I was asked recently by a journalist if I could boil down ‘successful use of Social Media’ into a half dozen bullet points. I did so, yet the journalist came back to me with these comments: 

“But you’ve not said anything about using hashtags”

“You’ve not said what the ideal length of a tweet should be”

“You’ve not said when the best time of day is to post on Facebook”

“You’ve not said how to rapidly build your follower count”

“What’s the best tool for scheduling tweets?”

I firmly believe that there is a place for ‘quick wins’ – in fact at a tactical level there are a couple of techniques I use which are startling in how quickly you can make an impact online, but since working in and around Social Media since 2004 I’ve come to realise that there’s more to this game than the correct use of hashtags.

So here are nine ‘bullet points’ which will make a remarkable difference to your Social Media activity that go beyond hashtags, scheduling tools and the best time of day to post.

#1 You don’t have a clear idea about what content your target client likes to consume (or where they like to consume it)

In consultancy, speaking and professional advice services, knowing your client and the specific requirements of your niche is a given. As a consultant or speaker your reputation hangs on delivering the right solutions - and solutions tailored to their exact needs.

You no doubt have a process for fact-finding, but do the questions you ask go far enough – and in a way that can make your Social Media and Content Marketing even more effective?

It seems common sense that you would only post content that your clients and prospects want to see – but have you actually asked them what they’d like to see or would find useful from you? My experience is that most consultants post what they think their clients or target prospects would like to see. 

As part of your research and fact-finding do you take the additional step and enquire:

·        What industry websites do they visit regularly – and what do they like about them?

·        What Social Networking sites do they use?

·        Whose blogs and articles do they like to read?

·        What sports and interests do they have outside work?

·        What are their core values in life?

Information like this is incredibly useful when deciding what content to post to attract the attention of your target market, and also helps you to build clear client personas – which in turn can help you to focus your content on the practical needs they have and which they expect you and your firm to meet.

When you know more of this simple information, brainstorming and designing content becomes very much easier and has a far greater likelihood of hitting your prospect’s sweet spot – helping you to become their natural choice of speaker, business mentor, coach or consultant.

#2 You don’t have a consistent ‘tone of voice’ online

‘Tone of voice’ is an important ingredient to consider when building your Social Media strategy. When I work with professional advisers, consultants and leaders I always ask what they ‘sound like’ as a business in the ‘real world’.

Most have never considered that their business has a tone of voice, but when pressed, many will admit to something between quirky and fun through to professional, academic and “a bit serious”.

There’s nothing wrong with being serious and professional – and equally there’s nothing wrong with being quirky and fun – as long as your Social Media activity and the content you post matches your real-life image and characteristics. In short, you need to have consistency between your online and offline personas.

Your tone of voice as a business often becomes more apparent when you post content which reflects your values in life – your natural passion on a particular topic will come to the surface and all too often posts about a subject on which you have strong views will display your true colours. Perhaps you are posting about the environment, equal opportunities or similar; you only need one reader of your content to be on the same wavelength and have the same values, and the likelihood of a relationship building will be dramatically improved.

In short, aim to reflect the personality of your business when using Social Media, and mix that in with topics and values where you have strong beliefs.

#3 You don’t post often enough

This is an odd one, and depending on your area of expertise can be remarkably effective if you are looking to increase your follower count. I would stress that follower count is not the be-all and end-all of a great Social Media strategy, but it does at least give you greater potential reach whenever you post.

If you are an expert in a particular niche, then clearly you have greater opportunity to reach more of your target market, but regularity of posting makes a big difference to how you are perceived. Very often, without you knowing it, you will have ‘fans’ – i.e. followers of your posts who look forward to your next post, and if it doesn’t appear they will be disappointed. I recently had a problem with my email newsletter system and had several people write to me asking if I had stopped sending out my news emails because they found them incredibly useful.

It has been shown time and time again that posting regular high value content will indeed increase your followers and often quite quickly. But posting regularly has a more important benefit than simply building your follower list – it engages your true fans at a deeper level; and these are the people who may become clients, may already be clients, but importantly are likely to be strong advocates for your work and expertise.

Post more often; it can increase follower count if that’s important to you – and it can engage existing followers at a deeper level so that they become more likely to refer you.

#4 Your posts lack emotion

One of my favourite pastimes is watching people get cross about posts on LinkedIn which they feel shouldn’t be there. Time and time again I have seen people post pictures of their dog visiting the office, and simply because it gets hundreds of Likes and comments, you always get a few people who say “This isn’t appropriate – LinkedIn isn’t Facebook”.

I guess it depends on what you want and expect from LinkedIn, but if you want people to respond and interact to your Social Media posts, they need a healthy slab of the human touch included. Emotion is a key element behind posts that get a lot of attention, and even in the most sanitised business posts it should be possible to inject a hint of joy, sadness, fear, anticipation etc. into your writing. 

A great way to do this is to tell a story in your posts - however short. And very often you will have your audience hooked – even if it’s just for one paragraph. Hook people in right from the first line with something they can visualise in their mind and build curiosity by leaving the story unresolved until later in your post. Even the headline can create curiosity, with the implied promise that the article or post will solve the question.

In short, take a little longer than usual when you next post; think carefully about the title, the story you are telling and how you can generate emotion in the reader - and ideally a reader who you know is likely to respond to your content.

#5 You’re not looking for the Costa!

Many people see Social Media as a replacement or substitute for traditional methods of building relationships. Far from it, your online networking activity should very much complement your offline networking. LinkedIn particularly is a great environment to look for opportunities to have conversations – which can lead to a discussion over a coffee.

There are multiple opportunities to do this throughout the entire LinkedIn site, particularly in groups and in comments added to articles. Very often you will see someone post a comment which resonates with you and the simple act of responding in a friendly and professional manner can start the relationship building process. Within LinkedIn groups, you can reply to someone’s comment privately – even if you are not connected to them.

Yes, business can be done directly as a result of interactions on Social Media, but all too often they need the human element to turn such an interaction into dialogue, and usually coffee or beer will be needed somewhere along the way.

#6 Not knowing your numbers

Whenever I run Social Media workshops or speak at conferences I always ask the audience “Who here has looked at their website and Social Media stats in the last seven days?”. I’m usually lucky to find a couple of people who have even looked at them over the previous three months.

I remember when websites first started to be commonplace amongst consultants and professional advisers. Most people saw the setting up of their website as just something on the ‘to do’ list. They would proudly announce their shiny new site to the world and sit back proclaiming “Job done; I’m now in the world of eCommerce.”

Yet they would then adopt a casual disregard for whether or not their site was performing for them. The same goes for Social Media today – accounts are set up, a few posts, a couple of videos and blogs are posted and we sit back waiting for something to happen. Six months later we’re wondering why we bothered.

Yet when you take the trouble to look at the analytics provided by most of the main social sites, you’re often surprised by the level of engagement that some of your posts have had (or not had). This information is invaluable in helping you to determine what type of content is hitting the mark and engaging with people, and from that you can make adjustments to what you post in future within the context of your objectives.

#7 You’re not connecting at a human level

This is extremely common on sites like LinkedIn and Xing, where the tone of posts is generally more serious. Yet this need not and should not be the case.

My Dad taught me that ‘people buy people’ – I’m sure you’ve heard that expression too. Yet on business facing networking sites, we tend to adopt a more formal tone, and in the process, manage to remove the human element from our posts.

There are very simple things that you can do which will make an immediate impact on other people, and indeed in how you feel when you engage with your contacts online. Start by using people’s names as often as possible. For example, when you comment on an article or group post on LinkedIn say something like “Great post Susan; I love your take on XYZ…” etc.

Also, when you make a connection request, ALWAYS use their name. Take a look at their profile and look for something that you have in common – it could be a former place of work, a location or even a mutual connection, and reference it in your message.

The same goes for when someone asks to connect with you. Assuming you want to connect with them, again try to find something in common and mention it along with their name in a personalised reply. At the very least you could say – “Thanks for connecting today David – please let me know if there’s anyone else in my network that I could introduce you to.”

People buy people; they always did and always will – even in the quick and easy world of Social Media.

#8 You see Social Media as a time-consuming extra activity in your business

One of the great advantages of Social Media as most people see it, is that it is free to use. Yes, you can pay for advertising and premium memberships, but as a tool to get your message far and wide it’s incredibly inexpensive.

But when I ask speakers, professional advisers, coaches and consultants what holds them back from making better use of Social Media, ‘lack of time’” always comes up. In fact, at workshops and events “How do I find the time to do all this?” is the single most common question I receive.

Which suggests to me that many businesses still see Social Media as something extra that they feel they now have to fit in on top of everything else they have to do – and largely because everyone else is doing it. We don’t want to miss out!

This also suggests that something else is missing – a Social Media plan. We’ll get to this one in a moment…

Clearly if you don’t have a plan, then you don’t have a clear reason to be using Social Media – unless it’s just a hobby or maybe your strategy is ‘Tweet and hope’.

When you have a clear, documented plan, your reason to be using Social Media suddenly has focus and a purpose. And of course, if you don’t have a plan, you are inevitably going to find it time-consuming.

When you shift your thinking to that of seeing the sharing of high value content through Social Media as PART of your client proposition, then you invariably find that time no longer becomes an issue – in fact it becomes a core part of your value.

Business mentoring for example may be your core business activity, and ideally, it’s done face to face with paying clients. But thanks to the reach that Social Media now gives us, you should consider changing your mindset so that blogging, podcasting and yes tweeting becomes as important in your value proposition as your face to face work.

I’ve always believed that hosting seminars and workshops is one of the most powerful ways to highlight your expertise to prospective clients (and to add value to existing clients). A core benefit of ‘seminar selling’ is that people are able to get a sense of who you are, what you’re about, your credibility and expertise and to see the whites of your eyes.

In the absence of standing in front of a room full of people, Social Media fulfils a very similar role – and just like hosting seminars, is not necessarily just a marketing tool – it’s part of what you do.

Which needs nicely to the final point…

#9 Not having a Social Media plan or strategy

‘Fail to plan – plan to fail’ is one of those quotes which often appears in my Instagram or Facebook feed. I don’t know who first said it, but of course it makes sense.

My research into what holds back speakers, consultants, coaches and professional advisers from getting great results on Social Media consistently shows that ‘not having a clear plan’ is top of the list.

It’s important that “getting great results” is defined, because no two consultancy, coaching, professional advice or speaking businesses are the same, so it’s critical that if Social Media is going to help you, you have a crystal-clear idea of what you want it to help you with.

In my experience, very few business consultants and speakers have ever really taken the time to think about this – the overwhelming majority believing that Social Media is related to sales and marketing.

Indeed, it can be, but the ugly truth is that acquisition of new clients with Social Media is likely to be more by accident than design without a clear plan.

Thanks to Social Media, it’s now very easy to see what our competitors are getting up to online, and this in turn causes us to think we’re missing out because they are using (say) YouTube and we’re not.

“Smith & Co are using Twitter, so I think we’ll give that a go.”

“Tina Jones has her own LinkedIn group so maybe we should give that a go.”

“Geoff Johnson the customer service speaker has been posting a lot on his Facebook page, so I think we should give that a go”

Unfortunately, “give that a go” is not a viable strategy and never will be. Yet that’s the approach that many of us take, and often without realising it. I know for a fact that I’ve discovered a shiny new internet marketing tool, got very excited about it and six months later it has had barely any impact on my business.

And that’s because, whilst there is a place for trial and error, what I really should do is revisit my plan, revisit what content it is that my target clients want to see and how/where they want to see it – and then make a judgement call as to whether or not this shiny new tool has a part to play in my strategy.

Which takes me to one final point…

“I don’t know how to get started with creating my plan”

That’s fair enough; Social Media is still seen as relatively new to many businesses so they haven’t really had to think about writing a plan before. 

·        Where do you start? 

·        What should you include in the plan? 

·        What can I expect to achieve with Social Media?

These are typical questions that you will be considering right at the beginning, and let’s face it – how do we know if the plan we create is the right one? How do we know if it will hit our clients’ and prospects’ sweet spot?

The good news is that there is a proven process which you should follow. I’ve developed it over several years – and it works.

There are two ways that you can get access to this process:

1.      Download our ‘DIY’ Social Media planning tool here, or

2.      Join my Social Media Bootcamp for speakers, consultants, coaches, business mentors and professional advisers on 11th & 12th May 2017 where we will literally write your plan there and then and which will transform the effectiveness of your online activity and content. Learn more >>

I hope you’ve found these nine points of value. They highlight that Social Media has a lot more to do with knowing your client that choosing the right hashtag.

It would be great if you would join me at my Social Media Bootcamp in May this year. I can promise that it will transform how you connect, engage with and add value to your clients. It’s specifically designed for speakers, consultants, coaches and professional advisers.

You should join me here >>