Even if you don’t have a lot of money to market your business, online social networking can be an excellent business-building strategy. Social networking allows you to connect with a large group of people for free with just a small investment of time. In this article, I outline some frequently used social media tools and how to use them to promote your work, to build rapport with potential clients and to promote events.
TwitterTM is a simple “microblogging” website. Microblog posts on TwitterTM are up to 140 characters. You would be surprised how much information you can squeeze into one ‘tweet’ (a TwitterTM update) especially if you include a link to more information on your blog or website.
You can build up a following on TwitterTM quite easily so long as your tweets provide useful information. You can gain more followers by becoming an active participant in the TwitterTM community, responding to others’ tweets, and following people who look interesting or relevant to the topics you want to address. Once you have followers you can quickly disseminate information and get lots of extra visitors to your website or blog.
Tools to make the most of TwitterTM are:
TwitterGraderTM (http://twitter.grader.com/search) helps you find top people to follow. Try searching on your city, on professionals you are interested in connecting with (such as ‘dietitian’), or on subject matter you would like to learn about.
TwitterFeedTM (http://twitterfeed.com/). If you are already writing a blog, TwitterfeedTM will automatically update your TwitterTM account each time you blog with no extra work required.
Using this social networking tool to promote your business does not take much more work than what you already do to interact with your friends. The best way to connect with potential clients and other business supporters is to set up a ‘page’ where people can become your ‘fans’. You can use your page to interact with your supporters, to post articles, and to link to your website or blog. You can set up your page to automatically import posts from your blog as ‘Notes’ to save time updating your Facebook profile, and you can use the ‘Events’ feature to spread word about health fairs or workshops, to invite participants, and to track RSVPs.
LinkedInTM is a business-focused social media tool and one of the easiest to start up. You simply create your profile (essentially an online resume), then look for people with whom to connect. Once you are connected, ask for recommendations from colleagues or previous clients. These are posted to your profile and build your credibility.
If you are thinking that using these tools involves too much writing, you might think about using YouTubeTM. Instead of writing, you can just talk! People watching YouTubeTM postings do not expect professional film quality so you can create a video using a basic video camera, the video feature on your digital camera, or even your cell phone. Your laptop may even have a built-in video camera you can use. To make a film, think about some of the top questions your clients ask you, then film short answers. Once you have a few videos posted, you can create your own ‘channel’ – a YouTubeTM page where all of your videos are collected. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/thenutritionexpert to see an example of a dietitian putting YouTubeTM to work.
Social networking is another form of networking that requires you to interact and to be part of the community, offering valuable content and resources. If done right, the rewards can be great. Some of the outcomes in using these media for me have been that I met journalists, editors, and health writers on TwitterTM who end up publishing my nutrition tips, and a literary agent found me on LinkedInTM and asked if I was interested in writing a book. I even received a nomination for an award from a TwitterTM follower I had never met.
The most important thing when you begin social networking is to be open-minded. You may receive spam (who doesn’t), or have people try to recruit you to sell products. If you do not like what someone says in one of their posts or about one of your posts, it is easy to block or to ‘unfollow’ them. Use these tools to build a real community, and you just never know what opportunities they might bring.
If you are interested in seeing how I use social media, connect with me at:
Facebook (personal profile): http://www.facebook.com/gloriatsang
Facebook (business page): http://www.facebook.com/healthcastle
Gloria Tsang, RD
Port Coquitlam, BC