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Need to expand your client base? Try social media

Social media is the new marketplace where businesses connect with clients. If you’re not using social media, you run the risk of being left behind. “But what do I say?” is the question most commonly asked. Think of social media as one big room. While the medium is different, the same basic networking and presentation techniques apply.

Know your customer. Who are your target customers? Where do they “hang out”? Which social networks do they visit? What are their problems or challenges? What do you want your customers to do? Buy a product? Learn something? Perform a certain action? Ask yourself these types of questions to know your customer well.

Listen up! Before your company can have effective conversations in social media, you need to know what customers are saying. It’s easy to set up tools to monitor conversations, but the tricky part is choosing keywords that yield the best results. One social media monitoring tool is Social Media Firehose, which allows you to track brand or product mentions on social media sites such as Facebook, myspace, flickr, twitter, friendfeed, digg, etc.

Don’t mix business and pleasure. Present yourself professionally. Include a professional looking photograph and explain what you offer. Remember the basics: no typos, no foul or offensive language, and no hype. In all social contexts, there is a time and place for everything. What you say on your personal profile may not be appropriate for your business profile. I have separate profiles. Facebook is my “playground” where I socialize with friends. LinkedIn is my “office” where I network with clients and conduct business. Clients are not interested in your personal life. They have a business need or problem, and peruse your profile to decide whether you can meet their need or solve their problem.

Participate. Don’t just “sit” there. You wouldn’t sit around and expect to meet people at an in-person networking event. You would approach a person or group, and participate in the conversation at the right moment. It works the same way in social media. Participate by asking questions, posting an article or blog, sharing information, or answering a question. Clients will see you as an expert, and soon come “knocking on your door”.

Watch other people. If you’re not sure how to present yourself, look at other profiles. When you see a profile you like, emulate them; but don’t copy them word for word. Ask your colleagues for advice and feedback.

Reach out and “touch”. Reconnect with colleagues or classmates and tell them you’re expanding your client base. Don’t be afraid to connect with people you don’t know. Do your due diligence by carefully checking their profile for professionalism. If you like what you see, connect with them! It’s a small world, and you may be only one degree of connection away from meeting the next client.

Tell nothing but the truth. Don’t lie or exaggerate your expertise. You’ll soon be caught and quickly gain a bad reputation. One click on the mouse and bad news goes viral almost instantaneously. So, be careful. Don’t leave out important information. Tell the complete story so clients can understand clearly what you offer.

Don’t share too much personal information. Think of your business profile like a brochure. You can include a picture of yourself and a business description. Provide the same information as you would on a brochure. Don’t divulge personal information such as your home address, nationality, date of birth, etc. You won’t include that in a brochure, so why include that on your business profile?

Jazz up your profile. Give presentations, write blogs, and launch webinars, videos or podcasts. Share interesting and useful information. The best type is “how to” information that explains how to do something or solve a problem. Clients are hungry for information and like quick solutions. Present your business as a solution provider, rather than just a business looking for clients.

These are some lessons I learned in my social media travels.

How have you used social media for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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