It’s 9:30 in the morning and I’ve already had about five referral conversations, received two guest posts from my blog and agreed to be a guest columnist for a business blog. Not a bad day as far as networking goes.
It didn’t used to be that way. I used to get up at some ridiculous hour in the morning, drive an hour through rush-hour traffic… eat bad breakfast muffins and drink hotel coffee and run around a hotel banquet room like a chicken with her head cut off. And the end of the session, I’d have a bunch of business cards from people I barely got to know.
Social media marketing is so much more than a public relations tool. It’s a networking tool for those people who know how to get the most out of it.
Social Media is a Referral System on Steroids
The business owners who understand what a real referral system looks like have become exponentially more productive and more profitable by using social media tools to enhance their existing system. And the business owners who have been treating referrals like some surprise gift that shows up have been lost in the technological weeds.
Here’s how to pull together the power of a good referral system with the speed that social media marketing brings so that you can attract more of your ideal clients easily.
The Social Media Enhanced Referral System
1. Build a list. Make a list of everyone you know who can help you build your business by referring someone. You’ll need a list of about 200 people to start. Of course, if you have a LinkedIn profile, this work is already done for you because you’re already connected to people who know you professionally. And if you have a Facebook account, you have yet another list of people to whom you are connected personally. This means that when it comes time to ask them questions, and connect with them you are no more than a click away. If you don’t have these profiles, I’m hoping that you’ll start to see how important it is to get one. The time you invest in creating your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles is time well spent because you will be connecting with these folks often.
2. Write a referral guideline/LinkedIn Summary. This is a one page document that outlines exactly who you are and what you do. Another section includes those items that set you apart from other people who do what you do. The most important part of this guideline is the description of who your ideal customer is and the things they might say that should make me think of YOU or that should trigger ME to call YOU. BEFORE social media marketing, this was a word document that I emailed to people. Now, it’s my LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn description. That means that every time someone searches for these keywords and phrases, they land on my page and call me.
3. Contact your list. In the past, I used to make phone calls, schedule face-to-face meetings, drive to coffee shops and spend an average of four hours per meeting going through my referral guideline and asking the other person what I could do to help them. Today I answer questions on the Q&A sections of LinkedIn and chat it up with my LinkedIn connections. I can have up to ten or more conversations in the four hours that it took me to have one conversation. I reach out to the people I follow on Twitter and share my latest blog post or AMEX Open Forum article that talks about an area they had asked me about. All of this without getting into the car, paying $4 for coffee or for gas!
4. Build Reciprocity. Social media marketing makes it easy to do nice things for the people in my network. I can interview them for any articles that I’m going to publish, I can give them advice or answer questions quickly and easily – that other people can see and then contact me and become a client.
You can get extremely sophisticated with this process – or you don’t have to. The most important part of a referral process is to RUN it as a process. This means that you create a routine for yourself that looks something like this:
- Spend one hour writing a blog post and putting the link on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
- Take fifteen minutes and answer at least one question on LinkedIn.
- Finally have at least three referral conversations with my network where I ask them how I can help them or introduce them to someone.
Instead of seeing social media marketing as a waste of time, look for ways to use the technology to build word of mouth for your online business.
|About Ivana Taylor
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