The below presentation was given at the National Association of Steel Service Centres (NASS) 2023 Summer Gathering.
In 12 days I’ll have been using LinkedIn for 12 years! On the day I joined I thought:
“Wow! This business Facebook thingy is incredible! Everyone I want to do business with is right here, this will be so easy!”
In reality, that’s not quite the case, but LinkedIn has been a crucial tool for growing my businesses. I’m going to share the key things that I’ve learned that will help you make the most out of the platform.
Today I’m going to talk about:
- Today I’m going to talk about:
- Who I am and a bit about my business, Comton Group.
- Some LinkedIn stats.
- Why social media is fundamental to your marketing strategy.
- Three key points of how to create compelling posts.
- Why and how to engage customers and clients online with videos and voice notes.
- My social media Eureka moment, and the unexpected benefits of posting online.
I’m Pete Comerford and I have been a small business owner for 16 years. I ran a Metal Distribution business for just over a decade selling oil and gas pipework products in the UK, Europe and further overseas. Peak turnover was around £5 million.
In late 2018 I co-founded Comton Group, an agency working in the Metal and Engineering Sectors. As we close in on our 5th year we are close to breaking through the first milestone of becoming a million pound a year business.
We originally specialised in recruitment but over the last two years we increased our product offering to videography, photography, social media management, web design and marketing services to these same customers. We also run a digital publication The Metal Magazine, and a podcast The Metal Guys Talk Business.
The Metal Magazine has been viewed more than half a million times and the podcast has had thousands of downloads in over 55 countries worldwide.
Now when Mike and I set the business up, I was adamant that posting video content online would be the quickest way for us to differentiate ourselves from the thousands of other recruitment agencies, and show people that we really understood our sector, rather than just saying we specialise in the metal and engineering sector.
Over the last 12 months we’ve generated over 2 million impressions on our personal LinkedIn accounts from the content that we post. And it really is fundamental in our growth.
So I’m going to start with a few rhetorical questions.
Are you thinking:
- I don’t know what to post online?
- I don’t feel comfortable posting?
- I don’t think I’ve got anything to say?
- And I don’t think anyone would care if I did say anything?
You may also be worried about your employees posting on social media:
- What happens if they say something daft?
- I don’t really want them using it?
- And our competitors might try to poach our best people if they can see them online?
And if you are using social media for your business:
- How many of you are just resharing company branded posts?
- And who’s worried that you might get in trouble if you say the wrong thing online?
Some businesses actually have a policy that staff cannot use social media at all.
But business is changing.
The traditional methods still work.
Telephone calls, face to face meetings, email campaigns, trade shows, networking events, publications, SEO and Pay Per Click Campaigns, but there is a change occurring in the way people are communicating and absorbing information. This change is a worry to established businesses.
As the next generation of talent enters our market sectors, so comes with it both opportunities and threats if we were to draw up the old SWOT diagram.
Now I could talk for hours about the ways businesses should be looking at lead generation and the role of social media in the marketing mix, but I only have 15 minutes so I’m going to drill into a couple of areas for you to have a think about and potentially try out.
So let’s throw in some LinkedIn statistics:
People are 20x more likely to share a post if it has a video.
Posts made with accompanying images receive twice the engagement
Users that see content from a brand are 6x more likely to buy from that brand.
96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service (I mean i would have thought this would be 100%, but apparently not)
So the point is simple.
Posting content will give you a better chance of winning new business, or selling more to your existing customers.
So let’s talk about social media and its importance in the marketing mix.
When I speak to clients, I suggest that social media posts should be the starting point for your marketing activities.
Create video or graphical content and write supporting posts for social media.
Then add this content to your website in the form of longer form blogs for SEO purposes.
Link all of these blogs together as you post more in the same way you see on Wikipedia. The reason for this is so that people stay on your website longer which in turn will increase your organic google ranking.
Add calls to action on these pages to capture email addresses or phone numbers for these leads.
Then create sales funnels for these leads.
Email out this content to your mailing lists.
And give the content to your sales and business development personnel if you have them, to use as a tool in their sales processes.
You can also see what social media posts get the best traction or results, and then create more of that type of content.
For the posts that don’t work as well, it’s no problem, they disappear from your feeds in 24 hrs so you can try different approaches without committing to ad spend before you’ve tested an idea out.
The goal is that potential customers consider you at the point that they are looking to make a purchase.
Now forgive me for talking about marketing so crudely, but the process is three stage
Stage 1 | Awareness | short form content, intended to reach new audiences and aid discovery of you or your products and services or inform your existing customers of other products and services they do not yet buy.
Stage 2 | Credibility | You become an authority figure by producing longer form content, case studies, deeper explanation of services. These could be podcasts, longer videos, case study articles or talks at exhibitions or events like this.
Stage 3 | Drive Action | Enquiries and Orders.
All three stages benefit from social media marketing, but work in conjunction with your traditional marketing activities.
So let’s jump back a step and talk about posting on social media.
There are three key areas to consider when posting.
and the Call to Action
The Hook and the Call to Action are the most important.
So let’s start with the hook.
A hook stops a person from scrolling. It may not sound that professional, but the more click baitey the hook, the more it will stand out.
When I write a hook I imagine my target audience as one person. As Terry Wogan said, “Remember you’re not talking to ‘an audience’, you’re talking to one person.”
Imagining you’re talking to one person makes it far easier to create an impactful message.
So let’s try an example based on today:
Typically, people would post something like this:
I’ve been out in Birmingham today at the NASS summer gathering.
Lots of interesting presentations, and some great networking.
And then you might post a photo of you by a banner or something like that.
So the first line, or the hook is: I’ve been out … blah blah blah
Now this is fine, but it may be better to start with:
UNMISSABLE content at the NASS summer gathering!
I’d also write the UNMISSABLE in bold.
The word makes the reader think, what did I miss? It’s like FOMO.
And this would mean it’s far more likely someone would stop scrolling and take a look at the post to see what they missed out on.
The next section is the content.
As I said this is the least important of the three, as it’s the section of a post that is the message. This could be the news story, the product or service you’re offering.
But, you can still make this more interesting.
For instance, instead of just listing out the speaker programme, you could say something like:
MAKE UK speaker Richard Rumbelow said NORTHERN IRELAND are actively looking at sourcing welders from Indonesia and India to plug the skills gap, and furthermore, they are paying a 15% premium compared to mainland UK to recruit these persons.
By adding a quote, the post is of more interest, and qualifies the hook.
But you could go one step further by giving YOUR opinion on it.
And better still, add a link into the comment below, and tell the reader where to find the additional information and why they should take a look.
The other thing that you need to remember is it’s not an english GCSE essay. It doesn’t need to be prose.
Use white space, emojis, broken sentences also create more interest, you’re writing style must change to reflect the audience who are casually viewing social media.
The final part is the call to action.
In this case it could be to join NASS so as not to miss out on this type of content, or to check out the NASS website for the speaker notes
If you missed this event, don’t worry, you can check out the event roundup here.
Or you could ask a question.
This is what I think, but what do you think?
So what are your thoughts on Richard’s point? Is this option really viable in your opinion?
If you write your content like this, you will get more traction, and slowly build up a following and more importantly position yourself as a thought leader and your business as a market leader in your field of expertise.
So next up is those two words Social, and Media
It should be pretty obvious, but it’s meant to be social. It can actually be quite good fun, and you will – if you commit – get rewards.
The painful part is that it will take time.
We’ve all had that new connection that once you add them starts sending you sales messages straight out of the gate.
It’s annoying, you never buy from these people, it’s not what would happen in real life, and it’s not how you should use social media.
There are two tools that I use to build better quality relationships on social media.
These are: Voice notes and Video messages.
I have never had someone send me a video message or voice note (unless I’ve sent one first) BUT they work incredibly well when you are trying to start building a relationship with someone through social media.
Let’s try another example, of how I use a voice note.
If I’ve added someone, and that person is someone I’d like to talk to, I’d send a message after they have accepted my connected request that would go something like this:
Thanks for adding me as a connection on LinkedIn.
I came across your profile after spotting a post you made about X and I thought it would be good to connect with you.
I just wanted to send you a personalised message to say hi. I find LinkedIn can be a little impersonal from time to time.
That and I use a caricature as my profile picture, so I wanted you to know I am a real person.
Anyway, cheers for the add, and I’ll be sure to say hi should our paths cross in the real world.
That would be it.
But I get a really high response rate from this, and this then enables me to send further messages and try to build a relationship like people do in the real world.
So let’s reverse the roles.
If someone adds me on LinkedIn then I send a different introduction message which goes something like this:
Thanks for adding me to your LinkedIn network.
I just wanted to send you a personalised message to say hi. So hi!
I noticed that you have been working in the petrochemical sector for the last 3 years, I’ve done a lot of work in my time in that sector. How’s it going?
As you can see, I now make video content, do some recruiting and help businesses with their social media.
If you want to chat about any of those things than by all means drop me a message.
But if you’re just looking to grow your network, then it’s great to be part of yours, and I’m sure our paths will cross at some point in the future.
Now, take note: In both examples, I use the person’s name, I thank them, I say it is a personalised message, I add something about them, I try to add a little bit of humour, and I give an opt out in the second example when I talk business.
The opt out is something I would always suggest when you have not built a real relationship with someone.
If you don’t, people can quickly go cold!
Video Messages are even better than Voice Notes in my opinion, BUT they are definitely not for everyone, and it’s more difficult to get them right, but the format is no different from the voice notes.
Just before I finish last week I asked my network about any Eureka moments that they had had on social media and I had two very similar messages:
The first said
“By posting on social media, people want to join our business. They see us as open, transparent, honest, and modern.”
The second message read:
“Our staff feel included, and posting content fosters a feeling of one team. They buy into the company goals collectively even though our team is spread out across multiple sites.”
I was expecting to hear about new clients and new orders, but these were unexpected byproducts of having a social media presence.
My Eureka moment came in 2013.
I posted a picture of a container load of stainless steel that had arrived.
The post said something like, 24 tonnes of Stainless Steel Elbows arrived today. We’ve already sold 4 tonnes on forward order, give us a shout with your requirements before we sell it all.
I picked up an enquiry from someone I was linked with on LinkedIn but I had never spoken to.
I received an order that same day for about 5 grand, but by the end of the week I’d quoted them for a €150,000 job. I didn’t get that order, but because of that post I got the opportunity.
And that’s what business is all about.
We just want to be in the mix.
And Social Media keeps you in that shop window.
Thanks for listening.