I started this blog a little over a year ago to chronicle my experiences in the shop. With this post I’m expanding the scope of the blog a bit. While the focus will still be on the shop experience, I also want to address some of the business experiences of having a side business (maybe better defined as a glorified hobby). This scope creep actually lines up with my original intentions for starting this WordPress site, as I was also doing this to learn more about some of the topics that I address in my big boy job.
Outside of the shop, I’ve worked for years as a consultant. I’ve been advising clients on how to improve their interactions with customers (and channel partners). In less consultantese, I help my clients improve their marketing, sales, and customer service operations. Now of course the execution of these tactics for a Fortune 500 company is a little different than what I can do in a few spare hours during the week.
I’ve already tackled many of the common aspects (this blog, the facebook site, etc.), but now it is time to tackle LinkedIn. I originally joined LinkedIn September 22, 2004. Apparently, I created the 1,158,025th profile (you can check your count by looking at the ID number in the URL when editing your profile). It’s been useful for connecting with past colleagues, finding jobs and researching clients. About 8 years after I joined LinkedIn, they released their most recent version of company pages. There have been some additions and deletions from the company page feature set during that year, but things appear stable enough now to actually build out a page.
Fortunately the Company pages don’t cost anything to create; there are a few administrative hurdles, but it’s free – can’t complain about that. Unfortunately, company pages are geared towards companies that don’t fit my profile. I’m not trying to attract employees. My products need to focus on the visuals rather than the words. I offer custom made pieces, not SKUs. And while there are many potential customers for me on LinkedIn, professional networking sites are not the best place to say “please buy my products”
So why even bother with LinkedIn? A significant part of it is simple curiosity. I also want to see if I can think creatively about how to work within the structure (opportunity?) that LinkedIn offers. To me, the goal needs to be to use what’s there and completely forget the areas that don’t work.
What doesn’t work? Careers Pages don’t. I’m certainly not looking to hire anyone. Unfortunately, Products Pages don’t work for me either. It should work, but the LinkedIn structure for products isn’t very well thought out. The LinkedIn product page offers the company a product description, some really poor options for product fields, a product URL, etc. I think that 2 items sell my “products” – my photos and the story of the build. This just doesn’t work within the structure of the product page.
What might work? The main company page should work. Obviously you get the basic info on my company (location, industry, website, etc.) and you can get a news feed. I won’t mirror all of my blog posts to this feed, but I will use it selectively. Unfortunately, LinkedIn puts the basic “about” info at the bottom of the news feed. This results in near endless scrolling to get to much of the information that I’m most interested in sharing. No work around here – just poor design.
The Showcase Pages should work. I think that LinkedIn intends this for companies with strong unique brands – think Microsoft with separate pages for Windows, Office, SQL, XBOX, etc. The Showcase pages are linked to the Company page, but they need to acquire their own independent followers. For me, I’m thinking the independent followers aspect is what I want to be my anchor point. I want to focus on presenting content to unique groups of LinkedIn members. For me I’m thinking one Showcase page dedicated to Edison Lamps and one dedicated to the experience of running a side business.
The Edison Lamp showcase page is pretty straightforward. The content for the page can basically mirror the Edison tag feed of the current site. Frankly that’s probably how it will start. Over time I will refine that content strategy. Whatever I do, LinkedIn is not going to give me an opportunity to highlight photos of the lamps. But hopefully I can generate a few extra views / visitors for this blog and the Etsy store.
The page re: the experience of running a side business is more interesting to me. At least more interesting in the context of LinkedIn… I can imagine future posts on the experience with the WordPress site, creating a logo, defining my sales channels (Etsy), etc.
There are numerous future areas to consider with respect to LinkedIn… Should I find groups that are associated with furniture making? If I did would that do anything to help me from a business perspective (e.g., engaging with suppliers, getting new design ideas, etc.)? Should I consider sponsoring posts (on a cost per click or a cost per impression basis)? If I did sponsor a post, should the goal be followers, site visits (on the blog), product views on Etsy, sales/orders, other? I’m sure I’ll also dive deeper into the LinkedIn experience (e.g., frustrating logo sizes, also using a Showcase Page because it offered a better “hero” image, etc.).
More to come on the business side… But I want to make sure that I don’t change my tone in this process. All of my digital content will still be presented from the first person perspective. I will write in a conversational style (while hopefully not sounding immature). A new year is around the corner, and I’m now exploring another one of our available social media channels.