Friday, 11 August 2017

Why you should give - and request - recommendations

Recommendations for products and services should be part of the marketing strategy for any business.

Whether it's feedback on Ebay, reviews on TripAdvisor or positive comments on Facebook and Twitter - recommendations help to raise your business profile, establish your expertise and convince new customers to get in touch.

Sometimes, when we're busy, we can all be guilty of not making enough use of the power of the recommendation. Even the happiest of customers sometimes needs reminding that you would really welcome a testimonial from them. Once they do write one for you - and providing they are happy for you to share their words widely - you can use that testimonial multiple times. As well as adding it to your website you could use a quote from it as part of an image on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

A testimonial can be expanded into a case study that can be published on a website or blog - and the finished article can also promote the business that has given the recommendation with details about what they do and links back to their website.

If you are a member of a business networking group or club you will have heard people giving verbal testimonials around the table for businesses they have worked with, which is fantastic proof for those in the room and the people they talk to about you. If they can put those positive words in writing as well it can reach a much wider audience.

Using LinkedIn recommendations to boost your business

Since the major redesign of LinkedIn at the start of 2017, many businesses I work with have reported a drop in the number of recommendations they receive on their profiles.

This may be because you now navigate a different route through LinkedIn to request, or give, a recommendation and arguably it's less in-your-face. On the plus side, bringing the desktop version and the mobile LinkedIn app closer together in design and functionality means once you know where to go it's easy to recommend - and be recommended - regardless of which device you are using to access LinkedIn.

The easiest way to get started is the three dots in a line that appear at the top of anyone's profile on both desktop or the mobile app. So whether you want to recommend someone, or be recommended by them, start by going to their profile page on LinkedIn.

Click on the three dots to the right of their profile image and it reveals a dropdown menu. As you can see on this screenshot of Mat Nation's profile, the last two options are 'Request a recommendation' and 'Recommend Mat'.

Whether you click the option to ask for a recommendation, or to give a recommendation, you will get a pop-up that asks you to confirm how you know Mat and what your job was at the time you are writing about. This is a reminder that there is a benefit in getting recommendations for roles you held in the past as well as what you are doing now. Clients are reassured to know that you have a track record for delivering great customer service down the years.

When you have chosen the answers to these two questions from the options that LinkedIn gives you, click 'Next' and continue to either personalise the request for a recommendation or to write the testimonial that you want to give.

More information about LinkedIn recommendations

When you give a recommendation, the recipient is sent a message in their LinkedIn inbox and can see what you have written by clicking a link. There is the option to request a change to the wording before you click the option to add it to your profile.

Since the redesign of the desktop version of LinkedIn, everyone's profile follows the same order. It's no longer possible to move sections, including recommendations, up or down. This does make it easier to find the recommendations that people have received or given (if any) when you look at their profiles.

You will see that the recommendations 'Received' shows as the default, but you can click the tab called 'Given' to see recommendations they have given.

Go to your own profile and click the blue pencil next to the 'ask to be recommended' button and you will find there are a range of options for the visibility of recommendations that you have given.

You can choose for it to be public, visible to your 1st degree connections only, or visible only to you (in other words - hidden).

The recommendations that you have received and added to your profile can also be hidden if you feel they are no longer relevant to what you do. There is a button that you slide across if you no longer want it to show on your profile.

We can never predict what LinkedIn will tweak or change next, but this information was correct at the time of writing.

Make sure you are being generous in giving recommendations to people who have done great work for you down the years. It's the right thing to do. Sometimes, when it is appropriate, they will return the favour and recommend you. If they don't, don't be too shy to ask them. More people than you may think are happy to give a recommendation. They just sometimes need a gentle reminder.

Monday, 19 June 2017

LinkedIn workshop, September 8 in Staffordshire

I am running a three-hour LinkedIn workshop at Advantage House, in Lichfield, from 10am to 1pm on Friday September 8.

This course will show you how LinkedIn can help you raise your profile, build and cement productive relationships with buyers and suppliers and generate new business leads.

Only 12 places are available so that everyone gets some individual attention to help them with their LinkedIn profile.

You will bring along your laptop and I'll take you through the recent changes to the desktop version of the world's biggest business-to-business networking platform.

This course is for you if:
  • You have created a LinkedIn account but aren't sure what to do next to get value from it.
  • You have dabbled with LinkedIn but have got frustrated with requests to connect from people you don't know and numerous email notifications and sales messages.
  • Face-to-face networking has helped you make useful connections and get referrals and you want to build on that work online in a structured and strategic way.
  • You'd like to have an online business profile that works hard for you 24/7 to help you achieve the goals you have for your business.
  • You don't have time to explore and understand recent changes to search, messaging, groups, company pages, recommendations and content publication on LinkedIn - I'll cover all these areas.

By the end of the session you will know how to:

  • Build a personal profile that gets you found online for the skills you have and the work you do.
  • Manage 'privacy and settings' to eliminate unwanted notifications and requests.
  • Develop a strategy that's relevant to your business and how you want it to grow.
  • Understand the types of content that you can create and share on LinkedIn to support your business objectives.
  • Create targets for your LinkedIn activity and measure your impact and progress.
The cost will be £37 per person, which will include course materials to take away, tea, coffee and light refreshments. To book a place contact and you will be emailed an invoice. Payment in full will secure your place on the course.

Advantage House is on Stowe Street, Lichfield. It is easy to access from the A38 between Derby and Birmingham. For Sat Navs you need to use the post code WS13 6DT to find Advantage House, but there is no parking available on site. Local long stay car parks offer good value and a map of where to find them is available here on the Lichfield City Council website 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Tweetup and learn about the #SmallBiz100 opportunity

The UK's Small Business Saturday movement is celebrating its fifth birthday in 2017.

If you've not heard about Small Biz Saturday yet (where have you been?) it's a grassroots, non-commercial, non-political campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to support the small, independent  businesses in their communities.  Although the day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, the campaign aims to change mindsets and have a lasting impact on small businesses all year round.

Each year, the campaign chooses 100 small businesses to highlight and promote, one a day, for the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday in December. For the last three years, the 100 have not only received exposure on social media channels and in the press, but also joined the Small Business Saturday team at receptions in London.
Elaine Pritchard of Caittom Publishing at The Treasury Drum in 2015 with Small Business Saturday
In 2015 I was delighted to be chosen for that year's #SmallBiz100, and had the opportunity to showcase my business at an event at The Treasury Drum with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Last year I encouraged a number of local businesses to apply, and one of them - Jack Dent, of JD Magic -  also from my home town of Burton-on-Trent was chosen and visited Downing Street.

I would love to see another Burton-based business in the #SmallBiz100 this year - making it three years in a row our town has been represented, So, along with my colleagues from the Burton Small Business group, I am hosting a tweetup at The Coffee Lounge, in Stretton, on the outskirts of Burton-on-Trent, on Thursday June 1 (the day when applications open for the 2017 #SmallBiz100).

I'd encourage any local small businesses to pop in any time between 9.30am and 11.30am. It's a chance to meet local businesses that you may have seen on Twitter. I'll be there all morning and happy to tell businesses more about the Small Business Saturday campaign and the benefits of being in the #SmallBiz100. There's no charge, just pay for the drinks and any food you buy from this independent coffee shop.

Find out more about the Small Business Saturday campaign at its website - You can also sign up on the home page for the campaign newsletter and that way you'll hear all about the launch of the search for this year's #SmallBiz100 wherever you are based in the UK.
Small Business Saturday UK

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

What's coming up at Caittom Publishing

Throughout May 2017 I'm continuing to deliver training sessions and workshops aimed at helping businesses create a social media strategy.

Some of these are private while others are public sessions. All of them will be focused on empowering companies to get the results that matter to them from social media channels.

Key objectives may include raising their profile; reaching a niche audience; making new connections; showcasing their experience and expertise; establishing thought leadership; generating leads and prospects. In order to achieve these objectives it is important to listen to your target audience, understand their problems and be clear on how you can help them and make their lives easier.

At a face-to-face business networking event, there are two approaches that won't get you very far:
1. Sitting in a corner and talking to no-one.
2. Being the annoying salesman who is in everyone's face with a 'buy from me now' approach.

It's just the same on social media, and yet some businesses still think they can behave on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in a way they would never consider in the real world.

It's important, as part of any social media strategy, to measure the results you are getting and the impact the content that you create and share on social media is having.

So where can you find out more in May?

Two events I'm speaking at are run by women's business networking groups. On Friday May 5 I'm talking about Facebook for business at the Connect group for West Midlands women in business. This is a one-seat networking group based in Tamworth, so if you would like to visit for this meeting, check the details here.

One week later I'm presenting on the new LinkedIn at Lichfield's WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) group. All women are welcome at this event - but please book in advance here.

In addition, I am working privately with a number of businesses in sectors including construction and the legal profession to help them develop greater knowledge and confidence in using social media channels to achieve their specific business goals.

I would also be delighted to chat informally to any businesses at the next MeetUpMarston's event at Marston's Brewery, Burton-on-Trent, on Thursday May 18, between 6pm and 8pm. I am not doing a formal presentation that evening but it's an opportunity to meet new connections from a wide range of sectors. Tickets are on sale, costing £10 each, here.
MeetUpMarston's photo by David Gough Photography

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Seven things you need to know about the new desktop version of LinkedIn

LinkedIn has recently rolled out the biggest redesign of its desktop version since the platform was launched in 2003.

The aim, says LinkedIn, is to make the experience of using the world’s biggest business-to-business networking platform simpler, more intuitive and more valuable.

Things have been moved around so that the desktop version now mirrors the mobile version much more closely. This means that the experience of switching from using LinkedIn on your phone to using it on a laptop or PC is virtually seamless.

Platforms such as LinkedIn never stand still and you can be sure that its teams will continue to evaluate feedback and analyse how people spend their time on the site. They will use this information to continue to tweak functionality and design with the aim of encouraging more people to use LinkedIn more often and for longer.

Connections of mine, who got the new version some months ago, tell me they have seen features getting added back in and changed around – and, as always with LinkedIn’s roll-out cycles, users around the world will get changes and enhancements at different times.

Here are seven enhanced features and changes that I believe will be of particular value to business owners and professionals using LinkedIn at the moment:

1. SEARCH. LinkedIn now offers a simple search box in the top left of the desktop screen. You can enter keywords or names and then isolate results by clicking on one of the horizontal headings that run from left to right on the results page in this order: Top; People; Jobs; Posts; Companies; Groups or Schools (or universities). There are also more filters down the right hand side of the page to help you sort your results.

Search options on the new desktop LinkedIn

2. NAVIGATION. The next section of the navigation on desktop has been simplified into six key elements: Home (which takes you to your news feed); My Network; Jobs; Messaging; Notifications and Me (which has a dropdown giving access to LinkedIn’s help section, your privacy settings and any company pages that you have created or of which you are an administrator). To the right of these is a ‘More’ icon that leads you into other features including Groups, Learning (which has lots of online courses you can pay to access after a free months' trial) and Slideshare. The final element on the far right is an icon that leads you into information about LinkedIn’s advertising products.

Navigation on the new desktop LinkedIn

3. NEWS FEED. LinkedIn aims to give you the news and updates that matter most to you. It says it has improved the automated algorithm that decides which updates to show you but coupled this with the input of people in LinkedIn’s editorial team who also have a hand in that decision-making process. In the early weeks of using the new LinkedIn desktop version I have seen more timely, relevant and high quality updates in my news feed. I think it’s also easier now to ‘educate’ LinkedIn about what is relevant to you. When a sponsored item is suggested to you in your news feed you can click on the three dots top right and give feedback by hiding it. It’s not in the interests of LinkedIn, or the companies that advertise with it, to show irrelevant adverts to people who don’t want to see them. So DO use the ‘hide this post’ option for things of no interest to you.

Giving feedback on sponsored posts in your new LinkedIn news feed

4. INSTANT MESSAGING. In addition to the traditional inbox, which you can still access from the top navigation bar, you will see an instant messaging feature in the bottom right of your desktop screen where you can have quick chats with connections who are online.

Instant Messaging on LinkedIn

5. PUBLISHING ARTICLES. Any LinkedIn users can easily write their own articles and add in hyperlinks, images and video clips. These articles can be found by anyone on LinkedIn. This is a great way to raise your business profile outside of your own connections. The interface is really easy to use and you can quickly see which articles are getting you noticed on LinkedIn.

6. YOUR PROFILE. LinkedIn has removed the ability for users to re-order sections of their profile. This means that everything is in the same place when you look at anyone’s profile. There is also a new section near the top of all profiles that includes any recent activity by that person including what they have liked, shared or commented on and any articles they have created on LinkedIn.

7. MAKING CONNECTIONS. One of my favourite changes on the new platform is that when you click the blue button to connect with someone you are now encouraged to add a personal note. I’ve always believed that it’s good practice to add a personal note whenever you want to connect with someone. I rarely accept anyone I don’t immediately recognise unless they have personalised their request to explain why it might be a good idea for us to connect on LinkedIn.

Personalising connection requests on LinkedIn

That's my pick of seven things I like most about the new LinkedIn. Please feel free to share your thoughts below on what you find most useful, or anything you dislike about the new desktop LinkedIn.

You are also welcome to contact me if you want some one-to-one coaching on the new LinkedIn or if you would like me to run a session in your workplace to help your teams make better use of the platform.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Eight tips to boost your Facebook page reach

If you think that the only way to reach people on Facebook is to pay for boosts and sponsored adverts - think again.

Facebook does have a great advertising platform, which allows businesses to target the people they want to reach and offers good value for money, but I believe that there are also many things that small businesses can do to build their reach and raise awareness WITHOUT paying.

Eight tips on improving Facebook page reach

Here are eight tips to boost the reach of your page on Facebook
  1. Be clear on WHO you want to reach on Facebook and keep those people in mind whenever you are creating content for your page. It has to be content that they will want to read or watch. Getting 'likes', comments and 'shares' for your content will boost your page's organic reach on Facebook, but you have to earn your place in peoples' news feeds by giving them content that's valuable to them.
  2. Make sure it's easy for people to click through to your Facebook page from your main website and mention it now and then on other social media channels you use, Don't overdo it though. For example, some people on Twitter aren't fans of Facebook so they don't want to be bombarded with links to your Facebook content.
  3. Include a link to your Facebook page in your email signature.
  4. Promote your page's URL offline on your business cards, flyers and posters. If you have business premises make sure your Facebook page URL is on all your marketing materials, such as menus, tickets and feedback questionnaires. Remind customers to 'check-in' and share their love for your business. If they are fans of what you have created they will want to support you and be associated with your brand.
  5. Look for other Facebook pages that it is appropriate for your page to 'like' and 'follow'. These could include business customers and collaborators, suppliers, venues and non-competing businesses and organisations. By liking, commenting on and sharing their content you can reach their fans and raise awareness of your own page. It will also encourage them to return the favour and like your content. But, be true to who you are, and the vision and values of your business. Fake sentiment is quickly spotted by canny consumers.
  6. Make sure that high-quality images and short video clips are a regular feature of the content you create and post on your page. Where possible upload your video clips directly to Facebook. 
  7. Smartphones make it easy to respond quickly to comments and questions from your audience while you are out and about. You can use Facebook Live from your phone when you want to post a behind-the-scenes peek at how your business runs, the people you work with or an event you are holding. If possible, promote in advance that you are going to be live so that your fans can be there to watch. If they miss it, the video will be available on your page later.
  8. Finally, do encourage the businesses you work with and network with - and your friends and family on Facebook - to help you build some momentum. There's no shame in asking people you trust to like and follow your updates.
Every business is unique and so is the community of followers it will build on Facebook and the content it will create and share with them. Many of the businesses and organisations that I work with will opt to run some targeted paid-for boosts and advertising but their money will have the best return on investment if they have previously developed a clear Facebook strategy and understood who they want to reach and how they can develop a page that those people want to return to on a regular basis.

To read more, including a case study about the first day of a brand new business on Facebook, go to my recent LinkedIn post: How small businesses can still 'win' on Facebook.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Specsavers focuses on Oscars mix-up with a well-timed tweet

Successful social media marketing for businesses is about being true to your brand values. If you can inform and entertain, and if you can be timely and topical too, then you are on to a winner.

So I have to say congratulations to Specsavers, who, in my opinion, got it spot-on when it came to reacting to this year's gaffe at the Oscars.

A mix-up with envelopes led to La La Land being announced as the winner of the Best Picture Oscar instead of Moonlight. The mistake was corrected but not without some seriously awkward moments on stage that were pored over by print, online and broadcast media in microscopic detail in the hours that followed.

Meanwhile, Specsavers took to Twitter with this simple but effective tweet: 'Not getting the Best Picture? #shouldve #Oscars' and an image of a hand pulling a card from a red envelope bearing the company's famous advertising slogan 'Should've gone to Specsavers'.

Although the eyesight of award presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway has never been called into question, the Specsavers tweet was funny, concise, on-brand and on-message.

It's not the first time that the eyecare company has been on target with a funny tweet in the aftermath of an incident that's made global headlines.

During the 2014 World Cup you may remember the moment when Uruguay striker Luis Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. A number of companies were quick to create reactive social media marketing campaigns, with comical images and tweets. Food companies led the way with Heinz, Subway, Ginsters and Snickers being among the businesses who suggested what else Suarez could have sunk his teeth into.

But in my book, Specsavers nailed it again, implying that Suarez should've gone to Specsavers to avoid mistaking Cellini for the Italian dish of cannelloni.

Yes, it gives us a laugh as we scroll through our Twitter feeds, and we're likely to retweet it, but what is the value to businesses who capture the mood of the moment on social media with topical, reactive marketing campaigns like these?

Well, it gives them a massive digital reach and enviable engagement levels - and some of that activity will translate into visits to the website and new followers and fans.

In the case of Specsavers, they will now be front of mind with many people when they next think about booking an eye test. A few people did tweet back that they were thinking of switching to Specsavers. Maybe they will, maybe they won't, but it has given Specsavers a massive audience online that would have been expensive to reach through traditional media channels.

Of course, brands such as Specsavers don't rely on social media alone; its Twitter strategy is just part of its overall marketing mix.

But I believe that businesses of all sizes can follow Specsavers' lead and focus on how they can start conversations, use humour  and capitalise on topical news and events to be memorable and create a buzz.