Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why You Should be Taking LinkedIn More Seriously

I received my first invitation to connect on LinkedIn about five years ago. I did what most of us do when we don’t understand the value or implication of such an offer, I ignored it. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the source of this invitation; it was just that I was busy and had better things to do with my time. Social Media and online networking in New Zealand were still in their infancy and this it seemed, was just another thing to distract me.

In a paper released in May 2011, B2B Magazine reported that LinkedIn is now regarded as the most important social media platform for Business to Business marketing, well ahead of Facebook, Blogs, and Twitter.  LinkedIn, launched in 2003 and often described as ‘Facebook for Business’, recently exceeded 100 million users. Considerable publicity was generated by the public offering of LinkedIn shares, launched on 20th May, with significant buyer interest. This is all well and good, and it’s nice to see someone getting a payday for their entrepreneurial vision, but what does this mean to you? It means that LinkedIn is here to stay.

As a reader of this Blog you are most likely a professional with a network of colleagues and a portfolio of customers and suppliers, many of them professionals in their own right. We all know from experience to get and maintain our customers we have to connect with them on a regular basis to reaffirm our value and to maintain our place in their purchasing decisions. Traditionally we would do this by attending events hosted by professional organisations, visit trade shows, and attend conferences or other occasions that our customers and suppliers frequent.

When we do meet someone that we consider to be of value we perform the age old ritual of exchanging business cards. Now ask yourself, what do you usually do with these cards? It is most likely they end up in a pile somewhere never to see the light of day again, or are occasionally searched through to rekindle a memory of a conversation had long ago. This is where LinkedIn has the greatest and immediate benefit for you. It does require some investment in time setting up what is basically an online CV of your professional experience; however this small investment of time (think of it as free advertising) gives you access to the powerful “friend of a friend” network and a community of professional introductions, referrals and information sharing for free.

No tool is of any use unless it is used well; compare the value and potential of a hammer to a child and then to a master builder. The more it is used and the more that is learnt about its function, the more valuable it becomes. LinkedIn, like the hammer, has some basic functions that will serve you well and, over time and with experience, many other features that can return an income. To begin with get your profile as complete as possible, and connect with colleagues and peers. As a guide, if you would exchange a business card with the person, then they are a suitable LinkedIn connection.

Don’t get caught up in the numbers game. The size of your network is not important. Genuine relationships developed over time will return the greatest value. Simply by keeping your status updated and making occasional modifications to your profile, the well-constructed LinkedIn updates sent to your connections will subtly keep you visible and accessible.

In time, as your familiarity and confidence increases, you should participate in LinkedIn groups. These are either open or invite only forums where a considerable amount of information exchange can take place. Like any form of networking you have to attend to be seen, offer value to be appreciated, and commit time and energy to get a return on investment. Don’t wait like I did - it’s well worth your time. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

RTONZ Hanmer Springs


RTONZ Hanmer Springs, a set on Flickr.

The Harcourts free walking tour of Hanmer Springs.

With only 60 minutes to experience Hanmer we headed out the door of the Heritage Hanmer Springs and across the road to the local Harcourts Real Estate office. Harley the friendly duty agent was more than happy to give us advice on the local attractions, suggesting the services of a local woman as our tour guide for the Queen Mary Hospital (thus proving that local hospitality is alive and well in the South!). He explained that many years ago as a young girl she had moved here to work as a nurse aide and never left, unfortunately due to the beautiful day she was out mowing her lawn and unavailable, so off we went in the general direction of Queen Mary Hospital to explore it for ourselves.

We checked out the local fashion and cuisine on the way and while Craig rediscovered his love of boating we heard a whisper that John Key was in Hanmer Springs!

So as you can see we were slightly misinformed with it turning out to be Don Key, a celebrity in his own right though in this small village.

We continued on our path to Queen Mary Hospital. Set in lovely big grounds, this hospital was utilised in both world wars for the returned soldiers recovery and in later years it became a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, closing in 2003 when the government withdrew its funding. The thermal water was famed for its healing properties and no doubt it bought a lot of comfort to many people over the years. Local rumours of haunted buildings didn’t deter us and we continued on our journey, even without our tour guide!

The Hospital grounds are located next to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, it was here that we spoke to some very relaxed tourists recently returned from their OE. Taking some time out and enjoying Hanmer before they headed back to reality, they also mentioned the great mountain biking and walking tracks in the area – mental note must do when we return and have more time! Particularly like the local bikes with return to sender details.

Being social media savvy we checked in at the local four square before heading back to the hotel to launch into the remainder of our workshop, amazed at what we had encountered and enjoyed in just 60 minutes wandering in Hanmer Springs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Socialising Your Event – Using Social Media to Promote, Increase Impact and Reach.

While attending events and experiencing the buzz of the crowd and the interaction with other delegates is the ideal, being at a live conference or event is not always possible due to time or budget constraints. Introducing Social Media into your event allows for much wider audience participation and interactivity.

Often speakers and attendees will have built up a huge online influence and will already be profiling their activity as part of their usual routine. By encouraging their participation in online forums as part of the programme; your potential reach and exposure can expand to hundreds of thousands of individuals and add considerable value to your pre, during and post session value.

Web Connectivity

Factor wireless broadband into your event budget. Let attendees know it is there to connect with their networks and consider some incentive for the most creative comment or the most retweeted post.  Ask attendees to respect the resource by not downloading large or unnecessary files (no one likes a hog that takes advantage of free wireless to download personal stuff like movies). Most, if not all conference venues will have this facility available but bandwidth does cost.


Devices like smartphones and tablets such as iPad are portable and likely to be at events in increasing numbers. Their short battery life will mean attendees will be scrambling for power outlets so be sure to have lots of outlets catered for. A dedicated and secure iPhone charging service during lunch breaks is a nice touch. (a bit like a coat check for the digital age).

Native Twitter users will be posting regular updates as a matter of habit. This will likely include things they are finding interesting (and not so interesting) to engage external networks while sharing information and ideas with other delegates. Incorporating a hashtag in each tweet makes for a powerful information resource for both internal and external participants. Every tweet has the potential to initiate interactive dialogue and capturing ‘gold nuggets’ of information in succinct 140 character updates.


If you don’t know what a hashtag is then you need to, your audience will expect you to provide one. They are basically a string of text/numbers that follow the hash symbol (#). This enables Twitter users to filter content into a search string. No-one owns a hashtag so it pays to use something not already in use. An example of a popularised hashtag is #eqnz which is still used in Twitter conversations about the Christchurch Earthquake.

Be sure to promote your chosen tag early in online and print material related to your event, give regular updates on Twitter using it and be sure it is prominently displayed at the live event.

Visible Tweets

In keeping with the Twitter theme a visual aid to engage more participation is invaluable. Some conferences have a search column in Twitter (use Twitter Search) or Tweetdeck displayed behind the presenter so the audience can see or give real time feedback giving the audience a more interactive role.

Another great resource that is visually captivating is This free web based tool allows you to enter search terms, such as your hashtag, and it will display the tweets in a range of colourful formats.

This of course is not without its risks as it can be impossible to moderate this live feed so there could be negative or mischievous placement of comments.


One advantage of many people using Twitter at the same time and using the same word (such as the hashtag) is that twitter recognises this as a “Trend” and uses various ways to notify other Twitter users of what is popular. An excellent visual tool that you can use to display this to an audience is which graphically displays real-time trending words in a customisable map format.


This global communications phenomenon with 700 million active users should not be ignored. You could have a generic business page or a page set up specifically for the event. Do not confuse this with your profile as this is a separate and more personal forum. 

Encourage event participants to post comments, images, and videos on the wall during and after the event. Keep the page updated as presentations happen so attendees can like or add comments to the appropriate posts.

Geo-Location – Checking In

Growing in popularity as a result of the GPS capable devices such as smartphones and iPads delegates are able to check-in to a venue.

Foursquare is extremely popular in Australasia allowing people to not only check-in but also to upload comments to their Twitter and Facebook accounts announcing their immediate location and activity. The platform allows users to give and receive tips on immediate or nearby points of interest and to see who in their network is in the immediate vicinity.

Facebook Places was recently introduced to New Zealand and offers most of this functionality within its own network and is becoming increasingly popular.

Webinars and live video feeds

Webinars are live web broadcasts. The advantage of a webinars is you can promote well in advance and people are able to register their attendance. We have successfully run events where presenters from other countries have presented live to an audience or a live presenter has broadcast to a live audience with an external audience listening in and watching the same PowerPoint presentation.

Live video casting platforms such as Ustream and means you can cost-effectively make your event live to a global audience using technology as simple as a web connected computer and webcam.

YouTube Channel

Video is a powerful medium. If a picture tells a thousand words then a video displays a thousand pictures. Load segments of video to a dedicated channel on YouTube. Being the second highest used search engine behind Google is reason enough to take this forum seriously. 

Video capture is increasingly easy and affordable with most phones now being video capable. Ask attendees to upload videos and supply you with links so they can be added as ‘Favourites’ on your channel. The key advantage of having your own dedicated YouTube channel is it can be branded and video played in a managed order rather than at random.

Post Event Activity

We are motivated when we leave a good event full of new ideas, new contacts and a new perspective on our own personal and professional challenges. The best time to capture those ideas is as soon as you return home. Writing a report to the board or your superiors is one thing but sharing your ideas with your own networks is rewarding.

Use your social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to share your immediate thoughts and learning. Ask your network to make comments and give feedback to expand on your thinking. Cement the connections you made during the event by connecting with them on LinkedIn and following their twitter accounts.

One of the most powerful mediums for information capture, design and architecture is the blog, the very forum you are reading this in. Blogs allow us to give more detail than the size restrictive posts offered by Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and are extremely search engine visible. You can embed images and video and place links to external resources that become a permanent record in a personalised information timeline. Blogs allow for comments to be made (and they are always appreciated) and the content to be aggregated into other sites using RSS technology.

Encourage your delegates, speakers and attendees to write a blog post. Most Bloggers are looking for new content to add to their sites so this should not be a big ask. Give them a theme to write on and leave the rest to their own creativity. When they have done it get them to post the links on to your Facebook page and do Twitter updates pointing people to these valuable resources.

It’s all about the content

Be sure to recognise and thank those who took the time to contribute to the resources mentioned above. Do so because they have not only attended your event but have been a valuable participant and contributor to its promotion, its value and its legacy.

If you have any other ways you think could enhance an event, and we know there are many, please add your comments below.