LinkedIn is not Facebook. Or am I confused?

LinkedIn is a valuable tool for me to stay on top of job changes colleagues are making, learning what media and business and industry leaders are focused on, staying in touch with people I meet at events, researching client backgrounds, and sharing my expertise and opinions.

Lately, however, LinkedIn seems to be morphing from a business-related social media site to more of a social social media site. And it’s weird. I do not like all the changes LinkedIn has made in the past couple month. Heck, it even looks more like Facebook, with the new lay out.

When I visit LinkedIn to learn about your job changes, it seems odd to notify me on a business site that it is someone’s birthday. If you are really my friend, you already know it is my birthday! I wonder how many people wished a happy birthday to a former colleague when that alert came up recently, and she died last year.

The articles that people posted used to be useful, creative, sometimes thought-provoking. Now there are many more articles—and even comments– that are blatant advertisements. Looking at the group feeds of those I belong to, it seems like many of the posts there are not invitations to connect/learn/ask. They are self-congratulatory promotions for their companies and advertisements.

I have written before about remembering that your photo should not necessarily be one you would freely share on a personal profile. People are now sharing random comments and personal posts. With many ##### references.

On the home page, the connection comments/changes seem to be repetitive, with the same ones appearing at the top for a week or more (even when the view is recency). Finally, more people are reaching out to “connect” that I have never met, or had any interaction with who clearly sales people with a canned message, if any.

For me, the recent evolution of both the physical site and the member usage has diluted LinkedIn’s value. My usage of the site has declined, though there are still benefits for adding connections, regular visits and posts to my profile.

Yes, share when you get a promotion, a job change, win an award, have a speaking engagement, update your website, have a new offering, have insights to share with your connections, or questions to pose to your connections. LinkedIn is a useful platform to share about your work highlights, but maybe not your new puppy.   Think about who your connections are.

Am I alone with this viewpoint? What are your thoughts on the recent LinkedIn changes and posts in your feed lately?

The journey continues.

Cindy

Why I got a HubSpot Certification-and Why Many of my Colleagues are Back-To-School

I recently got my HubSpot Inbound Certification! To earn it, I took 12.5 hours of online classes, took quizzes, and then passed a test of 60 questions in 70 minutes.

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Some of the lessons were very basic for an experienced marketer. Others gave me a different perspective at the buying process.

Some people asked why I was getting this certification.  The most important reason is that all of my clients—and my company—have websites and are attracting and engaging with their customers online.  I hope that the lessons I learned from other experts will give me a new perspective when creating  marketing plans, online content, and setting and measuring response rates.

I know several professionals in other industries who are also back at school, some getting on-line certificates, others working towards really time-consuming certificates, one an MBA.   Here are some reasons why they said they were getting extra education:

  • Update needed credentials
  • New technologies allow them to learn a new skill to help clients
  • To learn new skill sets
  • Tie together different parts of their education and experience
  • Build credibility & respect
  • Differentiate their knowledge level

Varied but valid reasons, I think. Stepping away from our daily routines helps us to look at our world from a different lens. It gives us new ways to challenge ourselves. And may introduce us to new people and opportunities.

Plan for it next year—take a class, earn a new certification or degree, attend an event, join an industry association. Maybe it will lead somewhere unexpected.

The journey continues.

C

5 Ways for Women to Increase Value in the Technology Industry. Now.

In the fast-moving and lucrative technology sector, women only make up 21.7% of the workforce, according to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute. Technology touches a wide swath of our daily lives.  It is critical to increase women’s presence and voice in this visible industry, to influence the creation, execution, and direction of technology-related products and services.

I recently attended an inspiring webinar “Women in Tech Marketers: How to Advance Your Career in Today’s Digital World” put on by BrightTALK. All 3 speakers had excellent advice: Niki Hall from Polycom, Kate Athmer from Integrate and Natascha Thomson from MarketingXLerator.

First, try to work for an organization that enables you to succeed. Once you find that job, find a formal or informal mentor who will be your champion and help you grow.

On today’s data-is-boss workplace, it is imperative that you take data-driven information to accelerate your path forward.

In technical or development meetings, oftentimes women are in the minority. Think about yourself today–how do you handle yourself in group settings, to increase your value and visibility within your organization?

Here are 5 simple ways the speakers discussed to increase visibility in your next meeting:

  1. If you are invited to the meeting, it’s because you have something to offer. Be there as a participant, not just a witness.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Take authority when given a task or project. Be factual; don’t ask a stream of questions, looking for approval.
  4. Make sure what you are doing adds value to the group. For example, don’t offer to re-fill coffee for others, take notes for the group if you are the only female attending.
  5. Sit by the smartest or most powerful person in the room. Studies have shown that this helps to increase perceived value within an organization.

I think that these 5 tips can help women in many areas of business. But in work sectors like technology that are more driven by men, it is even more critical that we get our seat at the table. And use it as best we can to increase our presence and value in our workplace.

Remember: Be firm. Understand what you are supposed to do. Then do it.

Technically, What is a Consultant?

I recently bought a new (used) car.   After 3 long days of testing vehicles—and many hours doing online research– success! But, the buying process is horrid. It should be joyful to buy something expensive that you want and need, but it can be dreadful. And most people I have talked to echoed these sentiments.

At the dealer where we finally bought from my Jeep, the sales associate we were assigned to gave us his business card, which listed his title as “Sales Consultant.”

Dictionary.com lists the definition of consultant as:

1.a person who gives professional or expert advice:

a consultant on business methods.

2.a person who consults someone or something.

I don’t use the title Consultant lightly. It’s what I do every single day at work, and I am proud of the knowledge I have to do my job. My role is to help organizations solve a problem.

All consultants have an area of expertise. If someone comes to me with a project that veers far outside my knowledge base, I will try to refer her to another firm or person who can help them.

The dealer’s “consultant” Vern (not his real name) was unable to help us fix ANYTHING. He couldn’t tell us anything about the Jeep that was not written down, help us negotiate price, give us the interest loan %, or even clean up the car.

Every question had to be referred to someone else, who was of course not standing in his glass-enclosed cubicle. I didn’t want or need to hear his unrelated stories—I just wanted to buy the car and get back to my life. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Vern again.

His use of the title “Consultant” was insulting to me and perpetuates the assumption that all consultants don’t offer value. Not true.

If you are looking for a consultant to work with to help you with your database and/or audience development needs , be sure that she can communicate well, stay relevant, and most importantly—collaborate and offer solutions. Hopefully the process will be smoother than what I recently experienced buying a car.

If you are looking to hire a consultant, here is a post I wrote who-what-how to start your process.

The journey continues.  C

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

The journey continues.

C

The Customer Service Conundrum

Let’s face it—many departments do NOT want to manage customer service. I see the Customer Service Shuffle take place in media companies often, especially when people change roles.   In a company where 1 or 2 people are tasked with handling customer service, there are debates about where it should be managed—marketing, editorial, general intern, front desk, audience development.

There are some truly talented front line customer service representatives (CSRs). They thrive on helping people, resolving problems all day. But for people who do this work as just part of their job, the tasks of reviewing and forwarding these emails and calls can remain unanswered for days, while that person does other “more important” work.

And what a mistake this can be. If there is a general customer service inbox (phone or email), these requests can be urgent. For a media company, it can be a simple address change or missing issues, or it can be someone who wants to purchase a large number of back issues, have an editorial question, wants to place advertising or host a webinar, alerts you to a technical problem with a website or specific email effort.

As our attention spans become fragmented and we demand immediate response, what does it say when it takes a week or more to respond to a simple request? Simple: we don’t care about our customers. They will get their information next time from another site, another vendor. Not responding to customer service inquiries can lose a company customers.

CSR’s are often the face-of-the-company to new and regular customers seeking advice. CSR’s should be good listeners, problem solvers, multi-taskers, well-spoken and have decent writing skills. When they respond to e-mails, an instant viral message can be one filled with misspellings or incorrect information.

CSR work is also a great way for people new to a company to better understand the products that a company offers, learn where contact deficiencies might be on a website, interact with people in other departments.

Think about the Customer Service Representative role in a different light in your organization. They solve your customer problems all day long.

The Journey continues.

C

Encouraging Growth for the Audience Development Role

“Where are all the young people?”

That is what I wondered too.

That was one topic of our table’s conversation at this week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, during our lunch. My client was attending his second meeting, and I was the featured speaker. Derek is in his 20’s, and he was probably one of only 2 people in their 20’s at the meeting.

Audience development (AD) is such a critical role in media companies today, but many of us take a circuitous path to end up in this job. As databases are aging, email response rates are falling, in 2015/16 this role is going to increase in importance. Companies need to know their database, be able to better mine their current customer files, keep people engaged, and target their marketing for better responses.

AD is a perfect job for someone with a curious mind who likes ALL the spokes in the marketing wheel. We get to create marketing strategies, work on the tactical efforts, delve into the depths of our database trying to find better ways to target our efforts, reach outside our organizations to find new prospects, measure which efforts are working (by list, effort, copy, design, timing, etc), then try additional efforts building upon previous efforts. It’s a look into the psyche of our audience, a challenging but exciting puzzle.

AD is constantly changing, but it can feel a little isolating, since many people don’t understand the complexities of the job. It is a marriage of creativity and numbers. I think that attending in-person events give us an excellent opportunity to ask and discuss with others who do similar work. Step back from our computer screens to get a new perspective.

I have been attending the MCA meetings for several years and am a former board member. I find that I learn something at every meeting, and they are great for networking. Even if you are an AD newbie, I encourage you to attend meetings/lunches put on in your area. It is satisfying to find out that you are not alone with the issues you face today. And hopefully you will come back energized, with a new idea to try.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. For more specifics on AD responsibilities in media related companies, read my earlier blog post about this.