marketing

LinkedIn Skill Endorsements: Flattery or faulty?

One of the best features of Linkedin has always been the ability to publicly recommend a colleague or connection. It’s like a resume reference who’s posting the reference check publicly for everyone to see (with your consent of course). Yes there may be some questionable reciprocal recommendations floating around, but for the most part, it takes time and effort to craft a worthy recommendation and since it’s public–your own reputation is potentially on the line if someone finds it to be false.

Almost a year ago (September 2012) LinkedIn rolled out a new feature ‘Skill Endorsements’, this is the “Lite” version of recommendations. If you don’t have time or feel fully comfortable personally recommending someone, you can endorse a few of their skills.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

You can always find two sides of a story: the positive is that skill endorsements are a great way to assess someone’s stated skills (if someone says they are an expert at something, but it’s not endorsed by their connections, you might question that expertise..). It validates anything someone states in his or her profile.

The bad part? Well a lowered barrier to entry means an overall reduction in quality endorsements. Recently I received six endorsements for ‘Creative Direction’ and while I was certainly flattered by the gesture, my creative director at work would probably die laughing if he noticed that (I wouldn’t blame him either).

And for that I don’t blame my connections who endorsed me for it–because I think probably it’s LinkedIn’s algorithm at fault. They probably received a blue box that said “Would you endorse Kelly Rusk for these skills?” And maybe the first 2 or 3 were relevant and they just hit accept for the whole lot.

I think the skill endorsement feature will stick around because LinkedIn is really pushing it at every opportunity. However, I think that tactic is also reducing its effectiveness (as per my example above).

What are skill endorsements REALLY good for?

The single most valuable application of this feature is not how others will perceive you as a result of your skill endorsements… It’s for your own benefit. Only your first degree connections can endorse your skills, so if you’ve focused on using LinkedIn to build a quality network, these are people who know you personally. And you understand the level of relationship you have with each of these people so you can use your own endorsements to paint a picture of how your first connections perceive you.

Are you being recognized for your strengths? Are you endorsed for skills you feel you excel at? Does it cover your experience and align with the wording in your profile? Are you receiving endorsements for people you’ve worked closely with?

If the answer to any of these questions is no–then it’s time to look inward and reflect on what you are doing and how you are putting yourself out there. Using the endorsements to improve yourself makes the feature one of the most valuable features of LinkedIn.

 And the icing on the cake?

Want to reconnect with someone in your network but not sure how to approach them out of the blue? Why not visit his or her profile and endorse a few skills you know to be relevant? It’s a passive engagement but he or she will receive an email about it and it might be a perfect primer for a long-overdue follow up email. Or perhaps someone you really want to strengthen your relationship with endorses your skills first? Why not send a nice thank you email and perhaps suggest a coffee outing? The skill endorsement can be a great professional door opener (or perhaps unlock-er?) to stay in touch.

How to get more skill endorsements from your connections

There are two methods to increasing your skill endorsements: ask and pay it forward. Personally I’m a little shy/timid about asking connections to endorse me–however I have been asked and do appreciate the reminder from those I’ve enjoyed working with but maybe didn’t immediately think to endorse. Be sure when asking to do so personally (not send out a blanket request to your connections) and only ask those who you are confident would be happy to endorse you.

Secondly you can pay it forward–I find this to be a really effective and interesting method. If you take the time to go through your connections and endorse some of your connections (and for your own reputation, please do so strategically and honestly!) LinkedIn will reward you by suggesting to your connections that they endorse you.

What do you think? Do you dig the skill endorsements? Do you question its validity? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Report from the IABC World Conference in NYC

It was Tuesday night—close to midnight and for the first time in a really long time I just got that “I NEED to write” moment. It used to happen to me a lot but lately I’ve fallen victim to the over-busy syndrome and nothing has suffered more than my writing—something I used to consider my passion!

But there I was  at the IABC World Conference feeling that rush all over again, finally!  Three days in I was  already getting concerned that I’d probably forgotten half of the really interesting, insightful and useful information that I’ve learned. I’m relieved I got business cards from most of the people I’ve met so that I can go over and hopefully remember some of the fascinating conversations I’ve had.

Like any conference—key themes emerge throughout the presentations. What’s unique about the World Conference is that because of the sheer size—with so many tracks going on and a really diverse set of topics under the communications, you can really make the themes you really want to emerge. Kind of like those ‘Choose your own adventure’ books.

Social Media Panel featuring speakers from Dell, Amnesty International and DIRECTV.
Social Media Panel featuring speakers from Dell, Amnesty International and DIRECTV.

Anyway, rather than write about any of the wonderful sessions I sat in on (and I hope that I will do that later) I wanted to write to express three of the themes that really stood out to me and that really excite me about the whole experience. These themes include building strong connections (trust and reputation), The “I” in IABC (International perspective), and strong leadership that embraces communications

Over the next few weeks I will cover a few of these themes and relate it to my personal experience at the conference.

Stay tuned!

Why are you creating content?

I found this great infographic today, ironically from April Dunford’s post about infographics being “the Lindsay Lohen of content”

In my defence, she was using this one as a great example of an infographic and that’s why it’s inspired this post. Anyone who’s worked with me knows my obsession with measurement and tying activities to business goals, but one thing I’ve understood but often had difficulty explaining is the relationship between certain pieces of content and how those pieces fit together. I’m no sales expert, so while I know that putting out great content such as a whitepaper, an interesting video or infographic can reflect back to business goals, I was never really sure of how to put it… fortunately this graphic visually explains it so well:

The Content Grid

This is obviously a software model, but I think the information can translate to any industry/product service.

A great content strategy is essentially making sure you have a piece of well-executed content at each important step above. The one thing I don’t like about this infographic is it’s strictly talking about a broadcast content model. This should be a piece of your overall social strategy, but there is a lot more too it. If you just treat your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/etc a account as a broadcast account then your content may end up falling on deaf ears. And if you’re only looking at the above, it may be hard to understand why.

I also want to draw attention to the key performance indicators at the bottom.  I love that they’ve been categorized in three ways and break down the relevant metrics at each stage. This makes it really clear that you are working towards something and what to measure at every step.  You may only care about making the sale (outcomes) and therefore think you only need to measure the sales, or leads or whatever indicator makes sense, but without the insight on how you got there (i.e. traffic, clickthrough, form submissions etc) you are missing the data that can dictate how to do it better next time, a HUGE missed opportunity.

Rely on analytics for social referrers? You may be selling yourself short…

I have a big beef about web analytics. While analytics are useful, informative and quite frankly, absolutely crucial, the ease and access to free tools like Google Analytics has caused many to use analytics tools without really understanding them.

Here’s the one thing I hear often from skeptical marketing people who don’t fully understand social (an imaginary example): “I get Google Analytics reports, and less than one per cent off our traffic comes from Twitter so clearly it’s not working for us.”

So here’s the problem: analytics, while providing more precise and in-depth metrics than ever afforded to marketers, is NOT a perfect science. I could go off on several rants at this point, but for the purpose of brevity I’m going to focus on Twitter referrals.

The reality is most Twitter users do not access and use Twitter from Twitter.com. They use Tweetdeck or another desktop applications, and they also access Twitter often from mobile devices. When someone on Tweetdeck or an iPhone clicks your link and visits your site, this does not register as a Twitter referral, but in most cases as direct traffic. Direct traffic is essentially the “other” bucket when the analytics tool can’t figure out the source. This includes email clients, bookmarks and any other non-browser application.

While I can’t find an official number of Twitter.com vs Twitter app users, a recent(ish) study by Sysomos revealed that 42 per cent of the 25 million Tweets analyzed originated from non-official Twitter apps. That’s not even including the official Twitter apps (aka Twitter for mac + Twitter for iPhone/Android/BB, at the time). That tells me at the very least, a significant percentage of Twitter users are NOT using Twitter.com and therefore, to the untrained analytics watcher, not driving traffic to web sites.

Now I hate to complain about anything without a helpful solution, so here’s my advice:

  1. Tracking links – if you are pushing out content via Twitter or other social networks, you can use a tool to code those links (before shortening), you plug in a few tracking details and get a lovely URL that looks like this:
    http://www.kellyrusk.ca/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=fun&utm_campaign=Kelly’s%2Bfun%2Bwith%2BURLs
    with all that fun stuff at the end telling Google Analytics information about the URL for tracking purposes. You can then take that ugly long URL and plug it into a service like bit.ly and distribute the shortened version.
  2. The “lite” version is to just track all your bit.ly links which does in fact tell you more details, here’s an example:
    As you can see, bit.ly does in fact track different clients, (but still has a “catch-all” category).

I would use the first example if you’re pushing out marketing campaigns and tracking clicks and conversions as tying it back to the source is pretty important and the tracking URLs will allow you to keep tabs on a referrer right through to conversion. If you’re just pushing out content (i.e. blog posts), while you can still do the Google tracking, it’s not completely necessary if there’s no direct call to action.

Finally, again I will emphasize: this is not an exact science! Even with the tracking URLs–if I click on a URL in a tweet, read it and decide to re-share it, I’ll copy and paste the URL from the browser and cut out all that silly tracking mumbo jumbo (you think I’d know better, but I still do it!) and paste the original link in, thus crushing your clever measurement trick! If I do that I’m sure others do as well.

Track what you can, as much as you can, but remember it’s a trend, an indication, but not an exact number. Measurement needs to be an ongoing process and you can only really do so effectively when you measure consistently, benchmark and compare against your own results.

Influence is not the right word!

So this topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, and I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate it.

First let’s talk about Klout. Klout gets a lot of praise and a lot of criticism. I guess I sit somewhere in the middle. I like some of the metrics it provides, and there is merit to it. However rating people by “influence” based on a *top-secret* algorithm, is a little bit bologna.

First what I dislike about Klout: simplify the complex into one single number. First, it turns Twitter into a popularity contest and inflates egos. And it doesn’t really mean what people think it means. Just like all publicity is NOT good publicity, All Klout is NOT good Klout–Just because people respond and retweet someone, it doesn’t mean they trust them, or respect them, or even like them. It’s not news that the Internet LOVES controversy and being controversial can get you followers and retweets, but as a brand targeting influencers, do you really want to associate your brand with controversy (maybe, but my point is it’s being overlooked). It also doesn’t mean that if you give that person a product, they will help sell it by talking about it online.

Ok, now for some positive: Klout isn’t all bad. I like how Klout gives more accurate reach numbers than straight up follower numbers. Unfortunately there’s still a lack of transparency, so we don’t actually know *how* that number is reached. Follower count and the number reached by a message is definitely not the same and Klout at least has started to demystify this. Quite frankly if you’re measuring clicks and conversion, then relying on Twitter follower numbers is doing nothing but setting up you up for failure.  Too many are still hung up on follower numbers and mistaking that for “reach.”

Also, ego inflating aside, the ranking is helpful when you are comparing a number of similar accounts and want an overview of their activity and interaction. I’m building a very specific list for a client and I find it useful. I’m not putting a ton of weight into the number, but it is definitely a helpful indicator, particularly if you’re trying to get the focus away from number of followers.

However, to blindly select “influencers” based on this score is plain silly. There definitely needs to be a human element involved, and particularly someone with experience and know-how in social media. Robots simply can’t replace human intelligence… SkyNet anyone?!

All I’m trying to say here is that influence is a really misleading word. I don’t know what the right word is to be honest. I also don’t know if someone who spends a lot of time online interacting with others is any more influential than, say, someone who is clearly passionate about a brand/product/service and already speaking about it. And you don’t need Klout to find those people. It’s usually fairly obvious.

What does your résumé look like?

Exceptional Person Required
Photo credit: Exceptional Person Required by sansfaim, on Flickr

In 2008 Seth Godin wrote this blog post: “Why bother having a resume?” I particularly remember reading it at the time because I was actively looking for a job and every conversation I had ended with “Please send a copy of your resume to..”

I remember thinking, “what a nice thought… but yea-freakin-right Mr. Godin. ”

So I probably don’t have to tell you Seth Godin is a pretty smart guy. Now I sort of feel like the poster child for exactly what he’s talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a resume, but I’m fairly certain my last few employers had already decided to hire me before they even looked at my resume. They may not have ever even looked at it in fact. It probably just went into some required HR folder never to be seen again.

A pretty sad fate for a document I put a lot of work into right? Nah, doesn’t bother me. I hate having a resume. Like Godin says, it’s basically an excuse to reject you. It can also be dangerous if you’ve followed a career path like mine. I haven’t worked for any big name companies–I’m completely grateful for that–but it’s also a detriment in the old school HR way of thinking. “Ooh so-and-so worked for [insert impressive company name] that must mean he’d be great here, [even though we are and do *nothing* like that!!]” (Seriously, tell me you haven’t  heard that before!!)

No matter how much I jazz up my resume, it’s not going to impress those types of people. Meh, I’m over it. I don’t think I want to work for those people anyway. Point is, stop worrying so much about your resume and start worrying about the things that really matter if you want a completely kick ass job. What are those things? Probably exactly what Godin mentioned:

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

OK so that last point is something I need to work on. I have the blog and I’m working on writing more insightful and compelling content and especially more regularly… However I think I’m doing pretty well on the rest of the list, and I think those are exactly the types of things that have landed me probably any job I’ve ever had. And even though there’s no big impressive company names, I’ve loved my career dearly.

So exactly how do you accomplish these things? For starters if you’re currently working somewhere you hate, that’s definitely not how. Get out and volunteer, get involved in community events. Find what you’re passionate about and figure out how to work it into your career. I promise you that no matter how busy you think you are, if you find something you really LOVE, you’ll effortlessly and automatically be able to make the time for it. Finally, follow through on your commitments and help people out as much as you can.

Easier said than done? Yea, probably. But hard work is usually the key to happiness and success, so if you’re not willing to put in, don’t expect to take out.

Event live-tweeting… Yay or nay?

Since there seems to be lots of events going on lately, it seems timely to bring up the issue of live-tweeting at events.

Do you live tweet events? Do you like following others who do? Are you annoyed when your stream is filled with event tweets?

Personally, I love tweeting events and following events I can’t make it to from Twitter. And while I usually have people encourage me to continue, thank me for tweeting and always a sharp increase in followers, there’s always one or two who ask me (sometimes rudely) not to.

So if you do like to tweet at live events-here are a few tips:

  • If you are putting out lots of tweets, consider starting those tweets with someone’s username (i.e. the speaker) what this does is ensures those tweets only show up in the streams of people who also follow that person and therefore are likely interested in your tweets.
  • You don’t need to tweet EVERY word coming out, wait for the valuable nuggets. However sometimes, especially when you are seeing very seasoned speakers, that’s difficult.
  • Tell your followers in advance what conference you are at and that you will be tweeting. You can also recommend they use an app to mute you or temporarily unfollow if they are not interested. I have not used it yet (like I said I like following events!), but I often see TweetAgora recommended. They’re also a Toronto-based startup so full support from me.

If you enjoy live-tweeting and feel you get value in doing so, continue! If you’re a hater, the unfollow link is always there, but I’d consider trying a muting service first.

Give generously and watch your community grow aka check out my free glasses!

POP QUIZ: What do you do if you know you have a super fantastic online product/service, but people are reluctant to try it out? Answer: Give away tons for free!

Maybe this seems strange, but bear with me here. Do you wear glasses? Have you ever thought about buying them online? Chances are it seems like a good idea in theory, but what about trying them on? What about the expert opinion of the optical store sales person? What about fitting and prescriptions and measurements? That’s exactly how I felt too. Until I received a wonderful email from the PR rep at ClearlyContacts.ca offering me a free pair of glasses.

From the email, I learned that ClearlyContacts.ca was targeting bloggers who appeared on a list of influential bloggers in social media. I don’t know who else or how many others were targeted or even how he knew I wore/needed glasses (until this blog post you’d never find a photo of me with them!). As it turns out, eye care is not covered under my benefits and I desperately needed new glasses. Fate!

Now before you get in a huff about whether my blogging habits merit free glasses, or that I’m simply writing about them because I got free glasses, let me point out a few interesting tidbits about this campaign:

  • Yes, I got a free pair of glasses.. but if you search ClearlyContacts.ca you’ll see they’ve been handing out free glasses like crazy! In fact, two Fridays ago the ClearlyContacts team gave out 3,000 pairs to Montreal residents, a week before I had seen friends from Ottawa posting they had received free glasses. They’re not just for bloggers, but while they’re giving them away left, right and centre, it’s not a bad strategy to seek out potentially influential people.
  • I was never asked to write about my experience, the pitch was more targeted as a reward for my hard work as a blogger. Obviously, they wanted me to write about them, but it was never requested, pushed or really implied even. I also would not write a positive review if my experience wasn’t positive. However, my suspicion is they know they have a good thing going and they’re trying to get the word out. Success!

It’s definitely too soon to tell if the ROI on giving out thousands of pairs of free glasses will pay off. However from my experience I can tell you that already I’ve told at least a dozen people about the site who are now enthusiastic about buying a pair (because they are *SO* much cheaper than any alternative anyway), and I’m definitely a customer for life. I plan on purchasing my contact lenses through the site, and will most definitely purchase my next pair of glasses. Fortunately with the very reasonable prices, I will hopefully not wait another six years for new glasses!

Why it works

If you’re not a glasses-wearer, let me enlighten you for a minute. Glasses are EXPENSIVE. You buy frames which typically can range from $50-$500. Next you need to purchase lenses, lenses can typically run from free (included with the frames) to maybe $200. Optical stores also upsell you on all sorts of extra coatings and features (UV coating, scratch resistant, non-glare coating)… Now if you’re especially blind like me and have radically different prescriptions in each eye, you also need something called high-index lenses so you don’t look like a weirdo (may sound vain, but trust me on this one. Not too mention off-balance glasses). Bottom line: in my experience I’m usually dropping at least $500-800 on a pair of glasses. Even if your benefits cover eye care, it’s usually only about $200 every two years. The rest comes out of pocket.

IMG_0996Now the pair I got (a lovely pair by Valentino) are actually on the more expensive scale on the site ($198) but super reasonable as far as frames go. Lenses are included in the price along with all those fancy up-sell features optical stores will nail you on (all of them! Free!) Even the high index upgrade was only $99. Had I paid the full price, even with taxes they would have come to $327–less than half what I paid for my last pair.

ClearlyContacts.ca has a great product at an amazing price. However, it also has a significant barrier-people want to try on glasses before they buy. Because of this I hadn’t considered buying glasses online, however it turns out it is actually really easy and they have a very generous satisfaction guarantee. In this case, blogger (or influencer) outreach is a great strategy to boost awareness. And like I said, I’m a customer for life now.

Is the Old Spice Man Campaign really a success? Is it even possible to tell yet?

No doubt you’ve seen the Old Spice Man on Twitter, responding to tweets with videos, exciting both influential tweeters, celebrities and regular folk alike and getting covered on pretty much ever blog and media outlet out there…

While I definitely agree with the masses that this was a well-executed campaign-it was funny, engaging and captured the attention of so many, but I’m still reluctant to declare it a resounding social media success story (yet?) for a few reasons. And more importantly, these are some factors to consider before you go out and try to replicate Old Spice’s success (since I’m sure already this will be a case study social media experts everywhere will be preaching to the masses):

  1. Will it increase sales for the company? My guess would be quite possibly, but we don’t know yet, it’s simply too soon to tell. Aren’t we always whining about business outcomes and that success needs to be based on more than just eyeballs?
  2. What about ROI? Sure maybe they’ll get fantastic results, but clearly they spend A LOT of money on this campaign.
  3. Did Old Spice really take a big risk with this campaign? Well not really, the built it off an already successful ad campaign–which don’t get me wrong was a very smart move, but let’s all remember that when we’re trying to build our own loveable brand character.
  4. Doesn’t social media require long-term commitment and ongoing strategy? Obviously they can’t keep up the videos for ever. where will they take it yet? How will they keep their new-found audience engaged? I’m not saying they won’t but perhaps we should wait and see before we declare this the most successful social media campaign of all time.
  5. Maybe I’m just a little bitter because my man already wears Old Spice (long before Old Spice Man even) and now every man will smell like him? Either way, I love the campaign but I’m saying stop the madness–at least until we’ve had enough time to step away and see the whole picture.

    And now, for your viewing enjoyment, the original Old Spice Man ad that started this all

Remember the golden rule? It applies to business as well!

Our parents and teachers spend a lot of time and energy enforcing good values on us. The most memorable–and important–is the golden rule:” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Makes a lot of sense, right? Then why is it often lost in the business world?

In my general observation and experiences, most companies don’t follow this rule. Fortunately there are some fantastic examples (Zappos obviously comes to mind!), so not all hope is lost.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Do you enjoy receiving unsolicited bulk email? No, you don’t. No one does, so why send it?
  • Do you like when old high school friends (or whoever) send you mass Facebook messages daily to promote whatever it is their doing but never actually send a personal message? Probably not.
  • Do you like when someone follows you on Twitter, so you follow back, but then only floods your screen with self-promotional tweets and never engages in conversations? Not likely.

The positive side…

We can also look at it in a positive light:

  • Do you like being complimented? (I bet you do!) Why not try and compliment someone else every day?
  • Do you love your tweets being re-tweeted? Take some time to re-tweet whenever you can. (Hint: don’t always re-tweet people like Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki. They get lots of love already, look for the hidden gems.)
  • Do you love having an old contact/friend reach out to you randomly, just to say hi? Why not take the time to re-build some old relationships, you never know where you may end up finding a great business connection.

Just a random thought for the day. I’m sure we all know and understand this, but I think sometimes a little reminder can help us all. What are you doing about it today?