Friday, 16 August 2013

Linkedin Endorsements – Valid or Valueless?

Linkedin Endorsements LinkedIn Endorsements – If you spend any time on LinkedIn you’ll have noticed over the past year that people who you may or may not know well are endorsing you for skills you may not even know you have (in which case, by the way, you can add those skills quickly to your profile without missing a beat).

According to LinkedIn, who launched the feature back in September 2012, (via Forbes) these are an incredibly popular feature generating many millions of endorsements, and they’re here to stay.

I have always thought LinkedIn an excellent resource, allowing you to have a permanent and regularly updated profile of who you are, what you do and what you have to offer so that people can make quick decisions about connecting to you and how useful or interesting you may be to them.

LinkedIn endorsements to me are at risk of being used as a shallow tool, whereby people who really don’t know what you do can get your attention by endorsing you for pretty much anything reasonably close to your skill-set (or otherwise).  Most who have been active on LinkedIn for a while have reached 100s of connections, and some of those will not be of value now if ever, but if they are a 1st Connection then they can visit your profile page and endorse you whether you’re in touch with them or not.

You can use endorsements for networking purposes and reciprocate, or you can hide them. They can be given mindlessly, or they can be in good faith, but as they are so easy to give it’s impossible to tell which is which, and any intelligent evaluator will discount them because of this.  They are, as has already been said, far too close to the Facebook ‘Like’.

It’s up to you, but as with everything on LinkedIn, because it is such a valuable and much used resource, and you never know who will be looking at your profile next, it’s a good idea to keep up to date and please, if you haven’t done so, put your picture up there………..

Alternative Reading:
Why you Should List your Interests on LinkedIn
5 Reasons Not to Accept a LinkedIn Invite
How to Get Your Custom LinkedIn URL

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Exclamation Mark – or How Not to Make a Point

Exclamation Mark
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

The exclamation mark (or point) was first used in the English language in the 15th Century.  It didn’t show up on standard keyboards until the 1970s.  Used to show strong emotion they’re also known informally as ‘shrieks’ – some writers apparently like to shriek a great deal.  Particularly on the web.

You’ll find exclamation marks in all sorts of unnecessary places, where good writing would have the same effect, creating its own emphasis through use of words and ordinary punctuation rather than the short cut of the exclamation mark, which in fact more often than not shows weakness rather than strength.  In emails in particular exclamation marks seem to be being used more and more – although we usually read or delete emails as a result of the headline, not the text, where they’re frankly wasted, although not maybe quite as badly as shouting by WRITING EVERYTHING IN CAPS!

Personally I am anti-exclamation marks unless I feel there is a really good reason for using one, and if I know I’ve used them I will go back and take them out, re-read, and use sparingly if I think they are really called for. 

In an article in the NY Times Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap) is quoted as saying “There’s a case to be made that the exclamation point is the adverb of punctuation; if you have to put it in, then maybe the sentence didn’t do its job,” she said. “Then again, I’m also highly uneasy about ever using italics. If the exclamation point is the adverb of punctuation, then italics are the Ambien of typography. I guess my only rule is to use the exclamation point sparingly, like adverbs, italics and cortisone cream.”

And again in The Guardian:  ‘There is surely a point after which exclamation marks no longer express friendliness. In this post-literal time, exclamation marks become signs of sarcasm as witty correspondents rebel against their overuse. Hence: "I loved your last email! OMG did I LOVE it!!!!!!" The point is they didn't. They were being IRONIC’.

In other words.  Make your points through your words.  And use the exclamation mark with care if it is not to weaken both your message and your writing style.  And if you’re editing someone else’s writing look out for them, and delete as necessary.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Content Marketing - Why Blog?

The basis of content marketing is simple.  If you don't talk about it (as in online) you won't be listened to.  Hence we've all become content publishers in our own right, whether business or social.  So why blog?  Blogging is by no means as easy as using Facebook or Twitter (or LinkedIn etc) to communicate.  To blog you have to:

Come up with an idea you want to write about
Think of a headline that people are going to notice
Write your blog
Optimise your blog (hopefully)
Publish - not just on your blogging platform, but to other places on the web
And then do it all over again on a regular basis.

The first three above are the hardest, and the reason why many are put off by the idea of blogging, and yes there are those who still don't.  You can write a list of ideas to blog about, so that's not so hard, however thinking up a headline that is going to catch attention and worst of all WRITING - those are the most difficult.

The first time I had to write a piece (not a blog, but a column for a Conde Nast online magazine) putting pen to paper was the hardest thing.  Finding your voice and writing can be extremely daunting until you've had some practice but after all it's not exactly like getting up on stage in front of an audience.  You can start off quietly, read people's work that you like who write around your subject, show what you've written to some friends and ask for honest opinions. 

And practice, practice, practice.

The best way to find your own 'voice' is to get out there and do it.  Blogging has become part of content marketing for every online business and should be an essential part of it.  So the question 'why blog?' is an easy one to answer, because you can publish your blog post to so many places on the web, from your own website to your Facebook page, to Twitter and on.  You can link to your blog on Pinterest and get more readers that way, you can use it as a basis for your newsletters.  And if you're lucky one of your posts may go viral (for the right reasons hopefully) and bring you thousands of visitors.

For any online business out there who does not as yet have a blog I suggest that they get going right now.  Apart from anything else, blogging can be enjoyable, and put you in touch with so many more potential customers than you ever had before.  But don't just blog to sell.  Any more than you should just post to Facebook or Twitter to sell.  Blog to be useful, informative, friendly, helpful and interesting.  QED really...............

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

3 Steps to Increase your Sales this Autumn


It seems to me that it’s much too early to start talking about increasing sales for Christmas, but let’s face it, that is what this is about, and if you don’t take these steps now you’ll be wondering why others are getting the orders and not you.

There’s no doubt that potential customers are becoming much more wary about who they buy from online particularly if you’re a first time buy.  Can they trust you?  Are they getting the best price?  How can they be sure you’ll deliver on time? 

The first of these is the one to get on to right away, that of establishing more trust with visitors to your website who may not have heard of you before.  You know you’re trustworthy, but how should they.

I’ve written a couple of times about this and you can read more here:
Customer Reviews – How to Catch the Savvy Shopper
3 Reasons Why You need Customer Reviews on your Website

I’ve listened over and over again to clients who have said ‘but we have some not so good reviews, can we leave those out?’ and ‘we don’t want to go to the expensive of adding review software to our website’.

Well the fact is that if you want those extra sales, you have to show what your customers think in some way shape or form.  It’s better if you can add software to your website which collects independent reviews, (look at Amazon, for example.  Don’t tell me you don’t read reviews before you buy – we’re all at it).  However if you’re a small retailer you can collect customer testimonials and make sure they’re clearly visible.  They’ll be read, trust me, and they’ll increase the trust people will have in you and encourage them to buy from you.

Lilia Nash Customer Review
Be prepared for those who will be thinking about, browsing for and looking for gift ideas early on.  Create a special landing page for those items that are most gift worthy.  You certainly shouldn’t call it ‘Christmas Gifts’ too early on as that may put people off, but there will be items you offer that are more suitable to be given as gifts than others, and you want to spend some time, whilst you have it, in collecting these together onto one page, which you can then optimise and draw people’s attention to.

Your Gifts landing page should have a wide range of products, broken down into segments as appropriate and depending on how many you have to offer.  Your lead in prices should not be too high, you don’t want the first thought of your visitors to be ‘everything here’s much too expensive’. 

Put some thought into this one now, and buy in some product if necessary to increase your range.  Gifts are very shortly going to be the main buy for most people and you want them to buy from you.

Be obvious with information about last posting dates and gift wrapping services.  You may think (again) that Christmas is months away, but in reality it is just round the corner and some overseas last posting dates occur in late September and October.  You want people to know that you are ready to offer the best services they can find anywhere to any destination in the world and you need to make that absolutely obvious from your home page. 

You would be amazed at how many don’t take advantage of these strong selling tools.  You will not only get customers encouraged to buy from you now, but they’ll come back to you and recommend you to others, recognising that you are a trustworthy service orientated, online business with a good choice of products and a wide range of products.

My advice?  Get on with it now.  It’s never too early and time has a habit of speeding up at this time of year.

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