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#173: A Consultant's Social Media Strategy

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Updated: Friday, November 13, 2009
I am all over social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and several bookmarking sites) but am not getting much in return for the effort. How can I get more traction?

Consider the intent of your social media strategy. It is easy to engage in setting up accounts, participating in forums and referring people to your profiles. Some consultants, however, fail to start with the end in mind, instead feeling that they must have a social media "presence" and will figure out later how it will work. Before you engage in social media in a significant way, consider two issues (these do not include the mechanics of the strategy itself). First, recognize that you are asking people to make an investment in you and your content. Although they do not "pay" in a traditional sense, their interaction with you takes time they could be spending elsewhere. Make sure that you are providing a lot of free, useful and timely content to compensate for their investment. Nobody cares about your business except in ways that benefit them.

Second, recognize that the type of audience you pursue means as much as the volume of attention you attract. Facebook use is rapidly expanding for business, but is it a place your target audience knows and cares about? In which forums do you participate, and are those ones your customers care about? Can you devote significant time to the care and feeding of your social media activities? Are you evaluating your return on investment? How much content do you need to generate, and give away, to justify your target's investment of time to interact with you? Are the types of people you attract compelled to use your services or are they just interested in using your content?

Tip: It is seductive to launch into social media activities because the investment is low (usually free) and largely a do-it-yourself activity. Consider that a gift, but also that the real investment is in the maintenance and operations. Given the total cost of operations for an effective social media strategy, spend more time thinking through how you will generate content and create community around that content. Balance your expectations against the total, and sustained, investment you are making.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  blogs  client development  social media  your consulting practice 

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Mary Adams CMC says...
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Mark-

While I agree with you that it makes sense to think about where your target clients are spending their time, that analysis may lead you to avoid social media because most clients are not spending their time there. However, it could still be a very valuable activity anyway.

If your social media activities are disciplined in focusing on your areas of expertise, you will be using key words often. If your content has value, others that are interested in those key words will link to you. These links often come from thought leaders, not clients. But these links are what give you value with the search engines. (The conversations will also help you learn from the community and tune your message)

So my advice is to make sure that your keywords and conversations address your target clients' concerns. That way, when they go to search for information about their concerns/challenges, you will be at the top of the search.
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