Getting Started – Dipping Your Toe Into the Social Media Arena

Before you can begin using social media or any other form media for that matter, as a means for marketing your business, you must be absolutely clear about what you are selling and why people will want what you have to sell them. If you are in the business of selling earth moving equipment for example, you must know exactly what you are selling. I know the answer seems really obvious, when you imagine those huge yellow coloured machines that you see on mines or construction sites. The questions you must answer, is not defined by the features of the physical product or service you sell, but rather by the benefit or utility, which comes from the product or service you sell.

The person, who buys a front end loader is not buying the machine, they are buying what the machine will give them, namely a hole in the ground. When exploring your product or service, ask yourself a similar question. What need or benefit will my product offer my prospective client? Anyone buying a drilling machine is buying a hole, someone who buys a camera is buying a way of storing memories and a professional speaker or business consultant, is selling, specific organisational solutions, which provide people and businesses with HOPE. (See explanation below)

Understanding a simple concept like buying a drilling machine, when your need is really a hole, is easy to understand. More complex products or services, such as professional speaking or business consulting, require more study and understanding. To help you understand these more complex concepts, I will use professional speaking as an example to show you the process.

I love analogies and the one that I feel best describes the role of a professional speaker, as a person, who provides HOPE, is based on an experiment, which was conducted using rats. In this really brutal and cruel experiment, rats were placed in a dark box filled with water. The rats had no way of climbing out of the water and if they stopped swimming they would drown. On average the rats placed in the dark box, survived for around three hours before they stopped swimming and drowned. When the researchers made one small pin hole in the box and allowed a single ray of light to shine into the box. The same rat would survive for between 36 and 48 hours. This really brutal and cruel experiment showed that, when even the smallest ray of hope was present, the rat would keep swimming, ever hopeful of the possibility of getting out of the water.

The HOPE I am referring to, which professional speakers or business consultants provide to their clients, is that ray of light that comes from that tiny hole, which is poked into the box, that tiny ray of light, which allows the rat to survive for more than 10 times longer, than was the case, when no light was present. The astute professional speaker becomes that ray of light to business professionals, providing specific organisational solutions, which provide people and businesses with HOPE, by expounding on-going expansion and growth, which will promote profit and/or development in human capital.

This clarity about the solution or benefit you sell, makes identifying your ideal client and how to differentiate yourself and your products or services (Unique Selling Proposition) a cinch. Identifying who your ideal clients are is the next crucial step in the process of starting your social media marketing and networking campaign. As you know success with any networking or marketing strategy is about utilising your limited resources to leverage the best possible result. The best way to do this is to avoid the “SPRAY AND PRAY” strategy adopted by most businesses, where they create a marketing campaign, spray the message out into the market and hope that someone, who needs what they are selling will get to know, like and trust them enough to buy their product or service.

If the “SPRAY AND PRAY STRATEGY” does not work, what strategy does work? Success in marketing your business comes from knowing who your ideal client is, where you can find them and then using the marketing channels available to you to communicate with them, so that they will get to know, like and trust you enough to buy your product or service.

This is where social media really begins to shine as an effective marketing tool. There are conversations going on all over the social media platforms, via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. When you want to start making your mark in the social media arena, it is best to start out by listening to conversations that are going on about similar companies to your own or about the market you want to enter. This will give you an understanding of what people are thinking about your company, products and the trends within your target market.

There are a number of different forums and blogs available. Use twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to search keywords related to your business. Once you have located interesting conversations, which you feel are aligned with your strategy. You should leave your virtual handshake by leaving pertinent comments and offering feedback. This is the best way to enter the conversation and to begin dipping your toe into the social media arena.

It is prudent to arrive slowly and to become part of the conversation on the various social media forums. When thinking about building a social media marketing strategy, try to visualise yourself attending a really high powered networking event, filled to the brim with the perfect prospects, who want what you are selling. Would you go blazing into that event with a megaphone, proclaiming how wonderful you are and how amazing your product or service is? If that strategy would not work at any networking event, it will most certainly fail on any social media forum.

Once you are certain that you have found the right forums where your ideal client hangs out and you have dipped your toe into relevant conversations going on those social media platforms, by providing feedback and meaningful comment on people’s posts or blogs. It is time to become a value contributor to the community and for you to start providing valuable content to the various forums.

The secret to make a success out of your social media strategy is to create good content and then to locate all the possible places, where the right targeted individuals, would enjoy what you have to offer. Spend as much time as possible in these forums. Contributing ideas and commenting on as many articles as possible. Over time you will become an integral part of these communities and be regarded as an expert contributor, someone to go to, if you have a need for a specific product or service.

Social media is not instant or an event, it is a process. Becoming successful with any social media strategy is about commitment and patience. Understand that the work only starts after you have posted the blog or comment. You must promote your blog by connecting with the right people on the right forums. This takes effort and commitment. Do not think that succeeding in social media is just posting great content. It is about listening, contributing and becoming an integral part of the conversation.

There is a real time commitment to become successful with your social media strategy. You must be consistent and post relevant and useful content. You are in effect in a leadership role when you have a significant following via your various social media outlets. You are taking on a great responsibility and must meet your commitment to provide quality content and to always operate with the highest level of integrity.

Becoming successful in the social media arena is not about simply stepping into the conversation and then just fading away, every day. It must be an integral part of your marketing and networking daily activity strategy. Social media is about participation and contribution; it is not about taking and offering nothing in return.

When you are contributing to the conversation always be authentic and allow your passion to shine through. Your passion and consistency are two of the key factors required for you to become successful with social media. When you consistently offer authentic and meaningful content, people will soon realize that they can trust you and that your content is of value.

The old school hard selling tactics from the past will most certainly not work in the social media arena. In fact they will probably hurt your business in the long run. Social media is not about pitching for business it is a strategy whereby you listen and contribute value.

When you listen to the conversation that is going on and you understand the needs within your market. You are able to offer pertinent advice and will eventually be viewed as the expert on that subject. People buy from people they know, like trust and add value to their lives. Build trust, become liked and offer great value and social media will become a fantastic marketing tool for your business.

Share your knowledge and skill with the right people in the right target market and you will not only have an audience. But you will also have a tool for building real connection with the right people and an opportunity to build trust with potential customers. Social media is merely an additional tool, which we can use to grow our businesses. It should be used in conjunction with a number of other strategies to market our businesses.

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