An Apology for my Alignable Invitation

It started with an invitation to join Alignable (which is basically a subset of LinkedIn for small businesses). It was by a trusted business friend from a monthly networking group that I sorry-1186962_960_720attend.  I accepted the invitation and Alignable asked me if I wanted to “invite” my LinkedIn connections.

So I downloaded my contacts and carefully went through my connections to select other small business owners who might also like to join. Then I pushed a button – undoubtedly the wrong button, so that’s my bad — and every connection I have on LinkedIn received a message saying “I might have some business for you.

This was undoubtedly a mystery to my clients at Fortune 500 companies who hire me to write marketing content for them. They are not now nor will they ever be in need of work from me.

So if you are one of the more than 700 people who received this message in error —and to whom I haven’t already made amends— please accept this apology. I know many of you accepted to be a good friend, but please feel free to opt out.

To stop being bombarded with unwanted Alignable emails, click “unsubscribe” on the next email you receive. Once again many apologies and feel free to contact me if you’re still willing to do business.

Alignable Does Have Some Purpose

If you are one of the 150 small business owners I intended to invite, Alignable does provide a way to connect with other small business owners in your area.

For me, learning about local web designers, graphic designers, photographers, caterers, marketing strategists, focus group researchers is great. I belong to a number of networking groups whose members will probably be my first choice, but it’s nice to know what services are available.

I can’t really recommend Alignable wholeheartedly until they:

1.    Add some method for customizing messages. For example, I don’t want a program to offer the promise of new business — or invite people I don’t know all that well for coffee.

2.    Provide an “Are you sure?” pause before they mass send invitations.

Social Media Scams: Beware of Toxic Links

stock-photo-64094741-cybercrimeI was just writing an article about social media scams for a financial client’s website when I got an email from a LinkedIn connection about an “Incredible Opportrunity!” Now the offer was from a graphic designer so my spelling expectations weren’t high — but the connection was not one I’d expect to contact me about a business opportunity.

Forewarned by my research, I didn’t open the email. Instead I sent her an email from the address in my contact book asking her if she’d been hacked. Sure enough, all of her LinkedIn connections had received the same fraudulent offer — and she was at a loss as to what to do.

According to Symantec, there was a 70% increase in scams distributed by social media in 2015. LinkedIn’s more than 400 million members make attractive targets (by definition they have income or career ambitions).

A recent article in PC World noted, “there are multiple cases where attackers have used fake LinkedIn profiles to gather sensitive information about organizations and their employees. Knowing who is the manager of a particular department in a company or who is a member of the organization’s IT staff can be very useful in planning targeted attacks.”

In many instances, the phishing email is from an enterprising third-party marketer who gets paid for generating clicks — by clients who apparently don’t care about the quality of the clicks. In either case, it’s a misuse of LinkedIn that ought to be reported.

LinkedIn posted a warning in December 2015 cautioning members to beware of phishing messages that:

  • Contain bad spelling, grammar and aren’t addressed to you personally.
  • Request you to act immediately.
  • Instruct you to open an attachment or install a software update.
  • Say they’re from “The LinkedIn Security Team” but have no security footer with your name and title

If you receive a phishing messages via LinkedIn, you’re encouraged to notify LinkedIn with an email to:

Headline Do’s & Don’ts: How Social Media’s Rewriting “the Rules” [infographic]


According to a recent report published by Hubspot, headlines that include bracketed information [infographic] achieved a 38% higher click through rate (CTR) than headlines that didn’t.  Inclusion of infographics isn’t new. The infographic above was created in 1956 for Anacin — and helped increase sales by 200%. Bracketing it in the headline would never have happened. Did it work for you?

The paper also upended one of the most commonly cited “rules” of headline writing – that a copywriter should use the words you, new, now, easy and free as often as possible.

In the brave new world of social media “you, your and you’re” are considered pushy. (‘You don’t know me!” thinks the reader to him or herself, apparently not concerned that they don’t know who they’re talking to either.) “Free” is cheesy, “Tips” are patronizing.

Hubspot also notes that “Who” is more appealing today than “Why” or “How”. “Who” increased CTR by 22% — “Why” decreased CTR by 37% and poor “How To” performed 49% worse than headlines without this phrase.

The most useful takeaways for me were that headlines of moderate length (81-100 characters with spaces) generated the highest levels of engagement — and that putting the topic first (Social Media: Who’s Blogging Now?) made content more searchable. Nice guidelines, but don’t you think the “new rules” are just as breakable as the old ones?

3 things every B2B Marketer needs to know about “viral” content

1. Unless you’re a kitten, there’s no free ride

I’ve known several very talentimagesed public relations professionals who’ve lost contracts in recent years, because a CEO attended a Social Media class or a self-proclaimed Internet “guru” joined a company — and then demanded to know, “Why are we paying for PR when we can get our message out on social media for free?”

Of course, you can upload a video for free — but unless you’re a kitten or Beyoncé, people won’t readily find it.

2. Original content beats shared content

It can be both useful and inexpensive to post links on your site to content that you think your customers will find interesting. Those links may contain keywords that will draw additional visitors to your site. You may serve as a curator for people who trust your site to discover things they find of value. That’s good news until they click those links and they’re gone.

If your site is all press releases and links to other people’s content, there’s no compelling reason to stay.

Original content gives you an opportunity to tell equally interesting stories — that often highlight a role your product or company played in that story. They also contain the most important link – for more information, contact.

3. Editorial buzz is more likely “earned” than “free”

Nothing generates word-of-mouth interest in your product or company like a positive mention in a consumer or trade article. Most trade publications are eager for well-developed stories that can be published with little to no effort on the part of their editorial staff. They appreciate hearing from PR professionals who know what they want and can be trusted to deliver it.

It’s not “free.” It’s hard-earned placement. I don’t pitch stories, I just develop content — but I think the PR people who do the pitching are worth their weight in gold.

The Dangers of Spell Check in a B2B World

I lov1123441_98665034e typos — particularly those that aren’t my own. You never used to see them. Newspapers and book publishers kept legions of proofreaders on hand because, once published, a mistake would never go away.

In a Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn world, most people worry more about an unflattering photo living forever on the Internet than a misplaced comma or misspelled word.

What Versus How

Social media communications are judged more by the content and the immediacy of any given message rather than its punctuation. When somebody writes: “Its bad, its very, very bad,” only English teachers are going to worry about the missing apostrophe in “it’s”. Everyone else will be wondering what sort of disaster is impending.

Baby Boomers still care about the difference. It’s probably an excuse to congratulate themselves on how well educated they are rather than a true inability to comprehend what a Millennial or Gen Xer means when saying: “It happened on accident.” (I hear “on accident” so often that I no longer think it’s happening by accident — “on accident” just seems to be winning the usage war.)

That aside, it’s still a good idea in any sort of B2B context to do some proofreading — and by that I mean printing out the page and having it read by someone other than yourself. (It’s very hard to spot your own errors. You almost always see what you intended to write, rather what’s actually there.)

Harmless but Funny 

Anyone who’s ever worked for NPR has probably learned the hard way to do a “find/replace for the word “pubic”. Spell check alone won’t alert you if you’ve accidentally typed National Pubic Radio.

HR professionals likewise should run checks on the word “manger”. Hiring manger sounds like a breeding pool for executives instead of the person you should contact about a job posting.

Some Typos are More Costly

When marketing to a professional audience, you want your promotional copy to be as flawless as the products you’re promising to deliver. In a B2B context, quality control is critical from the integrity of your products to the spelling and grammar used everywhere from your collateral and website to your emails and invoices.

Oddly enough, invoices and emails are the most subject to scrutiny. Banks are telling their treasury clients that typos and misspellings are one of the signs that their emails may have been hacked. Many accounts payable departments are now required to question things they might have ignored in the past.

Go ahead and misspell texts to your friends — but take that extra minute to proofread your B2B communications.

Nothing Sells Like … Failure?

In traditional marketing, nobody devotes a lot of copy to their failures — but in content searchmarketing, embarrassing mistakes often provide golden opportunities.

In his legendary 2005 commence address, Steve Jobs described how dropping out of college, getting fired from Apple and being diagnosed with cancer were essential to his career and life success. The transcript of that speech became some of the most widely read and shared online content in history.

Yet most businesses are more comfortable with the all-positive nature of testimonials than developing content about how they’ve dealt with failure. Having a very successful customer say,”I’m rich and powerful and I endorse XXX company” may seem like a great story to XXX company — but it often comes off like a thinly disguised ad to readers.

Case studies and success stories are the most engaging when they address real-world problems. “Here’s what happened, what we learned from our mistakes and what we did to turn it around,” is more compelling than “Don’t you wish you were me?”

The reality is that perfection is off putting. There are few business leaders, companies or products that weren’t developed by trial and error. The ultimate point of your case study or success story might be how you, your company or your product turned that failure into success — but you lead with a moment of vulnerability.

Companies and people who are willing to be authentic and honest are more engaging — and attract more readers.