Issue 48 - A Writer's Action Plan - Sage Cohen, Diane Albright, Kerrie Flanagan, Victoria Ipri


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ocial media, it seems, is here to stay. Writers should excel at social media—after all, we have the gift of words; but this is often not the case. There are inevitably questions about which platform to use, how to gain a following, and what to say to your audience—once you have one. Even the early adopters, those writers who bravely climbed aboard the social media train first, can still be caught wondering if social networking even provides anything more than a welcome respite from the blank page. Of the variety of social platforms available, the one most ensconced in mystery—not only for writers but for the public in general—seems to be LinkedIn.

For copywriter, turned social media guru Victoria Ipri, LinkedIn is not only her greatest marketing platform, but also the one she’s most passionate about helping others get a handle on. Victoria provides comprehensive LinkedIn marketing programs, master-class copywriting, and general online marketing strategy guidance. She has spoken at the What’s Next conference in Washington, D.C. for two years in a row now; at Social Media Acceleration Group (SMAG), San Francisco; and given LinkedIn presentations to graduating seniors at Delaware County Community College and Temple University, along with private trainings.

Leaving the corporate world of healthcare marketing in 2006 to start her own successful copywriting business, Victoria soon realized that by adding SEO to her skill set, she could help her clients grow their web traffic more effectively. In 2008, she pursued a master’s certificate in advanced Internet marketing from the University of San Francisco; and by 2010, Victoria began offering her social media marketing and optimization expertise to clients as well. She is now considered one of the thought leaders on how best to use and optimize your LinkedIn profile.

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WOW:  Welcome to WOW!, Victoria. We’re so glad you could chat with us. Looking at your background, starting out as a copywriter and migrating to SEO and social media expertise wouldn’t have seemed like a natural trajectory, even six years ago; but we’re seeing more and more copywriters providing additional services like SEO, social media strategy, website development, and graphic or plug-in design. Do you think this is because writers can’t find good paying work anymore, or is it about an industry evolution that’s happening as a result of technological advances?

Victoria: A bit of both and a third factor, I think—adding a few extra skills translates into more value for the client. Why leave money on the table or give it away to another provider? A good example: I often help clients create/write/edit e-books, slated for eventual sale on Kindle. These questions came up regularly, “What should I do about the cover?” and “Who do you know who can help me get this book on Kindle?” So I got a favorite designer to agree to a flat price, then taught myself how to upload books to Kindle for sale. Now when I sell my e-book creation services, I can add the cover design and Kindle upload fees to my package price. I make more money, and the client gets a far greater value. Another added value for me is that my clients begin to see me as a useful partner, not “just a writer.”

And let me just say, the supposed lack of terrific clients and good paying work is a myth! If you maintain reasonable package or hourly fees and great quality, a lack of work will never be an issue.

WOW:  I’ve seen you work your prospecting magic on LinkedIn in the groups we share in common. Having witnessed your work ethic and career philosophies first-hand, to me, these are tailor-made not only for the Web 3.0 era but are especially advantageous in the arena of social media. I want to give our readers a sense of why you’re so passionate about social media and LinkedIn, in particular. What is it about these platforms that you feel aligns so well with your values, and why does it end up being some of the most fun and rewarding marketing you'll ever do, once you get the hang of it?

Victoria: Great question! When I first began exploring social media, I was lost. I had created a LinkedIn profile in 2007, but used it very little. By 2010, I was really beginning to see the benefits. I have always been a communicator; so for me, LinkedIn was a natural fit. I was so excited by the opportunity to learn from others in a way that had never been possible and to develop my own brand and style. Others actually wanted to read what I had to say! No longer was it about who had the big advertising budgets. It was about sharing, and it was free! If someone liked what I had to say, they could “follow” me and share my information with others, who would also follow me. They could seek me out each week and use new tools like bookmarking and RSS feeds to stay on my trail. They could talk about me and spread my name and my materials. No longer was I trapped into reading books by authors that I didn’t agree with or whose opinions I felt were antiquated. I could publish my own books and market them my way to an audience who wanted to hear from me.

Suffice to say when used correctly, social media (and LinkedIn specifically) puts the power of the people right into your hands. New technologies will come and go, but I believe social media will remain one of the most outstanding technological revolutions of all time. And yet, social media is still in its infancy. Millions of people still do not have profiles or a history of engagement. In many countries, some are still waiting for reliable Internet access. Can you imagine what the future of social media might be? The possibilities are breathtaking.

WOW:  That’s definitely the passion I was referring to. What’s the most gratifying part of teaching people how to use LinkedIn?

Victoria: I’ve been honored to speak at events, and I enjoy providing on-site LinkedIn training for small companies, which will be an even greater focus for me in 2012. I love to see twenty or thirty LinkedIn neophytes walk into a training session and emerge several hours later with beautifully completed profiles and newfound insights into how LinkedIn really works—that’s always gratifying.

“The LinkedIn profile is similar to a resume, but marketing oneself via LinkedIn is the key and goes far beyond simply creating a profile.”

WOW:  LinkedIn seems to be a bit of a mystery to many of us. What’s your biggest challenge in helping people with LinkedIn?

Victoria: The attitudes and myths about LinkedIn. It always surprises me how many professionals still do not use it or (who) have created a half-cooked profile, but never participate on the platform. The general belief is that LinkedIn cannot generate real leads and is a “time-sucker.” Often underneath the bravado is ignorance about how LinkedIn works to generate leads. It’s always easier to say, “It doesn’t work,” than to admit, “I don’t know how.” Yesterday, I read that LinkedIn is “the modern resume.” This is completely false. The LinkedIn profile is similar to a resume, but marketing oneself via LinkedIn is the key and goes far beyond simply creating a profile. These attitudes and myths persist; but according to CEO Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn is adding members at two every second, so the tide is turning.

WOW:  Two every second—that’s phenomenal. So besides the fact that everyone is doing it, why should someone be on LinkedIn?

Victoria: There are two core reasons for using LinkedIn. The first is to connect with the right people to get more business. The second is to connect with the right people to find a job. Regardless, LinkedIn is about connecting and has made it possible to literally bring 143 million prospects to your front door. This is an unprecedented opportunity for small business owners and solopreneurs.

WOW:  So why do some find such success using LinkedIn, and others think it’s useless or a “time-sucker”?

Victoria: In a word? Effort. The truth is some businesses are less likely to be successful with social media—for example, manufacturers of construction equipment. Overall, social media marketing is hard work. Business owners are already overwhelmed. Besides daily operations, today’s business owners must also be adept at marketing, advertising, sales, publishing, technology—it’s an impossible task, particularly for solopreneurs. Most people simply don’t know where to begin or how to maintain momentum, so they give up in despair. And yet, just fifteen minutes of daily effort on LinkedIn can have a dramatic impact over a month or a quarter.

“...make sure your profile accurately and thoroughly tells your story—not just whom you are, but how you can help.”

WOW:  You mentioned that LinkedIn may not be the right fit for some types of businesses. I gather you don’t count freelance writing among that category; yet a lot of writers don’t really know how to get the most out of LinkedIn. Can you tell our readers how the average writer can use it to further their freelance career?

Victoria: Freelancers are in hot demand! Business owners finally realize the value and cost savings of outsourcing, and they are looking right now for someone with your skills to help them achieve their goals. Marketing is mostly about being in the right place at the right time. LinkedIn makes this more possible than ever. The best way to leverage this is to make sure your profile accurately and thoroughly tells your story—not just whom you are, but how you can help. If your summary is poorly written or your profile is sloppily thrown together, prospects will not only have no way to judge your skill, but your professional credibility will suffer.

Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes every business day to spend on the platform, engaging with others and getting the word out about your services. This should equal, at minimum, about seven hours of self promotion per month. It may not sound like a lot, but it accumulates very nicely over time to make a real difference.

WOW:  During those fifteen to twenty minutes people are spending on LinkedIn, what should they be doing exactly to get the word out about their freelance services?

Victoria: Lots of things. Every day is different. Some days, you may spend fifteen minutes answering e-mails or connecting with other members. Other days, you may spend time in groups. Still others, you might develop marketing lists. The “social” part of social media dictates various activities. Of course, those fifteen minutes aren’t set in stone; it’s just a minimum guideline. Some days, you may spend an hour, another ten minutes. What’s important is that you are actively engaged with potential customers.

Depending on the business—in this case, freelance writing—there are a variety of strategies aimed at attracting your ideal clients. Some require drilling down to your niche and working with all the tools available in LinkedIn; some are lesser known and more advanced. Because your business has a unique social personality, planning is critical. This is why it makes sense to hire a specialist to help you develop a proper plan and perhaps implement that plan as well—if your budget allows.

I want to help. That’s why I offer so many options. Those with no budget can read LinkedIn For The Clueless, which they can get for free by joining [the LinkedIn group], Link InSanity. For more serious professionals, I suggest an hour of coaching time at $75. Organizations can request an affordable webinar. Teams can schedule hands-on workshops. Regardless, to be effective, your plan must work for you. It doesn’t matter what 143 million other LinkedIn members are doing.

WOW:  What about authors? How can they use LinkedIn as a vehicle for book promotion?

Victoria: Book promotion cannot be done on LinkedIn, as it might on Facebook, Twitter, or some other platform. Once again, the power is in your network and your ability to connect with people who want what you have and are willing to share it with others. Because it is a violation of LinkedIn’s rules to overtly sell your products or services, promotion must be handled in a more subtle fashion. It would be bad form to send an e-mail to your network saying, “Buy my book!” But discussing information provided in your book would be appropriate during a relevant discussion. Every LinkedIn member is there to sell something, right? Other members know this and expect these subtle pitches. Certainly, you can:

  • Add a link to your book’s sales page to place under your name when accepting invitations.
  • Mention the book on your profile.
  • Add appropriate applications to your profile to draw attention to the book.
  • Add your own book to your Amazon reading list.
  • Talk about the book on your blog; then link your blog to your profile.
  • Join groups where interest in your book’s topic is already established.
  • Connect with specific individuals whose profiles indicate an interest in your topic.
  • Post the occasional status update with a link to your book.

Always, however, a low-key, friendly, no pressure approach works best.

“It helps to think of your profile as a webpage, which, given the right keywords, can help you be found more easily by LinkedIn members and the general public.”

WOW:  Those all seem like simple and easy ways to get the word out without turning into a snake oil salesman. Okay, so we’ve all heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), used to achieve better page rankings with the likes of Google and others; but I’ve heard you talk about something called profile optimization on LinkedIn. Can you explain to our readers what it is, and why it’s important?

Victoria: LinkedIn’s search engine works similarly to Google. For example, I’ve worked hard to rank highly above ninety thousand-plus members for the phrase “LinkedIn” because I want members who need help with LinkedIn to find my profile and contact me. How did I achieve this? There are several crucial profile optimization strategies with keyword usage being one of the most important. It helps to think of your profile as a webpage, which, given the right keywords, can help you be found more easily by LinkedIn members and the general public.

Page rank can also denote credibility. The visitor thinks, Well, if she’s third on this list, she must be good at what she does. One really has little to do with the other (unless you sell SEO services), but this is how people think.

WOW:  So what are some profile optimization strategies freelancers can implement today? How does someone optimize their profile?

Victoria: The keyword optimization process is too complex to describe fully. However, I offer a free report on this topic, which I will send via e-mail upon request.

One quick “trick” is to check out your competitors. Go to the people search box, type in “freelance writer,” and a list will appear showing you how many LinkedIn members describe themselves using this term. These are your keyword competitors. Use the filters in the column to the left to narrow the list based on geography, etc. The key is to think carefully about the keyword terms you use. If you’re competing with millions or even thousands of members, your chances of standing out are reduced. On the other hand, don’t get so creative, no one can find you.

WOW:  So keeping optimization in mind, which parts of the profile are most important for people to make sure they are filling out first and completely?

Victoria: 

  • The most important profile area is the “Headline,” that area of text next to the picture. This is a snapshot of not just what you do, but whom you are, and the first place members look to determine if they want to read further.
  • The “Summary” is the very next place the visitor looks. After all, because you’re a freelance writer, others will expect your summary to be well-written, concise, perhaps even a bit entertaining. Simply regurgitating your background won’t do. Be extra careful about typos, poor grammar, etc.
  • Thirdly, the “Contact For” section should be thoroughly completed. Don’t forget the little text box provided—this is where you can, literally, tell your audience how to contact you. I can say from personal experience that it’s maddening to want to contact someone through LinkedIn, but a phone number or e-mail can’t be found on the profile. For less tenacious visitors, this can translate into lost business.

WOW:  Do you have any tips people can follow to get started on LinkedIn today?

Victoria: 

  1. Set aside time each day for LinkedIn activity, even if only fifteen minutes.
  2. If you feel frustrated, stop. The platform will still be there when you come back.
  3. Don’t expect miracles. Social media is not an overnight solution.
  4. Focus on your audience. Who are they? Where are they? How can your services solve their problems?
  5. Practice netiquette (network etiquette), basic courtesy towards your fellow networkers. Avoid spam, typing in all caps, severe disagreements or name calling, harassment, overt selling, and so forth.

WOW:  How about some tips on how to make the most out of the Groups on LinkedIn?

Victoria: 

  • A common mistake many writers make is joining groups of their peers, instead of groups where they might find customers. We all want to chat with friends, but groups of friends, alumni, or other writers should not dominate your groups list. Instead, go after groups where you might be the only writer or one of few, as this will add weight to your discussions and suggestions and help you stand out.
  • Just because LinkedIn allows members to join up to fifty groups doesn’t mean you should. No one can participate effectively in that many groups. Choose thoughtfully. Eight to ten groups are more than enough. The exception to this rule is when you are actively building your network. In this case, join lots of groups because you can connect with group members without having their e-mail addresses.
  • If a group seems  “spammy” or you’re simply not getting value from it, drop out and try a new group. Some groups go stale, so shake things up a bit and spread your prospecting wings.
  • The most valuable group members understand the balance between posting discussions and supporting the discussions of others. You are not there to dominate, but to participate. Remember your manners.
  • Don’t forget to actually share your opinions. There is a trend among group members to simply post links to interesting articles. This is okay once in a while, but it won’t help others get to know you or grasp your expertise. If you do want to post a link to someone else’s opinion, be sure to craft a little intro of your own and ask other members to weigh in. Remember, this is about engagement, not about who can post the most links.

WOW:  Thanks so much, Victoria, for all the great advice. I’m sure our readers will get a lot out of it and be able to start using LinkedIn more successfully today.

Want more advice, tips, or guidance from Victoria? Contact her on (you guessed it) LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoriaipri), visit her blog (http://www.linked-in-sanity.com), or purchase her e-book, LinkedIn For the Clueless. (Enjoy a free copy when you join her LinkedIn group, Link InSanity! http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=4023749.) Victoria also offers one-on-one phone coaching for copywriters by appointment only. Watch for the website launch of her new company, Rev! Marketing, coming soon.

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Vanessa Nix Anthony is a freelance lifestyle journalist and copywriter. Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and websites all around the country. You can find her waxing poetic about food, family, cooking, and travel at The GrooVy Foody, while she serves up small business marketing and freelance writing advice over at The Portland Writer.

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Enjoyed this interview? Check out these related articles on WOW!:

Time to Twitter: Using Social Media to Further Your Career

How to (Net) Work It! Networking for Freelance Writers

Blogs, Twitter, Websites and More: Connecting with Young Readers through Social Media


 

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