Poets, priests and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no one’s jamming their transmission
In the last blog post, we looked at the problems of too much information. Last week’s discussion was about the difficulty of keeping up with change, especially if you happen to be managing the day-to-day eruptions of chaos at a busy printing company. To help you cut through the clutter and keep up, I reviewed several great industry blogs that can help to keep you keep up with the print marketing conversation. I also wrote about a couple of free online applications that can help you stay organized.
We’re returning to the topic in this post and taking a closer look at LinkedIn. This business/social network is an excellent source for information of many flavors, but it also has the potential to suck you in like quicksand. Today’s post provides a few tips about how to use LinkedIn as an information resource. Here’s how we set the stage last week:
LinkedIn isn’t just a social network. LinkedIn groups are a repository of current information (and opinion and conjecture) and the new Pulse feature which offers a selection of daily news that is “magically” tailored to your professional interest. It’s almost unimaginable that there are business people who don’t have a LinkedIn account. If that’s you, register immediately.
As I write today, I’m rethinking my exuberance. LinkedIn is an excellent information resource, but some filters are required.
Why bother with LinkedIn?
LinkedIn really is a social network of a different color. It’s frequently called “Facebook for Professionals,” but that description falls way short. LinkedIn was launched in 2002 as a business networking site. When you log in to the network, you’ll find a homepage feed that is indeed similar to Facebook, including some irritating sponsored ads from companies that have you pegged as “their demographic.” Tip #1: Don’t spend much time on the home page news feed – it can be a morass.
Recruiters and HR folks soon saw the value of the network, and LinkedIn has become the central online resumé repository for the entire known universe. There’s a good bit of focus on jobs and LinkedIn can indeed provide a lot in the way of career cachet, even given a good bit of nonsense in the form of meaningless “endorsements” that were added by the service about a year ago. Tip #2: Keep your profile current and use a decent photo. Folks will look at your profile to learn about you and your business.
Groups are the best part of LinkedIn. Groups are gathering places for professionals in the same field or with similar interests. There is a LinkedIn Group for almost any topic area. For example, a search for “ornithology” yields a group named “Radar Ornithology” with 43 members. I’m not really sure what a radar ornithologist does, but the members of the group are also interested in “bird hazard management” and “avoidance of bird and bat mortality at windfarms.” ‘Nuff said on that topic.
LinkedIn Groups are publishing nirvana for content marketers, and that’s both a problem and an opportunity for you. Marketing on LinkedIn is a topic for another post, but suffice it to say that there is no shortage of poets, priests, and politicians who are screaming for your submission. And while LinkedIn groups may be monitored, in many cases there’s little jamming of the transmission. The upside is that some of the content is worthwhile reading, it only occasionally requires some effort to sort it out.
It also takes a bit of effort to find LinkedIn Groups on the site. The menu option is secreted away under Interests in the menu bar. Clicking on this link loads a page with icons of Groups that you’ve joined and there’s a search field at the top of the screen. Enter “Print” into this field and you’ll discover almost exactly 2,855 groups that you could potentially join. Narrow the search to “print marketing” and the result decreases to almost exactly 366 groups.
Tip #3: Narrow the Search. On the left side of the screen is a search menu with a series of checkboxes. Assuming that we have some social media savvy acquaintances on LinkedIn that are also interested in print, let’s see first at what groups they belong to. Checking “first connections” on my list reduces the count to 37. It’s also possible to further restrict the search between “open” groups, which allow any living, typing organism in the universe to join and “closed” groups, which may or may not carefully screen their members to prevent entry by those who are more interested in selling vacuum cleaners and cosmetic products than discussing techniques for preventing bat immolation in wind turbines (sorry, couldn’t resist). Practically speaking, there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between the quality of content and the “open” or “closed” status of a group. Quality is more a factor of the individuals who participate.
Which groups to join?
Browse and you’ll certainly find several groups that look interesting, but which ones should you join? My list of personal favorites is below, but the best way is to experiment – find a few likely candidates and click the “join” button. Tip #4: LinkedIn provides some data to help inform your choices. Clicking on a group name in the search results will get you to the group’s page. In the top right corner of the page, you’ll find a small information icon. This is the link that can lead you to information that will inform your decision.
For example, during this exercise I discovered a group called Print Strategist that looked interesting. It’s a closed group as indicated by the lock next to the name, but I’m probably eligible. Clicking the information icon allows me to look at the group’s statistics and demographics (the red arrow points to the menu options). They have 754 members, but only 2 posts and 1 comment last week. This is not a very active group and I can probably better spend my time elsewhere.
A few suggestions:
Here are a few LinkedIn Groups that can help you keep up with print marketing trends:
- Market Your Printing Company – started by Mary Beth Smith, print marketress extraordinaire, this is my absolute favorite LinkedIn group. Many of the bloggers listed last week post in this group, along with an increasing number of printing company owners and marketing types. This group stays mostly on marketing topics with occasional excursions elsewhere, and it’s well moderated against spam. Pay attention to articles posted by Patrick Whelan, Kevin Keane, G. David Dodd, and Scott Cappel.
- Disruptive Print – Here’s where you keep up with the cutting edge. Frequent topics include 3D printing, augmented reality (AR), Near frequency communications (NFC), and even RFID tattoos. Pay attention to articles posted by Tony Calo, and Paul Gardner, and watch Steven Schnoll’s video posts.
- Printing Sales Professionals – the sales equivalent to Market Your Printing Company, and with many of the same names involved. Frequent participants worth a follow are Matthew Parker, Paul Castain, Joe Kern, and Bill Farquharson.
Other groups worth looking at are the NPOA group, Social Networking in Printing, and the Print Industry Networking Group. (Note: The Print Industry Networking Group is massive, very active, but ungoverned, and may not be the best choice if you’re starting out with LinkedIn Groups.) Tip #5: You really don’t need to track all of these groups. Many of the regular posters appear in multiple groups, which means you’ll see a lot of repeats.
Final Tip: Join the Conversation
Yes, many of the frequent participants in the groups mentioned above are consultants and “industry experts,” who are indirectly promoting their services with content marketing strategies. While this fact provokes occasional consternation among printing company owners, it doesn’t mean that the consultants own the forum and it actually results in some pretty good content. That said, LinkedIn Groups are wide open for participation. They are a great place to pose a question or ask for advice, and the very same consultant types will frequently respond with useful information for free! Join the conversation. Comments, questions, and information that are on topic and pertinent are always welcomed.
So, tonight after dinner take some La-Z-Boy time to search through LinkedIn Groups and join one or two of them. You’ll find LinkedIn Groups to be a great resource, and even more valuable if you participate with comments, questions, and informative posts that are helpful to others.
We’re starting something brand new in January. Each month, I’ll be hosting an online talk show with Spencer Powell of TMR Direct. The topic is marketing for printing and direct mail companies, and you’re invited to join and participate. Each month we’ll take on a new marketing topic and viewers can submit comments and questions via Twitter. The first episode is scheduled for Thursday, January 23, and the topic is Content Marketing Basics. Learn more about 21/20 on the Registration Page for the chat.