The real power behind social media is how it can help transform you from being a complete stranger into a known quantity even among groups of people you’ve not even met yet. As marketing and social media strategist Kneale Mann sums up rather nicely, the benefit is that “social media can eliminate the cold part of the call.”
To be clear, I’m not saying you should get out there and post ads all over the place. That’s a strategy that’s doomed to fail, because it breaks the golden rule of reciprocation: to ask something from others, you ought to provide them with something of value first.
Be a resource. Provide something that’s truly useful to readers. That’s the key leveraging social media. Let’s look quickly at a few of the leading text-based social media tools out there today…
Twitter: Twitter has the unique advantage that it caps individual posts (or “tweets”) at 140 characters, so the onus is on you to be succinct. However, it also tends to encourage prolific tweeting, so you remain top-of-mind among fellow twitterati who follow you. Don’t just clutter your tweets with details of what you’re up to daily. Use this service as a modern method of broadcasting something of value. Have a link to a great product review…a great article featured in a marketing magazine…or a hot tip about a trend in your profession? Share it here. If followers find it useful, they can choose to re-tweet it. Voila! Your message just picked up extra traction.
LinkedIn: Widely considered as social media’s go-to place for business, LinkedIn helps you connect all your professional relationships and trusted personal contacts. This service is a great way to reinforce your network of clients and suppliers and discover previously untapped connections between people you know. It’s also a great place for testimonials—to receive them and to write them about others who have provided you with great service.
One of the best ways to communicate your expertise and gain followers on LinkedIn is by asking and answering questions. To do this effectively you can:
- Join groups that are relevant to your business and participate actively in the forums;
- Start your own group, focused on creating a community of focus on your product, service or topic / expertise area;
- Search for questions based on keywords and supplant yourself in the middle of an ongoing conversation; and
- Ask questions that will help you start a dialogue or gather research in an area that can better serve your customers and prospects.
Regardless of how you use questions make sure that you are delivering value in your answers. Do NOT shamelessly pitch your products or invite people to “check you out” on the web. Use the questions function in LinkedIn as a tool to showcase your expertise and knowledge in a specific subject matter and users will seek you out as a resource.
Facebook: While many treat Facebook as a more personal-focused networking tool, there’s no denying that it’s a great place to get noticed just by maintaining a presence. Remember: this is one of the most visited places on the web every day. Nielsen research in January 2010 ranked Facebook third among the top-ten web brands in America today. Therefore, if you have a time-sensitive message that needs to get out, this is a good place to do that. Top-ranked real estate agents are masterful users of Facebook, using the status updated to post news about their latest hot listings, encouraging readers to share that news with friends and family.
Make sure to create a fan page for your business and invite clients to join. The best companies ensure they deliver knowledge updates in the daily fan-page status field. They also share links and resources to fans on a daily basis. The aim is to create an active community that will dialogue with you and between themselves. You will attract referrals and testimonials if you provide high value advice everyday and reward the community for participation.
There are many other social media sites, of course, and that list is endless. The list I’ve shared today is focused on text-based sites, but visual-based social media (e.g., YouTube and Flickr) is another important, rapidly growing segment. Take some time and do your research. Find out where your prospects gather online and find a reason to join in on the conversation. If you do this in a way that’s pitch-free and value focused, people will appreciate your efforts and that goes a long way to helping to build an online presence that is seen as memorable and as a valued resource for readers and potential customers alike.