Social media can do more than just help your business. In this case, it has replaced two successful businesses.
Sean Nelson started taking social media seriously in December of 2007 when a LinkedIn member connected to him and eventually referred business that generated approximately $25,000 a year. Two years later, in January 2010, Sean has “sold out” from his other corporate interests to work in social media full-time, helping businesses plan and implement social media strategies.
And just because it’s called “social” media doesn’t mean Sean is working for free. Sean is a partner with SONARConnects (a full service advertising and marketing firm in Atlanta, GA), leads social media workshops throughout the U.S., and is the author of three books about LinkedIn and how to use it. Sean also writes the Social Media Sonar blog.
While Sean uses other sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and his blog to communicate with others, LinkedIn still is a primary key because it allows him to connect to other business professionals. What started as a LinkedIn strategy has evolved to a complete social media strategy, but it all started with LinkedIn.
To achieve his success on LinkedIn, Sean has followed a simple five-step process:
- Define your purpose
- Create an optimized profile
- Expand your reach on LinkedIn
- Build Credibility
- Communicate Continuously
Let’s have a look at what Sean did for each of those five steps to achieve his social media success.
Define Your Purpose
The key to success with any business venture is having a strategy. Ready. Fire. Aim. Put a strategy together, take action, and make course corrections as you go.
In the case of LinkedIn, Sean had two aspects to his strategy:
- He wanted to grow his business (i.e., make a profit)
- He wanted to help other business owners do the same thing
When you develop your own strategy for using social media, be sure to include definite objectives. For example, you want to increase profit, but how do you plan to do that? You might choose to look for joint venture partners and explore new business opportunities in your industry. Another approach is to build an audience for your product/service as a means to enlarging your customer base.
By deciding what is you want to do with social media, you are giving yourself the means to measure your success.
Create an Optimized Profile
Be sure to complete your profile on every social media site you join. Twitter has an incredibly short profile so it’s easy to complete, while LinkedIn, Plaxo and Ecademy have more involved profile systems.
Your profile is your primary means, and opportunity, for communicating with people on the site. When they discover you, this is your first impression. Be sure it’s a good one.
In particular, be sure you have a good profile photo. Make it a real photo of you in a situation that reflects your business. The photo I use for all my profiles was taken on the Toronto Islands with a children’s jungle gym and park visible over my shoulder. That fits with my outdoor lifestyle, and passion for the environment. I’m dressed in a golf shirt and am smiling. The clothing is appropriate to me being a writer, and the smile is how I like to greet people. There’s a jungle gym in the background because I value taking time to play and relax.
Make sure you have your photo formatted so it is square. An oblong photo (4×6, 3×5) is going to be distorted by most social media sites. And have it formatted so it’s small – 80 x 80 is a good size.
Another element of optimizing your profile is using words that are common to your industry: keywords. Profiles are Web pages and that means they’re indexed by search engines. Putting keywords into your profile increases how often you get found through organic search.
Expand Your Reach on LinkedIn
You expand your reach by making direct connections and by participating in the community. That’s true for every social media site. Join groups on a site that are related to your industry and your interests. It’s important in social media to show there’s more to you than work and business. For example, I show my photography on Facebook. Social media is relationship marketing. People want to know you as a person.
LinkedIn allows you to build credibility quickly by answering questions on the site. Anyone can post a question, and they get to choose who gives the best answer. Obviously, being picked for having the best answer is a great credibility builder.
You also want to give links to articles you write, interviews you do, and events you’re attending so people see you’re active in your industry. Simply write a status update and use a bit.ly link to connect readers with more information.
Your credibility is the key factor in being able to do business with other members.
Actively ask other members to comment on your articles and blog posts. When a site provides a recommendation feature (LinkedIn does this), make a point of asking clients for recommendations. Post links to video or text testimonials, and be sure to update the community on things you have accomplished.
From the time you join a site until you decide to retire, you need to communicate with the other members.
Imagine a social media site as a convention. It runs 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year. If you attend the convention, but never speak a word, how will anyone know you are there? There’s far too much conversation, development and interaction happening for anyone to spontaneously be attracted to your silence.
Wherever possible, respond to people’s questions, comment on their status updates, post your own status updates, make presentations and write articles. Be involved in your community.
And none of this needs to be “original” content. What I mean is that anything you write for your own blog, a local newspaper, or a trade journal is the kind of thing you want to tell members of the online community about. The content you provide can, and should be, reproduced (or re-used) from other places.
Wrapping it Up
In Sean’s case, expanding his reach, building his credibility, and communicating with his community resulted in first place in Blog Off II. During the competition, Sean achieved:
- 5,157 views of his posts
- 4.5 minutes average reading time, and
- 93 comments
NOTE: These statistics are the final, weighted results.
These results came from leveraging the audience Sean has built. The ability to leverage that audience — being able to ask for their support and participation — comes from having developed a relationship with the audience members.
You can see a video of Sean on Thrive America where he describes his five-step process. I suggest watching the video because it gives depth and personality to Sean, and enhances the value you get from this article.
Sean is the first of the three case studies being presented in this article series. Sam Diener is next, and he is followed by Tim Ruffner. You can read the introduction to the series here.
What are you doing to achieve success with social media? Have you developed your strategy and decided which sites to use? Share your thoughts and plans here and I'll help you refine your strategy.