Building and managing your reputation through LinkedIn and Twitter profile optimization
By Kent Lewis
Part of my job at Anvil Media is to test and evaluate the latest Web marketing tools and techniques, which has led me to focus on social media marketing the past year or more. The primary reason I’ve spent so much time on social media marketing is because of the relatively high return-on-investment (ROI) from a time and resource perspective. While I now have over 40 social media profiles, I spend 95 percent of my time managing just two: LinkedIn and Twitter. I’d like to take a few minutes to share a few tips and tricks for optimizing your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.
In recent weeks, I’ve been surprised at the number of blank stares from crowds at presentations where I’ve spoken on the topic of social media marketing. While a growing number of business professionals are now seeing the value of LinkedIn for networking purposes, very few truly understand the power of the platform for reputation management and search engine optimization. Even fewer have ever heard of Twitter, let alone have an account.
Regardless of the number of hands, I’m always obligated to reap the benefits of social media marketing. For those of you new to the game, here’s a short list of social media marketing benefits:
- Industry market research
- Customer and competitor insights
- General awareness building
- Thought leadership and topical expertise
- Networking for recruiting, partnerships and leads
- Search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management (ORM)
Why focus exclusively on LinkedIn and Twitter in this article? The reason is that I believe they are and will continue to be the most powerful of the social media platforms for marketing and reputation management for individuals, executives and companies alike. Both can be set up for free within minutes, and have the opportunity to significantly increase your visibility and credibility, even if you’re a social media dimwit.
LinkedIn Profile Optimization
Launched in May, 2003, LinkedIn is a social network for business professionals. Taking a page from the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon playbook, LinkedIn is essentially an opportunity to expand your virtual network through contacts. As such, the most important element of a successful LinkedIn optimization strategy is to create a complete personal profile, including a summary (biography), previous employment history (experience) and education.
The LinkedIn database is only effective at making connections if the content is detailed and accurate. In order to have a 100 percent completed profile, you must also have at least one LinkedIn Recommendation (endorsement) from your network. For bonus points, use relevant keywords in your summary and work experience to aid in searchability.
To maximize the value of your LinkedIn Profile, create as many quality network connections as possible. You can do this a variety of ways: by importing your contacts, via keyword search (by name, company, reference, etc.) of the entire network and using the “people you may know” feature offered by the LinkedIn home page network updates. The home page is also a great research tool, as it tells you what your network is doing, including joining Groups or connecting with others.
While I’m happily and gainfully employed, many others outside of Anvil Media are not. As such, LinkedIn is an excellent resource for job searches, as well as for employers to post jobs (although there is a $79 posting fee for employers). It’s fairly easy to send an email to your network with job openings or to notify them you’ve ‘changed your employment status, and are actively seeking employment. Even if you aren’t looking for a job, the LinkedIn Jobs feature is helpful for conducting industry or competitive research.
A newer addition to LinkedIn is the Groups feature. Anyone can create or request to join a group. Some groups are more difficult to get into than others, depending on the requirements and level of moderation. LinkedIn Groups are essentially a way to affordably and effectively build community around common interests, whether they are existing companies or specialized networking groups. LinkedIn Groups that are optimized and managed properly have the potential to generate a larger following in LinkedIn than other offline or online communities.
Beyond building a personal reputation through LinkedIn connections and recommendations, individuals and companies have an opportunity to generate leads and business through the Service Providers section. Make sure your profile is made available to the LinkedIn Service Provider listing in order to take advantage of the opportunity. Your presence in the Service Provider section is influenced greatly by the quality and quantity of recommendations, so build and manage your LinkedIn recommendations carefully.
Even though a growing number of professionals are now on LinkedIn, very few spend time with Questions & Answers.. The greatest value I’ve received from LinkedIn overall, has been my time spent in Questions & Answers. LinkedIn Q&A is the ultimate in instant gratification, as you can quickly find the answer to a burning business question in the database, or ask the entire network of experts yourself. More importantly, you can answer other’s questions and generate awareness and credibility as a thought leader and topic expert. I’ve personally expanded my network, generated partnerships and quality leads through LinkedIn Q&A. The goal is to get those who asked the question to vote your answer as the Best Answer overall, which further enhances your visibility and credibility within the network. Make sure to enable displaying of your Best Answers in your profile.
At this point in the conversations, executives and marketers alike are intrigued by the LinkedIn opportunity, but often ask about ROI. I respond by informing them that a free LinkedIn account provides a slew of baseline metrics you can use to evaluate the impact of your efforts. For starters, you can look at the basic LinkedIn metrics: number of views, connections, recommendations and group affiliations for any member. To get a feel for credibility, evaluate ratios, including connections/recommendations and recommendations received/recommendations written.
For more advanced metrics, like who is viewing your profile, you need to upgrade to a paid account (starting at $19.95/mo). The good news is that it’s affordable. The bad news is that other social networks like Xing and Biznik provide this information for free. To weigh the impact on SEO, look for LinkedIn profiles and Q&A in search results. Lastly, look at the quality and quantity of new connections, recommendations, partners and leads generated through Q&A. Read our Reputation-Watch blog for more tips on optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
Twitter Profile Optimization
Twitter launched in December, 2006, and generated a great deal of buzz when unveiled to the public at SXSW. Since then, the social networking and micro-blogging site has experience exponential growth (though not quite on a Facebook scale). The underlying premise of the platform is to answer the question, “What are you doing?” as often as you’d like, through the Web interface, IM or SMS text messages.
Similar to the growth in popularity of blogging, Twitter offers an opportunity for people to share insights into their lives in 140 character snippets, or tweets. You can also embed URLs into your tweets, but the character limits encourages the use of URL-shortening tools like tinyURL. Once you set up your profile, you can tweet from your Twitter home page, cell phone or third party application (i.e. Hellotxt or Twhirl). Start by ensuring your profile name is relevant and memorable, the URL and picture is active and the bio is keyword-loaded.
In addition to sending updates, you can follow others on Twitter. This is an easy way to stay connected with friends, family, peers, idols and arch nemeses. You can get notifications sent to your phone anytime someone you are following tweets, or you can view their updates on your Twitter home page (which is my preference). You can mark select tweets as favorites, so they can be easily accessed in the future as well.
There are a variety of applications, blog and browser plug-ins that extend the value of Twitter, includingTwitterSearch, Tweetahead and TweetBurner. There are also search engines specific to Twitter, likeTweetScan, Twitterverse and Summize, which are ideal for market research and online reputation management.
Twitter power-users utilize direct messages, @signs and hashtags to increase the reach and effectiveness of their profile. Direct messages are essentially emails you can send to anyone in your network. This is particularly powerful, as you can have a conversation with someone following you with whom you may not otherwise have any connection. If you want to respond to someone else’s tweet, you can use an “@” sign and username (@kentjlewis) so that person will see your response in their profile. Using “#” hashtags enables easy classification and tracking of popular topics, analogous to tagging on other social media platforms like blogs and wikis.
As is the case with any social media site, there are a variety of metrics available for measuring the effectiveness of Twitter. Fundamental usage metrics include the number of users you are following, the number of users following you, number of tweets marked as favorites and the number of updates or tweets. While each tells a story, looking at ratios similar to those mentioned earlier in the LinkedIn section apply. For example, what is the ratio of following/followers and favorites/updates. While there are tools available to track traffic generated from embedded URLs, one of the more interesting Twitter measurement tools is TweetStats, which analyzes Twitter data to trend tweets by date, day and hour.
Creating a personal Twitter profile to share your activity with friends and family may be intuitive, but business professionals struggle a bit. I recommend looking at Twitter as your new email list-consisting of a technology-savvy, socially-oriented target audience that deserves and requires special attention. While I use my personal Twitter account to keep a myriad of constituents apprised of my latest goings on, businesses can use it to keep customers, prospects and partners updated. For example, thepdxMindShare Twitter profileis used to share updates on time-sensitive events and special promotions. Another example of corporate Twitter is The Oregonian, which has half a dozen topically-oriented accounts (i.e. traffic, sports, weather).
Armed with the background on benefits, tips and techniques, you can now take your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles to another level, helping build your reputation and your business, even if you are a social media dimwit.
Kent Lewis is President of Anvil Media, Inc., a search engine marketing agency based in Portland, OR and can be reached at 503.595.6050.