Create your online persona

Regardless of the social media platform you’re using, you are going to have some kind of a profile.  It is the core to almost all social guy with blank signnetworks and communities.  Your profile is your introduction to the world, the network or community.  It needs to reflect your personality AND how you are important to your customers AND the style and tone of the community where it is posted. You are starting with a clean slate – so be creative and tell your story.  Once you have the content of your profile figured out, use itconsistently so that when someone “meets” you on FaceBook and then invites you to connect on LinkedIn, they are seeing the same person.

This can get quite tricky when you are a solopreneur, or an independent professional, where you are your business.  The notion of personal branding comes up and I get asked all the time, do I brand myself or my company?  With social media, people are building a relationship with you, and you represent your company.  So the answer is that it depends.  On what….. your business objectives

If you are a consultant and most of your business is by referral, then you probably want to focus more on yourself – as people are referring you, not your business.  On the other hand, if you run an online boutique specializing in vintage women’s clothing, or an auto repair shop, or a hair salon – people are going to know the company, not necessarily you.

Let’s dissect your online profile and make sure you have the right elements in place across all platforms.   Key elements of a profile usually include:  Picture, Bio and Links.

Make sure your picture is current
– nothing is more unsettling that to meet someone online only to eventually meet them in person, at a conference, event or a meeting or something, and they look nothing like their picture.  It is like they lied to you.  Plus, the bigger advantage is that people will begin to recognize you online by your picture and they will subconsciously develop a stronger relationship with you.

You bio needs to have two versions
– a short one and a longer one.  You can think of the short one as your tagline, either yours personally, or your companies.  It needs to be memorable and quickly paint a picture for people.  The longer bio provides the details and is only used when people really want to learn more about you.  Give them the details that you’re comfortable sharing publically…education, work history, associations and interests.  More importantly, make it interesting.  As a quick example….“Laura Lowell – President, Impact Marketing Group” doesn’t tell me anything.  But “Laura Lowell – 20 years building brands and businesses”  tells me a lot more, and is more interesting and will get you noticed.

Include some links to other sites.  Make sure that the links are live, up-to-date and active.  If you link to your blog, but you have posted anything in the last 6 months – what message are you sending people?  Nothing good, I can assure you.

Remember that the profiles on each type of platform will vary slightly, but these elements are common to 99% of them.

When and Where to start?

The key to marketing with social media is that it isn’t a specific event.  It is a process, a conversation, with your customers, the megaphoneindustry, influencers….whoever you’re targeting.  You can’t walk into a party and begin shouting and expect people to react positively. The same is true with social media.  You need to have some understanding of the situation, the context and the culture before trying to be the center of attention.

You can, however, chime in, offer an opinion, ask a question…or just hang out and see what’s going on.  So many people are afraid of starting with social media because they don’t know how, they think it will take too much time or they don’t see how it relates to their business.  Frankly, while the technology can be intimidating, they have made tons of progress and most of the platforms are dead easy to use. Plus, if you think about social media as a different way of talking with customers about how you can help them – it is much less intimidating. Also, you don’t have to have everything perfect to start…

There is no wrong time to start engaging in social media.   Go ahead and jump in, hang around, watch, listen and learn the culture of each network or community.

You know – this is an important distinction that I’d like to draw your attention to.  Social networks and communities are different – they are two separate entities.  Networks, like LinkedIn or YouTube, tend to big and diverse with lots of people trying to connct and get noticed.   Communities, like FaceBook or MySpace, are usually smaller and focused on a specific topics or interest and are much more friendly and social by nature.    Where to engage is easy to figure out if you’re been listening to the conversations.  Sometimes it might be a combination of networks and communities…but usually there is one that is significantly more appropriate based on active conversations, members, quality of discussions.

What to do?

Usually, when it comes to marketing, the biggest challenge most of us have isn’t a lack of ideas. In fact, ideas sometimes seem to come flying at us from all directions.  The biggest challenge is selecting the most effective things to do based on what your customers want, what you like to do and what will help you achieve your objectives.

The list of marketing activities you can invest in is huge, and seems to get bigger everyday as new things like Twitter, video blogs, and I-don’t-even-know-what appear out of nowhere. The big thing right now seems to be Twitter and social media in general.  What I want to help you do is to prioritize them.   Not everyone needs to be on Twitter.  Not everyone needs to write a book.  Not everyone needs to deliver keynote speeches.  You need to figure out what YOU need to be doing to 1)  reach your target audience, 2) achieve your objectives, and 3) enjoy yourself while doing it.

Try this little exercise:  List off the top of your head 5 things you would like to do to market your business that you are not doing today. It could be doing an Adwords campaign with Google, or setting up a Twitter or FaceBook account.  It could be creating a video to describe your business and post it to YouTube and your website.  Submitting articles to blogs, commenting on blogs in your field, the list can go on and on.

Now, ask yourself these questions:red question mark

1.  Do your customers use these things – are they on FaceBook or LinkedIn?  Do they even read blogs?  If so, which ones?

2.  Do you like doing these things?  If you don’t like to write, then saying you’re going to write articles and submit them isn’t going to be very much fun for you, and consequently you probably won’t do it.

3.  Do these things help you achieve your objectives?  If most of your business comes from referrals and word of mouth, then investing in search engine optimization for your website, might not be the most important thing for you to do.

What you’re going to find is that not all of them work.  Some might work for your customers, but you hate doing it. Others might help you achieve your objectives but your customers don’t like them.  This is how you prioritize your marketing activities and get down to the critical few things you need to do to attract the right kind of customers.  The things you need to do, you like to do and will move you towards your goal.  Evaluate the different activities you COULD do and decide what you SHOULD do.

Do you know your customers?

Your customers are the ones you want to convince to buy your stuff…whatever your stuff is.  So you better know them, understand them and communicate with them or you are not going to be successful.  That’s a bold statement, but it is true.yellow-blue guy

I love it when I talk to an entrepreneur and ask them “Do you know who your target customers are”?  Nine times out of ten they say something like “Well, everyone could benefit from my product.”  Wrong!  While you might want to think that everyone on the planet wants your new software, your bookkeeping services, or your fantastic new widget, not everyone does.  Get over it.  Find the people who do want it and market to them.  As an entrepreneur, you don’t have the time, money or energy to market your business to everyone on the planet.  It is much more effective to find the people who need your stuff and directly market to them.

Defining your ideal customer is the second most important thing you can do to build your business.  Remember the first was defining your business goal.  The second is defining your ideal customer.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about social media , PR or online advertising – if you don’t know this stuff, you won’t be effective.

Start by identifying who your customers are using standard demographics like age, sex, influencers, vertical markets, company-size, or revenue.  Then find out what they care about and the reason for it.  Finally, figure out the problem they are trying to solve?  This is what THEY are trying to solve, not what you think they are trying to solve.

Once you know who they are, you need to know where they go for information.  Do they spend time online, offline, with industry leaders, in their community, do they read magazines or blogs?   Understanding the problem your customers are trying to solve is the third most important thing you need to know.  You can now communicate to a specific group of people whpo have a problem that you you can uniquely solve.  They are looking for something you have.  Now go out and tell them all about it!

Do what you enjoy

I want you to think about the things that you’re good at and that you enjoy doing.  Life is too short to spend your time doing things you don’t like and you’re not good at.  Plus, if you don’t like it, you’re probably not going to do it anyway.  If you’re trying to build a business by doing stuff you don’t like, then you can’t really be enjoying it.  If you’re not enjoying it, you gotta ask yourself what can you do differently?  Here’s how you figure it out…confidence

I want you to write down the first thing that comes to mind when you read this question:

“Remember a time when you felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.  What was it?”

Write it down.  Now,  think about times in your life when you had this same feeling – a sense of confidence, accomplishment and pride.  Go way back…to school, university, when you first started out in business, personal and professional things, it doesn’t matter.  Write these things down. Now go thru them and figure out what they all have in common.  This is a fun way of figuring out what you really like doing.  Because chances are if you like doing something, you will be successful at it.