Can I use Linkedin for promotional purposes?

The other day I was asked the following:

I’ve established a group – no members yet, though I’ve yet to invite them!  What I plan to do initially (and see how it goes) is each month to send out say three topical points – and invite comments.  Is it in order then at the end to give the dates of my next seminars and webinars, for the benefit of anyone who might want to give them a go?  Or is that somehow frowned upon, as advertising?
It was said to me today that it might be.

Can I find ‘the rules of combat’ anywhere?

Here’s my reply:

Must admit I quite like your plan. The KEY is to ensure that members of the group/messages perceive two things:
a) that you are giving away something of value and of interest to them; and
b) that the promo message does not overwhelm the helpful/valuable info.

So 30 lines of useful info (3 x 10) plus 4 lines of promo should be fine.
Whereas 9 lines (3 x 3) of useful info followed by 15 lines of promo would be frowned upon.

There are no rules anywhere. It’s all down to perception and none of us can predict how anyone else will respond/react.

My advice is to adopt a similar approach to what you might do if you wanted to engage with people at a free evening event. If you spend 20 minutes talking about your paid for seminars and just 10 minutes sharing practical points you wouldn’t make any friends. On the other hand if you spent 20 minutes covering practical points and just 5 minutes at the end talking about the paid for seminars no one would complain. Well, some might but you can’t please everyone.  Linkedin is much the same.

Do you have any related tips?

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With Social Media you need to decide WHY and then HOW

More and more people are experimenting with social media. I say ‘experimenting’ as all too often there is no real strategy behind the activity. Many accountants, for example, simply buy into the ‘hope’ that their social media activity will lead to more clients. It’s rarely as simple as that.

Whatever you might have heard about social media the same principles apply as to any other new business related activity you might wish to explore. You first need to determine WHY you want to do this. Only then do you need to start working out HOW to do so.

Imagine you were thinking about adopting a new online accounting system in the cloud for instance. Before spending time finding out how to use any of the key options you would first have to decide WHY the idea was of interest and how it might benefit your practice. Think of all the questions you would have.   Only after you understand what the benefits would be, the costs and consequences can you weigh these up and make a considered decision.

It’s the same with social media. Except that many people assume that the answer to the WHY question is that social media opens up new marketing channels. Whilst this is true it is is NOT a new ‘broadcast’ channel and it take more time and effort to get the desired returns than many users had expected. There are plenty of social media and marketing ‘experts’ who can help you. Sadly many of them focus on the HOW without helping you first to understand the WHY. If you did you might choose not to explore it further, not at this time anyway.

Or is there another view? Sticking with the analogy I drew earlier; Might you simply decide that online accounting in the cloud is the way of the future?The WHY is answered simply by your desire to stay ahead of the game.  And if that’s the way you operate then you might just as easily decide that you have to start getting involved in social media. If this is your normal way of operating, the WHY is very simple.   And that then just leaves the HOW.

Are you someone who knows WHY you choose to try new things before you learn HOW to do them? Or do you play around with new things and hope that you’ll work out a good strategic reason afterwards, if you enjoy them enough?

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5+ reasons I don't recommend Google+

I often speak on Social Media to business people (generally accountants and suppliers to accountants). But I don’t talk about Google+ 

[I wrote this post in October 2011. Looking back on it in December 2013 I noted that nothing has happened to change my view – yet!]

Here’s why:

1 – It is too new: I do not think that my audiences need to be at the forefront of the newest social media fads. IF Google+ becomes an established alternative to LinkedIn for professional business audiences THEN I will discuss it in detail during my talks. Until and unless THEIR target audiences  (clients, prospects and referrers) are engaged on Google+ there is no need for them or me to spend time on this new platform.

2 – Walk don’t run: To date very few in my audiences are already engaged to any material extent with social media. Some have registered profiles on Linkedin or twitter but they don’t yet USE them effectively. Anyone who is going to dip their toes into social media is best off starting to experiment with these established tools. Some may try facebook business pages or ecademy. The choice should be determined, as I’ve already noted, by considering where your target audience is and engaging with them there.

3 – Horses for courses: To date, the only people I have encountered who are USING Google+ are IT geeks and those who are promoting social media and/or marketing – in a generic way. These people are not my audience and no one in my audience wants to do more than to use social media for marketing their own business. I know this isn’t the right motivation but I accept it is the reason for their interest. I always explain that Social Media is NOT a new broadcast medium. In any event, the more established social media sites are where my audience should start experimenting, not the newest latest fad.

4 – Damn statistics – I don’t care that over 40 million people registered for Google+. This is very different from the number of people who REALLY use Google+.  In fact the stats tell us that only a small proportion of that 40m are using Google+ to any real extent. I guess many are like me. I registered and had a look when it was launched in July 2011. I went back once or twice and then stopped bothering. Much as I did with Google Buzz when that launched. By the way I understand that Buzz has recently been killed off.

5 – It’s not for me – The bottom line is that I think it’s unlikely I’ll be using Google+ for business anytime soon. The only people I know using Google+ are people I am already connected with on other social media platforms. Why do I (or they) need to be connecting and interacting on a new platform as well?  Is there a good enough reason to migrate across to a new platform, to learn new techniques and build new habits? I think not. Indeed, even if there were some fantastic new amazing features only available with Google+ I would still not want to be a pioneer.  They seem to be lonely.

Listening to a Social Media Podcast recently I found myself agreeing with the expert contributors: It’s unlcear what Google+ is FOR. By comparison, and I appreciate this is simplistic: Facebook is for friends and fun; Twitter is for fast news and insights; and Linkedin is for business and CVs. Until there is a similar simple way to express what Google+ is for and thus a compelling reason to use Google+ I won’t be advocating it to my audiences and I’m comfortable that they won’t be missing out.

What do you think?

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Nailing the lie re boring accountants

After attending a formal dinner at the ICAEW last night, I posted a tweet:

Enjoyed a fab dinner at ICAEW with other current and former Council members. Many accountants with interesting hobbies and backgrounds.

And one of my followers on twitter posted the perhaps inevitable response:

Interesting accountants? Are you sure?! 😉

The simple fact is ‘yes’. Absolutely. During the evening I spoke with a number of middle-aged accountants who are evidently not boring. Including:

  • One who originally trained as a fighter pilot in the air force in the 1970s;
  • One who took up flying twenty years ago and has recently sold 3 light aircraft he has been flying over the years;
  • One who runs 2 marathons a year;
  • One who is a solicitor, New York attorney, licensed insolvency practitioner, arbitrator and a professor in business law.
  • Then there’s me – a member of the magic circle who spent 25 years as a childrens party entertainer and later a roving close-up magician at dinners and celebrations.

It occurs to me that it is time to nail the lie that accountants are boring. Please add your stories and recollections of accountants with interesting hobbies and backgrounds as comments on this thread. And pass the word.

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