Networking, The New Frontier: Online Social Media

July 16, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This week, we’re discussing networking, referrals, and building relationships.  While I love meeting people for coffee to talk shop, networking has gone beyond the coffeeshop and onto the internet.  These days you can mix and mingle with people cross-country through the use of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and so on.  I am certainly not a social media expert, but am a HUGE fan and a heavy user.  What I offer here is advice from the experts.

Your Business Blog

A blog is a powerful tool for showcasing your products and services.  It can be a great way to begin the conversation with potential clientele.  It’s a method of sharing with them more about you and what it is that you do.

If you want to learn more about blogging, you really ought to be reading Liene Steven’s Think Splendid blog.  Liene is the owner of Splendid Communications and an online media expert for the wedding and event industries.  Recently, Liene wrote about how to get brides to visit your wedding blog.  Her advice is to offer highly valuable information 3 times a week for 6 months. (This information is the type of stuff you would want to charge for.)  Brides don’t want to be sold, they want information.  That information will help them make the decision as to whether they are interested or not.  (By the way, Liene offers blogging bootcamps and I hear from people throughout the industry that they have been incredibly valuable for their businesses.)

I would also add this: write about subjects that you would like to be known for.  If you are a florist and want to be known for your artistic technique, talk about art.  Talk about the people that influence your work.  By writing about your passions and interests, people who share your passion and interest will find you.  (Think about it, if you talk about how Dali has an impact in your floral design… and if you talk about this at great length…  eventually, anyone who googles “Wedding Design Dali” is likely to find you through your blog.)

I love what Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo of ABCD Design does on her blog.  She is a wedding invitation designer, but covers all aspects of design and art on her blog.  People who like her aesthetic, will understand what her stationery is all about.  She is creating a following by speaking to the artistic flair in her clientele.  And, in turn she is most likely working with some really cool people.

Tweet Tweet

Twitter is a big party – a BIG networking party.  Everyone is just waiting to see who’ll be the next person to walk through that door.  This is how Twitter works in a nutshell: users sign up for an account and send out “headlines” of the latest and greatest information.  This can be business information or personal information:

  • Working on a Fijian wedding; invites are tropical reds and beach oranges
  • Getting sunburned in my office, really should invest in shades
  • Great article on the positive impact of the economy on weddings: http://www.bit.com

Any of your “followers” will see these updates (along with all the others of people they follow.)  At first it seems like a crazy time-consuming thing to fill your day with mundane information.  But the value is in the conversations you have with people.  Often you are networking with people in the industry across the country!  Or, you are reaching out to new customers who love learning about cool new wedding trends.

Chris Brogan advises businesses on how to use social media.  I love his tips, in general, but the advice specific to Twitter has been very valuable to me (particularly when I was getting started on Twitter.)  He has written 50 ideas on Using Twitter for Business.  Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. Talk to people about THEIR interests.  I know this doesn’t sell more widgets, but it shows us you’re human.
  2. Be wary of always pimping your stuff. Your fans will love it. Others will tune out.
  3. When promoting a blog post, ask a question or explain what’s coming next, instead of just dumping a link.
  4. Don’t toot your own horn too much.
  5. Instead of answering the question, “What are you doing?”, answer the question, “What has your attention?”

My personal reflection is that the best twitterers are those that are “the nicest guy in the room”.  Think of a party: who do you want to talk to?  Now, be that guy.

Facebook

Most people have personal accounts set up in facebook, so I won’t get into that too much.  What I will emphasize is the need to set up a “page” for your business.  Your clients don’t care about your personal profile’s drunk facebook status updates on a Saturday night.  You shouldn’t be connecting with your clients and colleagues through your personal profile, unless you have a personal relationship with them.  By setting up a page you are building relationships with “fans” of your business and sharing with them what’s new.

Hazel Grace of Socialbees is an expert on using facebook for business.  Socialbees specializes in helping small businesses reach highly targeted audiences by optimizing their Facebook presence to drive user engagement and viral growth. Socialbees advises on having general company information, but adds that you can really add value to your facebook page (and give further details to clients) by including the following:

  • Upcoming events: This includes your own events — where you or your product might be appearing — or industry-related events you think are cool and want to support.
  • Photos: of you, your products, your store and especially your products in action.
  • Videos: YouTube links or raw files of you, your customers, your products.
  • Blogs: Do you have a blog? Add the URL. Also, add blogs or websites you love that are relevant to your industry or customers.
  • Customization: Make it unique!

The best use of facebook for networking is when you engage your fans in conversation and discussion.  Ask a question, start a forum topic, make comments on your fans’ insights.  Start the discussion!

Diversification is the key

Like with anything, you must diversify your social networking.  Try a little bit of everything and create a presence for your business in various media.  These are inexpensive ways to network (and increase your SALES)… they only require an investment of your time and attention.  Remember, this is still networking… whether its at the coffeehop or over the internet, it’s still about building relationships!

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Entry filed under: Client Tips, Market It, Sales, Strategy.

5 Ways to Encourage Client Referrals Insider to Insider: Laurel McConnell, Owner of Laurel McConnell Photography

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