People that know me are aware that I’m blessed/cursed with an insatiable curiosity with learning something new. I’m always reading a book, a blog, someone’s post or Twitter feed. Like a worker bee bringing pollen back to the hive, I gather new ideas and try to glean some new edge from the noise. I’m constantly being asked what app I’m using or blog/book I’m reading. I thought it might be fun to jot down some of my favorites and explain, from my perspective, the value that I find in them and maybe how I’m using each. I’m always bumping into something new, so this will be an outdated list probably too soon, but maybe someone can use it as a way to sharpen their own sword. These are in no particular order…
- LinkedIn. I’m a big LI freak and I’ll admit it. I find it constantly intellectually stimulating and encouraging in connecting with other professionals in one online space. If Facebook is for “friends”, then LinkedIn is for “professional friends”. If you aren’t connected with me on LinkedIn already, check out my profile here http://www.linkedin.com/in/marshallatkinson. While most users on LI are just adding connections, or simply posting a profile and forgetting about this tool; I’m actively using it to grow my professional connections, introduce myself, gain business and sales, share ideas, share my ideas and knowledge, and use it as a resource to learn about others. The best value for me is to keep the “Top of Mind” with the people that I’m connected with, so when they need some t-shirts printed, or a design created they will think of me. You never know who will be reviewing your profile, or what they are looking for so I have mine chocked full of content. Here are a few tips on using LinkedIn:
- Fully fill out your profile. The best ones have some information on what that person does for a living and describes somehow how connecting with that person can be a value to another. You should include how to contact you – both e-mail and phone. I see so many people not post this information, and it’s vital. After all, that’s the reason for having a LinkedIn account – for the connections and potential business, right? I constantly get contacted from someone from LinkedIn because my information is listed, and you should too.
- Join some groups and be an active member. I try to either ask or answer at least one question a week in one of the groups that I’ve joined on LinkedIn. This has led to some interesting debates on subjects, wonderful working answers to a challenge I’ve posted, and most importantly of all – some business opportunities.
- Connect with everyone. This is a networking group. I don’t pre-judge anyone, as I’m looking for my next opportunity or referral. Maybe that person won’t need my services, but his associate might.
- Connect your Twitter feed. This helps keep your presence on the status update, so if anyone is looking at their LinkedIn page, you’ll look productive and as a contributor. Of course, if you regularly Tweet nonsense about picking up your kids, or how that ref just blew the call you might want to reconsider. (or have a professional Twitter account, and one for you personally)
- Post a picture. There’s lots of debate about this, but from my perspective I like to see someone’s face on there. I’ve met a few of my connections in person, long after I’ve connected and it’s great to check their profile before meeting them in person to help find them in a crowd at an event. This should be a professional looking head shot, not one of you gunning down a shot of tequila.
- Use LinkedIn for research. Shortly after you hand me your business card I’m going to type in your name on LinkedIn and see if you have a profile posted. I do this for a number of reasons, but the main one is to make sure that I’m solidifying my connection to you and I stay in front of the pack. I’ve learned some very interesting things along the way in doing this practice, and sometimes I’ve discovered something on a profile that will strengthen this new relationship or close a sale. Of course if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile as you don’t have an account this will come up empty. It always seems to me like there’s a hole online for that person…and that is a little disappointing.
- Twitter. (Follow me at @atkinsontshirt) I’ve only been using Twitter since August of 2011. I’m late to the party, but I’ve grown to learn and understand its power. Previously my comprehension of Twitter was that it was only for posting some smarmy attempt at wit; or some other inane comment that probably nobody wanted to read. After reading multiple business success articles and books, I opened my account and started Tweeting to the world. It’s been a challenge, and I often hate the 140 character limit, but now it’s an everyday part of my business arsenal. Why? Well, for one I like sharing things. Articles, books, ideas, whatever. Twitter is a perfect outlet for that. I don’t care if you read it or not, I’m putting it out there as whatever I’m posting is something I found interesting. Twitter is also the perfect medium for marketing something about you or your company. For Twitter, here are some points you should consider:
- Be polite. Give others credit for a post and say Thank You for a re-Tweet. There are some important social etiquette rules for Twitter, and if you adhere to them you’ll gain followers and influence. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
- Make it interesting. In my opinion the most valuable Tweets are ones that contain something that someone thought interesting or helpful. Read an article on robots? Great! Share it. Found some inspiring photos of Kenya? Great! Share it. Incredibly hung-over? Who cares? Post it on Facebook. I’m ignoring those.
- I have a loose formula of for every twenty or so Tweets I’ll post something about my company or something personal. The rest is divided up between sharing things I’ve encountered online, and re-Tweeting someone else’s post. I don’t want my Twitter feed to be all about me, me, me, me…but I do want others to have the opportunity to read something me once in a while. So far, that’s been working well.
- Re-Tweeting, or abbreviated by RT. If someone posts something that I find relevant, chances are I’ll repost it. I do it the right way, by using the RT function. Some people don’t, as they want to be seen as the originators of that thought, but I think this is wrong. Also, I’ve seen multiple people post the same link with a few RT’ing it, but there’s always one clown that doesn’t. To me, this makes them look plastic and fake, and lose credibility.
- Buffer. This is my number one Twitter app. It’s free and I can’t live without it. This schedules my Twitter feed for multiple days out. The advantage? Recently a business associate commented to me that he was impressed by the fact that I’m always posting online and sharing information that he found valuable. He wondered how I get any work done, since I’m always posting something. The secret is this Buffer app. Once or twice a week I fill up my Buffer feed and schedule when my Tweets will be posted. I can add to the feed at any time, and I always know what’s coming up. I’m not “always” online – it just appears that way. My goal for keeping “Top of Mind” works by using this app.
- There is also a great analytics tool, where I can see exactly how many people click on any link that I post on Twitter. In this way, I can see what articles are more popular than others. I can then tailor my content to post more items that people are interested in, adding to my credibility and usefulness to be connected or following me.
- You can also schedule your LinkedIn and Facebook feed with Buffer too. They just came out with this and I’ve experimented a little bit with this feature. Since my Twitter feed is connected to LinkedIn already, I mainly don’t use that tool for that.
- You can schedule your Tweets to post as many times during the day as you want, and at any particular time. I’ve experimented with one, two, three and four posts a day…and currently I’m doing three. Morning, lunch and end of the work day times. The times that I post may vary, see SocialBro below.
- SocialBro. As unbelievably cool as Buffer is, it doesn’t do everything. SocialBro is a great analytical tool for understanding your Twitter feed and the people you are connected with online. You can see who’s recently unfollowed you, your influence and some cool stats about your followers. However, the number one item I use SocialBro for is the tool that allows you to measure the exact times of the day that you should be Tweeting, based on your current followers – when they are using Twitter. I run this analytic tool once a week and adjust my times accordingly.
- HootSuite. I started using this free app to help me with my Twitter feed before I started using Buffer. It still works great, but I really only use it now for reviewing my incoming Twitter feed, and then only sparingly. I find now that HootSuite is too cluttered visually, but I do still like it all one place. I usually find things I might want to RT using HootSuite.
- WordPress. (https://atkinsontshirt.com/) If you are reading this you are using my latest experiment – the WordPress blog. Granted, folks have been using WordPress for some time now and I’m not breaking any new ground…but this is new for me. I found building this blog and posting my thoughts incredibly easy. If you aren’t writing a blog and posting your thoughts on whatever you are passionate about, what are you waiting for? Trust me, if I can do this you can too.
- Klout. (www.klout.com) This free app measures your social influence on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best. I’m not sure how this works, and there’s been plenty of debate over whether measuring social influence not only matters but how it should be measured. About once a week I check my score and it’s always been going up, so I’m using that as an indication that I must be doing something right. At the time of this article my score is at 45.26. Celebrities are somewhere between 60 and 80. Industry gurus are around there too. Most of the people I’m connected with are between 10 and 30. Do they have this wrong? I don’t know, but it’s interesting.
- Pinterest. (http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/) I wrote a blog article about Pinterest previously (https://atkinsontshirt.com/2012/02/04/how-your-art-staff-can-use-pintrest-to-an-advantage/) and since then I’ve learned a few other cool things about using Pinterest.
- You can collaborate with other people. This is really fun. Two or more people can share and Pin things to this board and have a visual conversation about something. My wife and I are experimenting with a family themed board, but I could see this as a great way for companies to share ideas with their customers, employees to share ideas or thoughts, even teachers and students to share ideas…the possibilities are endless. What could you share?
- I’m posting blog links and videos. This is a wonderful tool, and has led to actually more exposure for this blog as I’ve posted it on my board and now people are following it through Pinterest (if you are reading this because of this link, I’d like to know!!)
- It’s not just women using Pinterest. More and more guys are posting, so for every Pin that features a new way to paint your nails, bake some muffins, or wear a dress – there’s one for sports, muddy jeeps, women, alcohol, or other man-centric thought.
- The incredibly quick re-Pinning or Liking of a Pin is mind-blowing. My wife Pinned a fun drink recipe and over 500 people re-Pinned it in under an hour. By the next day it was over 1000. I haven’t had that level of success yet, but I did Pin a video link on Sustainability at 5:30 am and 14 people either liked it or re-Pinned it in under a minute. I’m not sure what’s driving this behavior, but the visual content of the Pin is the number one factor for having others to share it. Boring image? You’ll get nada. Visually stimulating and exciting? Goes viral in seconds. While this may prove to be the next MySpace…currently it’s so loaded with possibilities and enthusiasm you need to be a part of it.
- Information. I like a bunch of websites, blogs and spaces online to cull out my content. Here are a few, in no particular order:
- Ted. (www.ted.com) This is the world-famous video lecture website dedicated to expanding the influence of new ideas. Every video there is some revolutionary idea on something that will absolutely get your brain going. I love it. If you haven’t watched a Ted video before, you are missing out on something unique and worthwhile. Trust me on this one.
- Social Media Examiner. (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/) Want to learn “How to Do It” with social media, this is a great resource for learning. The experts at this site keep the ideas coming and in no-time you’ll be up to speed with the latest developments with building your online presence. I’ve learned a lot from these guys and you will too.
- Leadership Freak. (http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/) Dan Rockwell’s daily blog. Every day’s post is 300 words or less and always something useful. I repost his blog articles all the time, and share with my staff constantly. The man is a genius at distilling down one idea into something that you can create and use as an action plan for change.
- John Spence. (http://johnspence.com/) John is one of the top business minds in the world, and the author of one of my favorite business books “Awesomely Simple”. He speaks about continuous improvement and engaging your staff. He always has great content, and I devour everything he posts immediately. I’ve recommended his books numerous times and have organized a few staff meeting around some of his ideas.
- T-shirt Forums. (http://www.t-shirtforums.com/) Hey, I’m in the apparel industry and I’ve gravitated to this site somehow. Rodney Blackwell does a great job of keeping the posts relevant and organized. I like to read posts from other people in my industry, and I’ll chime in on a topic or two if I can help. My online name here is atkinsonconsult, so if you see a post there it’s from me.
- Screen Print Group. (http://screenprint-group.socialgo.com/) This is industry guru Bill Hood’s forum, and where all the top minds in the apparel industry go to share ideas, tips, and mentor each other in developing successful companies. If you are a t-shirt printer and not part of this group, you are missing out on a valuable resource. I’ll admit that I read more than I post… This should be mandatory for all production managers and owners.
- SGIA. The Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. (www.sgia.org) This is my number one resource for guidance on legal regulations, HR related issues, webinars, and other methods of developing a successful company culture at an apparel decorating firm. Want to write a job description? Learn how to implement a safety program? What are the facts with the Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008? Here’s where you go.
- Twitter. Yep, Twitter again. People post links to all kinds of stuff every single minute of the day. If they are sharing something even remotely interesting I’ll click on the link and read what they think is valuable content. Sometimes I’ll share it, sometimes not. I gotta’ keep my edge somehow you know.
- LinkedIn. Since I mentioned Twitter, I have to mention LinkedIn again. People share information in the groups that I belong to, and I’ll use that post to learn something new. That’s one of the hidden gems of using LinkedIn, and it keeps me on my toes. I belong to 50 groups (the maximum) and continually read the feed from each one. I have a lot of interests, from continuous improvement to sports…so this is a good information feed as people are sharing the content that they find valuable.
Ok, so if you’ve read down to this point on this blog congratulations! You must be interested in growing and learning. I love to share information too, so if you have an idea on something that works for you let’s trade or network and grow together. You can e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!!
My previous workplace, workday, and work ethic would have never provided me with enough time to explore, much less participate, in all or even a little bit of this stuff. I am a reluctant participant at this point (for lots of tired old reasons and excuses), but unemployment sucks, so thanks for the direction. Geronimo! Wait…that’s probably not PC. Let’s see….oh yeah! Got it! (Thanks ESPN and Bud LIght.) Here we go!