I-Spies Are Looking for You

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By Carl Weiss

Just when you thought online privacy couldn’t get any worst, technology developers have unveiled software that lets your smartphone eavesdrop on your TV viewing habits.  Called SilverPush, this Android-based third-party app uses your smartphone to listen for television shows, in turn providing advertisers with information concerning user’s viewing habits. When the app was unleashed in Europe, it caused the US Federal Trade Commission to send letters to12 developers known to be using SilverPush.  While the developer of SilverPush claims that the software hasn’t been used in the US as of yet, the feds warned them that use on American smartphones would result in the developers being held liable for damages if users weren’t made aware of the data being collected.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the YouTube

More troubling than the development of an eavesdropping app is the fact that this and other similar technology currently on the shelf could open a Pandora’s Box letting the virtual marketing spy into our lives. This is beginning to take place as our homes, businesses and vehicles start to become virtual listening stations. Soon other IoT devices could easily be turned into spies.  Already there is technology like Apple Siri, Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana that listen and learn from users ostensibly to help them get more out of their Internet browsing experience.  But what would happen if the same technology that allows us to ask for useful information should suddenly be turned against us?

Virtual Assistant Turned into a Virtual Salesperson

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Just as Americans have been forced to accept the loss of privacy every time they log onto most search engines and social nets, will there come a time in the not too distant future when everything we say in private is bought and sold to the highest bidder?  Even worse, what if major Etailers start using their AI’s to sell us products of their own choosing.  Think that concept is a little farfetched?  A recent blogpost on recode.net entitled,Amazon’s end goal for the Echo is letting you order anything on Amazon by voice might just be a taste of things to come.

The Amazon Echo helps you do a lot of things beyond shopping, which is a big reason why it has become an out-of-nowhere sensation. But for the Echo to “achieve the long-term vision,” according to Amazon’s devices head David Limp, it’s going to have to become an all-out shopping machine. 

Indeed, the only thing that limits Echo users from shopping till they drop at present is the fact that currently the device is audio-only. This means that while you can easily order commodities via voice, ordering other items such as clothing that requires a consumer to see the product they are interested in purchasing is still not available.  Not that the powers that be at Amazon aren’t considering the solution to this dilemma.

Limp declined to give any hints on how Amazon plans to close the gap between the ordering capabilities available today and the long-term shopping goals of tomorrow. One far-out idea? Pairing the Echo with a virtual reality headset to show an Echo user an item as they ask Alexa about it, all without the need to take out a phone or laptop.

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While having your virtual assistant turned into a virtual sales rep might be a bit creepy, think of what the same technology could be used to accomplish:

  1. A VR enabled virtual assistant already makes it possible to work in a virtual office, complete with virtual secretary.
  2. A VR/AI enabled physician could make virtual house calls a reality.
  3. You’d have a virtual research assistance literally at your fingertips.
  4. With the right app, your home and business could be protected by a virtual security guard.
  5. You could give your child an AI equipped smartphone to act as a virtual nanny.
Quite literally, as AI evolves, more and more tasks that require human intervention will be outsourced to virtual employees.  Whether this is a good thing or bad depends upon whether or not it is your job that is being replaced.  However, much as there is potential for progress in the virtual world, there also lurks the potential for abuse. 

In the first place, what most people who use digital assistants do not understand is that there are people in the pipeline.  While digital assistants act as though they are holding a conversation with you, there are legions of writers that are employed on a daily basis to determine what Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now say.

In an article on PCWorld.com entitled, “How real people help Cortana, Siri and other virtual assistants feel alive,” writer Mike Elgin points out that while people know that they’re talking to a computer, they are also struck by the fact that the responses they receive seem far more human than they expect.

Courtesy of  pcworld.com
What you get as a response to your question or request to a virtual assistant isn’t what a real-live person said.  It’s what a team of people believe a real-live human being could or should say.  Some replies are constructed from prerecorded words and phrases – the sentences are pieced together by software to answer some arbitrary question – and other are written as full sentences or paragraphs. 

These writing teams virtually take a meeting every morning where they pour over the questions being posed to their AI as well as the responses given.  This means that all questions posed to an AI are recorded and subject to review by a human being.  Each AI also has a preprogrammed personality that is written much like a character in a novel.  That should come as no surprise since the writing staff assigned to update all AI includes novelists, screenwriters, playwrights and essayists.

Will Big Brother Arrive Disguised as Little Sister?
So while you might entrust your AI of choice to answer simple questions, don’t entrust her with any business secrets.  Also, don’t trust either big business or the hacking community, not to exploit technology that allows them to virtually wiretap your life.  Especially when their front man comes disguised as a digital assistant with a soothing female voice.
In a January 2015 blog on the Huffington Post entitled, Will Big Data Be Used to Create Ad Zombies or Virtual Assistants? writer Gary Ebersole cites a South Park episode that lampoons the loss of privacy online.
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Between bouts of outright laughter and knowing chuckles, it wasn’t hard to see the truth in the dystopian view delivered by Trey Parker, writer and director of these episodes. Parker shrewdly avoided giving his characters the “tech-speak” dialogue typically associated with discussions of big data algorithms that drive online advertising. Instead, he very effectively presented a vision of an online world dominated by a blizzard of popup ads and sponsored content masquerading as news. In that distorted reality, the residents of South Park were unable to separate reality (or as “real” as the online world can be, cartoon or otherwise) and the fictional world of advertising. Indeed, at the close of the season a character on the show, Leslie, has been completely transformed by online advertisers into the ultimate consumer—a walking, talking, human-appearing ad zombie.
He also points out that the episode alludes to the fact that George Orwell’s vision of Big Brother is rapidly being replaced by Big Business.  Ebersole further emphasizes that the best way to avoid being steered like a herd of lobotomized sheep to do their corporate overlords business is for consumers to demand transparency from corporations out to harvest ever more personal information.  What he doesn’t address is the fact that most Americans have already ceded their right to online privacy by allowing big business to strip mine their browsing and buying habits. 
Virtual Visigoths are at the Gate
Courtesy of Websiteknowhow.com
With everything from smart appliances to AI enabled devices that are becoming more commonplace in homes, offices and vehicles, it seems inevitable that our last bastions of privacy are being quickly eroded.  Add to this the disturbing reality that hackers are currently deploying software that enables them to do everything from surreptitiously take control of your laptop’s webcam to rifling through and locking you out of your computer. Like it or not, what it comes down to is the realization that the Virtual Visigoths are at the gate and that I-Spies are looking for you.
In this article I have covered the alarming emergence of our appliances spying on us. This trend started with the introduction of “The Internet of Things” and has now manifested itself as virtual assistances turned marketing spy’s. This article covers everything from the new smart phone app “SilverPush”, designed to listen to which TV shows you’re watching, to Echo’s Alexa and how Amazon plans to use it to achieve more sales. I even provide links to articles that provide more detail on this subject.

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If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 3/29/16. I recommend checking out "Has the Internet Made Us Smarter?“, "Hector the Connector Predictions for 2016 and Beyond!", "Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be?" and “The Piracy of Privacy - The Looting of Privacy in America”. You can also search for other related articles by typing in “Virtual Assistant” in the search box at the top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses.

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How to Avoid the Stress & Burnout of Social Media Management

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By Hector Cisneros

Ok, you're now in charge of the company's social media marketing program (along with several other tasks in your business).  Where do you start? Where will I find content to post and when should I post It? How will I find time to research and share useful content? How will I measure my success? I'm already in charge of several other programs, how will I manage the pressure? If you're asking yourself any of these questions, you're setting yourself up for social media marketing burnout! In this week’s blog, I will cover how to be efficient and effective as a social media manager. I will tell you how to quickly and easily find and post what works, how to measure what's working and how to minimize the time social media marketing takes out of your life. So tune in and turn on to this week's article of Working the Web to Win and learn How to Avoid the Stress & Burnout of Social Media Management.  

The Crypto Crunch - Ransomware Run Amok

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By Carl Weiss 

The Crypto Virus is unlike anything you have encountered in the past.  Sure, other forms of malware can disrupt your web browsing, slow your machine to a crawl or pop up an endless stream of annoying ads.  But this nasty bug has the ability to ratchet up your angst a number of ways.  That’s because not only can Crypto encrypt your hard drive and hold your machine for ransom, but it can also infect any other peripheral connected to it, including the cloud.  This is the same virus that so infected the servers of a local police department in Georgia that when the cops asked the FBI what to do, the feds told them to pay the ransom.  Before your wired world gets turned upside down and your computers are held hostage, you had better read on so you can beef up your immunity to the nastiest bug in Cyberspace.

So reads the headline on a recent LA Times column.  In it, writer Michael Hiltzak details the digital mayhem caused to a local hospital, the LA County Department of Health Services and a school that lost access to their records due to Crypto.  He also pointed out the fact that when it comes to calling the authorities, the FBI, while encouraging victims of ransomware to notify the Bureau, isn’t exactly going to mount a manhunt to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Last year, its cybercrime chief in Boston, Joseph Bonavolonta, was quoted telling a gathering of cybersecurity experts, "To be honest, we often advise people just to pay the ransom." 
Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org

So the onus is on the public to cover their online assets by installing anti-malware, by backing up their data, and by being careful about the software they install and the emails they open.  Even worse is the fact that this is a growth industry, where the bad guys can buy ransomware on the gray market and they can use Bitcoins to cover their digital tracks. 

Ransomware Takes a Byte Out of Apple

Even Apple computers, which are some of the most secure in the world, are not immune to ransomware.  An app called KeRanger proved that when it quickly infected thousands of Macs by encrypting online photographs, spreadsheets, invoices and other targeted documents before demanding a ransom of $400.  A blog on Wired.com reported that,

Anyone who downloaded one of two installers of Transmission version 2.90, between the hours of 11 a.m. PST on March 4 and 7 p.m. PST on March 5 is potentially affected. It’s not clear currently how many people that is, but if you downloaded that BitTorrent client recently, you should be aware of what’s coming.

The Clock is Ticking

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Like most forms of ransomware, KeRanger gives victims only 72 hours to pay up, or risk having their files permanently deleted.  That leaves victims with precious little time to find an alternative to their problem.  Even more terrifying is the fact that Crypto Viruses have the unnerving habit of evolving just as their biological counterparts do.  To start off with, there are two genres of malware: Crypto and Locky.  The first allows access to the machine but it encrypts infected files.  The second simply locks the owner out of their machine.  Recent developments have created subphylum of ransomware that hone in on soft targets.

ScareWare is a sheep in wolf’s clothing that sends victims an alert that their system has been compromised and demands payment to correct the situation. This form of ransomware can easily be dealt with by any competent IT tech.
Lock-Screen Viruses will lock up your computer before displaying an FBI or Dept. of Justice logo that purports to inform you that you have violated the law and must pay a fine.  Just like scareware, most lock-screen viruses can be eliminated by a skilled IT technician.
KeRanger targets Macintosh computers.
CTB-Locker goes after WordPress websites.
GameOverZeus while neither a Crypto or Locky virus, it still inflicts financial losses since it specifically targets banking information.  It then enslaves the infected machine which it uses to send out copies of itself via spam.  It can also be used to directly infect machines or enslave them for use in Distributed Denial of Service attacks.
Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
VirRansom called the AIDS of ransomware, this bug is a parasitic virus that leaves hundreds or even thousands of infected files on a system.  This means that even one copy that goes undetected can spread the virus anew.
CryptoLocker arrives via email. This last variant according to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team can wreak the most havoc.  That’s because CryptoLocker is designed to find, infect and encrypt files located on networks, external hard drives, USB drives and even the cloud.

If you want to take a crack at resolving scareware or lock-screen issues on your own, check out the blog on PC World entitled, “How to rescue your PC from Ransomware.” 

Preventing Infection

Of course the best way to protect you and yours from the perils of ransomware is to do the following:

  1. Make sure you use a top notch antivirus/malware application installed and running on your system (including tables and smart phones). We use TrendMicro, but there are many top notch products out there. Avoid the free products, they generally have gaps in their protection.
  2. Add a second level of virus protection to your system by installing an anti-malware program such as Malwarebytes.
  3. Make sure you keep your antivirus/malware apps up to date. Having an expired or non-updated AV application is asking for trouble, and more often than not, you find it.
  4. Actively scan your computers, tables and smartphones on a regular basis. Not scanning on a regular basis widens the gap of discover. The longer a virus has time to do its dirty work, the harder it is to remove and eradicate.
  5. Make sure you have a bulletproof backup of your system that is not connected to your machine or network. This can be a backup to a flash drive, USB drive you use to make backups (that is not always connected) or an online service that you connect and disconnect from.
  6. If you're using a cloud backup service, make sure in includes revision management so that you keep earlier versions of your documents. This way, if a ransomware virus breaches your cloud connection, you may still have earlier revisions you can access and retrieve.
  7. It's also a good idea to make different kinds of backup and restore points on your computer. Have multiple and frequent restore point could allow you to roll back a system to a date before the ransomware infection.
  8. Avoid opening any email attachments unless you know specifically where they came from and what they represent. (Remember, the first thing many viruses do once they infect a system is to sniff out email addresses to which they send a copy.) Since many crypto viruses come disguised as an email from FedEx, UPS or USPS, beware of any suspicious emails from shippers.
  9. If you must open unfamiliar emails or surf questionable website, use protection. Install a program that prevents other programs from making changes to your system. One such program is Sandboxie (http://www.sandboxie.com) which works with a number of popular web browsers to intercept and isolate your machine from programs that try to run programs on your system. Also, there are many antivirus and utility applications that will lock your system setting to prevent 3rd party apps from making changes. A good one that comes a freeware is Spybot Search and Destroy.
  10. Don’t leave your computer running all the time. If it's running, it’s usually connected to the internet and thus, it is vulnerable to attack. Shut your system off at night, or at least set it to sleep mode. At Working the Web to Win, we do system maintenance weekly on our computers. The software we use (advanced system care) allows us to automatically shut the machine down when maintenance is complete. So at least once a week, we set it do maintenance, then the computer shuts itself off.
  11. Keep your Browser up-to-date and make sure you use antimalware plug ins to help keep the drive by anti-malware at bay. Many antivirus products provide browser support so make sure you install their plug-in’s as well.
  12. There are also browser plugin’s designed to rate the risk of many URLs’, even before you click on them. One such plugin is “Web of Trust”. This product flags URL with a color code, (Red=bad, yellow=caution, Green=good and gray=new).
  13. Many security threats begin in the social network world. That’s why my last suggestion is to have your anti-malware products audit your social networks for security weaknesses. Products like TrendMicro do these scans. Also, make sure you follow the suggestions of the social networks you use. Many of the big names, are actively asking their subscribers to self-audit and plug security loopholes.

The bottom line is this, unless you want to revert to using a typewriter, you had better take heed as well as an ounce of prevention so you won’t wind up getting caught up in the Crypto Crunch.

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In this article I have covered the latest attacks and threats caused by the Crypto viruses like KeRanger and other Ransom malware hitting the streets in 2016. I cover everything from the many variants of Crypto viruses to how to avoid getting attacked and infected. I even provide links to articles that provide help for removing such viruses.

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog and listen to the podcast on BlogTalkRadio show dated 3/15/16. I recommend checking out "Is There a Silver Lining Inside Cloud Computing?“, “The Trouble with Texts - New Text Virus Hits Europe”,  “Are You Prepared for the Onslaught of Cyber-Attacks?”, "The endless Scams of Christmas (and Beyond)“, “It’s Time for Some Hi-Tech Spring Cleaning”,  and “The Hack Attack is Back”. You can also search for other related articles by typing in “Ransomware”, “Scams” or “Hacking” in the search box at the top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses. 

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How to Use LinkedIn for Sales and lead Generation

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15 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Appointments, Connections & Sales

By Hector Cisneros

Ever wonder why every professional sales person you know is on LinkedIn?  Why is it that they spend a considerable amount of time every week messaging prospects and growing their connections?  Is your LinkedIn network less than 500 connections? Do you want to take full advantage of LinkedIn features so that you make more appointment and close more sales? Are you ready to do what it takes to be a successful LinkedIn Professional Networker? In this article, we will explore 15 different ways you can make more appointments, grow your connections and close more sales? The only real question left is whether you are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success. So if you’re curious about what it takes to more appointments growing your LinkedIn connections and make more sales and then read on and learn, “How to use LinkedIn for Sales”.

When it all Started - When I started using LinkedIn back in 2005, I had no idea what would work, what the rules were, or whether LinkedIn was going to be a useful tool and network for me. I was very active in word of mouth marketing. I was a member of several Chamber of Commerce councils, a BNI director and was active in several other networking groups. At that time, there was a lot of controversy where people were trying to decide if online networking was as valuable as face to face networking. It’s my opinion that online networking is a great adjunct to face to face word of mouth marketing. It can enhance and extend the relationships that business people can build through networking.

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Leveraging Trust is What Makes it Work - One of the first things I learned about LinkedIn was is that it was primarily populated with business people. Because of this, you could leverage a trusting relationship you had built with another person to get an introduction to someone you wanted to meet. I also noticed that LinkedIn worked with many of the other networks, including Twitter and Facebook, and that post could be shared between these networks. LinkedIn also took advantage of features like hashtags, the ability to the search entire subscribers’ networks for prospects and the ability to narrow my search by entering any of a couple of dozen industry attributes, including industry, annual sales, position and locations, just to name a few.

It Keeps Getting Better - These and many other benefits haven’t changed much over the years; in fact, many have gotten better. If you want to learn about specific LinkedIn features read: LinkedIn Techniques for Growing your Business and other article listed at the end. Needless to say, LinkedIn remains one of the largest social platforms dedicated to the business user. It contains more than 414,000,000 subscribers, and remains the best social network to look for B2B and B2C prospects.

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Business People Expect Professionalism - It should go without saying that you want to look good on LinkedIn. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, up to date and screen professionally for good grammar, spelling and relevant content about your professional career. Without a clean and professional looking profile, you won’t get to second base with anyone.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks: If you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get more sales through LinkedIn, you will have to build your credibility and organic connections to succeed. Are you looking to differentiate yourself from every other sales rep trying to hustle more appointment? Just reading these 15 techniques will not guarantee success. You must put them into action every day of your sales week. So, let’s get started with the items that make you stand out from the pack and help build your credibility as an expert in your field.

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1 - Publish authoritative original content that adds value to your LinkedIn connections lives.  It’s very important that you provide content you have authored.  By writing your own content via blogs, articles or unique posts, you prove your added value, differentiating yourself from others. I love using Blogger for my post, but don’t forget to use LinkedIn’s own publishing platform – Pulse!  Pulse is read by a lot of influential people. If you can add value by showing you’re your expertise, while teaching others via your own content, you show the LinkedIn world you have real value. This attracts more LinkedIn connections like a magnet.  It also makes for a great introduction to that high profile prospect you’re trying to get in front of. There is no substitute for providing unique, qualitative and authoritative content to build your credibility and get your foot in the door. These articles also become instruments that you can send to people to introduce yourself and to ask for their opinion about your article.

2 - Provide useful, curated content that business people want, find useful or are interested in. Social networks are all about what followers are interested in and LinkedIn is no exception. Followers only care about what you’re interested in if it matches their interest.  Do not post lots hard sell ads or commercials.  This will only scare away potential connections and leave you with bot accounts, recruiters or other LinkedIn subscribers who want to sell you something.  Provide useful content that people in your industry are looking for and need. Curate the best content you can find and people will follow you.

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3 - Ask for referral connections instead of referrals. A friend of mine named Tom Groom told me about a great way to make a connection on LinkedIn that is worth mentioning. Before visiting a new prospect, research them on LinkedIn and see who they are connected to. When it comes time to asking for a referral, ask for a LinkedIn connection instead. Tell your prospect that you noticed that they are connected to other prospective your looking to meet. Ask them to connect you to three potential prospects they know. You will find that it is much easier for them to connect you with these prospects via LinkedIn, than it is to ask them to make an introduction some other way, (like asking them to call the prospect on the phone)! This will provide more leads and open more doors.

4 - Invite other LinkedIn connections to follow you back every day. You need to consistently invite people to follow you. On LinkedIn, you normally do this by sending and invitation to others.  Inviting goes beyond just following people, it also includes engaging them with positive messages, answering their messages, and so on.  If you follow 15 people a day, every day, and only three follow back, you will have grown your network by 1,095 new connections that year.  There are limits to who and how you invite people to connect with. Make sure you utilize your current connection by asking them to introduce you to others. Also, don’t forget to be selective. You don’t need to connect with everybody. Avoid those who look suspicious or are not in your contact sphere. People who don’t have a complete profile, are totally self-promoting, not in your territory or maybe don't speak your language. Understand that this is a process and you need to stay committed to daily inviting and useful growth.
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5 - Thank everyone who follows you or write to you.  Be gracious with your connections.  Always say thank you for connecting.  You might also give away a free eBook as a goodwill gesture, or ask them to read your best article that they might be interested in. You will be surprised how effective a good thank you message is. Just saying “Thanks for connecting, I appreciate you, connect with me, on my other networks as well”, will go a long way towards building a trusting relationship. Also along these lines congratulate people on their promotions, work anniversaries and other significant events, especially the ones they post.

6 - Invite people to follow you on LinkedIn by inviting your connections to your other social networks.  A great way to grow is to ask your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube followers to connect with you on LinkedIn.  If you're already active on other social networks, make sure you cross-pollinate them.  Not everyone will connect with you because some people just like a specific social network, but there will be many who will.  Make sure you let people know your LinkedIn profile address when posting to your other social networks.  And make sure you add your LinkedIn profile address to your other social networks about me page.  Along these same lines, make sure all your web properties have your LinkedIn account listed so that those who like to use LinkedIn will click on and “connect with you” when they visit.

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7 - Do a mailing to your current customer base asking them to connect with you on LinkedIn.  If you have an email database of customers, send them an email inviting them to follow you on LinkedIn. This also holds true for snail mail as well.  This tip is amplified if you follow up with a call, another email or a postcard.  If you also provide an incentive to connect with you in your mail piece, like a special discount coupon, free e-book or other compelling incentive, you will also increase the number of new connections you will create.

8 - Ask customer to connect with you on LinkedIn when they visit your store or when you are visiting them during a sales call.  Make several signs for your store asking people to follow you on Twitter.  Put a sign by the checkout counter, put it on the signage of your carry out bags, business cards, letterhead and on your shopping windows.  You can even create a QR code so that mobile users can jump right to your page and follow you right then and there.

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9 - Upload your contacts list into LinkedIn’s inviting system.  This normally occurs the first time you setup your LinkedIn account.  But it’s also available after you set up your account.  If you use Gmail, Yahoo mail, AOL or Outlook, you can upload your contact list and LinkedIn will invite those who are already subscribers to LinkedIn to follow you.  This function is available by clicking on “My Networks” link, followed by clicking on “Add Contacts” drop down link on the Navigation Bar of your page. Once there you can have LinkedIn Rifle through the contact list you may have and it will invite these people to join LinkedIn if they are not members and to connect with you as well.

10 - Ask your best customers to invite their friends and family to connect with you on LinkedIn.  If you have customers who are real advocates, ask them for their help.  If they have LinkedIn connections or on other social networks, ask them to promote your LinkedIn account.  This is tantamount to receiving a referral and testimonial all in one.

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11 - Use promotional directories to grow. Promotional directories such as Klout, thumbtack, referral key, Twiends, Merchant Circle, Angieslist, or Home Advisor are great for finding connections.  This is my short list of promotional directories. There are dozens more out there that you can use as well.  Using promotional directories can help you connect with people and business that have the same interest as you, or better yet are looking for you!  They also provide management tools and promotional opportunity to help showcase your account.  Even though some of these directories are primarily for other social networks, you can still use them to grow your LinkedIn or other network account by promotion that account in that directory. Again, if a person like Twitter, Facebook or other social net, they are also likely to want to connect with you on LinkedIn. The same is true if they find you in one of the hundreds of promotional directories on the web.  Over time, this can make a real impact on your overall growth of your LinkedIn account.

12 - Use Pay Per Click promotions on LinkedIn to generate connections and to promote your profile and article post. This will help you target connections and get people to tag your article post as favorites. It will also get influencers and key connections (like people who are highly connected with those you want to connect to) to follow you. This will cost you money, but for some it’s well worth it. Just make sure your ROI is no more than your daily budget allows.

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13- Use Pay per click on other social sites to grow as well. Other social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube can be used to grow your connections and to promote your services. Paying to grow your connections can be cost effective. Especially when you consider, it usually captures the interested parties contact information.  Just make sure you’re targeting the right group of prospects and that whichever platform you use, you stick to your budget. Understand this is different than buying follower.  Social nets frown on and disallow buying connections.  On top of that, there is no value to growing your connections by purchasing them. Most of the companies that sell followers are not providing targeted followers.  Most, if not all are selling bots, fake or serial accounts.  Buying connections can also get you suspended.

14 - Join various groups in LinkedIn and other social network communities and encourage people to connect to you on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ all have groups you can join. If you don’t have a lot of connections, joining a group makes a lot of sense. When you join a group you have access to all the people in that group. A group can contain thousands of accounts and you can connect with them by just posting a message. What kind of message you ask? This is a great place to promote your authoritative content and providing great content always promotes more connections. It’s also a great place to find those targeted prospects. This lets you message them directly, but remember, build a relationship first before you start pitching them. Coming on strong without building a trusting relationship is a quick way to scare them away or even get suspended.

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15 – Use aggregation software to leverage your efforts with all social media connections. This will save time and to increase your productivity.  Use online applications such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Tweak Deck to provide scheduled post, RSS feeds of your favorite blogs and other e-zines. This is a great way to curate and schedule post.  These types of applications will help you manage your social media marketing process in a more efficient and smoother way.  They will let you do more in much less time, and this helps you grow your connections in all of your social nets simultaneously.

If you follow these tips on a daily basis, you will grow LinkedIn connection significantly in the next year. More importantly, you will increase your number of leads, appointments and closed sales significantly as well.  I have been able to grow my LinkedIn account using these very same techniques and I know it will work for you as well.  Following these techniques consistently will grow your contact list to large numbers. This will not be an instant process, but using these techniques day in and day out will bring progress and create a LinkedIn network that will significantly impact your income. You know what they say, the money is in the list.

In this article, I provided 15 techniques that are guaranteed to help you grow your LinkedIn connections, increasing your contact sphere and helping you get more leads, appointment and closing more sales.  These tips cover the gamut from improving your credibility to asking for specific introductions.  Following these 15 techniques will allow you to Leverage LinkedIn for Sales and easier prospecting.

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To listen to the Podcast from the BlogTalkRadio show on this subject, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/workingthewebtowin/2016/03/08/how-to-use-linkedin-for-sales-and-lead-generation.  If you’d like to read more articles like this, check out: Eight Great LinkedIn Secrets Every Professional Needs to KnowLinkedIn Techniques for Growing your Business, or How to Leverage LinkedIn for Business & Career Enhancement.  You can also type “LinkedIn” or “Social Media” in the search box at the top right-hand side of this blog to find even more.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, coworkers and associates.  If you have something to add related to this article or have a different opinion, place them in the Comments section below.  It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.
That's my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, Working the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he and Working the Web to Win’s co-founder, Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business.  Additionally, Hector is a syndicated writer on E-zine Online and is an active blogger (including ghost writing).  He's a published author of two books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above.  He’s also the co-author of the book, “Working the Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.