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How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile More than Just a Resume

As you work through completing your LinkedIn profile, it’s important to remember your ministry business plan.  Your ministry business plan should include several objectives that will help you meet your ministry goals, your vision, and your mission.  Just knowing why you are participating in social media and how it will benefit your ministry is a great start.  Keeping those things in mind as you complete (or remake) your LinkedIn profile will help you stay on track and build your ministry brand that will help you accomplish your goals.  Here are a few things you might want to consider:

Photos – A photo on your LinkedIn profile helps you appear more ‘real’ to people viewing your profile.  Does your photo represent who you want to be?  Is it too casual?  Do your clothes and the background appropriately represent your ministry?  If you want to present yourself as approachable, are you smiling?  Do things in your photo belong in your ministry (cars, pets, etc.)?  Logos are nice, but the LinkedIn rules say they can be used on your company page, but not your LinkedIn personal profile.  The best photo is a professional head shot that flatters but does not mislead.

Key Words – Key words help people find you on LinkedIn, as well as the web search engines like Google.  Key words should describe what your ministry focus is (i.e. evangelism, counseling, deliverance, etc.).  You can use the Google AdWords key word tool, you can see who other similar ministries use, but the best method is to use words that have significant meaning to your ministry function.  Use key words that will attract the broadest audience, as well as very specific people.  For instance, in my deliverance ministry I might use “spiritual warfare”, “freedom”, as well as “demonic oppression”.  Your most important key words should be used in your headline (see below) and the first sentence of your summary.  Other key words can be used to replace vague words in the rest of your summary, as well as your specialties, skills & expertise, experience, education, and interests.

LinkedIn Headline – Your LinkedIn “Headline” is found directly under your name and to the right of your photo.  Your headline is commonly mistaken as your job title, and if you don’t enter one, or add a new position, LinkedIn will use your most recent position title as your headline.  Since this is the first, and sometimes only thing LinkedIn users will see, it should describe your job, indicate why others will want to contact you, and cause others to view your profile to learn more about you.  This might take some thought, and probably several revisions until you find the best headline.  After several revisions, I settled on “Anothen Life helps you eliminate things you thought you had to live with – Linked4Ministry extends your ministries reach” to represent my two ministry focuses. 

Websites – LinkedIn allows you to include direct links to three websites.  If you don’t have three websites, you might include a blog or even your LinkedIn groups like I do.  Remember to keep your business plan in mind when you select which websites to include, and be cautious about including overly personal websites, facebook pages, twitter accounts, etc.  You can rely on your LinkedIn profile as your web presence, but an actual website is much better.  There are several free websites that have limited features and functionality, or consider web hosting sites like Network Solutions or 1&1 that cost under $150 a year for hosting and an editing package that is almost as easy as a word processor.  To maintain your “ministry” image and brand you should avoid web hosting services with names or advertising that might detract from who you are.

Experience – Your professional experience should include your most recent positions, as well as a description of what you accomplished at each position.  If you include other jobs that don’t relate to your current position and goals, keep your job title and description brief so they don’t distract from your current brand.  Eliminate brief positions and experiences that detract from your current brand.

Recommendations – Recommendations are often overlooked by ministries, but they can be as valuable as a personal testimony when witnessing to someone.  Recommendations should be from a variety of people and dates.  Don’t seek gushing recommendations, but focus on those that tell others what to expect when they use your ministry.  The best way to receive recommendations is to send 2-3 a week to your current contacts.  They will love receiving unsolicited recommendations, and LinkedIn suggests they will want to send you one.

Keep Your Personality Visible – In most ministries your personality will matter to potential clients, partners, and contacts, so be sure you still represent yourself as warm, caring, confident, and personal.  Include how people benefit from working with you, what you want to accomplish, why you love what you do, and what keeps you energized in your ministry.

Misspellings and Grammatical Errors – Misspellings and grammatical errors in your LinkedIn profile can present a negative image to viewers that don’t know you.  Misspellings and grammatical errors can lead people to think you are either careless or may not have the intelligence, education, or qualifications they believe they need.  Since LinkedIn doesn’t include a spell check, and it’s not one of my strong points, I type everything in my word processor and then cut and paste it in LinkedIn.

 As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

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Would Being Recognized as an Expert Bring Success to Your Ministry?

It is usually a tremendous advantage to be recognized as an expert, especially in some fields of ministry.  Being an expert can bring clients and ministry receivers directly to you; and can encourage friends and other ministers to refer their contacts to you for your expertise in a specific field.  Of course the first step is to make sure you are an expert, that step is up to you.

Once you have the expertise, how do you tell people without sounding arrogant or elite?  With today’s online resources you can build trust and exhibit expertise in your field in many ways.  A little planning will help you put your time and resources where they will help you the most.  Skipping the planning can likely cost you extra time and delayed success.

First begin by identifying your ideal business or ministry “target audience”.  That target audience might be customers, counseling clients, ministry receivers, students, pastors and church leaders, or even publishers and distributors for your products.  Then identify where your target will likely spend time, such as reading the newspaper, trade journals, brochures, websites, blogs, social networks like LinkedIn and facebook, etc.  You can begin by asking your current friends and associates what they recommend.  Finally, identify the media outlet that is likely to get you the best or largest return and find resources that will help you take advantage of that outlet.

Since Linked4Ministry started out primarily about LinkedIn, I’ll start with that.

Your LinkedIn Profile – Since LinkedIn was designed to be a professional network, a good profile can exhibit a real level of trust and expertise with the right elements.  You can find additional information about the LinkedIn elements in past blogs and articles from Linked4Ministry but here are the minimum recommended elements:

  • A professional head shot photograph.
  • A good “headline” that tells people what you can do for them.
  • A summary that tells what you’ve done for others.
  • References that exhibit trust, reliability, and success.
  • Educational references that add expertise to your field (can be seminars etc.)
  • Apps that show Books & articles that you’ve written or read in your field.

LinkedIn Groups – Identify what groups your target audience might join.  If you have identified targets in LinkedIn, you can view their profile to see what groups they are in that might benefit you, and might help establish your expertise, and join them.  You can search for people with key words (i.e. pastors, authors, publishers, etc.) to see what groups they are in.  Once you identify the groups that will help you, and you join the groups, read through the discussions to see what the ‘tone’ of the comments and articles are.  Identify existing discussions or start new discussions that you have real expertise in and contribute things that will add true value to the discussion.  Look for things that might have been overlooked in the discussion that will shed new light on the conversation or provide solutions not yet mentioned.  Make sure all your posts are well thought out, spelled correctly, and supportable if you are asked.  When you see a target contact that you’d like to be connected to, you can search their contributions in the group and either add to that discussion, or communicate directly with them.  Start with things that add value or ask their advice or input.  Once a relationship has built value, you can invite them to be directly connected.

Other Media to consider

Blogs – It’s amazing how many blogs there are today, and sites like WordPress.com and WordPress, Blogger.com, Tumblr, Textpattern, and Posterous are all free and about as easy to use as a word processor.  Once you have a blog, you’ll need to promote it until it takes off.  Post new blogs in your LinkedIn status updates, in LinkedIn groups (that allow blog links), on your facebook page, on Twitter, in Google+, and everywhere else you can find to get the word out.  Make sure your blog has a place to allow readers to subscribe to future additions, and include icons for sharing on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, twitter, WordPress, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, and any other link your blog host has available.  If you have a website, you should either imbed your blog or make it a very visible link on your home page.  Finally, ask your blog readers to share your blog with friends and associates they believe might be interested.  A good blog with valuable or helpful information can establish your expertise in your field.  Keep a list of your blog topics handy with the URL (internet address) that you can refer others to for answers.

Answer or Ask Questions – You can scan LinkedIn questions to find ones in your field of expertise, or start new ones that will attract attention.  Follow the same guidelines as group discussions to build value before asking for return.  The same goes for other sites like Yahoo Answers or Answers.com.  LinkedIn allows readers to vote on the most influential answers, Yahoo gives you points if your answer is selected as best., and Answers.com identifies the most answers with a ‘top contributor’ title.

Polls – You can start LinkedIn Polls (in the general LinkedIn polls or in specific groups) that will ask intriguing questions that will challenge people to stretch their thinking or beliefs around your expertise.  Use the group discussion guidelines.

Conclusion – If you take time to provide true value without an expected return your expertise will be noted and shared, but obvious self promotion or blatant bragging or selling will backfire.  Include links to your own resources and to other resources in comments and answers that give readers additional value.  Give away free advice that demonstrates your expertise, but never give a half answer with a “buy this” for the rest of the information.  My suggestion for the key to success in God’s Kingdom is “pay it ahead” and you will receive God’s blessings, which includes the monetary success you need to live.

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

Not Customizing your LinkedIn Public Profile URL Can Limit Your Effectiveness

Have you customized your LinkedIn Public Profile?  Did you even know that you had one, or what it is?  If you answered no to either question you have limited the effectiveness of your LinkedIn profile and reduced your online exposure to new connections, partners, and clients.  Not customizing and using your LinkedIn Public Profile is like building a website, giving it an obscure hard to remember name, and not telling anyone what the address is.  No one would ever find your website, right?  Well, maybe some would find it in Google searches, but if you had some odd website address that no one could remember, those that did find it might never come back, or tell others about you.  It’s a plan to fail, but can be easily corrected with a few simple actions.  A customized name that’s easy to use and remember, and will inspire others to click through to your profile to learn more about you and your ministry.  Now, let’s get started.

A LinkedIn Public Profile is your LinkedIn Profile’s URL, or web address.  If you don’t customize it, LinkedIn will assign a default address when you set up your profile.  The default address will include your name, usually with dashes between first, middle, and last, and will have a series of seemingly random numbers, letters, and slashes after it.  If you customize it, it will be easy to remember, easy to use, and look a lot more professional, thus encouraging others to go to your LinkedIn profile.

If I did not customize my LinkedIn Public Profile, it might look something like:

                http://www.linkedin.com/pub/Bill-Bender/18/a32/2be  

After customization, it is now:

                http://www.linkedin.com/in/billbender  

The second address is clearly much easier to remember, and therefore use.  I can use it in emails, business cards, brochures, in books, on CDs & DVDs, on Blogs, and even at the end of a Video to direct readers to find out more about me.  Another subtle advantage of a customized LinkedIn URL is it tells other LinkedIn users that you know your way around LinkedIn!

Here’s how to Customize your LinkedIn Public Profile URL:

  1. Let your mouse hover over “Profile” in the LinkedIn tool bar.
  2. Click on “Edit Profile”.
  3. Click on “Edit” just to the right of your current LinkedIn Public Profile  (See  “Step 3”  illustration below)
  4. Click on “Customize your public profile URL” at the bottom of the “Customize your Public Profile” box on the right side of the page.  (See “Step 4”  illustration below)
  5. Enter your name without spaces, symbols, or special characters.  You can use just an initial for your first and/or middle names but remember, the best address is one that is clearly you, and easy to remember.  (See  “Step 5”  illustration below)
  6. Click on the “Set Custom URL” blue button to complete your customization.

 

 Step 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, a customized LinkedIn URL is all for not if your LinkedIn profile is not complete.  Check out other Linked4Ministry articles, and stay tuned for future tips to learn more about building a great LinkedIn profile.

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  

If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and . . . it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

 

How to Get More Out Of LinkedIn

 Getting more out of LinkedIn, or any social media, is just a matter of knowing what’s available, what’s important, and scheduling time to do it.  If you signed up for LinkedIn and nothing is happening, it’s probably time to take a look at (1) what you want out of LinkedIn, and (2) what you are doing to achieve it.  Comparing it to going to a networking meeting and just standing in the corner, you won’t get very good results.

There’s no doubt that LinkedIn is “the place to be”.  Their recent IPO surprised everyone with the results, and their number of members continues to grow at an outstanding pace, just passing 120 Million.  LinkedIn is still a “Must” for job seekers, but LinkedIn’s true power is in networking professionals (including ministers).

 

What do you want?

 

Facebook is a great tool for strengthening existing ministry followers and promoting a ministry that already has a large number of friends that will share your page with their friends.  LinkedIn is about connecting you to people you know, people you’ve ministered to, ministered with, and trained with, as well as giving you opportunities to connect to “target contacts” (those that could be beneficial to your ministry).

 

Here’s a list of some of the things LinkedIn could do for a ministry:

 

  • Help you be found – LinkedIn allows you to be found by searching for “Key Words” that describe your ministry or expertise.  Your key words should be in your summary, your specialties, your skills, and possibly your ministry name, your headline and your title if it is appropriate.

 

  • Establish Trust and Credibility – LinkedIn can help you establish trust and credibility with new contacts from your recommendations, your achievements, your connections, your groups, your honors and awards, your publications, your blog, your presentation, your reading list, and anything else you include in your profile.

 

  • Free Advertising – By creating a LinkedIn “Company” (Ministry) Profile, you can describe your company/ministry, as well as the products and services you provide.  This can serve as a temporary web presence if you don’t have a dedicated web page yet.

 

  • Connecting Group Members  – LinkedIn groups are unique and powerful in joining members of a like minded focus like a church congregation, denomination leadership, an ordination fellowship, a seminary, or a ministry focus (healing, deliverance, social media, prison, women’s, etc).  A LinkedIn group allows sharing discussions, questions, ideas, events, as well as sending free newsletters and messages to your members.  LinkedIn Group members also update their own email address, keeping you from having to maintain your own list.

 

  • Reaching Out – Joining larger groups that compliment your focus will allow you to be connected to an almost unlimited number of others with a common focus, background, or interest.  Joining groups is a great way to get connected to “target contacts” that you wouldn’t otherwise have a way to connect.

 

  • Soliciting input and help – When you share what you are working on in your “status” update, all your connections will see it and can give you input, support, and share it with others in their network.

 

  • Promoting Books & Products – The Reading List by Amazon allows you to highlight your own publications and recommend other’s works.

 

  • Advertise Events – LinkedIn Events allows you to post event details that your contacts will see in their network updates and share with their contacts.  Other LinkedIn members can also search for events of interest.  LinkedIn allows users to indicate if they will attend or be a presenter, increasing the event visibility among other members.

 

  • Promoting Your Blog – LinkedIn allows you to automatically include the title, the first few sentences, and a link to your most recent blogs.  A Blog is important to your ministry because it allows you to show your expertise in your area of ministry, it brings people to your website and keeps them coming back, and having a blog gives your ministry more visibility in internet searches.

 

  • Linking your Ministry Associates – Your ministry associates can have their own profile with all the above features, as well as being linked to your ministry through your Ministry Profile.  This allows visitors to see all your associates and recognize the strength and expertise of your ministry.

 

In Conclusion

Begin by determining what you want to accomplish with LinkedIn, then write down the steps you will need to reach your goals.  Don’t forget to include who will take action, and a target date for each needed action.  It’s best to set up some kind of follow up system to reduce the chance of missing an important step in the process.  A weekly review of needed actions and a completion check list will keep you and your team on track.  When you have completed all the necessary steps, it’s probably time to set new goals and the actions needed.  If you ever stop the process, your future success can be limited.

 

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

12 Ways to Promote Your Ministry or Business with a Web Presence

In today’s world, a business or ministry must have a “Web Presence”.  Not necessarily a web site, but a web presence.  A web presence simply means you, your ministry, or business can be found by an online search.  You don’t have to be active on the internet to have a web presence, you might just be listed in an online membership directory, or you might have a website, and a full array of social media profiles.  The best way to be found is to be listed in as many things as possible, and include key words that you want to be identified with.  See What Gets You Found for additional details on key words.

Your web presence certainly includes a website, a LinkedIn profile, a facebook page, and a twitter account.  Those might currently be the “big four”, but there are many other ways you should consider.  Here are a few suggestions:

Website – A website doesn’t have to be expensive, I’ve used Network Solutions and 1&1 for under $150 a year.  Although they can take a while to set up, it’s not much more complicated than using a word processor if you use their templates and backgrounds.  Keep in mind, the most important thing is to make them appealing and compelling (both visually and content) so visitors will stay there to read a bit, before moving on.  If the home page isn’t captivating, I move on in 5-20 seconds.

Blog – A blog can give you great exposure, and keep readers tuned in for more.  A blog can build your online trust, credibility, and reputation, as well as build your brand.  Several to consider are WordPress, BlogSpot, or Blogger.com.  They are free and offer ready to use templates, or you can build your own.  You can have a free standing blog, or incorporate it into your web page as a link or a tab.

Email newsletters – If you already have a big following you might consider an email newsletter.  There are several services that automate them like constant contact for a small fee.  The fee includes maintaining your mailing list and allowing readers to subscribe and unsubscribe without you having to maintain the list.

Video newsletters – With today’s society that loves to ‘watch’ rather than ‘read’, a video newsletter can be very powerful if it’s consistent and professional.  It doesn’t have to be expensive with flip type camcorders that make it easy to post a YouTube video.

LinkedIn profile – I’ve written lots about LinkedIn, but having a detailed profile not only gives you a great reference site, and search ability, it can be used as an additional resource on business cards, emails, and correspondence, by including your LinkedIn Public Profile (your LinkedIn profile’s URL).  Be sure to customize it first, so it will look professional, and be easy for readers to enter.

Business Cards – Everyone needs a professional looking business card with your contact information.  You should give two to everyone you meet (one for them to keep, and one to share).  Check out VistaPrint.com for low cost or free cards if you pay the shipping, or search for “free business cards” to find other options.

Facebook – Facebook isn’t only for reporting what you ate for breakfast, you can build a fan page or business page.  There’s lots written about facebook, and I’ve included several great guides in the “Linked4Ministry” LinkedIn group.  You can also see LinkedIn vs. Facebook Business Pages for additional details.  Just remember to keep your facebook page totally professional, or remember to keep your personal page and contacts separate.

Twitter – A Twitter account can help followers keep up with you, your blog, newsletters, etc.  Twitter doesn’t have to take much time, with one click you can have your LinkedIn Status changes automatically post in your Twitter account.  Twitter done right can greatly add to your exposure.  You need followers, so you will need to invite them to get started, then add a suggestion to “re-tweet” at the end of your posting. 

Referrals – Having your clients and ministry receivers recommend you is huge, but sadly widely ignored in ministry.  Consider it akin to witnessing to someone with your testimony; it adds believability and reliability to your witness and your ministry.

Liking & Sharing – To increase your exposure, you will need help.  Today’s term is ‘going viral’, or spreading your message like a virus spreads.  The easy way is to get your friends and readers to “Like” or “Share” your content with their friends.  See The Reality of Liking and Sharing for additional details.

Business (Ministry) Plan – Have a clear (written) business plan including your target market (watch for future articles on this).

Other Ministries – Look at other websites and social media pages to see what they are doing.  Don’t forget to check out what your competition and companion ministries are doing for additional ideas.  Check out How BackLinks Help for more info.

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

 

What Gets You Noticed (found) in LinkedIn and the Internet?

The answer to this question is easy, it’s “key words”.  A key word is a word that the people you want to be found by might use when searching for you.  It might be your name, but more likely it will be a product or service you can provide.  The key words you choose will be part of your ‘brand’, or what you are trying to be recognized by.  Your business/ministry plan should include those key words, as well as everything you do on the internet, in print, or video.

I’ll use my deliverance and inner healing ministry as an example.  My key words will obviously be deliverance and inner healing, but also might include spiritual warfare, spiritual healing, demonic warfare, demonic oppression, deliverance training, as well as any specific ministries I’m involved in (Restoring the Foundations, Ellel, Elijah House, Cleansing Stream, Freedom in Christ, Theophostic, Sozo, etc).  My key words would also include my own ministry names, including Anothen Life Ministries and Linked4Ministry.

In LinkedIn, there are two places those key words should go.  You will want to include them in your “Summary”, preferably in sentence form so they look nice and make sense, and under your “Specialties” section, listed as a series of words separated by commas, dots, or symbols.  The Specialties section is found at the end of your Summary.  The same key words should be included on your facebook page, the homepage of your website, and any other social media you are using to be found.

Other key words you might consider are the words that your competitors (or complimentary ministries) use, words used in your marketing materials, seminars, and schools, words that describe your personality (Compassion, Kind, etc.), words that describe your ministry (types of counseling like sexual healing, temperament counseling, abuse, etc.,), certifications, skills, languages, courses, honors and awards should also be considered.

The key words you use, and where you place them will determine where you will fall in search results when people search for you.  Having the right key words is critical and something that you should continue to build.  Looking at competitive or complimentary ministries will give you some ideas.  Searching for each of your own key words will give you more ideas.  Looking up your key words in dictionaries and online references will also help.  If your ministry needs to be found, this is something that you simply cannot take lightly.

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

The Reality of “Connections”, “Liking”, and “Sharing” in Social Media . . .

What do we need to consider when we make or accept connections, how we build value for our network, and what should be expected in liking and sharing posts on social media?  The way we handle these things can help assure our success in what we desire to accomplish using social media, so it’s important that we spend a little time in planning how we will handle them.

Your Connections

Most of us understand connection quality vs. quantity.  We should each have a connection strategy, something that outlines who we will invite, and who we will accept invitations from (see my strategy below).  This strategy will be based on who your “target connections” are (the people you want to connect to).  You might want to identify your strategy on your profile to limit unwanted invitations.  If you want to maximize the value of LinkedIn, you will want to have a way of allowing or encouraging desirable invitations, so be sure you allow invitations in your security settings (In LinkedIn, go to “Settings” “Email Preferences” & “Select who can send you Invitations”).  You might also want to include an email address in your Contact Settings or in your Summary (I still recommend a dedicated email address for LinkedIn or even social media in general).  Of course there will be a few exceptions, but hundreds of unknown or unrelated connections don’t help much, and might even discourage people from connecting to you because they can presume you won’t be able to help them as you can’t possibly know all your connections.

My Connection Strategy

My personal LinkedIn connection strategy is to: (1) personally know my connections including family and friends, (2) worked with them in previous jobs, (3) have common ministry goals including deliverance, inner healing, and career coaching, (4) they are members of my LinkedIn groups.  If I receive an invitation, and it includes a personal message of why someone wants to connect, I almost always accept.  If the invitation is not personalized, I take the following steps; (1) look at their profile to see if common values or goals are indicated, (2) look at their groups to see if they indicate common (or conflicting) values, (3) look at their websites and links to see what they tell me about the person, and finally, (4) check out their work, education, recommendations, and the apps they use for additional input.  My connections either contribute or detract from my personal brand, and the value of my network.  I respect and value my connections as valuable resources, and generally will go out of my way to help them if I can.  My connections move from valuable to questionable if I get a message from them days after connecting, asking me to engage in some type of business with them.  Take time to build trust first, and make sure you only offer things that they have indicated they want or need.

Group Connections

Joining Groups is one of LinkedIn’s important benefits if you want to connect to people you do not currently know.  You will want to join groups that have common values and goals, and groups where your “target contacts” will be members.  If you join a group and immediately try t sell them something you will lose any credibility before you begin.  By participating in group discussions with valuable input, you can create your personal value and credibility to those that you want to connect to.  If you started a group, it’s a good idea to let potential members know what any membership qualifications might be.  Be aware joining a LinkedIn group can contribute to your personal brand, so always be cautious that the group profile is consistent with your values and goals, as well as the group’s rules are what you want to accept.

The Value of Your Connections and You

Your network is only as valuable as you make it.  It takes work to build that value.  One of the best ways to add value is by adopting the “pay it ahead” philosophy.  You can do this by sharing valuable and interesting information that you believe they will benefit from, and help them solve problems they might have.  As I mentioned above, that does not include selling your services to a new connections before you get to know them.  To my connections, I do recommend my two groups to those that I feel might benefit, but the groups are strictly voluntary and have no expected monetary return.  I fully intend both groups to be a “pay it ahead” gift, but I do occasionally sense reluctance that there is a catch coming.  There is not a catch, and there never will be in my groups.  Recommend books (keep these to other authors unless directly asked for your publications) and recommend groups that will help them succeed in their business and ministry.  We all have unique experiences, knowledge, and wisdom that can help others.  As a trainer recently told my son, you are a truly unique creation that will never happen again, not sharing your talent and gifts will keep others from ever having the opportunity to receive them and grow in the path that God desires for them.  Those more active on the internet will frequently find valuable articles and web pages that our connections could miss.  Finding a way to share those things should be a continuing goal to build our relationships and the value of our network.  A great way to add value is starting a LinkedIn group that has a focus to help your connections (preferably one that doesn’t already exist), and frequently start and contribute to the discussions.  That was exactly the goal for both my “Linked4Ministry” and “Anothen Life Deliverance and Inner Healing Network” LinkedIn groups.

Expectations of your Connections

What do you expect your friends to do when you write an awesome blog article, update your LinkedIn status, post a photo or story on facebook, or share a link on Twitter?  Should your friends read it, or comment on it?  If they are really friends, do you expect them to “Like”, “Share”, or “Re-Tweet” it?  Living in today’s Entitlement Society certainly gives us some expectations of our social media connections, but are our expectations realistic?  Actually, our connections don’t owe us anything just because they accepted our invitation, or we accepted theirs.  We must earn their respect and trust before we can expect them to help us.  When we consistently “pay it ahead” by contributing things that add real value, we build our credibility, trust, and respect.  Is that enough to get them to “Like” or “Share” our ‘stuff’ to help us reach a larger audience?  If you are connecting on social media to help people without worrying that it will have an ROI (return on investment) then you will most likely be successful.  If your goal is to monetize everything you do, then you won’t garner much support.  Expecting reciprocity on social media is just like life, it doesn’t happen without relationship, and happens frequently for those who ‘pay it ahead’ without regard for personal gain.

Liking and Sharing

When you “Like” an article or posting by a friend or connection, it is generally noted on your home page or status, and it raises the awareness of the posting, giving it additional exposure to your connections.  When you “Share” an article or posting, you can add your own comments (which is actually a recommendation or critique), and your comments will be seen by your connections giving them the added incentive or warning to click on the link or support the cause.  If the posting adds value to your connections, consider liking or sharing it with your connections, but always consider what type social media you are using.  I believe too much liking or sharing by a single individual too close together on LinkedIn degrades the value of my network updates, causing me to be frustrated with having to scroll through too many updates that don’t interest me, and possibly causing delays when I have to click on “more” to see the rest of my network updates that moved off the screen.  Facebook has some of the same issues but is sometimes less offensive because of the ‘social’ slant.  Twitter, on the other hand is all about lots of liking, sharing, and re-tweeting to help the postings gain large amounts of additional exposure.

In LinkedIn, the two extremes of not liking or sharing anything on social media, or liking or sharing so much that it looks like a Twitter stream does not provide value to you or your network.  A proper balance of liking or sharing to highlight things that others will benefit from, or will enjoy, adds value to your network.  When it’s done without expecting anything in return, increases your value, trust, and credibility to your network.  We still shouldn’t expect others to like and share our material just because they are connections.  If we ‘pay it ahead’ and ‘do it without expecting reciprocity’ as a way of life, we work toward gaining other’s support in a natural and easy way.  When and if our connections do reciprocate, and like or share our material, we know we are working in the right direction to building a valuable network that everyone benefits from.

Reciprocity in social media games

A final (and perhaps extreme) lesson in reciprocity on social media, and a good lesson in marketing, comes from the use of social media games like Farmville.  A lot of action in these games is all about reciprocity.  People give you things in these games, and they expect you to return the favor.  Ernst Fehr, an economist, did a study where players are asked to choose between keeping $10, or giving $40 to another player.  The expectation was that if the second player chose to accept the $40, they would split it with the first player, but knowing the second player could just keep the $40, might cause the first player to just keep the $10.  In the study, people were found to be generally trusting, and usually willing to take the chance of giving the second player the $40.  This strategy in marketing Farmville has made it extremely successful, and many players spend a great deal of time playing it.  I’m not sure how we apply the Farmville marketing strategy to ministry, but the strategy of providing value, and providing more than others expect, is always a good marketing plan.

 

As always, thank you for reading Linked4Ministry.  If you are new here, the best way to receive all the new posts is to subscribe for e-mail updates at the top right.  If you have been following Linked4Ministry and find it helpful, please consider sharing it with other ministry partners that it could benefit.  It’s easy to do by clicking on the following buttons, and it’s OK to click more than one !

Blessings,
Bill Bender
Linked4Ministry & Anothen Life Ministries

 

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