As someone who in the past year shifted their business from a place where it relied on referral and recommendations to generate ongoing consulting work, working with a handful of clients, to a place where my business model is now directed towards coaching lots of SME clients and running courses & seminars, my discovery of social media as a marketing and communication tool has been hugely revealing and beneficial. I already knew that the essence to building a great business was about selecting a niche target audience and then communicating with it in order to build awareness, credibility and trust, three very important attributes in the client making a decision to ask for your help and buy from you. In addition I also needed to understand that audience in order to find out more about them and identify their problems and their pain in order to offer them solutions.
I didn’t have the budget to conduct surveys, buy databases and advertise in magazines and publications which my audience were reading so I needed another approach. I cannot say that I had a very clear strategy but I knew that I needed a website, a downloadable offering on that site in order to collect email addresses of interested people …….. and then some way of getting them to that site. Initially I tried LinkedIn and managed to collect over 200 links with friends, ex colleagues, clients and prospects however I was uncertain about what I should do with these links. I wasn’t getting people to my website so my social media ‘so called strategy’ had stalled at the first base.
Then, quite by accident I started interacting with people on Twitter. Like many, I knew of it and in fact I even had an account but only used it for following comedians, footballers and anything to do with Liverpool FC. I couldn’t, for the life of me, see how it could be applied to business. However after initially following a few people, SME Business owners who are my target audience, I began to interact by joining in the odd conversation, adding a few words of advice which to my surprise were received with openness and gratitude … and then people started to follow me! That was in July of this year. In less than 6 months I have accumulated over 1300 followers (albeit the follower count is not the issue, its more about whether the people who follow are genuinely interested in you and I think that most are) but more importantly it has facilitated my connection and friendship with fantastic people from all corners of Ireland, as well as the UK and the US people who I have met in person at various Tweet-ups both social and business focussed, people who have offered generous help and advice and people to whom I have been able to do the same.
Since September I have created a business Facebook page which I have begun to use to offer greater amounts of information than can be offered from the 140 characters of Twitter, it too has taken on a life of its own and I have recently upped the ante further by creating a Google+ page.
All in all the benefits to my business have been:
1) No cost access in a very short period of time to access a large group of my target audience.
2) The opportunity to meet with so many people on a face to face basis without the usual awkwardness of networking.
3) Valuable advice and help from the community of really helpful and highly qualified people.
4) The opportunity to show how I could add value to other businesses in a genuine non-salesy manner.
5) The ultimate added value of actually getting direct business opportunities through the various social media networks is also starting to kick in.
Some Do’s and Don’ts that I have learned in my short time using these media:
1) Do engage in a genuine personal manner – no corporate stuff – allow the authentic you to come through
2) Do use a picture of yourself as an Avatar
3) Do be careful of your language and extreme opinions
4) Do engage everyday if possible even for 15-20 minutes in each of the morning and evening, more if possible
5) Do post helpful, constructive information and advice pieces which add value to your audience
6) Don’t do time scheduled broadcast pieces about your business and its services – they are boring and are ignored
7) Don’t do random occasional posts of famous or not so famous quotes – without context, they are pointless
8) Don’t use a corporate logo as an Avatar – it prevents people connecting with you – People connect with people, not companies
9) Do have some fun and banter – it is normal and it is how relationships develop
10) Do follow people because they are of interest to you and relevant not just to collect followers
11) Don’t (this I appreciate is a personal one) allow people to follow you if they don’t contribute, are not relevant to you or seem to be collecting followers for the sake of it.
– Vincent Byrne