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Blogging and LinkedIn for Professionals

By Gail Z. Martin, author of 30 Days to Social Media Success

Looking for more professional visibility and a more prominent professional platform, with a way to connect with a steady stream of potential new clients?

Time to take a second look at blogging and LinkedIn.

I want to show you how blogging and LinkedIn can enhance your professional visibility and build a strong professional platform, which can produce a steady stream of qualified prospective customers. But before I get to that part, let me knock a few misconceptions out of the park so they don’t get in the way.

Out with the Old

Misconception #1: My type of clients aren’t on the Internet.

Answer: Unless they’re dead, incarcerated or incapacitated, they are on the Internet. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Internet Project, 87% of Americans use the Internet. And no, they’re not all teens. The report says that 93% of adults ages 30 – 49 are Internet users, 88% of those 50-64, and 57% of those ages 65+. Usage increases with education level and income, so 97% of those with a college education are online, as are 99% of those earning over $75,000. (Details here: https://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/internet-use/latest-stats/)

Misconception #2: I can’t be on the Internet because I can’t give free advice.

Answer: What’s free advice got to do with it? You have a phone, and you don’t give free advice over it. You have a mailbox and you don’t give free advice. The Internet is a communication tool. You choose what you communicate.

Misconception #3: I prefer to get warm referrals from clients.

Answer: Who doesn’t? But are you getting enough of those warm referrals to pay your bills? If you could use some more business, increasing your professional visibility and creating a solid professional expert platform goes a long way toward bringing in new paying customers.

Misconception #4: Internet referrals wouldn’t be as high quality.

Answer: Professionals advertise in magazines, on billboards and bus boards, in newspapers, on TV and on the radio. The general public sees those ads. In contrast, online readers must possess expensive technology in the form of a smart phone, tablet/laptop/desktop computer and Internet connection—a form of filtering you don’t get in other types of advertising.

In with the New

Now that we’ve gotten those misconceptions out of the way, let me tell you what social media—in particular, blogging and LinkedIn–can do for you.

Let’s start with blogging. Blogging is like a cross between a newsletter and a website. It’s like a newsletter because you can easily update it with text and photos without needing a programmer to make the changes. It’s like a website because it’s on the Internet and searchable by Google and other search engines.

Most blogging platforms are free, although you’ll want to check the terms and conditions to make sure the site accepts commercial content. WordPress is popular because it’s easy to use, free to use, and doesn’t have restrictions on commercial usage.

What do you do on a blog? You educate. And by educating, you show yourself to be an expert. Readers come to like your voice and trust your wisdom. They may even share links to your blog posts with their friends (referrals) and when the time comes to hire someone, you’ll be first in line because you’ve created a relationship.

Isn’t educating the same as free advice? No! Educating means talking in generalities about topics related to your profession, sharing links to research studies and news of interest to your audience, reflecting on the general impact of new technology, trends and other issues. Have you ever given a talk to a local Chamber of Commerce or community group about your specialty? If so, then you’ve created the kind of content that is perfect for a blog—useful information that is not revealing confidential information or commenting on an individual’s situation. In fact, if you’ve given a lot of those kinds of talks, you can re-use your old speeches for blog posts and save yourself some time.

What about the comment section? Won’t people ask questions you can’t/don’t want to answer? Well, does that ever happen to you when you’re out in public or at a social occasion? How do you handle it then? See, you already know what to do. I would suggest having a permanent header and/or footer disclaimer on your blog making it clear that you cannot comment on individual situations, are not dispensing individual advice, etc. Then if someone oversteps, politely but firmly point them to the rules and go on with what you were discussing.

What do you talk about? Start with the types of general questions you get most often. These will seem basic to you, but if people already knew the answers, they wouldn’t keep asking. Depending on your type of xpertise, these Frequently Asked Questions are pretty general. Think education, not advice. Readers will self-filter as they read through the information to determine whether or not they need your area of expertise.

What about referrals? How long do you have to blog before you start getting new business? I recommend clients view blogging the same way they view membership/attendance at community organizations and the Chamber of Commerce. You might get lucky and get a new client or a hot prospect the first time you attend a meeting, but more than likely, it will take several months for people to get to know you or to have a life event that requires your services. Blogging isn’t a magic bullet, but neither are the other types of real-world relationship-building/meet-new-people events you are already doing. It’s one more power tool in your toolbox.

Worried that you’re going to get prospects from outside your practice area? Don’t be. After all, you have a phone but you aren’t getting swamped with long-distance calls from China. Make your practice specialties and coverage area clear on your “About Me” page, and that should avoid the issue.

There are a lot more visibility strategies I share with professional clients about blogging, but in the interest of covering ground quickly, it’s time to move on to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the most powerful professional networking tool on the Internet. It’s not a site where you go to meet new people; instead, it’s the perfect way to keep your network of connections warm and updated, so you can be more valuable to each other.

Have you ever needed an introduction to someone or a piece of information and you know the perfect person to ask, but it’s awkward because you haven’t spoken to that person in a couple of years? LinkedIn solves that problem, because the site makes it easy to get a constant stream of updates about all the people you list as Connections, so you can congratulate them on promotions or awards, comment on their professional news, and keep your name top of mind in a warm, friendly way.

LinkedIn is also a great way to generate warm introductions to people you need to meet. Suppose there is someone in the business community you’ve wanted to meet but whom you don’t know. LinkedIn will tell you whether that person is known by any of the people you’ve accepted as Connections. Now it’s simple to ask the person you already know and whom you’re connected to on LinkedIn for a warm introduction to the person they know and you want to meet. You do this all the time in real life, but offline, you don’t always know who knows whom. LinkedIn may surprise you by showing that the people you want to meet are closer than “six degrees of separation”!

LinkedIn groups are a great way to join or start a forum to discuss professional topics. (Again, in an educational sense, not advising.) It’s no different from showing up to a lecture or professional association meeting on a topic except that you don’t have to drive, park and waste an afternoon or evening in a drafty hotel ballroom. Not only can LinkedIn groups be a great way to meet professionals related to your field, they can also be a source of referrals as people get to know/like/trust the expertise you show through your posts and responses.

I recommend to clients that they not accept anyone as a LinkedIn Connection whom they do not know well enough to meet for coffee and refer to colleagues. The quality of your LinkedIn networking lies in deepening existing relationships and keeping those relationships warm. Not only that, but your Connections can see who else you are connected to. They can also ask you for a warm introduction. You wouldn’t be comfortable introducing a total stranger to a trusted colleague, or asking a stranger for an introduction. That’s why you want to make sure you know the people with whom you connect well enough to share that kind of information.

Don’t feel pressured to have a huge number of Connections on LinkedIn. Remember: quality counts more than quantity. Your network of trusted colleagues with whom you have built warm reciprocal relationships is much more powerful than a hodgepodge of total strangers.

Once again, this brief overview can’t cover all of the relationship-building/referral strategies I suggest to clients who use LinkedIn. However, I do hope that what I’ve shared in this short introduction has changed the way you think about using the Internet as a tool to increase your professional visibility, extend your personal branding and expert platform, deepen your networking relationships and create a new referral stream.

Just remember—your ideal prospects are already using social media to find information and connect with professionals like yourself. If you’re not engaging them in a relationship-building conversation, odds are that your competition is.

Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications and consults with professionals and businesses in the U.S. and Canada on strategic social media. Gail has an MBA in marketing and over 25 years of corporate and non-profit experience at senior executive levels. She is the author of three bestselling books on new media marketing: 30 Days to Social Media Success, 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success and 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success (Career Press). 30 Days to Social Media Success made TheWashingtonPost.com’s Top 5 Business books, was chosen by Fed-Ex Office and Office Max to be among a handful of books featured in-store, and has been mentioned in media including Inc., The Wall Street Journal, Worth, and Fox Business News. Find her online at www.DreamSpinnerCommunications.com, on Twitter @GailMartinPR and blogs at BigDreamsAndHardWork.com or on email: Gail@DreamSpinnerCommunications.com

 

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Sheryl Eldene Has Moved

Exciting new endeavors have led fellow blogger, Sheryl Eldene, in new directions.  That new path, unfortunately for us, takes her on a separate and different journey than the BigDreamsAndHardWork blog.  We’ll miss Sheryl, but we wish her well.  Gail and Faith will remain with the blog, so join us for fresh insights on business with an intuitive twist!

 

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Freebie Friday – Gifts from Bobbie Christmas

This week’s guest blogger, Bobbie Christmas, is nice enough to share the following:

Bobby Christmas White Paper

 

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My Big Dream? Get Smaller!

 

My "Before" Picture

At age sixty-five I was, for the first time, feeling old. I had developed arthritis, and my knees, back, and the arches in my feet hurt so much that I hobbled and groaned. At times I feared my joints might give way. I had trouble leaning over to clip my toenails or tie my shoes. I read articles on arthritis, something many people endure as they grow older, and learned that weight and age were the most influential factors in its development. I didn’t want to devour all the painkillers my orthopedic doctor prescribed, because they could cause internal bleeding, and I’d have to take antacids, as well. I dreaded going into a medication spiral where every drug required me to take another drug. “I’m just getting old,” I told myself at first. After months of pain, though, I grew depressed. Who wouldn’t?

In the past when my pets grew old and their quality of life decreased, my veterinarian euthanized them. I pondered the word euthanize, a handy euphemism for ending a life. I didn’t want to end my life, but some days I didn’t want to live, if it meant more pain.

“I don’t want to be euthanized,” I finally said one day. “I want to be youth-anized.” I couldn’t change my age, but I could relieve some of the stress on my joints if I lost weight. As a sedentary writer and book editor, I topped out at a whopping 245 pounds after a cruise to Central and South America that I thought would have to be my last, because of my difficulty walking.

To youth-anize myself I needed to weigh 150 pounds or less, which meant I needed to lose ninety-five pounds. Ninety-five pounds? That’s a whole other person!

Food is my downfall. I love sweets and salty snacks. I eat when I’m hungry; I eat when I’m not hungry. I eat when I’m happy; I eat when I’m sad. I eat when I’m bored; I eat when I’m excited. I’ve overeaten for my entire life and have always weighed more than I should.

Nothing else would do, though. If I wanted to get youth-anized, I had to eat less food and get more exercise. I also needed to stay motivated for a long time, to meet such a hefty (pun acknowledged but not intended) goal. How can a single person living alone find the incentive to keep moving toward a long-term goal?

In previous years I’d joined groups, read books, and tried every diet. In truth they all worked, but I always quit following them after a while. I already knew how to lose weight, but how could I stick to a diet long enough to lose almost one hundred pounds? Every time I thought of dieting, a streak of fear ran through me.

Wait!  A flash of brilliance came to me. I know what to do! I am, after all, a writer!

Deciding that “diet” was a four-letter word that struck fear in my heart, I began a blog called “Don’t You Dare Call It a Diet.” I spelled out my intentions for anyone to read. I revealed the horrid truth of my weight in hopes that “putting it out there” shamed me into doing something about it. I revealed how I planned to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise, and I promised to weigh in every Monday and report my progress. I sensed that if I made my intentions public, I could not back down and give up.

Years ago a nutritionist gave me information on a healthy food plan created for diabetics, and I decided to follow it. I’m not diabetic, but if I kept eating the way I did, I soon would eat myself into type 2 diabetes, one of the many dangers of being obese. The diabetic food plan calls for lots of vegetables and fruits, controlled portions of protein, and limited starches and sugars. All real food. No fees. No meetings. No shots. No pills. I could do that.

Although I already belonged to a nearby gym, I had gone there only a few times. I set up a schedule to swim and do water aerobics at least once a week. If I could get there twice a week, it would be even better, but I’m still working full-time as a book editor.

Once I drastically reduced my starches, carefully guarded my portions, and worked out regularly, the weight began to melt away. On my blog I reported healthy-eating tips as well as my weekly weight loss, usually one or two pounds a week, and people wrote to say I had motivated them, and they were losing weight. I was helping others? An unexpected bonus!

By the time I lost twenty pounds, the pains in my knees, back, and feet became minimal. Now that I’ve lost forty-five pounds, I’m practically pain free. I can walk as long as I like and even sprint up stairs. I thought my joints had lost their flexibility, but it turns out that my joints weren’t the problem. My fat was. It got in the way more than I admitted. I now cut and paint my toenails with ease and tie my shoes without any stress. Even sex has gotten better, without my huge belly in the way.

Once again I feel confident planning cruises and other trips, because I feel years younger than I did six months ago. I get more youthful with every pound I lose. I didn’t lose weight to look better, but I do look better. A lot better.

Within a year, and probably sooner, I’ll be at my healthiest weight ever. I still deny that I’m on a diet, though, because diets are restrictive. On my food plan I don’t have to do anything outside my comfort zone. I don’t have to eat strange or tasteless food, go to meetings, or deprive myself. I eat absolutely anything I want, but moderation and portion control is the key. As I research healthy eating more, I disseminate that information to my blog readers, so we can all make better and wiser choices.

My plan involves conscious eating. Every meal gives me a chance to make wise choices, eat less than my body needs, and lose weight. Every blog entry allows me to give and receive support from readers. Every pound lost brings me closer to my big dream of losing ninety-five pounds.

My journey continues, and more than 1,700 people have read my blog to date, with more people added all the time. Read it at https://dontyoudarecallitadiet.blogspot.com/.

Writing is a magical thing. While I work hard to achieve my big dream of getting smaller, I’m helping others get fit as well. My influence has extended far beyond my dreams. Best of all, when I hit my goal weight, I will have written enough blog entries to comprise a book. All I’ll have to do is search for a publisher or self-publish.

No longer do I harbor dark thoughts of euthanasia or fears that I’m going to live in pain. I have youth-anized myself, and I’m pain free. I can’t even imagine how great I’ll feel when I meet my goal weight.

How easily I could have given up and let myself get old and fat, but thanks to writing, my own big dream has turned into something that helps others achieve their dreams, too, and everybody is winning—by losing!

My "During" Picture

Bobbie Christmas, author of Write In Style and other books, is a book editor and owner of Zebra Communications in metro Atlanta. She can be reached at Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Sign up for The Writers Network News, her free newsletter for writers, at www.zebraeditor.com.

You can listen to the audio from when Bobbie was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Shared Dreams podcast here: https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WDx9N9D7

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Freebie Friday – Gifts from Barbara Florio-Graham

Barbara Florio-Graham, our guest blogger this week was kind enough to share the following links for Freebie Friday:

www.SimonTeakettle.com/options.htm
www.SimonTeakettle.com/checklist.htm
www.SimonTeakettle.com/

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Shojai Mentoring Award

by Barbara Florio-Graham, www.SimonTeakettle.com

I was honored to receive the Shojai Mentoring Award in November, from the international Cat Writers’ Association. The award consists of a wooden plaque with am engraved metal plate, and $500. The full citation is on Bobbi’s website, at www.SimonTeakettle.com/bfgmentoraward.htm. The nomination letter mentioned that Bobbi helped innumerable CWAers tackle the complexities of contracts and self-publishing, and has dispensed invaluable advice. She also designed CWA’s formal Mentoring Program, to enable any member who needed help on a specific writing topic or technique to get personalized attention from another experienced member. “As architect of our organization’s mentorship system, Bobbi once again showed her commitment to voluntarily giving her time and sharing her knowledge. Her willingness to help guide others is never in question.”

CBC radio will air an interview with me in January, and a review of my third book, Mewsings/Musings, will be published in the January/February 2011 issue of Women on Top Magazine (www.wotmag.ca). That issue also contains an interview with me about how I created the persona of my co-author, Simon Teakettle (Canada’s celebrity cat).

After being given his own page in the award-winning book, A Cat’s Book of Days, by Peg Silloway, Simon Teakettle III now has his very own 2011 calendar. Published by www.ottawaphoto.com, it features 12 photos of Simon III, plus one on the cover. Plans are underway for a 2012 version.

I’m also one of three editors of an anthology of short prose by members of a group of professional journalists I formed four years ago. Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List, will be published by Bridgeross Publishing (www.bridgeross.com) in the spring.

I continue to work with two mentoring clients who hired me last year, and to contribute articles to various publications, including a monthly column for The West Quebec Post, a quarterly column for SCRIBE, and regularly for SOURCES Hotlink and for Freelance Writer’s Report.

You can listen to the audio from when Barbara was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Shared Dreams podcast here: https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WW4RS1pX

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Freebie Friday – Gift from Meredith K. Bromfield

Meredith K. Bromfield, M.A. Ed, our guest blogger this week has kindly agreed to provide the following gifts:

Visit https://www.CrossingYourBridge.com to sign up for free copy of “How to Declutter Your Important Papers” (bottom).  Simply enter your name and email and a copy will be mailed to your email shortly.  Or, sign-up for our mailing list (upper right corner) and have your choice of a free copy of Bridging Change in 5 Steps audio or Tax Tips for Caregivers article as well as our free WEEKLY WOWS (Words of Wisdom) and monthly newsletter.

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On becoming an advocate!

by Meredith K. Bromfield, M.A. Ed

Wow as life seems to hand many women life-changing challenges my job has changed. I am an author, an investment advisor, a counselor and now an advocate. I have taken all these skills and put them together to be that person in a women’s life to help her navigate the challenges she will face when an event occurs that rocks her world. The event may be a divorce, a death of a spouse, a retirement or becoming a caregiver. These events in of themselves are very overwhelming but then to have to navigate through the fields of paperwork and dealing with attorneys, CPA’s, life insurance companies, and human resource departments and all that they are requiring can be overwhelming to say the least. My company, Crossing Your Bridge, is here to help. With a network of resources and personal one-on-one treatment, unlimited phone and email contact you never need to face this situation alone.

You can listen to the audio from when Meredith was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Shared Dreams podcast here: https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WyXy41HX

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Freebie Friday – Gifts from Sandy Dumont

Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, our guest blogger from this week is kind enough to share the following gifts:

https://bigdreamsandhardwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/sandy-shoppingtips.docx

https://bigdreamsandhardwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/sandy7secretsmf.doc

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Determination and Creativity

by Gail Z. Martin

I happen to love the squirrels in our backyard.  I wish I could bend like that in my Yoga class!  We have several bird feeders right outside the kitchen window, and I love to take a break with a cup of tea and watch the squirrels perform acrobatics to get to the suet cakes and bird seed.

I hope I can have the determination and creativity of the average gray squirrel this year.  Mr. Squirrel lets nothing get in his way!  If he has to hang upside-down by one toe to get a bite of corn, he does it.  Perch on a thin, wobbly garden stake?  Fearlessly.  Leap from the bird feeder to the window screen?  Without a second thought.  Wow, I need some of that moxie.  I want to be just as quick on my feet as the squirrel is (especially when he knows the dog is heading out the screen door).  I want the confidence to navigate business tightropes as gracefully as the squirrels run along the back of the fence.  I want to make leaps of intuition and take leaps of faith with the perfect balance that the average squirrel uses to jump from one flimsy branch to another.  And I want to store up enough of a cushion with my investments so I can hibernate during retirement if it’s cold outside.  Add that to my New Year’s resolutions—I want to be a squirrel!

Have you ever gotten a business or personal insight from something in nature?  Please share!

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