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ValueThere is an art to getting followers and engagement on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Here is what has changed and what you need to do to get results.

A colleague recently emailed me a question about how to get results from social media. I thought sharing the question and my answer would help other professional service providers and business owners understand how to get results, namely more followers, comments and engagement, on your social media platforms.

The social media platform in question is LinkedIn.

“I have a LinkedIn question.   Last year I started an aggressive LinkedIn campaign. I joined over 30 groups in my industry and began posting all my blogs, articles and newsletters to these groups. Though no direct business has come from the effort, I was receiving a decent amount of comments once the posts were broadcasted.  Then, the comments ran dry.  So I started doing some research.

In the middle of March this year many of the groups that had regularly posted my entrees stopped.  I asked my assistant to look into this.  She believes my posts are now being included in a category known as ‘Promotions’ and are not included in the daily/weekly group broadcasts.  From what you know about LinkedIn, does this ring true?  If so, is there a way to circumvent the system?  The value of LinkedIn, at least for me, diminishes greatly if I can’t post my blogs, etc. for group member viewing.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.”

The short answer is that, yes, LinkedIn made some changes to how Groups and Group Discussions work.

In general, the changes that LinkedIn made in February 2015 (they were announced on February 17, 2015, in a post their Help Center) are designed to discourage spam and use of LinkedIn for self promotion as a Group member and perhaps as a Manager as well.

The problem with LinkedIn Group Discussions

For many years my clients and colleagues complained about LinkedIn Group Discussions. They seemed to be a waste of time because they were full of self-promotional spammers hawking products, services and events. It was hard to find real prospective buyers on the Group Discussions, so most people didn’t even try.

Automation helped people share their blog posts, product pages and events on LinkedIn Discussion Groups. Many used dialogue boxes like the one pictured below to share their update with connections and also with select groups.

LinkedIn Plugin Share with Groups

What LinkedIn changed In Groups

LinkedIn removed the option to disable automatic filtering of member posts. Now all member posts are screened or filtered according to a LinkedIn algorithm and will appear in the Promotions or Jobs tabs. LinkedIn did not disclose its algorithm. Some conjecture that promotional language and links to a person’s blog or website are some of the red flags in the new algorithm that filter posts. According to Stephanie Sammons, Manager of a LinkedIn Group of over 3000 financial advisor members:

“LinkedIn has told me that they are filtering out posts by keywords that have any sort of promotional context, but they wouldn’t give me specifics other than telling me that words like ‘sale’and ‘promotion’ were part of the algorithm. LinkedIn also told me that I can’t control which keywords to filter for.”
Sammons went on to say that upon review of posts that were automartically filtered out and placed in the Promotions tab by LinkedIn, she believed the posts included the words “I” and “My” in the topic and included links.

Group Managers can move posts back to the Discussions tab, but if they are short on time or if the group is large, there is a low chance this will happen.

LinkedIn will remove a post from LinkedIn altogether if members make “repeated complaints” about the post. There is no mention of how many complaints, and this used to be the responsibility of the Group Manager(s).

Other changes include removing the Top Contributor and Statistics from displaying on LinkedIn Groups, as well as the optional Group cover image. Read more about the changes on LinkedIn’s Help Center here.

What do the changes to LinkedIn Groups mean for members?

As a member of LinkedIn Groups, your focus should be on participating in discussions and sharing your knowledge and opinions. Ask questions on topics that you have an interest in and use the ensuing discussions for information that you can write about and share in your blog posts. If you truly feel that a blog post, infographic or video that you created is valuable, post it to the group and write a discussion headline that is custom to that particular group and that invites participation.

LinkedIn is probably tracking exactly what you share, post and like on its platform. If you are using an automated method to update one link to 30 groups, you may be being flagged as a spammer. If others on the LinkedIn discussion groups marked your posts as promotional or inappropriate, your value or “score” (assuming that LinkedIn is tracking these things) as a contributor could be diminished.

What do the changes to LinkedIn Groups mean for Group Managers?

With these new changes, LinkedIn is trying to embed anti-spam measures into its Groups features. It’s very likely that most Group Managers do not have time to handle the volume of posts that get added each day. The changes also reduce the focus on group size and activity level and bring it back to discussion topics. LinkedIn removed the Top Contributor information at the top of each group. Some suggest that this is just as well, as Top Contributor was based on volume of posts, not quality or interaction.

According to LinkedIn Specialist Bruce Johnston,

“Losing this doesn’t bother me as “top contributor” really meant “most often contributor” not most meaningful contributor. I always wondered if having the top contributors shown just led to people wanting to say something – anything – in order to get their photo up there. If anything, it encouraged mass, not class.”

It seems that features like Top Contributor – which may have led to more spam – are the ones that were removed. These are the things that focused on an individual or reflected well or poorly on a Group Manager.

It’s my opinion that some service providers have created LinkedIn Groups as a form of self-promotion. I would be very cautious about using a LinkedIn Group as a critical marketing activity, because of the very thing that happened in March – LinkedIn changed the way groups worked, taking away features that some managers relied upon. The same thing happened in the early days of Facebook Pages for business – some built a huge following and lost the ability to easily reach followers when Facebook made changes.

How to generate results from LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn never intended that its platform be used for self-promotion. It is for connecting and adding value for others while you gain value from your connections and their knowledge. So, in order to get value from LinkedIn, you have to stop pushing content and add value for others.

Add Value

Adding value for others on LinkedIn can mean you continue sharing your blog posts and other content. My colleague who posed this question is an extremely knowledgeable consultant who gets tremendous results for clients. He has a lot to share. However, he needs to do that in responses to questions when a blog post provides the solution to a problem that someone is discussing in a group.

Don’t stop posting your links to your blog topics! Just do it in your LinkedIn profile update and on your LinkedIn Company Page if you have one. As many of you know, you can now post blogs directly on LinkedIn. When you’re in LinkedIn Groups, ask questions that you are truly interested in. Post a link to an interesting article by a trusted publication in your industry, give your opinion, and ask others what they think of it. Once you have generated a discussion and get others’ input, then re-purpose that information into a blog post.

According to Group Manager Stephanie Sammons, the leads you may have gotten through merely posting blog links were probably pretty low value or produced little result:

“Chances are if you were getting any blog traffic or visibility from posting your links in multiple LinkedIn Groups without really intending to initiate discussions, it was not high quality traffic. You’re much better off posting to LinkedIn Groups in the way in which they were originally intended to be utilized…as discussion forums.”

I have helped my clients generate lists of quality leads through participation in LinkedIn Discussion Groups. But the discussions have to be genuine and interesting, not just a topic generated by pushing out a link to a blog post.

Adding value through participating in LinkedIn Groups takes time, but it doesn’t have to be hours every day. I wrote a blog post about how, in as little as 10 minutes every day, you can connect and engage with others on LinkedIn.  Read the post here – I think it has some good ideas.

If I wanted to post that topic on a LinkedIn Group, I might ask the question, “How much time does it take to generate results from LinkedIn?” in a discussion group. In the description of my discussion question, I might explain that I wrote a blog post and stated that you could get results in 10 minutes a day. I would ask potential discussion participants for their opinion – do they agree, disagree, and why?

So, reader – LinkedIn in 10 minutes a day? Can it be done? Please provide your opinion in the comments below.

I hope this blog post has added value for you! Adding value as a marketing strategy is a really important concept to grasp. Chris Brogan, co-author of Trust Agents with Julien Smith, wrote that for every one promotional message you put out on social media, you should put out a dozen that help others. And Chris is still doing it today on his blog and on social media – I continue to follow his valuable information.

Do you need help creating marketing content that adds value for your target audience? Please contact New Incite today – we provide marketing analysis, plans and provide marketing implementation to generate the results you need.

Photo by Jake Rust of GotCredit.com on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

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Spark New Results from Your B2B Marketing at Mid-Year

by Jennifer Beever on July 1, 2015

Fireworks with Your B2B MarketingIf you haven’t quite gotten to the marketing you planned earlier in the year, it’s not too late. Here are questions to answer and actions to take to get your marketing back on track.

First, know that it’s OK to start or restart marketing.

Marketing can be challenging. It’s one thing, if done well, that can help your business or organization grow faster. But sometimes marketing gets put at the bottom of the list, after selling, shipping, invoicing and making customers and employees happy.

Don’t give up if you haven’t executed your marketing plan.

The good news is that it’s never too late. You can write a marketing plan at any time during the year and get at least something (even one thing) done to create awareness, generate leads, and grow your business. Over the years I have seen that investing in marketing even has some intangible benefits for your business (read my blog post about that here.)

Restart (or start) your marketing by answering a few questions.

Do a quick review of what you planned before. If you don’t have a plan, ask yourself these questions.

1. Are we marketing to the right audience?

Your audience can change. Maybe one demographic is no longer the buyer of your product or service and a new generation is coming in. Many businesses have not paid attention to buyers from the millennial generation – now almost 50% of the people that are involved in B2B purchase options – read my recent post with the details here.

Or, maybe while you were busy with day to day activities, maybe your primary audience moved! This was true in California when years ago corporations started leaving the state for lower taxes and labor elsewhere (they continue to do so). One of my clients had always advertised in a state publication when the corporate exodus was happening. Switching to advertising in a nationwide publication resulted in a sale to a large corporation headquartered in another state.

2. Are there new opportunities we can leverage?

Has a new technology emerged that allows us to get an advantage over the competition? At a software company where I was Director of Marketing, our President allowed a Customer Service Rep to develop (in his spare time) a handheld device that would allow our users to more easily enter data into our system. We launched the product and were the first to offer remote data entry in the early 1990s.

Is there a new way of reaching our target audience? I know everyone is selling social media now (I’m annoyed too, as it is not a panacea – it’s just another marketing channel!). But, social media is a place where many people spend time. My clients get results from their presence on social media, and we set things up so they don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. (Read my post here for a practical approach to social media.)

3. What do our customers need? What do studies show that they might need or want but don’t know it?

There are always new studies coming out about new buying behavior, how we think and how attitudes are changing. Studies on the different generational traits can be really helpful in understanding what messages and what marketing will work best to reach different age audiences. Creating and using buyer personas is a great way to identify and market to your target audience preferences, behaviors and attitudes (see my post about this here).

4. What is our competition up to? Any new players? Did any “old” competitors disappear?

If anything changes with your competition, you should know about it. Find out if they have discontinued any products or services, expanded or contracted their sales force or employee count, closed offices or made other changes. Look for where your competitors have created a marketing presence. Are they “everywhere” on LinkedIn and you’re not? Do they have an Instagram or YouTube presence and you don’t? (Don’t dismiss this because you’re a business to business marketer; photo sharing and videos are very popular – read my recent post here.)

5. What strengths do we have to maximize?

More and more there is strength in your story and people. People love a good story, especially if it creates an emotional connection. If your CEO (or another key executive) is either charismatic, campy or quirky, perhaps you can position them as a spokesperson or industry thought leader. If your company is a leader in your industry or region, tell your story about your history and timeline.  If you have an amazing company culture, explain why and showcase your employees.

6. Are there any weaknesses holding us back?

This may be the hardest question to answer. It’s not easy to talk about the (pink?) elephant in the room. The most serious weakness but one that can be fixed is a product or service deficiency. Some businesses have kept an employee whose low performance is hurting business. In the marketing realm your brand may appear weak compared to the competition or you may not be creating awareness in the right places.

Write or re-write your marketing plan

Based on what you learn by answering the above questions, create or update your marketing plan in a shareable document. Include your strategies and tactics as well as a timeline for getting everything done. Learn how to do this and download a free Excel spreadsheet for your tactical timeline here.

Now take some kind of action to execute the plan!

Even if you do just one thing, I guarantee you will see results. Whether you increase your pre- and post- trade show marketing (read how here), improve your LinkedIn presence (see details here), create a better or new email campaign (read how-to posts here), update your website so it’s responsive and performs better in search results, or improve or add blogging (I’ve published many posts on this – read the most popular here), your efforts will pay off.

If you need help in creating your marketing plan or executing some or all of your marketing, contact New Incite today. We’d love to make sure the rest of your year includes marketing success and more business growth!

Photo by Sharon Mollerus on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

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Just When You Think You Know B2B Marketing, The Millennials Are Here

You did the research. You wrote the plan. You know where your B2B target audience gets information and how they buy, right? Not so fast. Just when you think you know your B2B buying audience; it’s changed. In the two years from 2012 to 2014, millennials became the biggest researchers of business-to-business purchases. In 2012 […]

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30 Creative Ideas for Your B2B Video Marketing

According to eMarketer, adults spend (on average) five and a half hours on video content every day. It’s time to produce some videos to help your prospective customers learn about what you do. It seems easy to come up with ideas for videos for consumer products. But what about video for your business-to-business (B2B) products […]

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B2B Marketing: I’ll Take Results Over Superlatives, Any Day

Marketing guru. Social media expert. Digital genius. Dynamic speaker. Prolific writer. Does anyone really believe these words when they read them on a marketing provider’s website? Something’s been bothering me as I sift through marketing information and visit other marketing providers’ websites, About pages and bios on social media. It’s the use of superlatives. Marketers […]

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Content Marketing: How This Software Company Achieved More with Less

A majority of B2B marketers still haven’t adopted content marketing even though there is proof that it works. Learn why and how a software company doubled organic traffic to their website and increased leads with less content marketing. According to the 2015 B2B Marketing Content Benchmark study by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, […]

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3 New Promotional Product Campaign Ideas for Your B2B Marketing

Are you wondering if promotional products or giveaways make a difference? Here are three thoughtful promotional campaign ideas to make your marketing stand out. Last week Flora Taub, my friend and promotional products rep for Geiger in Southern California, sent me an email with a fun new idea – selfie sticks! This is something new […]

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One Big Reason Your Email Marketing Fails: It’s Not Responsive

A large percentage of your email recipients will open your email on their mobile device. Here’s one critical thing you need to do to make sure they read it! Many businesses missed Google’s algorithm change that requires your website be responsive in order to rank well on searches. If you missed it and want to […]

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3 Key Factors to Choosing the Right B2B Marketing Consultant

Expert marketer. Marketing guru. Dynamic speaker. Prolific writer. Experienced. The list of superlatives used by B2B marketing consultants goes on and on (and on) today. How do you choose a B2B marketing consultant that can get you the results you want and more? Today experience, marketing expertise, great speaking and writing abilities, a strategic approach […]

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Google Mobilegeddon: Don’t Panic, Here’s What You Need to Know

Google changed their search engine algorithm to favor mobile friendly websites. But don’t let a web developer or SEO vendor sell you a bill of goods as a solution. Here’s what you need to know. Google announced this algorithm change early – a few months ago – letting website owners know that they would begin […]

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