(click the link at the top of each article to read the entire article or view the video)
Unless you have been sleeping under a rock you have noticed that ‘Social Media’ is burning like wildfire all over the internet. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn are growing by the millions and it is all over the news. In fact there have been articles in almost all of the packaging publications on this subject in the last few months, some saying that you need to get on board or your company may die. While I think that is a bit of an overstatement, there is tremendous value in using this medium to find new prospects and to connect and engage with current customers.
MySpace was created as a place for young adults to communicate and share information. Facebook took it into the grown up realm ad LinkedIn took it to the business world. Twitter is used by all of the above to blast short messages (140 characters) to all of your followers at will. Since LinkedIn is focused on business, this blog post will focus on LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn.com? LinkedIn.com is a free business social network for business people to connect, share ideas and help each other. It is free unless you want some advanced options that come with a small fee. There are currently over 160 million professionals worldwide with profiles on LinkedIn. You set up a profile that tells all about yourself from a business perspective. Your profile is similar to a resume/bio but geared toward letting people know who you are, what you do and what you (and your company) have to offer. Once you are a member you can invite your colleagues and business associates to join your network so you can keep in touch. If a colleague changes jobs, once they update their profile, you have all of the new updated information at your fingertips. You can share files, presentations, travel plans, and much more with your connections. Now let’s put all of this "Inside The Box".
In November 2008 I founded the Paperboard Packaging Group on LinkedIn as a networking group for paper based packaging professionals. From November 2008 to August 2010 the Paperboard Packaging Group has gone from 1 member to over 10,000 members making it one of the largest and the fastest growing association in the paper based packaging industry growing by more than 400 members per month. I also have over 5,000 members on my mailing list many of which are not members of the group. This is very powerful. Imagine being able to send messages to all of your customers and prospective customers letting them know about the value that you offer them. Sometimes people need to be reminded. This can act as your salesperson by adding value to all of your customers no matter how small and encouraging them to buy from you. Even if they are not ready to buy, if you stay in contact with them and they know the services you offer they will likely remember you when they have a need. This can allow you to generate sales that you would not otherwise have had.
It can also help drive traffic to your website. I performed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to my LinkedIn profile to make me one of the top people listed when a search is done on my subjects. I also send my "Inside The Box" Video Magazine out about 3 times a month to let everybody in the packaging world know what is new in the industry. This gets me in front of thousands of potential prospects while allowing me to provide valuable content to them. As you know Industry Intelligence provides top content and trends in the forest, pulp, paper and packaging industries. Due to their valuable content they also are visited more than any association on these subjects in the world. This is because they provide the content that people want, when they want it. If you can provide valuable content on an ongoing basis to your customers they will keep coming back to you. How else would I have more US visitors to my simple www.askdrbox.com packaging consulting website than TAPPI, RISI, AICC, FBA and just about anybody else in the last 3 months?
Properly using LinkedIn and other social media can help improve communication with your customers while generating new leads you would otherwise have missed. To help you get started in using LinkedIn I will leave you with 10 tips regarding the use of LinkedIn.
1. Don’t invite people you don’t know.
If five people you invite to connect with you say they don’t know you LinkedIn will freeze your ability to invite people to your network without first having their email address. Be careful if you invite people you just made contact with. They need to know that you can add value to them by being in their network and ask them in the request if they are not interested to select "Archive" instead if "I Don’t Know This Person". An "I Don’t Know This Person" selection on LinkedIn is commonly referred to an IDK.
2. Invite everyone you know.
This is a great way to manage your personal network of contacts. If people are not on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. you can send them an invitation to join. It’s free.
3. Help others.
Nobody wants a sales pitch. Educate others and they will see the value. If you add value first and then remind them of your services they will not get upset. If you just send out sales pitches, nobody will read your emails, and many will block you or leave your network.
4. Stay active in the groups you join on LinkedIn and use the Q & A.
The more we help others and learn, the better we can do our jobs. Lead by standing behind people not running ahead of them. When you genuinely care about other people’s they will care more about yours. Stay active in the groups by adding helpful comments on people’s discussions or start one of your own. There is also a Q & A (Questions and Answers) section on LinkedIn where you can post questions and answer questions in the general population of LinkedIn. If your recommendation to a persons problem is selected as the best one, LinkedIn gives you "expert" credit on your profile on that subject.
5. List your work history.
If you list all of your jobs you will be able to invite colleagues from those jobs even if you don’t know their email addresses. Otherwise you will most likely need your prospective contacts email address in order to invite them. Just like on a resume you should list all (or certainly most) of your previous jobs but you should focus mostly on what you do now, recent accomplishments and what you and your company can offer to potential customers.
6. Join all of the groups you are interested in.
Join several groups that you are interested in. You may join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn. Some require you to be alumni of certain companies and some require you to be paid members of their associations to join. Groups allow you to ask questions, provide answers, look at job openings, keep up to date on current news, promote your products and services, and more. Use the groups search function and search for the terms you are interested in. Some search term suggestions would be Packaging, Corrugated, Folding Cartons, Fiber, Pulp, Paper, Lithographic, Industry Intelligence, etc. Industry Intelligence runs several LinkedIn groups including Packaging Industry Intelligence, Forest Products Industry Intelligence and many others. I Randy "Dr. Box" Phares run the Paperboard Packaging Group which is the largest paper based packaging group on LinkedIn and also runs the Rock-Tenn and Smurfit-Stone Alumni Group.
7. Keep in touch with former colleagues
. If you ever ended up out of a job, it has been proven that the best resource to find a new one is through people you know. People you know are also known as your personal network. Social Media is a great place to keep in contact with your personal network because in this ever changing world you never know when you may need somebody’s help. Keep in mind if you live a life of helping others they will be less hesitant to help you. If people don’t trust you, like you and respect you, they will not stick their neck out for you.
Use social media to keep your company’s name in front of others. DO NOT SPAM. Spam is any post or email without value. Examples of SPAM would be a post saying. "Buy boxes from me" or something like that. If you are asking for help, that is not SPAM. If you want to market your company or product you need to educate them on how it can add value to them. Make it educational and people will become interested. Let them decide, don’t beg.
9. No egos.
Regardless of our level of career success, no one person is worth any more than another in the game of life. Be respectful, fair and honest in your responses.
10. Have fun.
Why do something if you don’t enjoy it. If you enjoy your work you will never have to "work" another day in your life.
Written by Randy "Dr. Box" Phares President of Dr. Box Consulting