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The Promises & Perils of the Microsoft LinkedIn Acquisition

msft-linkedin

The ink is barely dry on the announcement that Microsoft has offered US$26.2 billion in cash to purchase LinkedIn and already the usual suspects are lining up to criticise or praise the deal.

Tech commentator Peter Cohan, writing on Forbes, reckons that “Microsoft Wasted $26.2 Billion To Buy LinkedIn” and offered up four reasons why, including these two:

1. The business social networking industry is not attractive
LinkedIn lost $166 million on $29.9 billion in sales in 2015. As a LinkedIn user, I cannot see anything worth paying for and I would guess that there are simply not enough people who see enough value in the service to make it worth “upgrading to premium.”

2. Combined companies will not be better off.
There is no scenario I can envision in which the combined companies will be better off. There is no reason to believe that Microsoft has the strategic skills needed to revive LinkedIn’s growth.

Recode added in another concern:

LinkedIn’s ad business is slowing down.
While recruitment services are the big sales driver at LinkedIn, advertising represents roughly 18 percent of LinkedIn’s business, a significant segment that has been trending in the wrong direction. When LinkedIn reported Q4 earnings earlier in February 2016, one of the concerns was that its ad business grew just 20 percent for the quarter year over year; that compared to growth of 56 percent in the same quarter the year before. Research firm eMarketer predicted LinkedIn’s U.S. digital ad revenue would fall from 35 percent growth in 2015 to less than 10 percent growth this year. In other words, LinkedIn wasn’t selling ads the way people expected it to.

VentureBeat is similarly negative:

Acquisition double-talk, part 1: On the one hand, this deal is all about the oft-vaunted idea of “synergy” (even if that word is not used). The idea is presumably to build LinkedIn into all sorts of Microsoft products. Great! But, does this mean I’m going to get all sorts of messages suddenly asking if I want to share my Word doc through LinkedIn or have some LinkedIn integration with an Excel spreadsheet…or…what? There’s a lot of talk today about how this is going to broaden Microsoft’s reach into all sorts of new channels for selling stuff like cloud services. But does one of the largest tech companies in the world really need to spend $26 billion to reach new customers?

Acquisition double talk, part 2: Structurally, LinkedIn is going to remain independent. Per the Nadella memo:

“LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand and independence, as well as their culture which is very much aligned with ours. Jeff (Weiner) will continue to be CEO of LinkedIn, he’ll report to me and join our senior leadership team. In essence, what I’ve asked Jeff to do is manage LinkedIn with key performance metrics that accrue to our overall success. He’ll decide from there what makes sense to integrate and what does not.”

So why do the deal?

Officially, according to the slide deck announcing the deal, key opportunities for the combined entity include:

  • Realize a common mission by bringing together the world’s leading professional cloud and professional network
  • Drive increased engagement across LinkedIn as well as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM
  • Accelerate monetization through individual and organization subscriptions and targeted advertising

LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner explained his perspective, in an email to employees:

Both [Weiner and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] recognized that combining [the two companies’] assets would be unique and had the potential to unlock some enormous opportunities.

For example:

  • Massively scaling the reach and engagement of LinkedIn by using the network to power the social and identity layers of Microsoft’s ecosystem of over one billion customers. Think about things like LinkedIn’s graph interwoven throughout Outlook, Calendar, Active Directory, Office, Windows, Skype, Dynamics, Cortana, Bing and more.
  • Accelerating our objective to transform learning and development by deeply integrating the Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning solution in Office alongside some of the most popular productivity apps on the planet.
  • Realizing LinkedIn’s full potential to truly change the way the world works by partnering with Microsoft to innovate on solutions within the enterprise that are ripest for disruption, e.g., the corporate directory, company news dissemination, collaboration, productivity tools, distribution of business intelligence and employee voice, etc.
  • Expanding beyond recruiting and learning & development to create value for any part of an organization involved with hiring, managing, motivating or leading employees. This human capital area is a massive business opportunity and an entirely new one for Microsoft.
  • Giving Sponsored Content customers the ability to reach Microsoft users anywhere across the Microsoft ecosystem, unlocking significant untapped inventory.
  • Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics CRM.
  • Leveraging our subscription capabilities to provide opportunities to the massive number of freelancers and independent service providers that use Microsoft’s apps to run their business on a daily basis.

Those are enticing future possibilities, to be sure, but are they really worth 26.2 billion dollars? Some commentators were far more positive.

ComputerWorld provides some current context:

There’s a ton at stake here. Microsoft is slowly dropping out of the hardware business for smartphones as they make a bold move with apps like Outlook for the iPhone and a cool Bing app that provides quick info about movies in your area or local eateries. The world is going mobile, and LinkedIn is one of the first apps most of us install on a new phone. How can you not? It’s how we discover the news, find people to fill a new position, and how we connect socially during the day. Social networking is partly a response to the isolation that comes from working at a keyboard all day. When we need to keep doing business on the move, LinkedIn is one of the best ways to maintain business relationships.

I first realized this when I was working on an article about a new book called “Disrupted” by Dan Lyons. It was a bit of a diatribe against startups in general (and one in particular called Hubspot), and I was curious how people who like the company would respond.

There’s a lot of noise on Facebook, thousands of posts about graduation parties mixed in between serious business news. Yet, on LinkedIn, one quick check on a post by the founder of Hubspot revealed hundreds and hundreds of comments from people defending the company. This is why Microsoft is acquiring LinkedIn. It has become part of the fabric of business discussion. All of those comments are from “the LinkedIn community” in the best sense of the phrase.

The article … was filled with smart comments from people who actually have real jobs. It was filled with people who have something to say and a place to say it. Without LinkedIn, I’m not sure how anyone could parse a discussion like that down to something even remotely useful. Facebook is all over the board. Twitter is too condensed. When we say “woven” we mean useful, that it holds the shirt together. You can stretch it, pull it, drag it over the mud, and even tie-dye it and it will hold up to scrutiny. Woven means it is worth $26.2B and a high stock price.

Microsoft needed something woven, and the acquisition makes perfect sense. Some of their other ventures are a bit frayed at the edges. I’m not sure what will happen with Office, because I’m too busy using Google Docs on a Chromebook Pixel. I’m not sure what will happen with data centers that are so Microsoft-centric, when it’s becoming quite clear that there are thousands of cloud service providers that can do exactly the same thing for much lower costs. I’m not even sure what will happen with the Xbox or Windows 10. There’s some shifting sand beneath these monoliths, and you’d have to be crazy to predict they’ll be around in the same form for the next 10 years.

But LinkedIn? It will have a really long shelf life. It has the same deeply entrenched sustainability as Google ads and Facebook photo archives.

Meanwhile, PC World reckons that the primary reason that Microsoft is buying LinkedIn is to provide content for its digital assistant Cortana:

Picture a typical business trip: meetings all day, drinks at night. A good salesperson knows his or her contacts before he or she steps foot in the door. But that goes for coworkers as well: How you you make them feel comfortable? How do you make them part of a team? How do you let them know who to approach, both inside and outside the company?

All of this usually takes some effort on your part, or at least a competent assistant. And that’s the role that Microsoft hopes to play, especially with its digital assistant, Cortana, and Office 365.

Right now, Cortana provides some basic information about your calendar, suggesting, for example, what time you’ll need to leave to ensure you arrive at your next meeting on time. In Microsoft’s digital future, Cortana will be able to sum up what you need to know both about your business relationship, and what information you can use to cement a more personal connection, too. It sounds smarmy, but a good salesperson will tell you that an emotional connection helps seal the deal.

cortana

If the thought of Microsoft owning more data about you—well, you probably should go delete your LinkedIn profile, now. Microsoft already knows your calendar (Outlook), your meetings (Outlook), your coworkers (Delve) your accounts (Microsoft Dynamics CRM) and some of your expertise (Delve).

Inc magazine spells out a few more considerations:

What LinkedIn has that Microsoft wants is connections — business connections. And that’s critical to the latter’s strategy. Microsoft understands that computing and relationships to the business users that are its mainstay have changed. More people have moved to mobile, an area where the Redmond-based giant has struggled. Computing has shifted to the cloud, and while Microsoft is a significant player in that arena, it’s a far cry from the influence it wielded when companies all had their own servers, whether directly own and run or contracted out to a service provider.

As the statement noted, LinkedIn has 433 million members across 200 countries and territories and 105 million monthly average users. Sixty percent of its traffic comes from mobile, with 7 million active job listings. Two-thirds of its revenue comes from recruiting tools.

Not only does LinkedIn extend Microsoft’s quest to connect business users — Skype and Yammer both previous examples of the same interest — but there’s an amazing amount of data. Microsoft will be able to see what people are doing in business, who’s hiring, what the requirements are for various positions, and the like. To put it differently, this is a way to make the plans and expectations of companies all over the world transparent to a business that wants to sell them the technology they need.

Plus, Microsoft has software for contact management, customer relationship management, prospecting, and other activities that would dovetail neatly into LinkedIn. The social connections become a natural reason for people to take a look at what Microsoft offers.

Tempting or terrifying?

Paul Ford, Co-founder of product studio Postlight, suggests 7 amazing things that Microsoft could do with LinkedIn:

1. Microsoft could embed LinkedIn into Windows as a service.
This makes perfect sense: Think about how amazing Hotmail and Outlook could be if you could instantly write to anyone in your second-degree LinkedIn networks. Imagine how exciting it will be when you can beg your friends for an introduction to someone in their professional circles right from your email client with the push of a button. (This integration is the thing that could finally destroy email.)

2. Microsoft could embed LinkedIn into Microsoft Office.
Office is about doing things, and people do things socially more often than they used to. LinkedIn is a business social network, and it probably knows more about your company than the people inside the company do. Imagine if you came to a section of your Microsoft Word document that needed, I don’t know—some sort of forecast, or a description of a forthcoming product. You could draw a little rectangle and automagically trigger a request to someone from the product team, asking them to fill in the rectangle. Workflows like this used to be the stuff of fantasy and billion-dollar “unified object model” sinkholes, but Git/GitHub has shown that they can work, and they can work decentralized, and LinkedIn has the messaging network and “InMail” system to pull this off, given a couple hundred million dollars.

3. Microsoft could embed LinkedIn into other tools across their ecosystem as a “workplace” API.
LinkedIn knows a lot about what people do and Microsoft builds tools for doing lots of specific, difficult things (I.e. programming, project management, making diagrams, managing databases). If there was a single LinkedIn API that let you do things like: Look up people in your company; find relevant consultants; identify the skills needed to solve problems, etc.; that’s a kind of raw power that we don’t really see inside of most software.

4. Microsoft could turn LinkedIn into the Windows-default publishing platform.
If you want to write a blog post or share some thoughts with Microsoft where do you even go in 2016? I have no idea. Yammer? Windows Live Server? XBox? LinkedIn, for its part, obviously believes that it should be the publisher of record for every horrible list of “inspirational strategies” and mutual ass-kissing glurge that content marketers exhaustedly produce for lazy Fortune 10,000 CIOs. Anyway, there’s a huge opportunity here—become the communications platform of record for the entire global business world! However this is an opportunity that both parties have a proven ability to squander over and over again. We’ll see!

5. Microsoft could mine LinkedIn’s data in order to inform product strategy.
This is the sort of mega-opportunity, and also highly sketchy. Microsoft is a software company, sure, but it’s also a bit of a nation-state with an enormously broad mandate. LinkedIn is an unbelievable data-mining platform; it has the ground truth about the global economy, especially around the technology industry, and it has a lock on that data. Microsoft will know what’s going on with Facebook before Zuckerberg does; it’ll know what skills are being added to Googlers’ resumes; it’ll know what kind of searches HR departments are doing across the world, and it can use that information to start marketing its own services to those companies. It can use LinkedIn as a global knowledge base to make more informed, long-term decisions about its own role in the global economy, and it can combine that information with what it learns from other platforms like Windows, Office 365, Bing, XBox, and so forth. It can answer questions like, “are employees of Google playing more XBox or less compared to last year?” It’s…terrifying. And we’ll never really know what’s going on. Which makes it kind of brilliant. But still terrifying.

6. Microsoft could use LinkedIn’s data to create new advertising products.
Given the above, Microsoft now has an absolutely amazing advertising platform. I can’t bring myself to write much about this because it will make Amazon chasing you around the web trying to sell you another toaster seem like a fun game played by little babies. I mean you’re talking about one company that knows how often you open Microsoft Excel per day, and another that knows how long you’ve been in your current position and if your boss just got promoted. And now they are one beautiful blue company. And the world’s largest advertising agencies and media buyers are just sitting there with their mouths open trying to figure out what to do now. I bet someone will tell them!

7. Microsoft could improve LinkedIn.
Microsoft is Microsoft and will always be Microsoft. But if you look at the recent design work in its applications, it’s capable of first-class, consumer-grade interface design and product thinking.

Microsoft designs for people who have to do boring things with computers in order to make money. It’s the 9–5 software vendor. LinkedIn is the social network of 9–5, too. It’s also a tire fire of failed UX patterns; it looks like robot poop. That’ll be the part we see: When Microsoft slowly starts applying pressure, fixing the long-standing, painful bugs, improving the overall product experience, bringing everything up to code until LinkedIn looks like a fully modern, business-focussed social network. The part we won’t see, though, that’ll be amazing.

Our View
This acquisition is one of those “so big, we can’t afford to let it fail” deals which will define the success or failure of current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Sure, as unkindly noted above by several of the industry observers, the deal comes with a number of pitfalls. But, as others have pointed out, there’s plenty of potential as well.

Without an acquisition such as LinkedIn, how else can Microsoft grow and prosper in today’s cloud-based, AI-enabled world, where:

  • Google follows us from desktop to tablet to mobile phone to smartwatch and senses what we want to know almost before we do, thanks to a combination of search queries, browsing behaviour and GPS-derived location awareness
  • Facebook knows who we know, what our interests are, what we like and what we talk about
  • Amazon knows what we want to buy, what we actually buy, how much we spend and what else we look at
  • Netflix knows what we watch, how long we spend watching, when and where
  • Digital assistants like Siri and Google Now are becoming more and more important in their users’ lives as the data gets richer, behavioural patterns are analysed and harnessed and intent and purpose are more effectively tracked

Microsoft, with much of its clients’ data locked in legacy PC-based systems rather than in the cloud, has been in danger of missing out on the 21st century’s most important innovation – effortlessly harnessing big data to meet users’ needs, with minimal user prompting.

Such data is at its most useful and powerful when it’s available at our fingertips when and where we need it — whether via Cortana, Microsoft Office, Dynamics CRM or otherwise. Let’s hope that the more positive future is the one that comes true.

PS If you’ve yet to discover the full potential of LinkedIn for yourself and/or your organisation (or still think “what’s the big deal about LinkedIn, isn’t just for listing your CV?”), you should check out our How To Use LinkedIn Effectively online training course.

We also delve into these latest LinkedIn developments in more detail in our new Social Media Refresher 2016 course, currently being rolled out.

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NZ Facebook Marketing 2015: June Update

There’s been a lot of talk — and, frankly, a fair amount of doom and gloom — about marketing on Facebook in 2015. The most significant development in that sphere came from Facebook itself, which announced late last year that from January 2015 self-promotional posts on Facebook pages would no longer be shown to Facebook followers.

As we’ve commented previously, that’s both good news and bad news. Bad news because marketers fondly hoped that the fascinating news that they were offering a discount or having a sale would be freely distributed to all their followers by Facebook; good news, however, because the new rules actually require that marketers create posts that are relevant and interesting if they are to be shared.

So, here we are at the middle of 2015. How are we doing?

NZ Facebook Marketing 2015

If we look at how New Zealand Facebook pages scored this time last year versus this year, the answer is: not so good.

Across the 25,603 New Zealand pages we track, just 0.75% of followers were (to use Facebook’s terminology) “talking about” the pages in June 2015, compared with 1.92% in June 2014.

In other words, on average expect less than one in 100 of your followers to be “talking about” your posts this year, half the engagement you might have expected last year.

As always, of course, there are outliers — Facebook pages that achieve far better results. Let’s take a look at some of those pages and see what we can learn.

Most engaged Kiwi Facebook page of all (in percentage terms), at least in mid-June 2015, was the Fox Glacier TOP 10 Holiday Park & Motels page.

This normally unassuming page, with just 647 likes, achieved a “talking about” score of 812.86% – 5254 people were talking about this page, more than eight times as many as actually followed the page.

The reason for this indecent popularity: a single good Samaritan post that was widely shared.

Fox Glacier TOP 10 Holiday Park & Motels

This success is, alas, likely to be a one-off. On the other hand our next example is more replicable. It’s from Kings Sound Centre, whose page enjoyed 367.69% popularity thanks to a series of videos as part of an online talent quest, their NZ Music Month Ibanez Guitar competition:

Kings Sound Centre

For a more sustained success formula, check out ZM Online, whose success (272.82%) derives from multiple posts each contributing to total engagement.

ZM Online Facebook Stats

One common thread that you see across all these pages: these marketers are NOT talking about themselves, surprise surprise!

Media channels such as ZM Online obviously find it really easy to talk about other things that are relevant to their audience, without lapsing into self-promotion. They’re simply doing online what they already do through their own channels.

On the other hand, if we look at some of the NZ Facebook pages that are under-performing the average, we typically find plenty of posts that Facebook has deemed self-promotional and not to be shared (without the advertiser paying for the privilege).

For example, when NZ Breakers writes about products it is selling, such posts only get 9 likes and 1 share (despite the team’s 79,209 Facebook followers):

NZ Breakers

On the other hand, posts about its returning superstars do so much better:

NZ Breakers-2

Similarly, despite 1391 followers, My Little Gift‘s really cute pictures also fell afoul of Facebook’s new rules and attracted just 10 likes.

My Little Gift

Perhaps the toughest task in NZ Facebook Marketing 2015 is faced by retailers (both online and traditional), who’ve been accustomed to posting their new products to Facebook and attracting attention as a result. Now, businesses such as Designer Gear Women are greeted by deafening silence (just a single like for the post below) despite having 6,854 followers.

Designer Gear Womens

It’s not that their followers don’t like what’s being posted, but rather that (under NZ Facebook Marketing 2015 new rules), they’re simply not being shown the posts.

By the way, we should note that the three examples we’ve chosen are simply that — examples, drawn from the 13,836 New Zealand Facebook pages that have less than 1% of their followers talking about them. In fact, these three are much more successful than most, having already attracted thousands of followers. All we’re saying is that times have changed and now new Facebook Marketing strategies are required in 2015 and beyond.

 

So how can you actually succeed with NZ Facebook Marketing 2015?

For you to achieve success with NZ Facebook Marketing 2015, you need to put on your thinking caps and do some serious brainstorming about your content.

In our Facebook online training courses (Facebook Accelerator and the Complete Facebook Marketing course), we tackle the issue head-on, and recommend that you:

  • use Graph Search to learn more about your followers and the sort of content that will interest them
  • identify the types of posts that your followers are most likely to share
  • create more of those types of posts
  • create posts in styles and formats that encourage more engagement
  • identify when your followers are most likely to be active on Facebook
  • publish your posts at those times
  • post more frequently than in the past
  • pay to promote the best of your posts to your followers
  • bump evergreen popular content
  • aim to drive Last Actor engagement as much as possible
  • crunch your numbers regularly to see exactly how well you’re doing (and whether or not you’re fulfilling your potential)
  • use Facebook advertising to drive Facebook users to your website

PS We would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you check out our Complete Facebook Marketing and Facebook Accelerator online training courses, which discuss in great detail exactly what you need to succeed in NZ Facebook Marketing 2015.

Were Your Posts Just Banned By Facebook?

banned-by-facebook

Late last week, Facebook gave businesses the bad news:

Overtly promotional posts will no longer be shown to page followers, beginning in January 2015.

Exactly what types of posts are banned? Here’s what Facebook specified:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Facebook gave some hypothetical examples of undesirable posts, but here are just a few of the millions of real Facebook page posts that would seem to fall foul of Facebook’s new rules.

Posts that only talk about products you should buy:

banned-post-1

Or contests you can enter:

contents

 

And even big brands have Facebook page posts unlikely to survive the January 2015 promotional massacre:

uniqlo

Those 762 people who like the above post? They’re going to be out of luck, when January rolls around. They won’t see the Uniqlo promotional posts in their newsfeeds, so they won’t know about the deals.

The Continuing Push Towards Zero Facebook Engagement

This move by Facebook is just the latest step in the social network’s efforts to:

  • reduce unwanted clutter on users’ Facebook newsfeeds
  • drive down the reach of brands’ Facebook page posts (towards zero)

From a user-centric point of view, Facebook’s motives are not merely practical but praise-worthy. As Facebook notes, “our goal with News Feed has always been to show people the things they want to see. When people see content that’s relevant to them, they’re more likely to be engaged with News Feed”.

From the point of view of businesses, however, Facebook’s moves are typically not viewed in such a benign fashion.

As re/code notes, it’s “likely going to anger brands in the process, many of whom spent years building up a following for this very purpose. Why would Coca-Cola pay Facebook to promote one of its posts when it already has 90 million users following its updates?”

Facebook’s own guidelines for business pages spell out the social giant’s thinking:

Publicize exclusive discounts and promotions with ads
If you’re looking to inspire more purchases from your posts, create Facebook Ads with special discounts or promotions.

  • Use link ads to drive people to your site, and include special codes they can use at checkout
  • Drive urgency with a time prompt like “free shipping, this weekend only” or “12 hour flash sale”
  • Promote only products or services you think your audience is most interested in
  • Advertise end-of-year contests and giveaways to drive customer loyalty and sales

In other words, if you want to use Facebook to actually sell stuff, you can now expect to have to PAY.

Overcoming Facebook Frustration & Reaching Your Followers

So what should you do? Simply abandon your carefully-constructed Facebook presence? Or pay every time to reach your followers?

In our Facebook online training courses (Facebook Accelerator and the Complete Facebook Marketing course), we tackle the issue head-on, and recommend that you:

  • use Graph Search to learn more about your followers and the sort of content that will interest them
  • identify the types of posts that your followers are most likely to share
  • create more of those types of posts
  • create posts in styles and formats that encourage more engagement
  • identify when your followers are most likely to be active on Facebook
  • publish your posts at those times
  • post more frequently than in the past
  • pay to promote the best of your posts to your followers
  • bump evergreen popular content
  • aim to drive Last Actor engagement as much as possible
  • crunch your numbers regularly to see exactly how well you’re doing (and whether or not you’re fulfilling your potential)
  • use Facebook advertising to drive Facebook users to your website

 

Free Report on Facebook Advertising

If you want to sell anything through Facebook, it’s time to face the grim reality:

you’re simply going to have to pay to promote your products, through Facebook Advertising.

A word of warning, however: if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to burn through a lot of money fast, with minimal results.

To help, we’ve put together a special FREE report on getting started with Facebook Advertising.

 

GSWFB-cover-cropped-3D

This free report will tell you the 5 essential tips you simply MUST KNOW before you start advertising on Facebook.

So go ahead — grab your FREE copy right now!

Just click here for your free report.

 

 

Facebook Ads: Smart Or Not?

Are Facebook Ads a good idea?

As we’ve pointed out in the recent past, marketers can no longer rely on “organic reach” to build a relationship with followers: a steady succession of algorithm tinkering by Facebook, accompanied by more and more noise on the social network, means that now you can typically expect no more than 2-6% of your followers to see your Facebook posts.

Oh sure, there are exceptions. Take for example Team Midwives Whangarei, which has around 20% of its followers talking about its Facebook Page:

Midwives don't need Facebook Ads

Clearly, Whangarei midwives don’t need Facebook Ads, at least not right now. But what about the rest of us?

If we want more people to talk about us on Facebook, then we need to either:

1. Create posts that are relevant to our brand but have the potential to go feverishly viral (like this one by NZ-based Paw Justice):

With posts like this, who needs Facebook Ads?

2. Pay to boost any of our posts that we believe are worth promoting:

Was this post worth promoting?

3. Buy Facebook Ads

 

PS Facebook Ads are one of the topics we cover in our Facebook Accelerator course. More details by clicking here.

Introducing Pinterest Place Pins

Now here’s something an advertiser can love: new Pinterest Place Pins. Digital Market Asia explains exactly what they are:

Pinterest has introduced a whole new initiative: Place Pins. With about 1.5 million places being pinned every day, Place Pins were designed to combine images with an online interactive map. This is powered with Foursquare’s location API, along with Mapbox’s map technology, to aid users to explore and plan travel trips which can then be shared with friends.

More advertising avenues, with a few things to remember
Although Pinterest currently doesn’t offer ads on the site outside of Promoted Pins, Place Pins have ad potential as Pin locations include information such as addresses and phone numbers. This can be especially useful for travel and tourism businesses to, for example, help visitors discover things to do in an area. There is however a list of things that brands need to know.

Available on iOS and Android: Not only can Pinterest users find inspiration and plan trips online, they can keep track of places they would like to visit while they are on the go, through the Pinterest app.

Any Pin can be a Place Pin: Any existing pin on a board can be updated to include geographical data by selecting ‘Add Map’ in the Edit section of a board.

Any location can be Pinned: Even if a location isn’t on the map, pinners can add locations of their own.

Make a site Place Pin-friendly: Pinterest have partnered up with various businesses such as Foursquare and Hotels.com that will automatically include location info on their Pins. This and Pin It buttons on site images make it easy for pinners to save places they want to go to.

Create a place board: Make sure the place boards reflect and are relevant to the brand. The actual creation of a place board is simple enough: select ‘Add a map’ when creating a new board or edit an existing board’s settings. After this, you can map all your new and existing Pins to the board. For some inspiration check out Visit Britain’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK.

In this example, the Visit Britain UNESCO World Heritage Sites page on Pinterest displays a map with clickable pins.

pin1

Clicking on any of the pins reveals a pop-up with more details about that particular destination and a button to learn more.

pin2

In this example, clicking on the Learn More button takes users through to the Foursquare site for more information.

The opportunities for travel and tourism advertisers are fairly obvious (and this Pinterest enhancement is especially designed for travel planning), but what about other marketers?

  • Any business that has more than one location could benefit from this facility
  • Alternatively, Pinterest Place Pins lend themselves to promotional usage, for example if you want to organise a treasure hunt or a car rally or any other location-based event
  • you could link yourself to other businesses in your region that offer complementary products or services

The possible marketing uses are really only limited by your imagination.

LinkedIn Adds Showcase Pages

LinkedIn continues to work on expanding its revenue potential beyond the recruitment industry, an evolution which we encourage and support — in our view, LinkedIn offers far, far more than just a place to strut your stuff in front of prospective employers.

In this latest development, announced earlier this week, LinkedIn has added a new facility to its Company pages — the ability to add up to 10 free Showcase Pages which (as the name suggests) allow companies to showcase specific products and services.

Yes, you can already have separate product or service pages linked to your Company page, but these new Showcase pages offer two significantly different features:

  1. Showcase pages attract their own individual followings — they do not inherit any followers from their parent Company pages. For some, that may seem like a negative (“you mean, I’ve put all this effort into building up a following for my company page, now I have to do the same for each individual Showcase page?”), but the reality is that if you provide several products or services that appeal to different target markets, then each product/service can have its own Showcase page with its followers.For example, we’ve just launched a new Mobile Marketing course (details here, if you’re interested: http://mobilemarketing.ac.nz/ecourses), which may not appeal to the same people who are interested in our Social Media or eCommerce courses. We can now encourage those interested in Mobile Marketing to follow our new Mobile Marketing showcase page on LinkedIn.
    .
  2. Showcase pages have their own Status Update facility. This is the key element that makes Showcase pages worthwhile — you can now post updates specific to an individual product or service (or even topic), and only reach those people who are interested in that topic.Using our Mobile Marketing example again: we can now post mobile-related updates to our Mobile Marketing showcase page followers, without bothering those interested only in social media.

So how do you create Showcase pages?

Glad you asked. First, you must be an Administrator of a Company Page, because all Showcase pages are linked to Company pages.

Secondly, note that the Showcase pages are rolling out around the world this week, so the facility may not be enabled on your page yet (if not, check back again in a day or so).

With those caveats out of the way, head to your Company page — and in particular to the “Edit” button on the right hand side of your Company page. You’ll find the “Create a Showcase page” option at the bottom of the accompanying dropdown menu:

showcase1

Select that option.

You’ll be prompted to create a title for your Showcase page, and also (optionally) to add Administrators:

showcase2

A couple of points to note on page title creation:

  • The words you choose for your title will also become the permalink for your Showcase page (for example, our selected words above meant that the address for our new page is http://www.linkedin.com/company/the-principles-&-practice-of-mobile-marketing). This has the usual implications for being found in the LinkedIn search engine and via Google, so choose carefully. (NB: LinkedIn advise that they’re not currently offering customizable URLs for Showcase pages, but are exploring the opportunity have this feature available in the future. )
  • The title words you choose will also appear over your main image, so shorter is better (we went back and shortened our title once we’d seen what happened to our image). However, if you want to benefit from the longer title in the search engines, you can always edit your title later, as we did.

Next, you’ll be taken to the main Edit page, for you to add:

  • a main image (LinkedIn calls it a “hero” image) — this image is not currently clickable
  • a short description (at least 75 characters but no more than 200 characters in total)
  • a small logo and an even smaller square logo
  • a website URL where Showcase page visitors can go for more information

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If you think this is minimalist, so do we. Still, the main point of this page is to serve as a rallying point for tightly-targeted updates, so don’t be too perturbed that you can’t include very much on your Showcase pages.

Here are the specs for the images:

  • Hero Image: Minimum 974 x 330 pixels. PNG, JPEG, or GIF. Maximum file size 2 MB. You can crop your image once it’s uploaded.
  • Logo: 100 x 60 pixels. Image will be resized to fit.
  • Square logo: 50 x 50 pixels. Image will be resized to fit.

The process for uploading images is simple enough: click on “Add Image” and follow the instructions, cropping your image as necessary.

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Do the same for the logos (which will show up in your updates and search results).

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Add in the URL for the website page related to this specific product. You can also choose an industry category for this page (which need not be the same as the category of your Company page) and decide whether or not to display other Showcase pages related to your company.

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Once you’ve finished filling out all these details, click on “Publish” and check out the results:

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As we said, minimalist. But it’s what you do next that counts:

  1. Start creating highly-targeted status updates
  2. Invite relevant LinkedIn contacts to follow you

Got it? Good. Then start creating those Showcase pages. Just remember, though: only create pages that you can feed with highly-targeted content, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.