by Julia Stewart, IAC-CC
Recently, I was surprised to discover that over the past several months I had attracted more paying clients via social networking, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, than via email marketing. Hmmm. And social networking is so much more fun than writing those endless sales letters that everyone else sends out!
You know, Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, recently announced that it was terminating all its email marketing in favor of social media, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Why? Because they asked their customers how they most enjoyed communicating with them and their customers enjoy social media more.
Would your customers/clients enjoy interacting with you more via social media? If so, they may just be more likely to hire you. Why? Because people are more attracted when they’re having fun than when they’re cleaning SPAM out of their inboxes.
Speaking of SPAM, did you know that according to Return Path 2010, only one in five email messages makes it to its intended recipient? Even if your email message is one of the lucky 20 percent that gets through the SPAM filters, it still only has a 10-30 percent chance of being opened. If it is opened, usually no more than the first sentence or two is read. That’s about the length of a Twitter post.
So how did I attract clients with social networking? I showed up like a real person and made lots of friends online. Daily. I interacted with those friends, supported and shared their messages and some of them became fans who supported and shared my stuff.
That increased my effective reach. However, social sharing, such as "retweets" and "like" buttons, do more than spread your message to more people. They are, in effect, endorsements of you.
Think of it this way: let's say that Janet, a small business owner, is looking for a business coach to help her expand her profitability. Janet sees a tweet by her friend, Sally, who just happens to be your client. Sally's tweet says she just doubled her profits as a result of your coaching. Suddenly you are very much on Janet’s radar.
My latest client told me she found me online and asked fans of my Facebook Fan Page about me before she even contacted me. By the time she called, she was ready to sign up. It’s so much easier to make a sale when you’ve been endorsed, than when you haven’t. Are you thinking that doesn't apply to you because you're in coaching, not sales? Nobody ever got a coaching client without making a sale!
So how can you attract more clients with social media?
Did you know that Facebook and YouTube are two of the biggest online search engines? People use social media for search almost as much as they use search engines. This trend is growing so fast that mighty Google had no choice but to add social media results into its traditional search results.
Now you can show up on page one of Google just by saying something remarkably relevant on Facebook, which now, by the way, has more than half a billion members!
Thomas Leonard used to say that adding value just for the joy of it would make you irresistibly attractive. Now the social web makes sharing value easy.
Once you’re found, you need to earn people’s attention and trust, and then keep earning it with every comment, tweet, video, blog post or picture that you post. It’s a lot like real life in that sense. Be remarkable and trustworthy, and people are naturally attracted.
Most of the people who find you, though, will not become your clients. Your clients come from a core group that I call your "true fans"; the others are merely interested followers and friends.
That’s okay. Noticing and nurturing which followers are becoming fans is a key skill in social media marketing. It requires a light touch and a willingness to serve even those who will never buy from you. Don’t even worry about the money. (Don’t ignore it either, but that’s another post.)
Another crucial step is to notice when your fans are ready to become clients. This requires curiosity, intuition and genuine listening—all skills that are abundant among great coaches. That’s the good news.
However, you can’t implement curiosity, intuition and listening if you're using social media as a broadcast tool (i.e., trying to sell your latest teleclass, program or e-book by constantly posting little commercials). That’s just obnoxious. Ironically, though, many coaches are among the worst offenders for this. That’s the bad news.
Broadcasting your commercials is outbound marketing, where you push your message to people who may not want to hear it. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is where clients come to you because they’re naturally attracted. If you've read this far, you're probably ready for that shift, if you haven't made it already!
Use your natural coaching skills to attract your next clients on social media. It may not happen overnight, but if you’re curious, intuitive, generous and in service, it will build over time. And it will be fun.
No need to push your message. No need to be obnoxious. Just be in service. I have a feeling that’s why you became a coach!
Julia Stewart is The Inbound Marketing Coach. She helps coaches and other small business owners stop chasing success and let it find them online. She’s also President of www.SchoolofCoachingMastery.com and is a maniac about high-quality coaching skills. You can follow her coaching tweets @MasteryCoach and her inbound marketing tweets @JuliaStewart.