tools Archives - Harris Social Media

15 helpful tips to grow your LinkedIn group into thousands

on Sep 05 in hints and tips, linkedin, social media, social networks, tools posted , , , by

huge crowd crossing a bridge

(Image courtesy of NASA)

After LinkedIn’s revamp to its groups and bringing teenagers onto its platform, competition for eyeballs is going to increase dramatically.

Here is a 15 step guide to starting and enhancing your group so that it will grow—hopefully into the thousands. These tips will help you get started with your LinkedIn group. They will also help established group managers boost their group’s numbers.

These techniques are based on my own experience with my Biodiversity Professionals group, started in November 2010. The group is close to more than 10,000 and still growing.

Set up

1. Pick a great name

LinkedIn gives you five chances to change the group name. It’s best to get it right first time. Choose a name that’s relevant and easily recognized. That’s why brands shoud create a Company page. A Group page is for creating a community, not for raising brand awareness. To pick a winning name, think about the focal topics of the group, and about LinkedIn users. Most LinkedIn users are professionals looking into expanding their network. A good name might include “Professionals,” or “Network.” In any case, keep the name to two or three words max.

2. Choose the right topic

Make sure the topic of your group is going to resonate with LinkedIn users. (See LinkedIn user demographics.) To connect with your target audience, apply the Goldilocks principle: consider a topic that is not too specific nor too broad. A very broad topic will mean that you’re competing with a lot of other groups. For instance if you call your group “Social Marketers”, you’ll need to battle for attention among more than 5,000 other groups. On the other hand, “Marketing Statistics Experts”, would not be a specialty for more than a few users. So a topic such as Social Media Analysts might work well. You’ll also have more success helping your group grow if you have some basic expertise in your topic. If you can respond with authority on posts, you will build the group’s credibility. If you’re on thin ice, reach out to experts who are able to respond with some gravitas.

3. Provide some branding

LinkedIn’s new group page format now allows you to feature a nice big (640 x 200) banner or “Hero image” at the top of the page. Do not neglect the opportunity to replace the generic blank graphic! At the very least, use stock photos and screen shots if you don’t have a design budget. There are a bunch of free graphics tools if you don’t have Photoshop.  Even easier to use, Cooltext enables you to create an attractive logo from a menu of preset graphics and templates. Another easy technique is to use a word cloud generator, such as Wordle. Create a text document with your topic keywords. Repeat keywords with a frequency that reflects your focus. Choose your color scheme and font, and hey presto, instant great looking banner!

4. Optimize description

When you set up a group you need to create a summary about your group and a full description. Craft these carefully! The summary serves as the page description that appears in Google Search results, so it will be key to ensure your page does well if people are searching in Google. Use the longer description to give members a thumbnail sketch of your group’s interests, goals and activities. This is where you entice members to include your group as one of only 50 that LinkedIn allows them to join.

5. Create a welcome banner

The page banner is a slider, but only the first slide features your hero image. After that, content is determined by the items in your list of Manager’s Choice posts. (Click the Search tab to access the Manager’s Choice list.) To create a welcome message for the slider, first post a welcome message to the Discussions. Then set the order of Manager’s Choice items so that your welcome message is first in the list. When your banner image slides over, users will see the welcome message next. You can create additional posts that help users with the group, such as etiquette when posting.

6. Create an automated jobs feed

Remember your audience! Many LinkedIn users are networking to look for jobs. Your group’s Jobs tab provides a place to discuss and post jobs. The tab gives you the option of creating an automated jobs feed that pulls in job opportunities from across LinkedIn. Click on the Jobs tab, and click Edit in the Create a Feed box. Choose keywords that align most closely with your group’s topics. You might need to fine-tune the keywords to get the most relevant jobs. You can also customize the feed by selecting various filters such as countries, junctions, industries and experience. Be sure to let users know about your jobs feed in your messaging. You can also create a post and make it a Manager’s Choice so it appears in your banner area (see #5). If you try to put more than ten discussions in your Manager’s Choice list, you might encounter bugs with the list. Keep it to ten or less and things should work fine.

7. Create a URL shortener

A URL shortener is useful to post information about your site in Twitter. To get a link to your group’s About page, click Manage>Send Invitations, and you will see a box labelled “Link”. (See #9 for tips on sending invitations.) Use Bitly to create a user-friendly URL that helps users recognize the URL’s topic. The best thing about the URL shortener is that you can use it to track the number of clicks. So you could create variations on a URL and then track it to specific networks and webpages. For example, post bit.ly/mygroupA only to Twitter. Post bit.ly/mygroupB only in emails. Post bit.ly/mygroupC in the comments of influencer blogs. Then you can compare which posts get the best response. Hootsuite (free for up to five social accounts) provides a URL shortener with various analytics tools.

8. Post some initial content

Before you put effort into promotion, seed your group’s Discussion page with some initial content. The easiest way to start is simply to post links to information and news that will interest your group. Be sure that the content is relevant and useful. To find up-to-date content, you can set up Google Alerts and Twitter streams.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! Be sure to optimize your own profile before going wild with promoting your group. Users will check out your profile. If it sucks, they might be a bit reluctant to join your group, especially just as you are trying to get it off the ground.

Promote

9. Reach out to your network

Once your group is primed and ready for action, now is the time to begin promoting. The first step is to use the “Send Invitations” feature, under Manage Group in the Manage tab. However, group invitations cannot be customized. My advise is don’t use the generic messaging. Send invitations one-on-one to your network. This is your network, so speak to them about your group, why you’re inviting them, and how they can contribute. Always personalize the message!Here’s an example:

“Hi <Contact Name>, I hope you don’t mind a message out of the blue! It’s just that I am so excited about this new LinkedIn group I created. It’s called <Group Name>, and it features news and jobs for professionals like you. It’s also a great opportunity to contribute to relevant discussions about <Group Topics>, and your opinions are sure to be valued by group members. Just click the link to join. Thank you so much! Regards, <Your Name>.”

10. Post on other social networks

Once you have a few members in your group, start reaching out on other social networks. Twitter and Facebook are good places to start. Google Plus also has an audience that may be interested in professional networks. My biggest successes have come with posting links on Wikipedia. You do need to be careful, since Wikipedia editors are very strict about external links and will quickly delete any links that smell at all spammy. It helps if you’re already an established Wikipedian. Otherwise, get an established Wikipedia editor, if you can, to help you post a link to an appropriate page. (Contact me if you’re interested in this option.) 

11. Use message templates

Automated messages are sent to a user when they request membership, or they’re approved. I am not a huge fan of automated generic emails, and neither are your group members. Message templates (under the Manage tab) are a good way to personalize those messages, and to set the stage for building a relationship with your group members. For example, you can customize the welcome message. If you don’t, the default LinkedIn confirmation message will be sent instead.

Manage

12. Approve members promptly

If you have a closed group, you need to approve members. Don’t let this job linger! By approving people quickly, you maintain their initial interest. New members appear in the feed on the top right of the page, along with new discussions. By approving members regularly, users can see that more people are joining, and will be more likely to participate in the group.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! The profile that you approve the last appears in the the Latest Activity box first, so you want to make sure that your most recently approved member has a nice photo or a good profile, improving the group’s credibility. This also helps to push lower quality content off the prime real estate of the Recent Activity box.

13. Moderate gently

When moderating posts, again exercise the Goldilocks principle: don’t be too strict or too lenient, just about right. If you are too strict, you might put off users who overshare, which might work against you when other users aren’t posting much. Some activity is better than none! Also, some users may not be familiar with etiquette. If posts tend to be spammy, create a Discussion with appropriate guidelines and make it a Manager’s Choice, so users can see what’s expected. In any case, unless posts are totally inappropriate, you can move posts to appropriate tabs.

14. Thank frequent contributors

The backbone of your group and its key to success are the users that most often contribute quality content. Take a few moments to thank them with a personal message. They may even appreciate being thanked in a Discussion (be sure to ask!). These “ambassadors” can help in other ways, such as sharing your own content with other groups and social networks. Bottom line: social media is about building relationships. Use that

15. Send announcements sparingly

One of the best things about the LinkedIn groups is that you can email all members with the “Send an Announcement” feature. But remember that some members might have opted out of receiving the announcements. To avoid more opt-outs it’s a good idea to send only important announcements with relevant information. In other words, don’t spam your group! One way to get buy-in is to post a Discussion asking for news and other items that will be of interest to the group. This way, you can embed your own news, links, etc. in the message, while also serving the needs of your carefully nurtured community. If you follow the advice above, you have every chance of growing your group into thousands strong. I’d love to hear of any other thoughts or suggestions that aren’t mentioned above, or of your own experience with any of these suggestions.

More helpful hints and tips

 

  • Starting your LinkedIn group page

 

LinkedIn groups for beginners

LinkedIn Groups – How to Encourage, Entice and Engage

LinkedIn Groups for PR: A beginner’s guide

Top 10 Reasons To Start A LinkedIn Group

 

  • How to engage LinkedIn users

 

Engage the experts: winning content strategies for LinkedIn Groups

How to engage your LinkedIn followers

 

Foursquare versus Facebook Places

on Jan 27 in facebook, geolocation, technology, tools, trends posted by

Geolocation services may not make money this year according to a Forrester report.
That does not mean they’re dead in the water. Adoption rate is key. The question is will the advantages of geolocation outweigh security concerns. My guess is no. A few instances of stalkers following people to rob their empty homes for example, won’t deter millions from sharing their whereabouts with their social networks. As for Foursquare versus Facebook Places, I think Foursquare may rise to the occasion. Twitter didn’t disappear when FB introduced status update feeds. With FB places you have to navigate to it inside the FB app, whereas Foursquare is a dedicated app. And FB Places doesn’t have as good or established a reward system as Foursquare. FB is not going to rule the world just yet!

Could social media monitoring have prevented Arizona shooting tragedy?

on Jan 12 in monitoring, politics, psychology, social media, statistics, tools posted by

We’re all saddened by the tragic events in Arizona last weekened. Of course, media pundits have been busy assigning blame. And politicos have been equally busy fending off any patina of guilt. 

And of course, social commentators, psychologists and criminologists are pondering how to detect and prevent such heinous crimes. Gun control, screening mental patients, etc. are among the proposed suggestions.

But one stone unturned at this the point is the possibility of using social media monitoring to detect potential threats. Once detected, the threat can be further analyzed using the powerful statistical capabilities of these monitoring tools.

While it’s unlikely such events can ever be prevented with 100% certainty, here’s how social media monitoring (Radian, Alterian, etc.) could help identify and minimize threats.

1. These individuals want to be seen and heard. Jared Loughner, the alleged perpetrator of the Arizona shooting had created disturbing YouTube videos. He also had a MySpace page. Social media provides an outlet for the lonely, disenfranchised, attention-craving individual who might tend toward antisocial or criminal acts. Social media monitoring could profile such individuals and at least place them on a watch list.

2. Use of social media location-based apps could help track movements of such individuals. For example, if someone on the watch list posted a Facebook update that they were going to kill such-and-such and then Foursquare showed they have checked-in at a gun store, that would certainly be a red flag.

3. The monitoring could be provided by the social media monitoring companies as a service to society, rather than just getting us to buy more widgets or to cover corporate asses. Or government could invest in such a service.

It’s about time to use the technology we have and the typical behaviors of such individuals to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy.

Is Apple’s Ping a Facebook-killer?

on Sep 02 in blogging, business, facebook, strategy, tools, trends posted by

Apple’s Ping logoBlogger Jesse Stay just wrote a thoughtful post about Apple’s launch of Ping its music social platform for sharing music.

Just announced by the company’s CEO Steve Jobs, Ping is a social application within Apple’s popular desktop app iTunes.

Jesse called Ping “the biggest announcement we saw come out of Expo, primarily because it’s of importance not just to Apple followers, but to every consumer in this digital age.”

I agree with Jesse, that Apple is going about this the right way, sticking to their core offering and growing the network to build a user base.

But I think Jesse’s off the mark when he suggests, “This is perhaps bigger than Facebook.” Other authors expressed the thought even more directly. Nick O’Neill asserts that “Apple Has Become Facebook’s Biggest Threat With Ping.” And so on.

Is Ping a Facebook-killer? I don’t think so. Even in the longer term, if Ping become the Apple’s Social Graph, as Jesse suggests, it has a lot of catching up to do. For one thing, Facebook already has more than twice as many users. iTunes users will need to transition from using it mainly as a desktop app to using it online. And of course, Facebook offers much more than just music. In fact, music is the one thing FB doesn’t do particularly well.

MySpace is the musician’s social network. So if anything, Ping will challenge MySpace. This makes sense — MySpace is in a downward spiral anyway. Apple is too smart to take on Facebook. MySpace is lower hanging fruit. Blogger Austin Carr would probably agree. In his Fast Company article, he wrote “”Ping won’t replace Twitter or Facebook… But MySpace should be scared as hell.”

I probably won’t use Ping that much. music is a personal thing, a rather private enjoyment. It’s never been much of a social activity for me, online or off. I’m not especially interested in the musical tastes of my friends. And I’m not too fussed if they’re interested in what I enjoy. But perhaps I’m a minority, and folks like me won’t stop Ping from being successful.

Hootsuite’s tweaks for tweets

on Jun 24 in hints and tips, social networks, tools, trends, Twitter posted by

Hootsuite logoHootsuite just keeps getting better and better. 

It calls itself “The professional Twitter client” and today it went several steps further toward reinforcing that position. The company rolled out a new version of its app, called Hootsuite5 (see blog post). Aside from a a touched-up dashboard, improvements include:

  1. Extensive use of HTML5, which runs quietly behind the scenes to bring yummy goodness such as drag and drop, geo-search and quicker switching between tabs and streams. Anything that improves user experience is a good thing.
  2. Themes to customize your dashboard’s appearance. Not such a big deal but definitely keeping up with the times.
  3. Publish photos to your Facebook wall. This won’t manage your Facebook albums, but it means that when you post a link you can include an image, just as you would posting directly onto Facebook.
  4. Retweet options include using the traditional RT, which Hootsuite incorporated in the early days, or now using Twitter’s built-in retweet option (which sucks IMO). According to the company’s blog “HootSuite users can choose whether to Re-Tweet with initials “RT” or to use the Twitter native auto-Re-Tweet tool.” However, I couldn’t see how to RT in the way you used to with Hootsuite. Now, the function is like Twitter’s. Here’s how:  “Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck “Use Twitter Web retweets” (Thanks to @Hootsuite_Help for clarifying.)
  5. Access your Google Analytics data. Hootsuite now integrates your Google Analytics data into its dashboard. Great time saver, since you don’t need to login to Google to get your latest stats. But wait, there’s more! You can overlay your tweets from various Twitter accounts to evaluate which tweets are providing the most traffic to your sites. This will be a great tool for marketers. 
  6. Attachments! This is getting almost like email. You can include an image or other file as an attachment to your tweet (or hoot). The attached file is automatically linked with a shortened URL.
  7. More goodness! Hootsuite has speeded up the interface, and provided easier access to support, and Japanese users can now use the app in their own language (not so useful for me, I confess).

These improvements are sure to keep Hootsuite as leading application for those looking to streamline management of their Twitter outreach. It certainly came out tops in a recent online discussion on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter to do more than update your timeline on what you’re having for breakfast, I strongly recommend Hootsuite. To get the most out of it, read Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite.

Is social media monitoring a bubble?

on Apr 04 in business, monitoring, reputation management, tools, trends posted by

Image courtesy of WikipediaAaron Koh, Social Media Director at That Social PR Agency, posted an interesting question on LinkedIn: Is social media monitoring a gold mine or a bubble?

During my work developing social media strategies for a variety of clients, I have had the opportunity to review the social media monitoring space in some detail.

Yes, there are a lot of companies jumping on the bandwagon. Some of the free services are useful. Used appropriately, they can meet the needs of many situations. Who hasn’t heard of Google Alerts? (List of free tools.) But some free services, while enticing, seem inaccurate at best, or even misleading. Larger enterprises will most likely need to consider paid solutions.

The big players (Techrigy, Radian6, Nielsen, Filtrbox, etc.) will likely buy out the best of the small scale solutions. (See Nathan Gilliat’s excellent Guide to Social Media Analysis for a list of companies offering paid solutions for social media monitoring.) 

My sense is that the trend will shift away from technological solutions and to the human element. A monitoring program can alert you to a mention or conversation. It can even indicate whether it’s positive or negative. But software can’t tell you how to respond.

The nuances of building relationships through social media simply cannot be left to software. And even humans get it woefully wrong as Nestle’s recent social media disaster on Facebook testifies. Monitoring is important but experienced people with the expertise to manage specific situations will always be needed.

To answer Aaron’s question, the plethora of sub-par social media monitoring tools suggest a bubble is growing. The bubble will deflate in due course. But as with most bubbles, the strong players will survive and most likely come out even stronger.

Hootsuite adds link preview feature

on Jan 06 in hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

One criticism of the browser-based Twitter management application Hootsuite is that you cannot see the website URL that a shortened URL links to (i.e., in the bar at the bottom of your browser window, the link simply shows up as the URL you mouse over). So you have little idea of the linked page’s content without actually clicking the URL and visiting the site.

PROBLEM: Mousing over the URL shows only the linked URL in the browser bar. You can only guess at the linked content.

To be fair, this criticism applies to Twitter itself. In any case, Hootsuite has added a feature that magnificently addresses this problem. Tweets that appear in your feed columns with URLs now have a little plus sign next to the URL. Mouse over the plus sign and a popup appears with the title, website domain and an excerpt from the first few words of the linked page. This is much better than just a cryptic URL. Neat!

SOLUTION: Mouse over the plus sign next to the URL in Hootsuite and a pop-up previews the link

Hootsuite has gone beyond the call of duty here. This update provides an invaluable tweak to its already excellent interface. 

HootSuite Goes Mobile – Preview

on Dec 10 in products, tools, Twitter posted by

HootSuite for iPhone is available in the iTunes store starting today. If this doesn’t wean people away from Tweetdeck (which Hootsuite beats hands down, IMO), nothing will.

HootSuite for iPhone has most of the functionality of the browser-based interface (see screen shots in my series Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite) including:

  • Viewing statistics of clicks on your linked URLs
  • Sheduling your tweets in advance
  • Sending tweets to multiple accounts simultaneously

None of these features are offered by other iPhone Twitter apps.

HootSuite for iPhone also has additional features including the ability to import your Twitter lists, upload and share photos or files over Twitter using ow.ly and read explanations for why topics trend on Twitter.

Hootsuite claims the app is “the most robust, intuitive user interface of any iPhone Twitter client.”

The cost of the app is $1.99 and it rates four out of 5 stars with 19 votes. Negative reviews include:

  • The app doesn’t have a “landscape” mode (where the screen orients horizontally when you turn the phone)
  • No email function unlike Tweetdeck which is free (This reviewer said “Kinda feeling ripped off… Lame”)
  • The app crashes when viewing stats. (I expect this glitch will soon be fixed in an update.)

Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #10: Optimize performance using statistics

on Dec 03 in hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

Here is the final (yay!) of 10 blog posts on using Hootsuite to become a Twitter power user. For details about Hootsuite, including a screenshot of the dashboard, see the introductory post. Here’s today’s recommended step:

10. Optimize performance using statistics
Hootsuite’s statistics are one of the best ways to become a Twitter power user. The stats provided are based on the URLs you tweet using Hootsuite’s URL shortening feature. The stats only work with the shortened URLs, but they provide a way for you to see which URLs you post get the most clicks. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Post a bunch of tweets using the Hootsuite URL shortener (see 10 steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #2: Shorten links)
  2. Click the “Stats” button below the columns.
  3. You need to wait a while for people to click on your links a few times. Select the relevant profile from the drop-down menu. A time-series chart shows the total number of clicks for any given day. 
  4. You can select a date range to view the chart for data over 24 hours, seven or 30 days or a specified time period. When the time series chart appears you are presented two more options, to view click stats by region or by popularity.
  5. Click “Show Referral and Regional stats to see sources of clicks by country or referring website.
  6. Click “Load Popular Tweets From Twitter” to see which URLs were the most often clicked in the given time period.

Stats screen shots

Time series of number of daily clicks on linked tweets

 

Number of clicks on links by region and referrer

 

Number of clicks on linked URLs by popularity

How to use the stats

You will soon see what topics are most often clicked by your followers. By honing in on the most popular topics, you can provide your followers the most value. This is especially useful if you have a blog and want to gauge the response to Tweets referring to your own blog posts.

Congratulations if you have actually read all 10 Twitter Power User posts! You are on your way to becoming a Twitter power user!

Here are all the previous steps to becoming a Twitter power user:

Step 1. Schedule Tweets

Step 2. Shorten links

Step 3. Use multiple profiles

Step 4. Track multiple feeds

Step 5. Using Hootsuite Search

Step 6. Update multiple online profiles

Step 7. Embed columns into your website

Step 8. Manage multiple users

Step 9. Use RSS feeds to post from any Web site

For more information, you might find the following websites useful:

 

Hootsuite improvements and bugs

on Nov 24 in hints and tips, tools posted by

“Grrr,” I thought last night as I tried to log on to Hootsuite to schedule some tweets for later today.

But all was forgiven this morning when I logged in. Woohoo! Nice new shiny Hootsuite. Well not new exactly, but the app has added a couple of useful new features. 

Tracking ongoing conversations

First, Tweets with retweets now have a button “Show Conversation” that shows related tweets (with RT) below the initial tweet. Once you’re done reading through the tweets, you can click “Hide Conversation.” Nice.

 

Selecting accounts with a click

Second, Ping.fm has been added to the accounts to select from when choosing which to Tweet (this used to be managed in the background by setting up Ping.fm (see Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite #3: use multiple profiles)

 

The bug

And the bug. It’s not a big deal, but needs to be fixed. The column for “Pending Tweets” shows a missing image icon instead of the account’s icon.

 

Kudos to Hootsuite

Another change is that columns now have the Twitter logo, but I’m not quite sure how that works. But overall kudos to Hootsuite for improving the (still free!) application. These are more improvements that reinforce its position as the best browser-based solution for managing your Twitter accounts.