow you to feature your products and/or services. At that point, in these early days of Linkedin, it’s a simple matter of asking some of your Clients, Partners, and Fans to hit the page and make a Comment. Here’s a great example from HubSpot. Notice the inherent Linkedin functionality associated with the Recommendation and how it reinforces the relevance and influence of the Recommendation. Notice also that there is a Share button on the page. Did you know that brand advocates are 83% more likely to Share a page, all the more so when they’ve engaged with the content in some way, put their personal virtual fingerprints on the page? Do you see how these things work together to create earned media and viral marketing? (see more stories on this here)

Company Page Status Updates:

We all know that personal Status Updates (aka Shares on your Linkedin Homepage newsfeed) have the potential of being seen by your network. Going further, most know that if your network Likes or Comments on something YOU shared, THEIR network has the potential of seeing it and sharing it – and so on. (I saw one guy who posted a bet he made with his boss that his boss would give him $1 for every Like and Comment he got on a post about the utility of Linkedin. At that point, the guy had the usual couple hundred Connections. Well, his update went viral inside Linkedin. I’m not sure I remember exactly what I last saw or where it sits today, but after a few weeks the guy’s boss owed him SEVERAL THOUSAND bucks.)

As with personal, the same functionality applies to Company Status Updates. The Status Updates are obviously not earned media, but Likes, Comments, and Shares of those updates are. When the Status Updates appear in Followers Newsfeeds, if people are fans of the brand and appreciate the content of the item, there’s a good chance they will Likes, Comments, and/or Shares, especially if they’ve advanced in their Social maturity beyond the previously mentioned lurking stage. Those actions then become the earned media, the holy grail of Social Media Marketing. Nuf said.

Well, that’s all I have time for at this point. I’ll continue the dialog on the finer points of the other seven items next time.

Meantime, I’m greatly looking forward to ICMG first week of February, PIMA the next week, perhaps the ACT Conference, perhaps SWSX in March, and a VERY exclusive Enterprise Social Tech day-long Boot Camp for C-level insurance executives, also in March in Charlotte – a busy Q1.

Again, please Like, Comment, and Share. Let’s see if I can earn some media myself! Thanks in advance. Merry Christmas!!! Emmanuel.