Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with my mentor and one of her clients, a soon-to-be published author who is firmly rooted in face-to-face networking. It makes sense: She’s a speech consultant, and so she quite naturally places a great deal of importance on personal presentation and one-on-one and group interaction…off-line. While she’s an e-mail addict and possesses a blog, a Twitter account and a personal Facebook profile, she skeptical about social networking as a way to grow her business. Why can’t she do that face to face? she asks. Why can’t those who interested in her services simply e-mail or call her? After all, she has a Web site. All of that information is readily available.
The problem is that she’s thinking too small. You’ve heard it before, but I’m going to tell you again: We live in a global economy. Our world is becoming smaller and smaller, and social networking is a huge part of that evolution. As a speech consultant in New Jersey, she has no problem finding clients in the Tri-State area. But she’s an entrepreneur, the owner of a business of one. She can’t criss-cross the country to drum up business in person. And while she might have a Web site that is optimized well enough to draw a regional, national or international audience, she could do so much more to up her earning potential.
Enter social networking. It’s time consuming, don’t get me wrong, but so, so worth it. Why? Because by maintaining an active and engaging presence on targeted social media platforms, you can attract an array of individuals who have a need for your services but never would have come across you if not for your social media presence. Truth: You can stumble upon a Web site perchance while searching. But word of mouth, especially through highly public networks and connections forged on social media sites, can be much more effective than a random hit on a search results list.
The key to a successful social media strategy–and that means efficiency, too, don’t forget!–is targeting your approach and achieving and maintaining a high level of interaction with your community. The speech consultant I met with today markets her services to kingpin corporate types as well as small business owners like herself. Focusing her social media strategy on those platforms that attract her target audience, then, is the wisest choice. LinkedIn is essential for her, given its highly professional nature, as is Facebook for its universality. Remember: Facebook isn’t just for kids anymore! Sixty-one percent of Facebook users are 35 years old or older. If she decided to get into video, YouTube could be a clientèle-growing goldmine. But MySpace, Hi5 and the like? These social media platforms don’t need to be on her radar because they aren’t overwhelming populated by her target audience.
Then there’s the engagement aspect. You cannot build a profile, let it sit and expect to gain clients. Sure, you might get lucky, but you’re not harnessing the free PR power social media platforms offer. You must build a community by balancing entertainment, information and promotion. And you must ask questions, respond to comments and create conversation. When followers, friends or connections identify you as a knowledgeable, credible source of information, services and products, they will come to you when they are in need of assistance. Hello, clients!
Still skeptical? Read more about what social media can do for you.