- Are you engaging or broadcasting?
- What is the message you're trying to get across?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Where does your target market reside?
- Is it working?
1. Are you engaging or broadcasting?
Getting those all-important customers is best achieved by giving them what they want rather than what you think they want. Merely scattering links here, there, and everywhere is ineffective at best, annoying at worst. To get people on board and keep them interested, you need to engage with them. Take an interest in them, get into discussion with them. Remember, the point of social media is to be social, not to infodump adverts on everyone. Personally, I like to talk to people about the things they're interested in to get their attention, then trickle in bits of information that demonstrate that I'm a web designer. The trick is to do this when it's relevant.
Arguing to score points is counter-productive. It's better to win a friend than to win an argument. Be patient, then, when making your points and take the counter-points on board. People have often been bombarded for years with information promoting an opposite view so they'll take that as the truth, not what you are saying, whether you're right or not. People trust experience, so be sure to keep it real. I'm passionate and occasionally argumentative, but I'm willing to listen to the other side of the story and learn from the people I disagree with in order to maintain a healthy perspective. People trust people they respect.
2. What is the message you're trying to get across?
My basic message is, "I'm a Manchester-based web designer who specialises in WordPress and my main market is small and startup businesses and individual projects. I am constantly learning new ways to improve my knowledge and skills so I can provide the best possible service." I trickle this message into my conversations and rarely post links to my website in my posts unless I'm starting a thread to announce a new blog post. The result is that I'm often consulted on the basis that people know I know WordPress and that I'm a web designer who works on a small scale, i.e. I won't charge more than they can afford.
To trickle, just break up your message into smaller portions so that if someone is, let's say, denigrating OS, you can say, "Well WordPress is OS and I work with it because I find it easy to set up for the client, and for the client to use. It's also got a fantastic range of free and reasonably-priced plugins. I couldn't work with proprietary CMS because my target market, individuals and small businesses, wouldn't be able to afford my services. I can't afford to charge any less than £250 per website, I've got rent to pay."
Now compare this with a comment such as "Cheap web designer. Go to my website www.idesignwebsites.com for great rates. Websites from £250." Which would you be more likely to hire?
3. Who are you trying to reach?
If the answer is "Potential customers" and your method is to post links to a landing page at every opportunity, you're doin' it wrong. Identify your potential customers, then talk to them to find out what they're looking for. That is how you reach them. Remember, they're going to go either by word of mouth or via search. They won't respond to infodumping. Talk to them, build a relationship, then watch the orders roll in. It also helps to become an authority, the go-to person on a particular topic. I'm in the process of making a name for myself as a writer and designer with a political angle that I'm happy to promote. The people I want to reach are open-minded people who want to become more web-savvy and are as excited about the opportunities the internet provides as I am.
4. Where does your target market reside?
For people in my line of work, the answer for "online residence" is Facebook. Rarely will you get business for small-scale web projects from Linked In. Google Plus might, Twitter is unlikely to deliver. You need to find out where your market is, then talk to them about the things they're interested in. This means responding to their posts, fanning, favouriting, or liking them and sharing them around. If you blog and post blog links to your social media accounts, be sure to credit your fellow users for any items or quotes you use.
While Linked In is touted as an online business networking centre, what actually happens is that people with similar interests tend to get together in groups. A web designers/developers group might be useful if you want to learn more about your trade, but to get business you need to go to the small business groups. Getting work from them may be hard because you're competing with cheap or free alternatives. You might be able to get into discussions about marketing and the best way to promote your products but personally I found it difficult. I've had some business off Facebook and Google Plus, though, because I tend to interact with people on a more personal level there. The trick is to become an authority on your area of business. The last thing you do is take an in-your-face high-pressure approach. That will quickly backfire.
5. Is it working?
If not, try something else. Some people double down on failed policies, as if doing it more frantically will get the punters in. Actually, saturating the social media creates a white noise effect where you're seen more as a nuisance than a potential choice for business. Different methods work for different people. I'm quite political person and a bit of an activist. I make no effort to hide that from anyone and sometimes that's an advantage as fellow activists will recommend me to their families and friends. Being well known on G+ has got me some business, but that approach might not work for everyone. At the end of the day, you know what works for you by the results, and what gets the results is the thing for you to do. Just don't spam the social media sites with links to your website, etc., in the comments of a post on an unrelated subject. It's annoying and it doesn't work in terms of bringing in business.