Social Media 101 For Mfg, part 1: LinkedIn

As a follow up to my previous posting “What’s all this about Social Media and where do I start?” Several people have written and asked for some more details.  I realize that I presented an awful lot of connections and links and it left some folks completely new to the subject dazed and confused.

I’m realizing that many of the folks connected to me only have a few connections, incomplete profiles and probably aren’t getting much out of LinkedIn. In this posting I’m going to explain what social media outlets we chose  as an industrial distributor. I’ll break this down into the social media categories, and then walk you through some of the basic steps of getting started.  I also try to give you a time estimate of how long it will take you to get the “basics” in place.

Out of all the social media sites available we chose three outlets. Hopefully after you are done with all three parts of this posting you’ll feel less like the blind men discovering the elephant.

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

“Why not  Facebook?”

The first question you are probably asking is “Why not  Facebook?”  Well, until 48 hours ago when FB held their annual F8 Conference in San Francisco, FB was great for hooking up with friends and keeping your personal life separate from your business life.  Many people want to keep it that way.

We decided that Facebook is a great medium for a company that markets to the public but the industrial sector is

  1. Not using it for business.
  2. Has it blocked in their firewalls.
  3. It’s just not the place for us.

Your decision may be different.  However, there are a few things that Mark Zuckerberg announced that are worth being aware of, but we’re going to watch this evolve before we embrace it.  However, if you get the chance, do click on the link and watch the video announcement.  That will help you when I talk about the “social graph”. If you don’t have the time to check it out here’s the synopsis:

Your Facebook page today, tomorrow the world.

Mark Zuckerberg announced aggressive plans at the f8 conference on Thursday to integrate Facebook into every aspect of the Web. Plans include opening up Facebook’s Social Graph and allow embedding social experiences.

Until recently, sites can store information about Facebook users for 24 hours. Zuckerberg said that opening up the Social Graph removes the time restriction, allowing sites to customize their features for FB users.

The Facebook “like” feature will also be released as a plug in. Users who come across a website can click on the “like” button and share the information with their Facebook friends instantly.

Zuckerberg said at the conference that he expects to serve 1 billion “like” buttons within the first 24 hours after the plug-ins launch.

Immediate Action Items

Before we delve into the nitty gritty details there are  a couple of actions steps you may want to take:

Step 1: Open your network. Remove your firewall for your employees so that they can gain access to LinkedIn, Twitter & YouTube.  Some larger companies have some functions open and others closed.  As an example, if you can access LinkedIn, but not get into the groups, then there is not going to be ANY conversations. (remember, Conversations is one of the 4C’s discussed in the last blog posting).

Step 2: Appoint a Leader.  It’s going to be very important that someone take charge of the effort if it’s not going to be you.  If you do choose to set up a Twitter site tho’ to stay in touch, be sure to be aware of the do’s and don’ts discussed in part 2.  Keep in mind you can make it a team effort and several people can be in charge of different efforts at different times. If you choose to go with the “Team” route be sure to set up a schedule for who’s doing what and when…. and stick to it.

Step 3: Create a Persona. There are several divergent schools of thought on whether or not Companies should have their logo as the profile picture, whether there should be a person’s name associated with the your social media sites, etc.  I suspect it really depends on the size of your company and what you hope to accomplish. At Highlander Tool, we elected to use the Company Name and Logo as our SM presence.

LinkedIn (Total Time: 15-45 minutes, depending on your profile)

Start by clicking the link below.  Hit the back button when you’re done viewing.  It’s probably a good idea to open another window to edit your LinkedIn account while you go through the slides. I’m going to go into more detail below about slides 29 & 30 so don’t worry if you don’t get it at first.

Getting started with LinkedIn is very simple, and, since you’re probably reading this from my LinkedIn profile connection you probably have at least the start of your profile complete.  Regardless, take a look at this slideshow and make sure that you haven’t missed anything.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on LinkedIn since my neighbor told me about when she was a beta tester (Thanks Cindy!) It’s been interesting watching it evolve and content features been added.  However, that’s also a problem.  New features get added that are great and you don’t always know about them until you see the changes in your other contacts.  Which is a good reason to look at your connections btw 😉

Ok, watch the slide show in the link above, Complete the basic steps and then we’ll move on. If you haven’t watched it yet.

——————-> LinkedIN Basics

LinkedIn Profile Company Mouseover

LinkedIn Profile Company Mouseover

Slide 29 & 30 are the ones that you should take a close look at. If you haven’t set up your Company Profile DO IT!

Once it’s complete you’ll have a great mouse-over feature so people can find out more about your company. I’m constantly surprised how many business owners in my connections have never take the quick 5 minutes to create this free advertising spot.

Why is my Company Profile so important? GROUPS!

Having your company profile in place is important for Groups.  But before we dive into groups, look again to the right and notice the”Connections” area of the upper profile.  You already know that you can click on the Connections to see who you might know in your friends connections.  This is afterall a social network.

If you where to scroll all the way to the very very bottom of my profile you would find the following statement.  The items in bold are the important part.

“I prefer to only be contacted by people I know, have met personally, or have had business, professional contact. or dialogue with in some forum. I welcome new connections from members of groups that I am actively involved in but I prefer not to connect until we have communicated. I am not an open networker and I do not wish to submit my connections to “business trolling”. I hope you understand and appreciate my position on this issue.

As it was explained to me when I first learned about LinkedIn: “It’s like a networking group based upon the “Six Degrees of Separation”

Wikipedia says: “LinkedIn
The LinkedIn professional networking site operates on the concept of how many steps you are away from a person you wish to communicate with. The site encourages you to pass messages to people in your network via the people in your 1st-degree connections list, who in turn pass it to their 1st-degree connections.”

LinkedIn has blossomed into a very useful business tool with Groups and Answers sections, but the basic premise of the site is whom do you know that I know, how can I help you network and conversely how can you help me network.

That said, I am wary of people whom I link to who have their connections locked down. IMHO, it flies in the face of the very basic concept of LI as a networking tool. If you invite me to connect, and your connections are closed, I will send you an email in this regard.

You may have your reasons for locking your connections and I certainly respect that. I feel that I am connecting with people whom I respect and who I may contact one day with opportunities for their professional advancement or, conversely, whom I might contact with a question. For that reason I will only maintain connections with those people who make their connections available to their 1st level” contacts.

I was sent an invitation to connect with someone who’s newsletter I have been receiving for many years.  I found the information very informative and helpful in many cases.  However, when I talked to him about his locked down connections he told me “I don’t want my competitors to see who I know”  I explained that

  • A. I wasn’t a competitor,
  • B. Perhaps he should be connected to his competitors if he is that unsure of his customer relationships and
  • C. It’s difficult for me to trust people who don’t seem to trust anyone else, as I find that the people most paranoid about trust are almost always the most untrustworthy people I meet.

Industrial Channel Groups

Groups (Total Time to find &  join: 5 minutes)

David Erickson has a great blog post entitled “LinkedIn Best Practices for Business“.  It’s worthwhile to check out if you have a few minutes to read more.  But, if you don’t here’s what he says about Groups:

“Join industry groups. Search for and join industry-related LinkedIn groups , even if there is no activity within them. The icons for those groups will show up on your profile which tells people at a glance that you are involved in your industry and presumably knowledgeable about it. It also creates a connection between you an anyone else who is a member of that group. If the group is active, join in the conversation where appropriate. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your  expertise.”

I’ve recently had a discussion with several fellow members of the ISA – Industrial Supply Association about the groups function.  Several fellow members are connected to me but are not in any of the groups.  There’s a conference next weekend and there’s some wonderful dialogue taking place within the group.  Connections are being made.  I’ve been in the situation before. I’ll run into two people who I know at an event.  One of them will pick up a conversation that we’ve been having online.  Finally, a question is raised by the other person, who we are both friends with “When did you guys talk about all this?”  We explain that it’s all online via a  GROUP.  “Hey, maybe you should join it, You’re a member aren’t you?”

If you’re a member of any of the groups that I’m a member of you can either click on my profile or you can search for other groups under the group drop down or the search area to the right of the header on your LinkedIn page.

I DON'T know his email address! I haven't seen him in years!

Invitation Filtering

As you’re searching through some of your groups, you happen upon an old college friend.  You lost track of him years ago and are pleasantly surprised to find him on Linked in.

You click “Add Christopher to your network” and you see the screen at the right.  Oh the frustration!  How am I going to know his email address if I haven’t seen him in years!

It makes it pretty difficult to reconnect. Now, what happens if you meet someone and they’re looking for a product or service, and you know just the person in one of your groups who does EXACTLY what they’re looking for.  You click the “Add Christopher to your network” to contact him and Voilà!  Turns out you where trying to do a good deed, but looks like that business is going somewhere else…. and it’s all because of the settings are closed down.

These are my settings. Where are yours set?

Starting your own Group

Once you’ve mastered some of these basics you soon start to realize that maybe you yourself should start a group.  If you’re a manufacturer, you could start one only for your distributors, if you’re a machine tool builder, one just for your dealers, a distributor, one for your customers. Agents can start groups for their distributors… there are really endless ways you can use the group functions to create the “conversations” so often talked about in social media.

If you start a group. Your Invitation Filtering should look like what you see above.  Otherwise, your members aren’t going to be able to connect with you. There’s some great ideas on creating and managing your own LinkedIn Group at Mashable “8 Tips for Managing a LinkedIn Group”  The list is below and the details are at the link. It’s worth delving into if you want some more information.

  1. Use a Personal Touch
  2. Lay Some Ground Rules
  3. Praise the Good, Deal with the Bad
  4. Help Your Members Promote Themselves
  5. Add Some News Feeds
  6. Facilitate Connections Outside of LinkedIn
  7. Take a Poll
  8. Promote Your Group

One final note on Groups.  If you start a group be prepared to support it and get responses.  If you watched the Facebook F8 video above you’ll hear about a problem called the “rule of 5”  If someone comes into your group and they don’t see 5 people they know they’ll probably not participate.  So if you’ve got a email list of the members you want to invite, send them all an invite to LinkedIn, followed by an invitation to join the group.

Social media is about connecting and building relationships – talking to people. Taking part in discussions gets you noticed as well as keeps the conversation going and the sharing of information, viewpoints and knowledge

So, for goodness sake, if you start a group and ask questions and topics start rolling for goodness sake answer and respond!

I hope that you found this informative.  Please feel free to add any comments.  I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of Linkedin so if you have some observations or insights please feel free to leave a comment (and yes, I’m working on unlocking it so your comments post immediately but I’m still learning about all the WordPress functions so bear with me)

Thanks for reading 🙂

….. be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2: Twitter

  1. Great information, Bernard. There’s so much information out there about social media, it can get overwhelming, especially for those who haven’t even taken the first steps. It’s great that you’re providing such basic instruction.

  2. LinkedIn – Why You Need to Be On It!

    Here’s a great article on why you should be on LinkedIn. Please feel free to share this:

    “What is LinkedIn and why should I be on it? That is the question that I first asked myself when I got my first “invite to connect” a couple of years ago. My first thought was probably much like the first thought that you had – why should I waste my time with this? Well, I reluctantly accepted because of my relationship with the friend that invited me. Over the next few months I did virtually nothing with my page – after all, I didn’t see the point.”

  3. LinkedIn has just posted a wonderful video in their learning center related to using Groups. It’s worth a peek:

  1. May 26th, 2010
    Trackback from : LinkedIn for Metalworking
  2. October 28th, 2010
  3. October 29th, 2010

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