Friday, September 30, 2011
Award-Winning Author Neal Schaffer
"Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn" is Neal's best-selling guide that revolutionized professionals' utilization of LinkedIn. Enter the average person's confusion – what the heck is LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site. Think Facebook for the business world. But those six words don't begin to describe the services and information available to the general public. Employment information, contacts, references, referrals, and the ability to study businesses and their working models in both practice and marketing are all available for anyone desiring to improve their personal or business situation.
So, how to best utilize LinkedIn if you are an individual seeking to promote a new business, art, writing, or self in general? Here is where Neal Schaffer and his latest book, "Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing," come in to play. Anyone from mega corporation to weekend builder of bird houses to nonprofit organizations can learn to create sales-oriented profiles, improve reputation, and drive more traffic to their web sites. Neal spells out the systems tools and advantages in layman's terms.
Let me put this in a way I, as a writer, can understand. There are 120 million LinkedIn members worldwide. That's 120 million opportunities to sell my books, if I take the time and trouble to make use of the network in a viable and useful manner. And that's what Neal and his books do – they provide the information to take full advantage of LinkedIn.
Neal's Web Site
Q) How did you initially become involved with LinkedIn?
A) Like many others, I got an invite to LinkedIn and joined early on in 2004 but it was not until circumstances changed for me in early 2008 that I discovered one of LinkedIn's true value. I had returned from living in Asia in 2005 and now was set to look for a new job in my native United States where I had never looked for a job before. I was living in an area where I literally knew no one as I had built my professional network in Asia and attended school elsewhere, so I realized I had to develop a new network from scratch. I also realized that LinkedIn would allow me to do this, as I became more and more active on the site, LinkedIn became an invaluable business tool for my future.
To be honest with you, because of these unique circumstances, I saw LinkedIn as a tool where others just saw it as a way to get reconnected with their colleagues. I would (and still do) get into heated debates with professionals I would meet at networking events who still wanted to keep their LinkedIn presence a personal one and not reach out to new people. For instance, very early on I saw how the more connections you had the higher you would appear in the search results for any given keyword that was included in your profile. LinkedIn has changed their search algorithm since then and I am no longer what you would call a LinkedIn LION or LinkedIn Open Networker, but the combination of having an immediate need to build out a network as well as seeing the importance of LinkedIn as a business tool led me to spend more and more time on the site and build up a unique insight as to how professionals can maximize their social presence, and companies maximize their social business, through LinkedIn.
I then began to blog about LinkedIn in July of 2008 as a networking vehicle to share this unique understanding of LinkedIn with the world. Urged on by family and friends, I decided to take my networking and blogging to a new level by actually writing a books on the subject.
A) From a holistic perspective, I believe that blogging is the single most important thing a person or business can do to promote themselves and recommend it to almost every social media strategy consulting client. Don't get me wrong: social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also extremely important, but at the end of the day you need a home base to lead people where you can showcase what you and/or your business is about in whatever style you wish while maintaining firm control over your brand. This is your website.
Blogging on your website gives your company a social voice. Without a social voice, what are you going to talk about in social media? By blogging, you start to address industry-wide or customer-centric issues without directly marketing your product and can use that information to attract social media users to engage with your content in social communities as well as on your website through commenting and sharing.
The other additional benefit of blogging is the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits that naturally come with publishing new content on your website. The more content you have the more ways search engines will display your company's website for a given keyword search query. Combining this with social media participation helps more consumers and businesses discover your content, increasing the chances of social shares as well as backlink building, two activities which can further aid the SEO of your website.
Q) I get curious about things like this: A California resident, you speak fluent Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Why did you opt to learn Asian languages over European or South American?
A) I grew up in an area of Southern California where many of my classmates were Asian or Asian-American. By the time I got to high school, many of my friends were of Chinese, Korean, or Japanese descent. I had an experience in high school of going to a birthday party where I was the only caucasian in attendance! Although I had a love for the French language and was studying it in high school, when I got to college I wanted to study one of these Asian languages to better understand myself. My college didn't offer Korean, but I was immediately drawn to the complexity of Chinese characters that exist in Mandarin Chinese and thought that it would be amazing if I could ever read or write them. That interest sparked me to take two years of Chinese in college and then spend my Junior year abroad in Beijing, China.
Two events in Beijing that year motivated me to start learning Japanese in addition to Chinese: 1) Experiencing the Tian An Men demonstrations firsthand and realizing that it would be hard for me to get a job in China at that time after graduation and 2) Having a Japanese roommate and making friends with many of the Japanese foreign students at my university in Beijing. I visited my roommate in Tokyo on the way back to the United States and then took Japanese my senior year of college. I was offered a position at a Japanese high tech company in the ancient capital of Kyoto upon graduation, and as they say, "The rest is history!"
Q) What attracted you to a career in marketing?
A) I come from an entrepreneurial family where my father and most of my siblings have started their own businesses. Having an outgoing personality, I wanted to pursue a career in sales and marketing as a way to meet and learn from new people as well as understand the framework for building my own company. After spending nearly two decades in a sales and marketing role, and having worked a long periond of time for a startup, I understood how marketing strategies and the implementation of those strategies could truly make or break a company. It is that fascination, and the realization that social media is a vital element that should be a part of any corporate marketing strategy, that has led me to developing my 1st company, Windmills Marketing, a social media marketing consultancy with an emphasis on social media strategy. Helping companies with their social media strategy allows me to continue meeting new people as well as helping businesses leverage my expertise for their success, something that I find extremely satisfying. I hope to further leverage this social media marketing expertise and experience for additional entrepreneurial goals in the near future.
A) First of all, while many feel that sleep is underrated, I do try to get a full 8 hours of rest at night to help my body get physically recharged. I also try my best to eat a balanced diet to help my internal body get recharged. My favorite thing to do to unwind, although it might not sound like unwinding, is to spend time with my children. Helping them with their homework, reading books with them, walking them to school, or just being silly with them not only helps me take my mind off of business, it also reminds me as to why I do what I do. I also recharge by listening to music on long drives or business trips, traveling with the family as well as jogging when I have the time (although I have been known to tweet from the treadmill!).