Optimize LinkedIn accounts to enhance SEO and networking potential

Every second, two new people join the more than 161 million LinkedIn users in the world’s largest online professional network, reports LinkedIn. Communicating and networking are imperative for a successful career, and LinkedIn’s options for personal and business profiles, not to mention millions of potential partners, clients and even new employers, provide numerous opportunities to develop valuable and profitable connections.

How to best use this convenient and powerful tool? Some of it is common sense: Be specific, concise, honest and professional. These rules apply to job descriptions, personal characteristics and experiences, profile photos and status updates. But there are several lesser-known strategies that can enhance a profile’s or business page’s SEO and optimize online networking capabilities.

Here are several tips to boost your LinkedIn profile’s effectiveness:

Optimize profile keywords. What specific skill or service do you want to market to potential employers or clients? Whether it’s “media relations” or “family law attorney,” use keywords at every relevant opportunity on your page. Doing so can dramatically increase a page’s SEO, while helping to focus a profile on specific practice specializations. The city or state of your business also can help potential clients and partners find your page more easily.

Develop your presence. Just like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is a social-media site that offers the opportunity to post content and commentary. Update your status often to expand your reach and create discussions. Let others know what your company is doing, ask questions and post links to insightful articles that show you are aware of trends and issues relevant to your industry. Commenting on others’ posts also is an easy way to show that you’re engaged and eager to build connections.

Link your other sites to your company profile. Do you have a website, blog or Twitter account? Link them to your personal LinkedIn profile to enhance your content. For instance, set up your LinkedIn account to automatically post alerts and links to new blog posts (a LinkedIn app such as Blog Link may be necessary), instantly sharing relevant content with your connections and giving your profile greater reach and more substance. While these features are no longer available as auto feeds on company pages, blog posts can be shared through the status update feature of LinkedIn, and Twitter and Facebook profiles can be shared in the company overview.

Ask for recommendations. This is a sensitive topic and must be handled professionally, but it’s definitely worth it. Most people are aware they can get a personal recommendation, but businesses can ask clients for testimonials, as well. A good recommendation is among the top ways to showcase that you or your business is best for the job. Everything else on your page is self-generated; recommendations show others that you’re really as great as you say you are and add credibility.

Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups.  Joining groups helps develop new connections. However, be strategic to avoid over-committing or missing opportunities. Try to join a variety of groups, some focused on your industry and others loosely related but still viable to create a more diverse network for your page. Once you’ve joined a group, stay involved. Post, comment, promote and share content with others to generate interest in your skills and your business. Take this a step further by creating and managing a new LinkedIn group for your business to engage potential and current clients through stimulating discussions.

Make your company profile detailed and focused.  Remember, LinkedIn is a networking site – most people want something more than a boilerplate description or web address for your company. To optimize LinkedIn, use this profile to post open positions, announce management-level or other key hires and provide insight into the products or services your business offers. Highlighting employees, events and awards also gives connections a deeper look into your company culture. This information can be easily organized by using the tabs feature on the profile.

Optimizing LinkedIn accounts – personal or business – not only increases SEO, drives website traffic and enhances your online presence, but it provides endless opportunities for networking and ­new business. Take the time to build and maintain a profile – the connections you make will be well worth it.

Note: In June, LinkedIn acknowledged that passwords had been compromised in a major security breach. If you haven’t done so, change your account password immediately and, for continued security, change it about every six months.

Sources: LinkedIn, iStrategy Blog and Careerealism.

Evily Giannopoulos is an intern at CBR and a public relations major at the University of Florida.

Additional Sources

5 Tips for Writing about Your Business

Widgets Company, a top performer in the widget-making industry space, recently was pleased to announce that widget sales have risen as more consumers show a desire for new widgets as they become cautiously optimistic about the economic recovery.

Did that sentence make your eyes glaze over? Sadly, such writing is all too common in business. Many professionals (though well-intentioned) become verbose, assuming that using 10-cent words and long sentences convey sophistication. The truth is, the best business writing has a dose of simplicity.

Here are five best practices to make your writing shine, whether you’re drafting a new-business proposal or announcing your company’s latest management hire.

  1. Know for whom and why you’re writing. This seems like a “no duh,” but taking a minute to consider for whom you’re writing and the purpose of the piece will help set the tone. What is your audience’s base knowledge? What do you need them to know? Determining the who and why will provide a roadmap for how to best communicate your information or news.
  2. Avoid jargon and clichés. Jargon and overused, nonsensical phrases are story killers. They convolute a piece quicker than you can think “outside the box,” and create confusion. Instead of a “leading provider of profit-and-loss margin services,” say “accounting firm”; don’t insist you can “take it to the next level,” but “increase sales”; summarize your position now rather than offer a point “at the end of the day.”
  3. Use simple language for clear meaning. Your audience has limited time for your piece, and placing language barriers in their way can discourage their attention. Why describe a dress as “cerulean ocean blue with soft round white dots” when “deep blue with polka dots” will suffice? Clarity, however, doesn’t have to crush creativity. Let your creativity shine with attention-grabbing headlines, storytelling and even interesting visuals to accompany the piece.
  4. Strong verbs move writing. Your high school English teacher was right: action verbs propel your writing and engage the reader. Passive verbs (will be arriving, has been achieved) weaken your point and can infuse an unintentional sense of uncertainty. Whenever possible, push forward with active phrases: We mailed the package; Widget Co. produced its first prototype; government officials toured the new factory.
  5. When in doubt, cut it out. Review your writing and let go of the dead weight. Be ruthless. Just say no to 50-word sentences and five-sentence paragraphs. Consumers – your audience – have become conditioned to 15-secondsound bites and 140-character messages. Long-winded prose is more likely to turn off a time-stretched customer than impress.

Martha A. Gaston, APR, is an account executive with CBR.

A Tribute to the Amway Arena

The Amway Arena in downtown Orlando had many names. Orlando Arena. TD Waterhouse Centre. O-rena. But what was once the home of the Orlando Magic will be no more Sunday. In 2010, the then 21-year-old Amway Arena was replaced with the new, state-of-the-art Amway Center. Now, the old facility is set to be imploded to make way for a 68-acre mixed-use development called Creative Village. I asked a few CBR staffers to share their memories of the arena, and here’s what they had to say:

  • “I went to my first-ever concert (Jimmy Buffett!) for my 13th birthday at the O-Rena. I’ll never forget singing at the top of my lungs to favorite songs and the packed house. Concert goers were bouncing beach balls around the crowd and smells from the concession stands wafted in – nachos, popcorn, pretzels. I was fortunate enough to see Buffett three more times at the old arena – some of my best memories.” – Martha
  • “Sitting courtside with my son in the Orlando Sentinel publisher’s seats, then immediately adjacent to the Magic bench, when a Magic player came up and asked him to “watch” the talcum cone (players use it before going onto court). Same game, advising my young son about the possibility of “colorful language” coming from the players and coaches, then watching his face when it actually happened.” – John
  • “I remember going into the yet-to-be-completed arena to pick out the location of our Magic season ticket seats for CBR. I was pushing the stroller of my baby girl, Christiana, who is now a high school chemistry teacher. I brought my mom to the opening night event, which was Bill Cosby.” – Lori

I also hold fond memories of the arena. After all, it’s where my high school graduation was held. Then it was known as the TD Waterhouse. My parents, grandparents, sisters, uncles and aunts were all there to support me, but all I can remember thinking about was not falling as I crossed the stage to accept my diploma. But on a more serious note, my graduation at the arena marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and one that I was excited to venture on.

Tell us, what memories do you have of the Amway Arena?

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

New Facebook Design Rolls out for Brand Pages

After months of waiting, brand pages are now able to convert to the new Facebook design. All pages will automatically get the new design March 30. The new design brings many added benefits – including a more visually appealing design – for businesses.

Here’s what you need to know:

Preview your page before it goes live. Now through March 30, page administrators can preview their page and publish it right away. While you are working on it, any changes you make to the page will only be visible to other page admins. And, if brands are not ready to transition just yet, they can wait until Facebook automatically does it for them.

Cover photo now spreads across the top of the page. Brand pages now have the ability to include a cover photo, or a billboard that stretches across the top of your page. It’s the first thing people will see on your page, and it should make an impression. This photo will speak volumes about your brand. However, Facebook has set rules for what these photos can be. The photo has certain size limitations, but most importantly, it cannot include price or purchase information, contact information that belongs in the About section, references to like or share, or a call to action. So take note when selecting your image.

Tabs go away, apps menu now below the cover photo. Photos, likes, events and apps are now at the top of your page, just below your cover photo. Photos will only show in the first spot but you can change the order of everything else so people see what matters most.

Timeline gives managers ability to rearrange posts. Timeline displays all your posts in chronological order, but page administrators can rearrange their page’s timeline by “pinning” or “highlighting” posts.  When you “pin” a post, it moves to the top left of your page. This allows managers to prominently display relevant posts even if it is not the most recent one. Notice in the image below there is a tiny orange flag in the top right corner of the post. This means the item has been pinned successfully. The post will stay at the top of the page for seven days and then return to its original posting date. Want to remove it before then? Don’t worry. You can “unpin” it at any time.

Managers also are able to expand – or highlight – a post to make it wider. Below is an example of this. Notice the top post is wider than the   bottom two – giving more prominence to the top one.

One last thing on Timeline, admins can add “milestones” to a brand’s page. Milestones are prominently shown and can include a photo. This is just another feature of the new design that really allows a brand to tell its story.

New admin panel makes managing page easier. Brand admins will find managing their page gets easier. Everything – from latest insights to comments on your page – are all in one place.

Followers can now communicate with pages privately. This is by far one of the best features Facebook has given brand pages – the ability for followers to connect privately with your page. A “message” button will now appear on your page, allowing followers to contact you with questions or concerns. However, it does not appear brand admins can initiate conversations privately at this time.

There are many changes you will find with the new design – both big and small – but I think the few I’ve highlighted here will get you on the right path. If you’re not quite ready to convert to the new design, play around with the preview options and get to know the new layout. Strategically think through what your cover photo should be and which posts you want to highlight or pin on your page. I think you’ll agree it’s a great way to tell your company’s story.

And, if you need help learning the new layout and getting your brand to stand out in this digital world, contact our team of experts.

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Social Media Sites to Watch

Just when you thought your social media strategy was complete, a new social network comes along and throws everything to the wind. Hold tight. A few of the newbies that have recently joined the ranks of the top social media sites may be just the thing to complement your strategy and put your company on top – depending on how you use them, of course. As companies continue to make social media a key part of their overall public relations efforts in 2012, here are some of the sites we are watching:

Google+ – 90 million users and counting

Launched in June 2011, Google+ is Google’s second attempt to compete with social media-behemoth Facebook (remember Google Buzz?). The site is similar to Facebook in the way you can update your page, but a unique feature is the ability to hold a “hangout.” A hangout is a video chat with up to nine friends – which can be useful for a business both internally and externally. There are a number of ways to utilize this tool. For example, President Obama experimented with it in January to connect with voters, and just before the Super Bowl, players from the New York Giants hosted a set of hangouts.

However, much attention of late has been paid to the site’s release of “Search Plus Your World.” This effectively means “Google+ results will be blended with the traditional ‘authoritative results,’” as explained in a recent Mashable.com article. Users will see results from people in their “Circles” – which are groups of friends labeled by the user – when logged in to Google+. This also will give priority in search rankings to Google+ pages over more relevant results that may be on other social networks. This will become important for companies to integrate into their SEO strategy.

There is much to talk about when it comes to Google+, but for fear of turning this post into a novel, let’s move on to Pinterest.

Pinterest – “Social Media’s Rising Star”

So, what is Pinterest and why should you care? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to “pin” – or collect – photos and videos from the Web and post them to their “boards.” I like to think of it as a digital scrapbook. It’s addicting to say the least. That’s why the site’s traffic stats are impressive. With more than 10 million unique visitors, the average visitor spends 88.3 minutes on the site, putting it behind only Facebook and Tumblr. While most social networking sites, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, have more visitors, they fall behind Pinterest in time spent.

*Image from Jan. 29 article on Mashable.com

Not sure Pinterest is for you? Here is something else to consider: In January, Pinterest drove more traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined, according to a recent article on Mashable.com. It’s hard to ignore the numbers.

Whether Pinterest or Google+ is for you, it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds this year in the social media realm with these new players.

And as always, feel free to give us a call to learn more about how these and other social networking sites can complement your public relations strategy.

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Ringing in the New Year at CBR

CBR staffers have a little extra pep in our step. Why, you might ask? Well, let’s just say Santa was really good to us. Not only is CBR the public relations agency of record for two more national accounts, but our role is expanding with a NYSE-traded national account we’ve been privileged to serve for nearly two decades. And the year has barely begun!

Now, we don’t like to brag, but we just had to share. 2012 is starting off right for us and we hope for all of you. Despite continued economic uncertainties, we are optimistic that 2012 is going to be a stellar year for the industry and for our wonderful clients. Cheers!

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Landing a Job in Public Relations: It Takes More Than an Internship

Someone once told me that, to get a job in public relations, you need to have an internship. But to get an internship, you must have experience. It’s a Catch-22. So, how did I overcome it, and how can you? Let me tell you…

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking with some PR students from Rollins College at the annual professional networking roundtable hosted by Communiqué, a student chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA).

(Pop Quiz: Do you know which university CBR CEO Lori C. Booker graduated from? You guessed it! Rollins. Lori was the first person to graduate from Rollins with a degree in PR.)

There are a few nuggets of information I want to share with you and ones that I hope the students walked away with Tuesday. I think you’ll find some of these apply to the PR professional as well as the student.

  • Get involved. Orlando is unique in that the area has two, strong public relations organizations – FPRA Orlando and PRSA Orlando. There are a wealth of resources right at your fingertips – whether a student or PR pro looking for a job. My point to you is to get involved and then get involved at a higher level. Yes, it’s great to be a member, and it does look good on a resume, but I guarantee you will find more benefit in actually getting involved on a board or committee. Don’t have time? Offer to write a press release for your church or a school organization. It’s only a couple hours of your time and will be something to put in your portfolio. I think this especially applies to those who may have already graduated but have not found a job yet. Volunteering will help keep your skills up and show a potential employer dedication and commitment to your profession.
  • Be passionate.  Love what you do because if you don’t, it will reflect in your work. If you’re passionate about your job, clients will feel it and so will reporters. I have heard reporters say that if a PR pro comes to them with a story idea that they are genuinely passionate about, the reporter is more likely to listen and write a story.
  • Enjoy college. Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to hit the books, but it does mean don’t stress about the little things (i.e. getting your G.P.A. up from a 3.8 to a 3.9.). Grades are important, but potential employers will be looking for more than just your G.P.A. Enough said.

So, how did I get the experience needed to get an internship to get a job? I got involved with the PRSA student chapter at the University of Florida, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It truly was an honor to sit next to some of my fellow PR pros and speak with the students about their future careers. If you want to learn more about a possible internship or job with CBR, visit our Careers page.

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.