Published on April 16th, 2017 | by Jeff M.
Social Media For Small Business: What Works, What Doesn’t, And How to Not Piss People Off
Yes, I’m a self proclaimed Twitter ho. I fell in love with social media in 2008 when Facebook morphed from being a game-playing medium (who wants someone “poking” you and do you remember when zombies went around “biting chumps”?) into an actual social network. My next mistress was Twitter, when a friend of mine went on maternity leave early and threw her social media client at me on her way to the hospital, screaming into her cell phone “Tweeting is easy! Do it three times every day!” Silly me, I confused tweeting with tweaking, and conjured images of meth heads with involuntary ticks. Not to be confused with twerking, obviously, which was my new word last week. Thanks, Miley.
So social media and I have been romancing for some time now. Yes, personally, I use it for spamming my friends and family with A) pics of the kiddos and B) pics of the butter-infused food I cook. But for business, you better not be circulating kitty memes. Social media is one of my best business tools and it can be yours, too, if you know what you’re doing. I landed my first client via social media last year, and although I totally want to sound like like a champ, it was actually by accident.
I have a habit of stalking writers who impress me. Not creepy Fatal Attraction stalking, but more like being so enthused, influenced and inspired by a writer that I devour everything I can find on said writer, and then sending a fan-mail type connection request, spelling out what about the writing impresses me. And I’m a snob, so I’m hard to impress. I’ve actually only done this twice – once to Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative, and once to Jason Frederic Gilbert who isn’t even a writer by trade – he’s an independent film director, but his voice is so fresh and so strong (and freaking hilarious) that I felt compelled to reach out.
After I began circulating Barry’s content, since it revved me up so much (less the content and more the way he conveyed it – his voice is powerful) the guy actually reached out to me (via Twitter) for a phone call! I was shaking, I kid you not – it was like I had a professional crush on the guy, and he wanted to reach out and Skype me. He was in the market for a Virtual Assistant (I couldn’t have known) and since I had been retweeting him and circulating his content so much, he looked me up. (Point number one: make yourself noticed, even if you have no particular aim in mind – one of the best ways to do this is with genuine flattery – let someone who impressed you know it.) We chatted for two hours, and he’s been our client ever since. Total investment: about 4 hours. Score one for social media!
Point number two: it’s not a sin to blog for free (who d’ya think’s paying me for THIS?!) Beyond publishing here, I blog from time to time in The Times of Israel and on my own personal blog, in addition to all the ghost blogging for clients. I circulate everything I publish on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Why? Two reasons: first, I have a big mouth – I was just born this way. Second, it’s important for every professional to earn some kind of name/reputation online. People need to hear and know your voice. They need to recognize you as a resource. I recently attempted to land a new ghost blogging client, and the second I sent the client a quick, friendly email (without even so much as a resume) she immediately recognized my name from some of the blogging I’ve done. I landed an interview within 24 hours and secured the client in 3 days. Without my “free” blogging, that would not have happened. Score two for social media.
Point number three: You never know who is listening – Jeff learned about this chick who earned a million bucks from Sir Richard Branson from one tweet. Jeff found out about it from another podcast (he’s a podcast ho like I’m a Twitter ho) given by Meron Bareket – one helluva story and worth a listen.
There are a few things to remember, though – since social media is still a relatively new lexicon, a faux pas is easy to commit – I will help you avoid them, thus pissing off an entirely smaller percentage of people. First, do not send LinkedIn connection requests to someone you don’t know without a personalized message (it takes like 4 minutes, people) explaining who you are and why you want to connect. People want to know what you want from them. Don’t be coy – tell them immediately. Do you have many contacts in common? A discussion group? An industry? Did you read an article he or she published and wish to comment on it, discuss it further, or were you simply impressed? People love compliments if they’re genuine. Make clear why you want to connect. Egregious error number two: ignore people who retweet you or share your content via any medium. Hello, RUDE. If someone shares your content, quip, article, quote, or mentions you in any way, they are recommending you to their audiences. They have worked hard to build and maintain that audience, so you better say a big fat THANK YOU, and you had better say it fast, or you’re going to be labelled a social media prick.
Jeff had asked me “Facebook or Twitter” and like a Utah polygamist, I simply cannot choose. He said that just like some folks are cat people and some are dog people (am I the dog in this scenario?) some are Facebook-heads and some are Twitter ho’s. Though he was disappointed that I referenced When Harry Met Sally without the deli scene (I refused to recreate it) I tried to restore faith by introducing LinkedIn into the discussion. (Hey, Utahns can have three sister-wives; why can’t I?) I have been much slower to court LinkedIn, and shame on me, because it’s an excellent business tool. People expect to be pitched on LinkedIn. No cat pics here. Everyone should have a LinkedIn profile (and most professionals do) because it’s today’s business card. The first thing I do when I’m about to get on the phone with someone (to interview him or her for a job, to pitch on a sales call, to determine whether or not I can refer business their way) is check out their LinkedIn profile. Does this person mean business? The LinkedIn profile has to be shiny and picturesque. Think networking function (LinkedIn is an online networking function that works for you while you sleep – can it get any better than that?) and someone asks you for your card. You balance your martini in one hand an fish your business card out of your bag/wallet with the other. That card better not be dog eared or tobacco-stained. It better be crisp and bleached and look like you mean business. Same deal with LinkedIn. Get a professional looking picture up there – no, not your wedding photo, no, you better not look tipsy.
Also, use LinkedIn to prequalify everybody you talk to. Search for commonalities you can pull out on a call – are you from the same town? Region? Do you root for the same team? If I smell anything like Wisconsin in some one’s profile, I get on my cheesehead before I pick up the phone. People want to do business with someone they like. Everybody appreciates being validated. Don’t confuse likability with smooth-sounding used car salesman type speak. Just do your homework, and find the genuine places you overlap with this person. I lived in San Francisco for two years and New York for another two. That covers relating to a huge percentage of folks.
So do you need to be everywhere? A big fat NO. You do not. You need to be where your clients are. First, you better know WHO your clients are. Then, figure out WHERE they are. If you sell vacuum cleaners, life coaching services or you’re a personal trainer, you may be targeting women ages 28-45. (No, I’m not sexist, I’m just married.) Those women are on Pinterest, and you’d better be too. If you’re selling private equity and wealth management services to men aged 55+, and you’re on Pinterest, you’re an idiot. Find the medium where your potential clients are already hanging out, based on their age, demographic, hobbies, income level – and get there.
Speaking of getting there, we – as a podcast, are getting there! We have an iTunes review – our first! Yes, it’s from Debi Lewis of Jebraweb – she’s the bloody do-gooder we interviewed her in Episode 4 – but it’s not really cheating – she did actually enjoy us. Come join the ranks! All the cool kids are doing it; just ask Debi. Drop us an iTunes review, even if it’s to tell us that we suck. We are actually open to feedback, even the “constructive” flavor. See you for our next episode!