LinkedIn Etiquette: No, I Don’t Want What You’re Selling

As I connect with marketers on LinkedIn, I’m reminded about what Gary Vaynerchuk once said about high school kids and relationships.

They’re always trying to close on the first date.

I’ve lost count of the number of people on LinkedIn who wanted to connect with me, only to turn around and immediately email me with whatever they’re selling.

It’s happened to me for nine years, and I can tell you exactly how many people I’ve responded to with any interest: zero.

I see most people who sell to me on LinkedIn as snake oil salesmen (and women)While I’m not an avid LinkedIn user, I do check it a few times a week, respond to non-sales messages, and will even reach out to a few people for connections.

But I hate it when people I’ve never met try to sell to me on something I never said I needed.

I mean, maybe if I expressed some interest in a particular service, or I publicly lamented about a problem I was having, then I might be interested in what these marketers and salespeople have to say. If I say I hate WordPress because it’s so hard to figure out, or if I gripe that managing my accounts takes too long, then I would expect to hear from WordPress designers or accountants.

(By the way, I’m good on WordPress and accounting. No problems there.)

But when they contact me about their web design, mobile app design, or SEO services, it’s clear they never even read my website, let alone my profile.

When they DM me on Twitter — “Hi, , thanks for connecting! Here’s a free ebook I wrote, which has nothing to do with anything you do for your job!” — I write a similarly-worded message, and invite them to visit my own humor website. I even told a few I would be willing to listen to their sales pitch if they did it. I rarely get a response, which makes me wonder if they read their DMs.

While some people over-connect on LinkedIn, trying to amass as many connections as they can, I take a more reserved approach. I’ll reach out to people I’ve met before, and connect with them. However, I’m less reserved when it comes to accepting connections, because I don’t know if any of them are readers or have bought one of my books. Rather than appear rude, I’ve accepted the connections, only to get a sales message less than 12 hours later.

The Facebook Problem

The problem is easy to identify on Facebook. I think we’ve all gotten these messages. Depending on your gender, a young woman or young man with only two photos on their profile will send a friend request. They’re not in your friend network, except for maybe one mutual friend. Their profile only has one or two photos, slightly sexy, but not overly provocative. And you have no idea how you would know this person.

You only have to accept a couple of these to realize this is some form of spam. The account either changes to porn, or you’re bombarded with private message communication requests. After a couple of these, you learn to ignore friend requests from anyone who does not know several of your friends of both genders.

(Helpful hint: Guys, it’s a telltale sign — and also a little creepy — when a 20-something woman’s only friends are men in their 40s and older.)

We have the same kind of problem on LinkedIn. So many people fail to change their “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message that most people just accept it. I used to be more picky, and would only accept people who had updated their message. But I decided I was fighting a losing battle, and gave that up.

As a result, I fall prey to every salesperson who’s using LinkedIn to scope out their next cold call. Rather than trying to build a relationship or gauge my interest, they’re immediately pestering me for phone meetings and conference calls.

An accepted connection on LinkedIn does not mean I want to be sold to, especially when that’s the first communication I get from you. Not even a “hi, thanks for connecting.” Just a “Hi, we provide the identical service hundreds of other people have contacted you about.”

If you truly want to become a potential partner or vendor, take the time to gauge my interest and my needs. Provide me with useful information that will help me do my own job better and make my life easier. Share information, provide valuable content, and prove yourself to be someone who’s smart, knowledgeable, and capable of doing what you claim.

Don’t try to sell me in your very first communication. That’s a guaranteed “No.”

Photo credit: Carol Highsmith (Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress, Public Domain)

5 Reasons B2B Sales Need Social Media

“We’re in B2B sales, we can’t use social media.”

I hear it many times. B2B salespeople who think they can’t use social media, because social media is just for fun. It’s just for kids. Their clients don’t use it. Blah blah blah.

I don’t know who keeps perpetuating the myth that social media is some kids’ playground that “real” businesspeople aren’t allowed to use, but it’s wrong. There is no one who can’t benefit from social media. Even spies can use social media — the CIA has one at ICouldTellYouButI’dHaveToKillYou.com.

But I was in B2B sales long enough, in a past life, that I can see exactly where and how B2B salespeople can use social media.

1. Solve problems.

The best way to find customers is not to call them up, one at a time, from a phone list, and hope for the best. The best way to find customers is to happen upon them when they have a problem, and fix it. Even if it’s just a small problem that’s easily managed in a single Twitter message or 500 word email, you will get a person’s attention when you help them.

You answer their question, show them how to fix the problem completely, and they’re grateful. They’re so grateful, they check out your profile, see who you work for, and visit your website.

They don’t buy anything from you right then, but they start paying attention to you on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or an industry discussion board. They see you helping others, and they realize you solve problems. You’re honest, you’re helpful, and you provide value to them.

And then one day, they realize they have a problem where they need your help — paying-you-money kind of help. You meet, show them how your product can fix their problems, and they buy it.

2. Become your industry’s expert.

Solve problems for a lot of people, not just a few. Start a blog and write important articles about industry trends. Write articles about how trends in other industries affect yours. Write articles that show people how to fix a common problem. Write articles about other articles other industry people have written.

But do it without pimping your product. Don’t write commercial after commercial about your products. Don’t write about “5 ways our rotary wankle engine beats the competition.” Don’t even write about problems where your product is the only solution. People hate that, and will ignore you.

Then, share those articles on your social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As your customers and prospects read your articles, they’ll figure if you know enough to write about these issues over and over, you must know what you’re talking about.

Not only will they think you’re an expert, they’ll realize you know enough to fix their specific problem. They won’t want the help from the person who just called them up for the 8th time. They want the expert whose wisdom they’ve been reading for the last several months or years.

3. Deepen relationships.

Social media lets you connect with other people, in all industries, all career levels, all over the world.

You can be Twitter friends with your favorite customers. You can be LinkedIn colleagues with important decision makers. (And you can keep tabs on the competition.)

Social media lets you deepen important work relationships without constant face-to-face meetings. You can find out interesting things about people, things you would never learn in a real meeting. And things that show you care about them as a person.

“I saw on Twitter that you got a new puppy. How’s she doing?”

Now you’ve connected with them, gotten to know them better, and you can start deepening that relationship. Only it doesn’t stop growing when you’ve left them. You can continue to grow it when you’re back at your office.

People buy from people they like. By using social media to grow your relationships, you can get people to like — and buy from — you.

4. Avoid gatekeepers.

Anyone who is in sales has learned that gatekeepers are the bane of our existence. It seems their sole purpose in life, the reason they were put here on this earth, is to say no to salespeople.

Guess what.

Those people are not monitoring your customers’ social networks. They’re not on Twitter blocking your tweets. They’re not on LinkedIn intercepting your group discussions.

Your customers using it themselves. They’re paying attention to you. They’re reading what you have to say. And because you’ve done the previous three steps, they’re willing to talk with you on the phone or meet with you face-to-face.

Because the one phrase that trumps all gatekeepers, and is like sunlight to a vampire to them?

“He asked me to call.”

5. Keep up with client turnover.

People move on. They get promoted, they change jobs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called someone only to find they left that job. All that work, all those phone calls and meetings, wasted. I could catch up with that person in their new job, if the gatekeeper was willing to share it, but a good bit of the time, that wasn’t possible.

With social media, because I’m keeping up with the people in my industry, I know when someone is moving on. I see their announcement on Twitter, I get the profile change notice on LinkedIn. I can send them congratulatory messages, follow up after they get settled in, and help them in their new role.

Occasionally, I can connect them to other people who can help, or write a blog post that relates to their new role and ideas to consider in their new position. (Sort of like this one.)

Social media is a force majeure in the business world, even while old school sales and marketing pros are still questioning whether and how to use social media, not realizing it’s already being used to great effect. Especially by the competition.

If you want to stay up with current trends and be a valuable resource to your current and potential clients, start using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. (But that’s for another post.)

It sure beats playing Dialing for Dollars day after day.

Long-Term Unemployed Means Unemployable To Some Heartless Employers

Haven’t had a job for over a year, and you’re worried about how to take care of your family?

Not our problem, say some employers. If you haven’t found a job, that must mean you’re not a very good worker, so we don’t want you.Bread line

A recent article in the New York Times said that Monster.com and other job boards are listing jobs that tell people who haven’t had a job in six months or more don’t need to bother to apply.

The New York Times’ Catherine Rampell said she found preferences for the already employed or only recently laid off in listings for “hotel concierges, restaurant managers, teachers, I.T. specialists, business analysts, sales directors, account executives, orthopedics device salesmen, auditors and air-conditioning technicians.”

While it may not be against the law specifically to discriminate against unemployed people, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking into whether some minority groups are being discriminated against, since their populations are overrepresented in the unemployed ranks, including African-Americans and older workers.

Unfortunately, many employers — safely nestled away in their cubicles — are heartlessly breathing “there but the grace of God” every time they get another résumé from a casualty of the crappy economy and poor job market.

There are so many places this post can go, I don’t even know where to begin.

  • I will boycott any business that expressly discriminates against the long-term unemployed, and will encourage others to do the same. The University of Phoenix had similar requirements on their job listings, but pulled them down after the Times called with some questions. Hopefully this means they amended their practice, rather than just removed evidence.
  • Small businesses that are hiring should look harder at the pool of the long-term unemployed. You could truly make a difference in someone else’s life.
  • If you’re unemployed and have the kind of job you could run as a solo effort, start your own company. If you’re a former marketing agency account exec, start an agency, and hire creative freelancers to fill tasks. If you’re a former IT worker, now you’re an IT consultant. If you’re a sales director, become a marketing rep for several lines. You can put this on your résumé, even if you don’t make a lot of money from it.
  • If an employer ever says you have been unemployed too long, immediately contact the EEOC office in your area and file an official complaint. It may not do much for you, but if you fall within a protected group of people, they’ve got your complaint on file.
  • On the job boards, you’re competing against hundreds of other potential candidates for a single job. Plus, the companies that hire on Monster and other job boards don’t always have the jobs that people truly want, or that can easily be filled. Some jobs go unfilled for a long time for a reason. It must mean it’s not a very good job, so no one wants it. Take a long hard look at companies that have had the same jobs available for more than a month.
  • Most importantly, stop applying for jobs on job boards altogether. If you want a real job, network with people on LinkedIn and Twitter. You’re not going to get it by perusing the online version of the newspaper Help Wanted ads. See if you can bypass the HR department and connect directly with the hiring managers through the social networks.

If you’re having a tough time finding a job, start your own business. It may not be a raging success, it may not even get you enough money to replace your lost salary. But it’s something you can put on your resume when you’re applying for your next job. This way, you won’t look unemployed.

The short of it is if you’re discriminating against people who haven’t been able to take care of their families, shame on you. I hope your poor attitude is visited back on you. And if you’re looking for a job, make your own. Start your own business. Quit checking the job boards. Spend that time networking with real people instead. If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you don’t have anything to lose by starting your own business, and may get some extra benefit out of it.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, my book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is a good resource for people who want to use social media to network to their next job or big engagement..

Photo Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University (Flickr)

Import Your LinkedIn Contacts to Google+

Everyone is so worried about getting their Facebook contacts into Google+. That’s the wrong way to go about Google+.

Given that most of us who are on Google+ are social media power users, chances are we’re looking for another social networking tool that will benefit us professionally. And while we may be Facebook friends with our professional contacts, LinkedIn is the real professional social network. LinkedIn also keeps any contact information like cell phones and websites, so this is going to be valuable anyway.

So, why not instead import your LinkedIn contacts into your Google+ contacts? Here’s an easy way to do it.

    1. Most importantly, you should have a Gmail account. If you don’t, get one. Google+ will delve into your Gmail contacts to see who you interact with the most, and suggest those people for your Circles.
Export your LinkedIn Connections to sync them with your Gmail Contacts.

Export your LinkedIn Connections as a .csv file to import into your Gmail Contacts.

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account, go to your Connections page, and Export your connections.
  2. Choose any format you’d like, but the .csv (comma separated value) is your best bet. Save this file to your desktop.
  3. Go to your Gmail Contacts window, and select Import from the More Actions menu. Locate your .csv file, and import it.
  4. Google will merge any contacts that already match, saving you some duplicated matches. However, Google isn’t perfect, so you will need to go through and find/merge a lot of your contacts by hand. It may be tedious, but it will be worth it in the end.
  5. As an added bonus, export your Gmail contacts and reimport them into your LinkedIn account. This will then sync up your two networks. And since Gmail is the one email program that most social networks use to “find your friends who are on this network,” having your professional LinkedIn contacts can help you build any new networks you join quickly and without all the fluff and unnecessary crap that Facebook brings with it, like your Farmville and Pirate Clan friends.
  6. Jump back over to Google+ and start adding people to your circles. Start with the ones that Google+ recommends, and then begin searching for the people you want to add to your Circles.

Why Is Klout Important?

My post about three secrets to improve your Klout score generated a lot of discussion, partly about other techniques, but also wondering why Klout is even important.

Billy Kirsch asked how it would influence him on Twitter. Brooke Randolph wanted to know how it would help her, and why she would want to improve her score beyond bragging rights. And Ivan Torres said it was just an artificial number that didn’t affect the experience.Screenshot of a Klout.com score

To answer these questions, let’s take a look at what your Klout score means.

Your Klout score is basically the best way we have to quantify whether you’re doing a good job on social media. While it measures mostly Twitter, it also looks at your activity on Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s a measurement of your social media influence — your clout — and whether people like and trust you enough to respond to the things you do. In other words, if your social media footprint were a sales letter, would your readers respond to your call to action?

Your Twitter “call to action” includes things like:

  • Do people click on the links you send out. If it’s to a new blog post or an interesting article, do they follow the link, or ignore it? If you typically write and tweet interesting stuff, they’re more likely to follow it.
  • Do people retweet the interesting tweets you send out? Do they respond and share it with their networks, or do they just go “meh” and let it rot at the bottom of their Twitter barrel? If you’re engaging, witty, or really smart, then you’re probably tweeting interesting stuff that other people want to share.
  • Are people talking to or about you directly? Are they asking you questions, pointing out interesting articles to you, or inviting you to stuff? Or are you an unknown quantity like that weird kid in high school no one really paid attention to? If people know who you are, you’ll be top-of-mind when it comes time to write original tweets to specific people.

Klout measures things like this and compiles your score, based on a scale of 1 – 100. However, it’s different from your traditional grading scale: 60 is not a D, and you have to be an international star to get 100. Chris Brogan has one of the highest Twitter scores, and he has a 81. Ashton Kutcher has 81, and Justin Bieber has 100. (I also have a higher score than Helio Castroneves, even though he has more followers and more Indy 500 wins than I do, so being a celebrity is no guarantee you have a high Klout score.)

So what does a good Klout score do for you?

Truthfully, not much. You don’t win prizes, you don’t gain fame or fortune, and you don’t get book deals. Beyond bragging rights, there’s not a lot that Klout will do for you.

Except…

Except people with higher Klout scores are considered influencers. People with high Klout scores have worked hard to grow and polish their reputation, and become the kind of person other people want to click through, retweet, and talk to. And these people get some benefits from marketers who want to reach people with good reputations.

  • I received some swag and DVDs from the makers of the TV shows Lone Star and Southland. Lone Star sent me a t-shirt, some beer and martini glasses, a cooler, and a tin of popcorn. Southland sent me similar stuff. Both shows wanted me to watch their show and tell all my followers about it in the hopes that they would watch it to. (Sadly, Lone Star was canceled after two episodes.)
  • Audi asked influential designers, technology pros, and luxury lifestyle thinkers with high Klout scores to test drive their new A8 model at an exclusive San Francisco event. The hope, other than finding that Klout influencer with 100,000 bucks laying around, was that people would talk about the A8 to their friends via Twitter, their blog, YouTube, and Flickr. For the price of a what is normally an automotive journalists’ trip, Audi was able to get some word of mouth advertising and reaching a non-automotive audience who might not normally consider an Audi.
  • Bottlenotes Chicago offered tickets to the Around the World in 8 Sips Chicago free wine and cheese tasting to wine influencers. Restaurants and special events always give away free meals or passes, but by reaching out to Klout influencers, they are able to get some digital ink from the social media influencers for their food costs, without spending any more money on print advertising, or TV or radio commercials.
  • Movie studios have offered free passes to fans in the hopes that they’ll tell their friends about the movie, again providing word of mouth marketing for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing and advertising. Rather than putting together a special screening for people, they give away free passes and reap the same benefit as the screening.

So what is the benefit to you to having a decent Klout score? Right now, not much. Free movies, free swag from TV shows, free meals, and a chance to drive a car that costs more than the average national salary. Plus, you get to dog on your friends who may have a score lower than yours.

But, and this is what’s most important, you’re getting a good indication of how your social media efforts are working out. Think of this as analytics for your social media influence. It may be an artificial number, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a quantitative indication about how well we’re doing. And while people are still debating the efficacy of the Klout score, it’s the best indicator out there.

So use it, take it with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore it or dismiss it out of hand. If you care about whether you’re actually making progress in your social media efforts — or you just want some cool swag — pay attention to Klout until something better comes along, or until they improve.

Social Media is Older Than You Think It Is. Much Older.

Social media is not as new as people think it is.

It’s not even as new as the new date you just thought of after you saw that last sentence.

Social media, or at least its very beginnings, is almost as old as I am. (Give or take 10 years.)

The very first place for people to communicate online was on the bulletin board systems (BBSes), which were created in the late 1970s, and allowed people to dial in on their 300 baud modems. They were usually only for the hobbyists and geeks who wanted to talk about things that interested them, usually computers. Since long-distance charges applied for out-of-town groups, most users were from their particular city. And user gatherings (this was before we called them “meetups”) were a regular event, where people had the chance to meet those they had been chatting with online the night before.

In 1980, the Usenet — a collection of BBS-type discussion groups — was created and used widely in academia. There, people could visit a group, post articles and messages, and other people would reply to them. While Usenet was originally started to be discussion groups for researchers and computer users, people started creating groups for their other interests. Back in 1990, I joined a soccer discussion group on Usenet, and had “friends” from England, Scotland, Australia, Italy, and Germany. We would discuss our favorite soccer teams, and the 1990 World Cup, which had just finished before I joined. There were groups for political viewpoints, philosophical thought, favorite TV shows, and various sports. I connected with people from all around the world, but especially in the US.

"You've got mail!"

Four years later, I took the plunge and joined AOL, downloading the first software in 90 minutes over my wicked fast 14.4K modem. (I had to choose between it, Compuserve, Prodigy, eWorld, and a host of other online communities.) AOL was the first major attempt at offering an online community to people outside the university setting. This was like Usenet on steroids, because there was a more graphical interface to AOL, and it looked nice. There were also more consumer groups, geared toward those non-computer users. I belonged to groups for writers, home brew makers, cooks, and fans of Celtic music. Since AOL had local and long distance access numbers, our friends were from out of town, and meetups were unlikely (and frequently warned against).

A lot of people outgrew AOL, once they learned they could explore outside the walled community with a web browser and an Internet Service Provider. We consumed the web for information, we emailed each other funny websites we found, and we shared graphics by breaking up ASCII files and emailing them, reassembling them in word processor file, and then converting them with a text-to-graphic converter. But we didn’t have community, unless we returned to AOL or joined an email listserv.

It wasn’t until groups like Friendster, Myspace, and Facebook took advantage of the Internet’s increasing speed and the web browsers that did all that assembling and converting for us, making it easier to connect with our friends, and even telling us where they lived. Twitter boiled communication down to its barest essence, letting us share information in text-sized bits. And LinkedIn played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with our professional networks, letting us see who we were connected to, and how far we were from each other.

The point is this: social media is older than Facebook (2004). Way older. To truly understand the history — and age — of social media, you need to talk to the computer geeks who were online in the late 1970s and early 1980s, participating in the different BBSes and Usenet groups that dotted the online landscape.

How To Turbocharge Your LinkedIn Profile

Web pages are useless without traffic, and the same is true about LinkedIn profiles. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for new customers, a job or just more connections, no traffic = no opportunity. Here’s a simple strategy I used to increase the traffic to my LinkedIn profile page from 3-4 people per day to 70-80 people per day (that means 27,000+ visits in a year). Feel free to make it your own:

Step 1: Figure out what your goal is with your LinkedIn Profile.

This isn’t that hard. Your LinkedIn profile is a resume with a couple of places you get to be creative, and there are really only a few practical uses for LinkedIn. Most likely your goal is one of these four: [Read more…]