By Advantage Member Sheri Fitts

Why would a business NOT want to take advantage of a platform that can amplify their marketing dollars?

As consumers, we regularly search the web for information on restaurants, hotels, shoes, lawyers and window washers. Just as people use digital ratings and reviews to find the perfect watch or pair of slippers, so too do they use an organization’s digital footprint to evaluate expertise and fit.

When speaking on this subject I always say, “You are who Google says you are.”

To ignore the digital space is similar to ignoring the Yellow Pages years ago. It isn’t a fad, it’s not going away, and it is ever more present in our lives. In fact, I heard a sad–and somewhat funny –statistic the other day. If forced to choose between a year without sex, or a year without a cellphone, nearly a third of Americans said they’d give up sex, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Social media provides an avenue to proactively connect with prospects and clients – in an environment of their choosing. In a way, social media can be considered a warmed up cold call or introduction.

When social media started to take off, many “gurus” on the subject suggested that the digital world was much like a party. I’m not a fan of that metaphor. Instead, think of the digital/social world as a trade show. There are many individuals around looking to network, some are there to build partnerships and others are seeking to build brand recognition.

Starting Out With Social

For those unfamiliar with social media, or for those who just aren’t sure on where to start, take it one step at a time. I suggest that you start with LinkedIn. It moves much more slowly than Twitter, and doesn’t require a financial investment to get noticed like Facebook. Then, ask your current clients and prospects where they hang out.

Next, create, or recreate, an extremely well thought out and well-written profile on LinkedIn. Remember, it is static content and must be pre-approved. This will help in a variety of ways, but most importantly with Google search results!

Then, focus on building out a network. Connect with other business leaders, centers of influence, vendors, partners, etc. Spend 15 minutes a day reviewing what others have done on the platform and think through how that might apply to your business efforts.

Remember, consistency is crucial for success. Momentum takes time and effort. There’s nothing worse than starting a social effort only to stop, which is not a good brand experience. Finally please do not expect an immediate ROI from social media.

Social Media for Specific Niches

When it comes to social media, the opportunities can be endless for entrepreneurs, financial planners, doctors and more. Move beyond simply networking and reframe your ideas of social as a broadcast medium. Create your own channel. Write your own magazine. Start your own radio station. Offer up some awesome, unique programming. Even though social is more than ten years old, there is still an opportunity to create connections and build your brand.

It’s important to really clarify your message in the digital world. The closer you can get to really identifying your target audience, the more specific content, the better the social connection. All too often I see folks trying to be all things to all people. This really dilutes a message, and simply adds noise to the digital space.

Then get familiar with the concept of content marketing. Content marketing is the idea of creating valuable content as a means to develop influence and authority. I describe it as sharing your smart. The more you create content to truly help—not sell to—your target audience the more you’ll be noticed.

Deconstructing the digital space doesn’t have to be scary, just take it one step at at time. Start with one channel, and build up your presence. Remember to create consistent, targeted content and you’ll be on your way to making your mark in the social media landscape.

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