So, I classify myself as an Independent Consultant. I don’t work for an agency. I don’t have staff. And I typically consult directly with clients. This creates invaluable relationships and quality of work, but it also means that when it came time to launch my services, the responsibility was also solely on me to find clients. Looking back, I pinpoint the start of my business endeavor with a post announcing my services to a local Facebook group. With that, I was out there. And, it scared the cr*p out of me. But, within minutes, I also received local support and cheers for a successful business.
This was about 1 year ago. So, on the anniversary of the “announcement” of my services, I thought I’d share a bit about the social media tools that I’ve found most valuable over the past year as an Independent Professional.
You or Your Business?
Forget how you define yourself for a minute. In the social media space, you are a business. And, yes, you need an actual “Business Page.” Each platform includes tools specifically tailored to businesses. You want to have these tools within reach, you want to be searchable as a business/service and while you may think you’re marketing on social media because it’s “free,” you likely will be surprised at how impressive and affordable the advertising tools are. And, even if you don’t take advantage of all there is to offer, you may simply just want to keep your vacation photos separate from your professional posts.
Local Facebook Groups
As an independent professional, networking is a critical component. And this happens as much online through social media as it does offline. Not all groups will be great, but connect with groups that make sense for you, professionally and personally. Networking is not exclusive to your professional circle and the more people who know what services you offer, the more referral potential you have. My stats: I’m in 28 groups. I joined 6 groups specifically for business purposes. But, I am typically active in just 4 groups: a local industry-specific network that is great for collaborative work, a local mom entrepreneur group, a local moms group, which I use for nearly everything, and a local town group, where anything and everything goes. My virtual and real-life networking is constantly overlapping and supporting each other. Many of my new business leads have come from real-life connections making referrals through social media.
It’s easy to get distracted and let social media sit at the bottom of your to-do list. An editorial calendar can help you to prioritize your social media efforts. Every year, try to take a fresh look at your marketing peak needs or opportunities. Are there times that you need to actively promote your business? Take note of those first. Then, what engagement opportunities did you miss last year? Are there holidays that are relevant to your business, or seasonal challenges that your customers always face? Take note of a few important engagement opportunities and plan for them. And, most importantly, be fair to yourself. Your time is also your service, so determine how active you can realistically be and plan for that (just that) and let any additional posts be gravy. A consistent presence does not necessarily mean you need to be posting daily or even weekly. Do what makes sense for you.
Your Two Cents
As an Independent Professional, customers are essentially buying you. Consider how you can leverage social media to give potential customers a better feel for your expertise, personality and approach. The first step is to share interesting articles that you think your customers would appreciate. This demonstrates that you keep up with industry news, and by adding your two cents about the article, your personality and approach come out, too. If you have the time and are comfortable writing, a blog will further enhance your business page and your website. A blog essentially allows you to present your point of view, offer professional advice and even share your professional approach.
Be Genuine. And Explore.
Regardless of how robust your social media is, be sure to be personable and test things out. There are constantly new features, new trends, new algorithms and layouts. Don’t stress about the latest change. Explore, try things out, find what works for you and what your customers engage with. Be genuine and don’t be afraid to let your customers see a bit behind-the-scenes. New customers may need your promotional posts, but existing customers become loyal returning customers when they get to know YOU.