Tagged linkedin

Social Media Sommeliers – Choosing perfect pairs of social networks

by Jonathan Barrick

A well maintained social media presence is like a fine wine; it develops more character as it ages. As you invest more time in to social media, joining additional networks and using new tools, your presence gains different characteristics that it did not have before. However, just as certain wine characteristics mesh well together, others simply do not. Certain wines will pair well with certain foods and enhance the experience, while others conflict and compete. So it is with different social networks. Some are natural fits, enhancing each other and creating synergy. Others are so vastly different in scope and purpose that using them together can actually weaken the total effort.

So how do you know which networks jive well together, and which just don’t? Well, I reached out to several brilliant professionals whose experiences in social media give them a unique perspective on which networks work great together. They are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media Sommeliers, pairing different networks together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts. So, what networks do they believe hold the greatest power for synergy?

Here’s what Ric Dragon http://twitter.com/ricdragon had to say:

image“I’m of the mind that the Twitter/G+ combo is killer.  G+ is more open than FB, and it’s easier to share blog-type posts publicly. Twitter, of course, is the place for garnering those weak-link connections – those people with whom you share an affinity. So Twitter makes the connection, and G+ allows you to share deeper content with those new connections.”

Smart stuff, to be sure. And after speaking with multiple other professionals, and with so many different networks out there to choose from, it became quite clear that everyone would have a different approach tailored to their individual style, fitting with their unique approach to their industry.

I asked this extremely savvy group of Marketing/PR/Social pros to look at this concept from two different angles:

1) Which two social networks do you feel are most complementary, and why?



2) Which two social networks do you feel have the biggest disconnect, and why?

Here’s what they had to say:

Mark Schaeferhttp://twitter.com/markwschaefer
image“The biggest synergy that I see is between Blogging and Twitter. Building a Twitter audience is an effective way to build an audience for your blog. A tweet is like the movie trailer for the movie! They fit like a hand in a glove.

As I see it, the biggest disconnect in social networks right now is between Google + and everything else. Google is not making the sharing easy so it is probably the least integrated network.”

Peg Fitzpatrickhttp://twitter.com/pegfitzpatrick
image“I feel that Google+ and Pinterest are a powerful combination. They are both very visual networks with savvy users. Photographers are really killing it on both platforms such as Trey Ratcliff, with 4.5 million Google+ followers and 4.7 million followers on Pinterest, that’s an enviable social media network! Google+ and Pinterest, more than other platforms, really reward their power users with engagement and activity with their content. You can save your Google+ posts on Pinterest boards or find interesting things to post on Google+ from Pinterest. Both platforms support hashtag usage and using keywords is a benefit.  Google+ and Pinterest complement each other and add mutual value without distracting or overwhelming the other.

I feel like LinkedIn and every other network are disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to fit naturally with any of the other networks although they have taken strides towards improvement. The endorsement feature made LinkedIn spammy to me and weakened the recommendations, which I felt was their most valuable asset. I feel that LinkedIn has its place for job seekers and networking but I don’t see how it blends with Pinterest, Facebook or any other site. I think that this was their intention but they shot themselves in the foot with that plan. You need to have a presence on more than one social media platform so if you are on multiple platforms, you’d like to work them seamlessly together.”

Don Powerhttp://twitter.com/donpower
image“LinkedIn and Twitter work beautifully together for me. I use LinkedIn to get comprehensive background info and details about individuals and their histories and companies before connecting with them on Twitter. Or, you may be connected with a person at Company X on Twitter – you can use LinkedIn to find more people at Company X to connect with (including their Twitter backgrounds). I use them in tandem quite a bit but for me – all roads ultimately lead to Twitter – if I make a connection on LinkedIn, I’m always suggesting that we continue the conversation on Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter – two almost completely exclusive sets of users (in my opinion and personal experience). For example, almost all of my high school friends are on Facebook (I graduated high school in ‘86) but NONE of them are on Twitter. Most of the people I’m connected with on Facebook are not active on Twitter. I only use Facebook to respond to people who find me or reach out to me there. I don’t start conversations on Facebook and 99.9% of my posts on Facebook (unless I’m responding to a specific tagged post) are simply copies of what I post to Twitter (and no – I don’t care that my Facebook posts are often marked up with @ symbols and hashtags)

As I see it, albeit an oversimplification, Facebook is made up of 90% of the people who want to be social 90% of the time. Twitter is made up of 90% of social people who want to do social business communication (in a no sales-y way) 90% of the time. Facebook is 90% wasting time and sharing crap, Twitter is 90% time connecting with people and building networks where the underlying assumption is – how might I be able to leverage this connection, now or in the future, for a business purpose? Because those networks have two completely different modus operandi, they are a total disconnect for me.”

Susie Parkerhttp://twitter.com/susie_parker
image“I often see how well Facebook and YouTube can work well together. Facebook being the largest social network and YouTube being the second largest search engine makes it easy to share a powerful, compelling, funny, or moving video with a large network of people with one click.

There is so much potential with Foursquare and Twitter. But there is too much disconnect and not enough businesses have claimed their locations to maximize the benefit to their businesses. When sharing where you are on Foursquare it would be great to have better Twitter integration to connect better with a potential new place to experience.”

David Christopherhttp://twitter.com/davidchris
image“Twitter I find great as a tool to build new relationships and to start conversations that continue on other platforms. It also allows you to connect with your network and keep those important relationships alive in just 140 characters when in today’s busy business world you don’t have time for much more.

Google+ for is the opposite. It’s where conversations continue and evolve (especially with the recent release of Google+ Communities) and for those where the need for much deeper level relationships are important. What I find interesting is that of the Twitter users in my network, very few of them use Google+. For this reason I find they complement each other as they don’t compete against each other for market share.

As for networks that have major disconnects, I’m going to give you a response that maybe you weren’t expecting here. External Social Networks and Enterprise Social Networks. There is a big disconnect between the Enterprise Social Network (behind the firewall) and the External Social Network (beyond the firewall). This isn’t a technology response, but a cultural response. Employees are your companies Brand ambassadors and should be leveraged as such but fear of what they might say prevents this. This is creating a disconnect in consistent messaging and preventing engagement opportunities with your customers.”

Sam Fiorella – http://twitter.com/samfiorella
image“Google+ and YouTube are natural partners and work together for the brand’s benefit on many levels. Google+ Hangouts upload directly to a YouTube channel for one-click cross-network sharing. Further, with Google Authorship, the combo packs a great SEO/SEM punch. There’s little-to-no expertise required to create conversational videos with customers, vendors, the  media or others and best of all, the platforms are free!

When talking about disconnected networks, I believe those are Pinterest and YouTube. Each are successful in their own right and each is a visual medium. Pinterest is great at sharing with Facebook but doesn’t accept other forms of visual content from other networks well. I see great opportunities for individuals and business if Pinterest would allow the inclusion of videos onto their boards, it would make for a richer experience.”

As for me? I believe that Facebook and Instagram are a very powerful combination. The ease with which you can insert creative, timely images in to your Facebook timeline, and the ease with which users can interact, share, and comment on this activity make them a natural fit for both personal use and for showcasing the personality of a brand.

Where I fail to see much synergy is between Pinterest and Twitter. Much in the same way that the absence of Instagram image support within Twitter has hurt the synergy between them, I feel that it is a crucial missing element that Pinterest should be working towards achieving. Being able to see a pin from within Twitter without the need to click would add a lot of utility, enabling users to view and re-share Tweeted content from Pinterest in one step instead of multiple steps in two different apps.

As you can clearly see, there is no definitive, all-encompassing answer to the question, which appears to be the general nature of social media to begin with. Everyone does it differently, and that’s ok. Ultimately it comes down to your personal ‘taste’ when choosing the social networks that work best for you.

What do you think? Are there two networks that consistently create business magic for you? Or are there two that don’t jive for you at all? Let’s hear!

The January Social Checklist – 9 simple things you need to do NOW for 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

2011 was a tremendous year in the world of social communications. We saw the emergence of several new big players in social networks like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. We also saw massive increases in the use of social by businesses, and a dramatic shift in the way we all interact online.

2012 is undoubtedly poised to continue down this path, and now is the perfect time to make a few simple but powerful tweaks to your online social presence. Here’s a handful of tips that can help you get off to a strong start in 2012!

1 – Consistent profiles

Make sure all of your personal profiles across all the social sites you use are consistent. It should be easy for your Twitter followers to identify you on LinkedIn at a glance, and across all other networks that you participate in. In addition, doing this will also tighten up how you present your personal brand.

2 – Reserve your usernames

You don’t need to use every new social site that starts up, but you never know which ones are going to be huge, so get in early on every site you hear about and register your account. This way you make sure to reserve the same username across all the networks out there, just in case. Again, the key is consistency.

3 – Get the apps

If you don’t have all the apps for all the networks you use, get them now. Easy access to your networks and real-time monitoring are crucial to making sure that you’re not missing anything.

4 – Set up your alerts

Google Alerts, TweetAlarm, and other notification services are extremely valuable to keep you in the know when the conversations turn to you or your company. And don’t forget that you can also use them for any topic that you’re interested in or passionate about. It doesn’t have to be all work all the time.

5 – Link to everywhere from everywhere

You should be able to get to any of your networks easily from your profiles. Some make this easier than others, but at the very least you should make sure that your main ‘hub’ of activity is linked to all your profiles, and all your profiles link to your main hub.

6 – Make a list of ‘Superstars’

We all have a group of individuals that we consider to be the best of the best. If you haven’t already done this, create a special list dedicated solely for those people on your favourite networks so that you can easily browse through the latest stuff posted and shared by your ‘superstars’.

7 – Register for key events

Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for those events that you really want to attend. Register now, and make the commitment. The last thing you want is to miss out on an event that could be a great opportunity to learn and network with other awesome people.

8 – Plan out your essential reading

Check your ‘Superstars’ list for any upcoming books they may be authoring, or anything they may recommend that suits you, and make sure you add them to your reading list for the year. This also counts for blogs that you may stumble across as well. Make sure to keep your list up-to-date as you go!

9 – Choose your key metrics

Identify a handful of metrics that you will track throughout the year that will give you ACTIONABLE information you can use to improve. Everything you do has an impact, but being able to identify WHAT that impact was, and what it means for your brand or business is the key to making positive changes and adjustments as you go.

There you have it! A few simple tips that anyone can use. Hopefully you found at least one or two things here that can help you in 2012, and beyond!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

For Auld Lang Syne – 5 Resolutions to Help Make Social Media Better

by Jonathan Barrick

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Forget those stereotypical resolutions like losing weight, learning ballroom dance, joining a book club, or taking up piano lessons. This year you can make a real difference by choosing one of these simple, easy-to-follow resolutions that will make unicorns dance, kittens smile, and rainbows shoot out of your ears.

1 – I will never send a Twitter Auto-DM from this moment forward.

The auto-DM was a bad idea from day 1. People still do it. If you’re one of them, then this is the resolution for you!

2 – I will not do anything for the sole reason of ‘raising my Klout score’.

Doing stuff to raise your Klout score only benefits you. There are hundreds of other more worthwhile things you can do to benefit your entire community. Do those instead.

3 – I will not unfollow people simply because they didn’t follow me back.

Really? If you only followed someone because you hoped they’d reciprocate, what are you really trying to accomplish? Follow because you WANT to, and BE followed because THEY wanted to.

4 – I will include a personal message on every invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

Where do I know you from? Why do you want to connect with me? Who ARE you? Blind LinkedIn invites are a really quick way to get the recipient familiar with the location of the ‘Decline’ button.

5 – I will not be ‘too busy’ for my community.

Did someone ask you a question? Answer. Did someone comment on your blog? Respond. Did someone ask for your opinion? Reply. Do you want your community to think you are awesome? Then BE AWESOME.

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‘We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.’ Happy New Year to you all!

Retrospect – My 5 Favourite Personal Blog Posts from 2011

by Jonathan Barrick
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2011 has been a fascinating year for Marketers, and for me especially. Businesses everywhere are opening their eyes to the inescapable truth that social communications are now essential for success, and with this change comes a tremendous shift in the way businesses conduct themselves and communicate with their communities. Looking at the usage stats, this is hardly surprising.

Social communications are altering the way we do everything. Facebook, as the largest social network, has ingrained itself in to the daily life of virtually everyone in North America, in one form or another. Even if you personally don’t have an account (which seems highly unlikely), everyone around you does. We are ALL impacted in some way by social communications, and to deny it is simply naive. It’s changed the way we keep in touch with those in our lives. It’s changed how we express happiness and how we make our outrage known. It’s changed how we think about our personal privacy, and what our rights are.

It’s changed our culture.

Throughout the year, I’ve stumbled across hundreds of excellent insights written by hundreds of brilliant people. I thought about scouring my Twitter archive and digging up a handful of the most potent articles from the year, but I quickly realized that this would be a nearly impossible task. There’s simply too much good stuff to sort through. So, I thought I’d just go through my own stuff and choose a handful of my favourite articles that were no doubt inspired by all that great stuff. It’s an easy compromise, I suppose, but I’m ok with that.

So, here’s a short list of some of my own personal blog posts that I’m proud of this year. They’re not necessarily the most ‘commented on’, or the ‘most shared’ posts I wrote, but they’re the ones that really resonated with me when I wrote them. I hope you enjoy them!

1 – The Twitterized Classroom
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This article looks at how I attempted to use social communications to enhance the learning in a college classroom setting. Social media is stereotypically looked at as nothing more than a pervasive distraction by teachers, but I think the results of this might surprise you!

2 – Social Strategies for Uncommon Businesses
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This article was written for all those companies who look at Social Media and think “I get how it works for Starbucks, but what am I supposed to do for MY business??” There’s a lot of different options and approaches, so this is intended to help you choose where to begin.

3 – Powerful Brand Experiences – The Story of Two Coffee Shops
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I get a bit nostalgic in this one. I look at how brand-building goes beyond a logo or Pantone colour and consists of a complete sensory experience. My own experiences with two fantastic coffee shops illustrate just how strong these connections can be.

4 – 3 Lessons About Social Media Learned From Transformers
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This one was fun. Inspiration can be drawn from anywhere, and therefore anything can be turned in to an analogy. Here I take a few anecdotes from the classic ‘good robots vs. evil robots’ battle for the universe that helped define my childhood.

5 – Getting a Head-Start Through LinkedIn
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Historically, your career began on graduation day. Now? It begins the moment you set foot on campus for the first time. The connections you make, the activities you participate in, the internships you take, and the faculty you impress are all part of building your ‘personal brand’.

Well, there you have it!  2011 was a tremendous year in marketing, and I foresee 2012 being even better! This ‘social’ roller coaster hasn’t even crested the first hill yet, and I’m pretty sure we’re in for one heck of a ride next year!

19 Signs Your Social Media Approach Might Suck

by Jonathan Barrick
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You’ve seen them out there. You’ve shaken your head in disbelief. You’ve vowed never ever to be like them. And yet, every now and then, even for just a brief fleeting moment, we all have done at least ONE of these things that drive us nuts when we see other people do them. So sit back, sip your coffee, go through this list, have a laugh, and hopefully you’re not guilty of too many of them. Enjoy!

1 – Your profiles are empty.
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Equivalent to:
Showing up at a cocktail party wearing a fencing suit. Faceless, and with no distinguishing markings, nobody has any idea who you are, or why you’re there.

2 – Everything is linked and synchronized.

Equivalent to: Your telephone ringing all of your friends every time you make a call. Not everyone wants the same information, at the same time. Treat your social networks the same way.

3 – Everything is automated.
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Equivalent to:
Being a robot. You’re not a robot, are you?

4 – There are comments on your Facebook wall from weeks ago with no responses from you.

Equivalent to: Leaving halfway through a conversation with no warning. “Hey, where’d you go?”

5 – You follow people, then unfollow if they don’t follow back, then follow them again, then unfollow if they don’t follow back, Ad Nauseam.

Equivalent to: That little dog Chester from Looney Tunes who just wants to be tough Spike’s friend SOOOOOO BAD, he can’t event stand himself. “We’re friends, aren’t we Spike? Huh? Huh? Aren’t we? Aren’t we? I like Spike because he’s so big and strong. Yeah.”

6 – Your blog hasn’t been updated in a year.

Equivalent to: A one night stand. This relationship meant nothing to you, and I’ve moved on.

7 – YOU TYPE EVERYTHING IN ALL-CAPS AND USE MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!
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Equivalent to:
Shouting. All the time. About everything. Stop it. You’re hurting my ears and upsetting the kittens.

8 – #you #are #mired #in #hashtag #hell

Equivalent to: There’s no real-word equivalent to this phenomenon. If you talked like this in real life, you’d be beaten regularly.

9 – Your Facebook page loads to a splash landing graphic instead of your wall.

Equivalent to: Shoving a flyer in the face of every friend who stops by your house for a visit. Classy.

10 – 90% of your tweets preach engagement, but you let countless mentions go by unanswered.

Equivalent to: Do as I say, not as I do. We can all be guilty of this from time to time, but it’s a terrible idea to build your empire on it.

11 – Your LinkedIn page is a barren wasteland.

Equivalent to: Not updating your resume since 2001. Seriously? You haven’t done anything worth talking about in the last decade?

12 – Your profile picture is you, only from 30 years ago.

Equivalent to: I’m just as cool, hip, and trendy as I was in college. Also, that leather tie kicks ass.

13 – You announce your Klout score every time it goes up a notch.
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Equivalent to: That guy on the golf course driving range who shouts ‘Did you SEE THAT!?!’ every time he hits one farther than 100 yards.

14 – All you can think of when asked about ‘good social media examples’ is your own stuff.

Equivalent to: “Everyone is stupid except me.” – Homer Simpson

15 – You never check or use Social Media on your mobile device.

Equivalent to: Putting a pie in the oven, and then leaving the house for three hours. No, you don’t need to stare at it until it’s done, but you need to check on it regularly so it doesn’t burn. Nobody likes burnt pie.

16 – When a new social network rolls around, your default response is ‘That’s stupid.”

Equivalent to: Look at that idiot, Henry Ford. Everyone knows the REAL money is in horse diapers.

17 – You use different names/handles, different descriptions, and different vanity URLs on each social media channel.
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Equivalent to: Multiple-personality disorder. Seriously, which one ARE you?

18 – You change your profile picture on an hourly basis.

Equivalent to: Constantly changing clothes and hairstyles. It’s annoying, and no one can figure out why you’re doing it.

19 – You flat-out beg for followers, likes, and retweets.
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Equivalent to:
Ooooh! Ooooh! Pick me! Pick me! Pleeeeaaaaassse?!?

Can you think of any to add to this list that I’ve missed? Let’s hear ‘em!

4 ‘Share’ Button Tips – Choosing the best buttons for the job.

There are as many types of ‘Share’ buttons as there are Social Media sites, so how do you pick the right ones for your site and avoid the clutter?

There’s no denying that you need to have share buttons on your site or blog. They are an absolutely essential feature, and are crucial for anyone who wants to encourage sharing of content in an easy way that’s familiar to your users/readers. But there are SO MANY options out there, how can you effectively choose the right buttons without cluttering up your pages?

Each SM site provides code for their own button designs, and often there are multiple options that are different sizes, shapes, colours, etc. In addition, there are mutli-source sharing button options that pull in virtually every possible share option in to one expandable button, like those from AddThis or AddToAny.

Should you use only a couple of the most popular buttons? Or maybe just go with a multi-share button that covers every option? Or just go with the one share location that you WANT people to use? Well, there are a few good rules-of-thumb that I’ve put together that might help you choose which ones are really the best choice for your particular application and audience.

1 – Size, colour and shape

Visually, your share buttons should both blend in with your site, and stand out enough to be easily noticed. Sound like a contradiction? Perhaps, but think about it this way: the ignition on your car could be a tiny slot concealed to blend right in with the dash, but that would make it hard to locate when you need it. Or, you could make the ignition super-easy to find by using a big red button the size of your fist, but that would look out of place and silly.

• Your share button should be sized to be proportional to the other elements on your site.
• Your share button should be the right shape for the location of the button so that there’s a decent amount of space around it, without being too close to other elements or sticking it in the middle of nowhere on your page.
• If you have a dark background, use a lighter button. Light background, darker button. Just like text, dark-on-dark and light-on-light = bad.

2 – Location, location, location.


Example: Mashable is great at placing their share buttons in an easily accessible spot, and makes them scroll with the page so they are always visible.

Where you put your share button is just as important as how it looks. I’ve seen some web pages with the share buttons at the very bottom of the page, lumped in with things like the privacy policy or the ever-useful site map. Other times I’ve seen it scattered in multiple places on the same page. Ideally, you want your share button to be easily accessible, but not intrusive. In sidebars, below product title headers, or at the end of blog posts are all great locations that make it clear what information you’ll be sharing.

• Very rarely do you need more than one set of share buttons on a page.
• It should be clear to the ‘sharer’ what content will be shared.
• If your share button isn’t easy to find, it won’t get used. Don’t throw it at the bottom of your site.

3 – Single-site share buttons vs. multi-site share buttons.

This is where things get tricky. It really depends on the type of content on the page, and the type of users you are attracting. If it’s a blog, for example, you’ll likely want a multi-site share button so that readers can share it in any way they want (Tweet, Like, StumbleUpon, Re-blog, email, print, etc).

If it’s an individual product, then a pair or a trio of individual site share buttons (A ‘tweet’ button, a ‘like’ button etc) may be the best way to allow users to simply indicate that they endorse that particular product. In addition, those individual site share buttons usually come with a ‘counter’ to display how many people have liked or tweeted the page. If your users appear to have an affinity to one particular social media site, Facebook for example, providing them a native share button for their preferred site may encourage them to share more.

Also, there are combo-buttons that typically feature Facebook ‘Like’ and Twitter ‘Tweet’ buttons with counters, as well as a multi-site ‘Share’ button that ties in all the other sites. These are great all-round solutions since they combine the best traits of each option in to one share tool.

• Multi-site share buttons are excellent for educational/informational materials that users would share in many different outlets.
• Single-site share buttons are simple, easy ways for users to share that they ‘like’ or approve of a particular product, service, or singular piece of content.
• Combo buttons provide the best of both worlds.

4 – Familiar trumps freaky.

Do a Google search for ‘social media icons’ and you’ll get countless options of funky, sleek, crazy, and cool social media icons made by graphic designers that you can use on your site. The only problem is that the majority of these really only appeal to other graphic designers. The vast majority of your users will simply be looking for the ever-familiar Facebook ‘F’ or Twitter ‘T’ icons in the official colours used on those sites. Even a passing glance will generate instant recognition of what it is and what it does. Using an icon for your button that looks like a bottle cap or a lab experiment beaker may get the occasional user to think ‘wow, that looks neat!’, but hardly encourages your average user to click on it.

• Always use the official logo, colours, and appearance whenever possible for your share buttons.
• If your share buttons look different from everyone else’s share buttons, you may lose potential sharers because they don’t recognize them.

Overall, what you really need to look at when deciding how to setup your sharing options is what really fits with your site or blog. This is one instance where the Keep It Simple Stupid mantra really should be kept in mind. Just like all things in web design, people like simple navigation over complex, clean design over cluttered, clear calls to action over hidden links, and ease of use above all else.

Don’t forget that all of these buttons and widgets will come with analytics so that you can easily monitor how they are performing, and how users are interacting with them. Be sure to check these regularly, for they will reveal fascinating insights that you can use to help refine your ‘sharing’ strategy to encourage more and more shares.

Here’s a list of share button resource links that you can choose from when incorporating share functions in to your site:

Multi-site Share Buttons:
http://www.addthis.com
http://sharethis.com/
http://www.addtoany.com

Single-site Share Buttons:
http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/
https://twitter.com/about/resources/tweetbutton
http://www.linkedin.com/publishers
http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/share_button
http://www.stumbleupon.com/badges/landing/

Getting a Head Start Through LinkedIn: Networking Tips for College Students


I recently had an opportunity to speak to a group of up-and-coming marketing interns at the local college who are going through the same course of study that I completed ‘back in the day’. As I sat on the discussion panel with two other marketing-program alumni, talking about what is expected of interns during their work terms and offering advice and tips to help them get the most from their experiences, it struck me that one thing that must be mentioned to this group was LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is a crucial tool that allows professionals to network, share ideas, learn, and build their reputation as well as seek out career opportunities of all types.

So, when my next turn to speak came around, I brought up the topic of LinkedIn, and asked for a show of hands for any who knew what it was. Out of a group of 25 or 30 students, only two hands rose in the air. TWO. That’s less than 10% of the group that were aware of the biggest professional social network in existence. I was simply astounded.

Suffice to say, I promptly unleashed a large batch of reasons why they should get their LinkedIn profile up and running as soon as they got back home. The benefits for students to get themselves setup on LinkedIn are just as numerous as the benefits for any professional out in the world today. Here’s a few of the key ones that I feel students can start to realize almost immediately:

1 – Always keep your experience and references complete and up-to-date.

Your LinkedIn profile is like a resume on steroids. It is constantly evolving, and allows you to incorporate much more information than what is feasible in hard-copy form, such as things like Twitter accounts and links to blogs. While we’re not quite at a point where you can strictly direct people to your online profile, I can easily see resumes created in Word or Acrobat to go the way of the dinosaur in the near future. After all, why shuffle around files or attachments when a simple web link can accomplish the same thing, and much more? But in the meantime, maintaining a LinkedIn profile allows you to easily pull out applicable experience and information for the job you’re looking for, and put together a targeted application in virtually no time.

2 – Engage in discussions and learn more from industry professionals.

Want a job at Nike? How about Coke? Or one of the major agencies? Find their reps profiles on LinkedIn and see what groups they belong to. Join those groups and start asking questions and participating in discussions. Hearing about the latest trends and industry effects allows you to take the core concepts and ideas that are in the curriculum and textbooks and apply them to the current state of things in the real world. The business battlefield is now changing faster than ever, and talking to the soldiers who are out fighting in the trenches right now will be crucial in developing an effective career strategy.

3 – Build up your network.

Though they may only be fellow students right now, they’ll all be professionals in your field someday, so making meaningful connections with the superstars in your class can have major benefits in the long run. Also, any teachers or professors that you have a good relationship with can be a great source of referrals and references for you. Connecting with them on a professional level is a huge plus. In addition, if you go to any seminars, shows, or events where prominent businesspeople are present, make sure to connect with them if you can. Let them know that you’re a rising star, and that they should be paying attention to you. Lastly, don’t forget to connect with any professionals you meet or work with at any internships or work placements. If you do a good job with them and keep in touch, they can be excellent contacts to be called on in the future.

4 – Learn proper modern business communications early.

You can’t act the same way in business as you do at the college bar on Friday night. The sooner students learn this, the better off they’ll be by not posting incriminating or embarrassing things that can deep-six their careers before they even begin. The professionals you’ll find on LinkedIn networks have no time for joking around or unprofessional behaviour, so it’s a great way to get conditioned for how to communicate in a business environment. Respect everyone’s opinion. Proper spelling and grammar are important. Don’t let texting become your default communication style. How you talk to your buds on Facebook doesn’t jive very well with the Fortune 500.

5 – Begin forging your personal brand.

Every individual is their own brand, and LinkedIn is an excellent tool for letting the world know who you are, and what you’re all about. Your specialties will come to light through your experiences, and you will probably find that it will help you discover where your real aptitudes are, and assist you in enhancing them. Your ever-expanding LinkedIn presence helps develop your reputation as a professional in your field, and eventually as an expert. The earlier you start, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. LinkedIn’s benefits also stretch in to your overall web presence, and the job postings on LinkedIn are proving to be far more valuable than those on traditional job posting sites. It allows you to connect directly with individuals at certain organizations that are of interest to you. Finding that ‘dream job’ may still be hard, but with LinkedIn you have a greater number of paths available to you that you can use to find your way to your career utopia.

When you first start out, you’ll want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, and follows the best-practices used by successful LinkedIn users. Here’s a few quick tips to help you get your profile setup in a good way:

Use a professional looking picture. No beach pics, bar pics, party pics, baby pics, or anything else other than you looking like you are a smart, savvy, intelligent person. First impressions are huge.

Make your headline about YOU, not your current job. Anyone can look at your profile and see where you work and what your title is. Your headline should talk about what YOU, as a professional, are all about.

Shorten your public profile URL to http://linkedin.com/in/yournamehere. Here’s a link to the instructions on how to do this. Having a custom URL makes it easier to share your link, and is also a piece of your personal brand.

Personalize your network requests. When you ask someone to connect with you, make sure to include a personalized message with your request. Professionals find it extremely frustrating to get a generic LinkedIn request that tells nothing of how you might actually know the person. Let them know who you are, how they know you, and why you are connecting.

I hope that these tips are found to be helpful. I sure wish that I had a tool like LinkedIn back when i was going through college. Even though I’ve since connected with a great deal of people I would have back then anyway, I can’t help but wonder where life would have taken me if I’d had this amazing tool at my disposal. Just one of those ‘what if’ things that I’ll always be curious about, I suppose.