Does your social strategy need supercharging? This week we spoke to social business consultant Richard Wolff for his take on how to use social media to create business opportunities. He explains why it’s all about building lists and finding the right way to connect with your audience on each platform.
Richard, what are the key areas of your consultancy?
I do social media in a way that may not be your ‘101’ type of method. It’s to help people and organisations find out what about LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram is special to them, and to use each platform to create a profile and find ways to truly engage with the community.
It’s not about getting the most followers or the most posts. It’s about finding an authentic way to use each platform, not just to send out information, but to listen in on the communities they care about – their clients, their prospective clients and their business community.
How do your methods work in the B2B arena?
Let’s take the example of a business chamber I worked with. Their social media, their Facebook and Twitter, was as you would expect – just used for a few isolated posts such as their events. When I got involved, I said that if you can harness the energy of your 300-plus members when they post on Facebook and Twitter, we can pick some of that content to share and curate back to the other members. Likewise, if they start to follow our pages and set their notification settings higher, they can get updates in their feeds, engage with the chamber, and get the updates from other members.
So that’s one hundred per cent B2B. The idea is to give them a true social media network that supports them and creates a buzz around their events.
What are the advantages of social media for individual businesspeople?
Number one is awareness. When people like or comment or share a post, they become aware of that other person. They can follow them back to their website and learn about their products and services.
So if we’re at a business event and we’re sharing photos and videos, that gives other people a chance to see the quality of content that we have at our event. If we’re tagging the right people, putting the right mentions and the right hashtags, the level of awareness is growing. Someone who was at the event can connect with someone else they didn’t even speak to, and someone who didn’t get to attend will wish to the next time.
So it’s about building trust in your brand?
Before you can sell someone a specific thing, they need to be comfortable that you’re a brand, that you exist.
A lot of small businesses are challenged in terms of how much they can spend advertising and marketing themselves. If they create a decent profile on each platform that’s relevant to them, if they create and curate content for their business, and if they like, comment and share other people’s business content, this over time will deliver them an advantage.
What about people who think social media is time consuming because there’s too much background noise?
One of the things my clients learn very quickly from me is that Facebook and Twitter offer highly efficient lists as a function. You can set up lists of clients that you follow, private lists, lists of prospective clients, lists of competitors, other community associations and businesses – each one its own separate list. So when you’ve got content to share, you go directly to a relevant list, whether it’s in Facebook or Twitter, and you pick the lists that you need to engage with. Everything else, the noise that slows down the process, suddenly evaporates.
How important are segmented lists in this process?
Let’s say you’re a small business in the Hills Shire, and you know some of the people you want to work with are also out here. You might have two or three dozen businesses or associations in a list, and you just want to know about the content coming from those businesses. They may not know who you are, but you can certainly put them in a segmented list called ‘Hills Community’.
So your feed from that list is exactly the type of content that you’d be interested in. You’re building awareness, and they’re obviously happy that you’re engaging with them. It’s not about the number of people who follow your page. In many cases, you are creating lists of people who may never follow you. But it’s business intelligence – you’re learning a lot from these segments.
I ask people all the time what they know about using lists on Facebook or Twitter and often they really aren’t aware that this even exists. It’s a pity, because it’s the difference between having a filing cabinet with folders, and having your paperwork scattered over the office and wondering why you can’t get to anything.
What impact does the rapidly changing face of social media have on businesses?
Thankfully, the improvements have been positive and they’ve given us certain things such as Facebook Live. Video is a brilliant medium to share services, goods and events, so Facebook Live is an amazing product.
How can businesspeople improve their individual social media platforms?
People need to find the time to learn, at a workshop for instance, what each platform’s strengths are.
For example, on LinkedIn, let’s start from where you are. Let’s look at your photo, your description, your summaries and experience. Let’s see where you can fix that as a profile. Then we can add media to it – photos, videos, links. Then let’s see who your useful groups are.
Next, let’s go to Facebook. Even as an individual, can you use it to monitor an area in your business using segmented lists? If yes, let’s set up some lists. Move on to Twitter. Let’s set you up with a good bio, a photo, a summary and lists of organisations and people that matter to your personal needs. Let’s not try to get as many followers as we can, that’s going to happen in time.
If you have Instagram, use it as a photo wall of events you’ve attended, businesspeople you’ve met, politicians you’ve met. That way, people who don’t know you can get an instant understanding of what you do in business and who you know.
How do we integrate social media and our business events?
Any club, organisation or business that holds an event can create a hashtag for it. At the commencement of the event, they can let the audience know that photos and videos will be shared, some live and some after the event. Anyone at the event who wants to share can use the event’s hashtag.
For example, recently I was at a community event for the Hills council. While there wasn’t a specific hashtag for the event, the common thread was the mayor and the event was at the council. So people took photos and video and shared it from the room using those hashtags.
The next day, people were seeing all this content from the event – people who may not even have been aware it was happening. There’s no other way to get that kind of extra reach and awareness.
Right now, the ‘ideas boom’ is what the government is promoting widely as the solution for Australia. So if you’re at a business event and it’s all about intellectual property and innovation and R&D, you can tag it #ideasboom. Then if someone is searching for current content, your content may show up and they may retweet it, republish it, and give it a much bigger reach.
For most businesspeople that would be a very efficient way to use social media. So put the apps on your phone and away you go!