When you are starting out in small business or in a service-based industry where the product you sell is your time and advice, you are the main attractor of new clients. Like it or not, people want to know about the person delivering the service, not just about the product and price. They care just as much about your personality as your qualifications. Who you are and what you stand for is important in the age of digital transparency. More and more, prospects want to dig behind the business facade to really see who is running the operation. The more you show them, the more they can trust you and the more likely they will buy from you.
Social media is a great forum to showcase various parts of your life that you are comfortable sharing. I’m not talking about super personal matters you wouldn’t want to share online, I’m talking about your hobbies and activities that showcase your character, personality and values.
What to share online?
There are two parameters that you need to review which will assist you in deciding what to share online.
The first is the formality of the industry. The more formal, the less personal content, the less formal the more personal content.
The second element is how open you are to sharing yourself online. Rank both of these on a scale of 1-10 and this will assist you in deciding what you are comfortable sharing and what is appropriate in for your clients.
- Informal industries
Think about the small talk you have with prospects when you first met them. You ask about their weekend, where they grew up, their family, holidays they have had, sporting teams they follow, causes they are interested in. All of these chats are a way to establish rapport and build some bridges before you talk business. Forming trust with another person hasn’t changed, but the medium has. In today's digital world, prospects can easily find your information, see your activities and hobby through your Facebook and Instagram before meeting you. Chances are they are more likely to like you and do business with you if you share a common activity or hobby. Seeing your activities overtime also makes them feel like they know you, just like when we talk about celebrities like we know and understand them despite having never met them. That’s why big companies hire people like George Clooney to advertise coffee because we like and trust him through repeated exposure to his brand.
A previous client of ours was a sales manager for high end software that is looking for new prospects. He didn’t have much social media and was finding it tough to break into new industries as people know he will be prospecting for business. After reviewing his personality and values, we realised that he is most passionate about surfing. He goes every weekend and loves talking about it. We suggest he uses that hobby for business and joins Surfers in Suits - a networking group for business people who surf. He goes and has an amazing time. Not only does he get to talk surfing with equally passionate people, they want to do business with him because they have a shared passion. Now when prospecting online, he can use his surfing credibility to link up with others who share his interest.
- Formal Industries
If you don’t like sharing non-business content and your industry is very formal, another way to use social media is to focus on blogging on your industry using LinkedIn Pulse. By writing longer articles about your experience in the industry, your beliefs on certain topics and sharing your opinions, you start to reveal what you are like to deal with to your prospects.
You are not revealing the social side of your personality, more your character and values. Over time people will get to know your style and resonate and agree with your opinions or not. Building rapport and trust which has the dual benefits of speeding up the sales process and disqualifying non-matching clients who wouldn't buy from you once you met. It's simply more efficient.
I’m sure you can see the benefits of warming up cold prospects with your online content before they start the sales process with you. But what happens if you have staff? This is the biggest untapped resource in business. Staff all have friends and networks that could benefit your business and they are the best people to recommend your services. If you support them in building their own personal brands and sharing appropriate content, you can save huge amounts from your marketing budget. The key is to ensure it is a win for the staff member, their friends and the business.