SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Get Social: Chocolate-covered Bacon

Old school SMB Nation fans remember our love and affection for BACON! Who can forget our “Save Your Bacon” campaign back in the day promoting StorageCraft? (Remember the bacon bit muffins at SMB Nation Spring?) So

when I attended Simply Measured’s LIFT – Social conference in Seattle last week, I was instantly at home when liftsocialChocolate-covered bacon was on the afternoon snack cart.

But this isn’t a foodie review, rather it’s a look at social media analytics. The context is this. If you are reading this blog and seeking to “start-up” a technology business with legs, I’d offer the world of social media and the use of analytics in this Market 2.0 era demands your consideration.

LIFT Social is an ongoing annual conference sponsored by Simply Measured, an analytics ISV in the social media space. Basically it is in the business of providing tools to measure the impact of social media campaigns businesses might execute. For example, Trek was there talking about the use of the analytical tools to measure success in building the Trek bicycle brand using numerous social media tactics such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

First a few takeaways from the conference and then a few observations.

Engagement is not revenue. Towards the end of the conference, I don’t know if I heard a dirty little secret in the social media space or if the speakers were being completely transparent. Loosely translated, the number of likes (Facebook), friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter) and connections (LinkedIn) doesn’t mean jack snitz when it comes to revenue. I’ve always suspected this. Social media is good for brand building but it’s not transactional by its nature. I’ve seen this in several ways. First is our beloved Karl Palachuk of MSP books fame in the SMB space. Karl has worked very hard to build his brand and hit the 5,000 friend limit for a Facebook personal page. And his brand building has resulted in overall success for his book sales. However, if engagement had a direct correlation to revenue, he’d be a billionaire and I’d be shining his shoes. Another example is how I’ll nudge people to attend our weekly webinar. When I post into an Office 365 LinkedIn group with over 90,000 members about a relevant webinar coming up soon, I’ll pull anywhere from zero to a couple new attendees. Several speakers at LIFT Social shared similar disappointments. Such is the state of the Social Media union.

Attribution. Having spent time in the Big Data predictive analytics space, there is always the issue of attribution when working with leads (affiliates and aggregators). Basically the issues surrounding getting credit for driving traffic. Who drove the click? What timeframe does the attribution apply (immediate or forever)? And so on. Simply Measured announced what it claims to be the first attribution measurement tool for social media campaigns. I’ll be meeting with the Simply Measured executive team in a couple weeks to dig deeper into this.
Spying. One speaker named Skylar delivered an impressive speech on competitive intelligence gathering using the Simply Measured tools. It amounted to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Best speech for me.

Sources. The C-level executive at Hubspot demonstrated sources of customer traffic and Google ad words was way low on the scale (below 10%) with sources like Instagram and YouTube fairing much higher. That was an eye opener. I confirmed this later with my 18YO son when he affirmed a media buy to target millennials would be best on Instagram, not Facebook.
Young at Heart. Finally, in the start-up mentality, I found the demographic at LIFT Social to be dramatically different than SMB Nation. Women attendees outnumbered men 2:1 whereas SMB Nation events are 95% male. The average age was significantly lower than our late 40s SMB Nation member. That’s OK as it made me feel young at heart LOL.

I end with a question? Why do these social media millennials end every sentence an octave higher (riser) with the word PERFECT? Not everything is PERFFECT in social media analytics but it’s getting closer to the precise measurements we can gather today with email and adwords campaigns.

Continue reading
1591 Hits

Start-up Secret: Mining LinkedIn

If you are starting up a new technology-based entrepreneurial endeavor, you need to heed the wisdom of many before you. It’s about who you know. I can attest to that my relationships have yield more return on investment that my intellectual capabilities. Ultimately I made more money as a “rainmaker” than a hard core geek (although you need both as a technical professional – don’t get me wrong).

One of the secrets to my success is applying analytics to my data. In this case, the secret I want to share concerns mining your

LinkedIn connections. Before I share the special link that will give you a bona fide business boost, please indulge in some context.

Be aggressive in making connections. Early in the life of LinkedIn, there was a strong cultural norm that you should not over connect with people you don’t really know. And to some extent, the LinkedIn connection procedure still forces you to demonstrate some type of alleged relationship with the recipient. But there are now one-day workshops and countless YouTube videos advising you on how to build your list of LinkedIn connections as fast and large as possible to engage in business development.











When you connect with someone, you can message them, endorse and recommend them. But did you know if you click on the little Contact Info icon below the individual’s picture, you can often see a telephone number and an email address. The email address is very interesting because it is usually a “back email” address such as Gmail or Hotmail. It’s often not their corporate email address. When people set-up their LinkedIn account, they frequently use a personal email address so that the authentication and identity credentials travel with the individual (e.g. if they change jobs) and not with the “company.” The little secret here is that you can email these people at a little-used back email address and get their undivided attention. Make sense?

If gets better. When you follow the connection download procedure below, you can easily aggregate all of your connections with email addresses on a single spreadsheet (CSV) format. In my case, that’s 3,297 connections I’ve legitimately built up over several years. When I have access to all of that connection information in one Microsoft Excel 2016 worksheet, the world if my oyster. I can slice, dice, sort and pivot this important data to make it rain dollars!

So you’ve waited long enough – here is the link.

Continue reading
1618 Hits

LinkedIn's Competitive Threat to MSPs

You knew it was coming. It arrived in my Inbox as a forwarded email from SMB Nation community member David Gerhart from Bend, OR. David is an IT consultant and he received a “lead” from LinkedIn’s new ProFinder service (which I consdier a start-up).

LinkedIn has always had the underutilized asset of millions of details on millions of people. It’s discovering ways that it can now offer a plethora of new professional services including training (see my blog how LinkedIn’s Lynda competes with Microsoft Learning Partners here) And rest assured I’ve kept an eagle-eye on LinkedIn for years including having attended its world launch Cocktail Mixer Party in Seattle in November 2014.

LinkedIn ProFinder challenges MSPs in a couple of fronts. First – there are spot buyers of IT services in the SMB space who don’t want or understand the value of a long-term contract. Second - there are existing MSPs customers who will re-evaluate their needs as they understand what LinkedIn ProFinder is. They might possibly bump into it in a different realm, perhaps trying to out Angie on Angie’s List for some minor repairs.


And this is a threat to labor markets like OnForce as LinkedIn, using Big Data, just has deeper analytics and richer resources to draw on. It’s also neutralized an overthought idea that “I should monetize my huge LinkedIn group into a labor market and connect group members with customers needing services.” I’ve heard that idea several times from entrepreneurs who believed that they had invented this idea of labor markets (remember the “Windows 7 was my idea” TV commercials?). As a side note, we performed a few “stress tests” against several LinkedIn groups over the last year to test the “strength” of the list membership and we were roundly disappointed. First - LinkedIn changed the look/feel and even modified the algorithms of the groups, causing interest levels to fade quickly. Second – LinkedIn groups like “Microsoft Office 365” (with 85,623 members) don’t convert to actions such as signing up for a webinar. It all looks good on paper but the data doesn’t lie. Enter LinkedIn ProFinder with its natural competitive advantage.

Here is how LinkedIn ProFinder works for the customer:
1. Tell us what you need.
2. Get free proposals from up to five professionals eager to help.
3. Hire with confidence. You select the right pro but if you need help, there is a ProFinder concierge team that helps the customer with every step. This is perhaps the most disturbing feature. LinkedIn is devoting real-time resources in the bid-sell process. That’s something of an antithesis maneuver that online labor markets can’t match and ultimately affect MSPs.

There are over 13 service categories ranging from Accounting to IT Services to Real Estate.
Turning the argument around, there is an opportunity to sign-up as a service provider for LinkedIn ProFinder. I liken it to gap filler work akin to being a part-time Uber driver. The sign-up process results in the following motions:
1. Get leads in your Inbox.
2. Respond on your terms.
3. Get hired.

When I signed up, the services radio button only allowed me to select one service category, so I selected IT Services. Then a selection box menu allowed me to make several selections including IT Consulting and Computer Networking. Next I had to put in my phone number. At this point, a must read is the LinkedIn ProFinder – Terms and Conditions, which amongst other things limits its liability (not surprisingly).

Back to David Gerhart. The lead information I received is the basis for my blog today but the shoe didn’t fit for me. It was for an engagement in Portland, OR.
In a forthcoming blog, I’ll detail how Amazon will ultimately be a competitor to MSPs using its Big Data analytics. Standby.

Continue reading
1758 Hits

Don't connect with everyone on LinkedIn

Story by Steven Petrow - 

My column of two weeks ago (“Don’t make this mistake on LinkedIn”) drew lots of ire from some readers, not to mention a whole new crop of questions about conduct on LinkedIn. That column focused on what I called “inappropriate” or “bad” LinkedIn behavior, and I think it resonated so strongly because, as Peter Vincent, vice president of human rescources at the Audubon Society, told me: “LinkedIn is such a critical element in career management.”LinkedIn

Half a dozen readers specifically asked about a LinkedIn “mistake” of another kind, which is well-represented by this email:

“I quit LinkedIn because if you hit the wrong button in LinkedIn -- something related to Search for connections -- Linked In will automatically send an invitation to EVERYONE IN YOUR CONTACT LIST!!! Imagine: people you fired, people who fired you, ex-spouses and lovers, the guy you owe money to, your cable company, your proctologist, your kid's teachers -- you get the idea. LinkedIn's behavior in this regard is extremely arrogant, insulting, and embarrassing.”

As it turns out, a number of threads exist about this very topic on the LinkedIn site, including “LinkedIn automatically invited my entire contact list” and “People complaining I’ve sent invites to them but I didn’t.

One user posted his advice: “Beware hasty button-clicking! As pointed out elsewhere in this thread, [LinkedIn] standard practice is to use [a confusing user interface] to get users to do things they don't intend to do. For example, to NOT invite somebody you SELECT their name, and to invite somebody you DE-SELECT.”

Does that sound confusing? Well, it does because it is. In a nutshell, let’s say you have 500 names among your contacts and you want to send invites to 50. To do that, you would need to “deselect” 450. This is neither intuitive – nor easy.

Click Here To Read More

Continue reading
1899 Hits