After reading several posts this morning on whether or not Social Media (SM) is all hype, I decided to weigh in on the topic and speak to the 'self-branding' piece of this complex puzzle.
To say that SM is pure hype is like saying the Internet is just a fad. It's here to stay, and its injecting itself into mainstream media more and more each day. LinkedIn's new strategic move with CNBC in regards to content distribution is but one example. Whether companies can use this new medium to generate real dollars is something that remains to be seen. But you can bet that it will get them exposure (check out FedEx's move on Facebook: http://blog.buddymedia.com/blog/?p=58)
Playing to Win
While the mergers of big media companies and social sites may be consequential (if short lasting), the question for the service professional is how to harness this media to find clients. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at what we can learn from the major players.
1. You have to play to win.
Much like Powerball, if you don't enter you can't win. Large companies worldwide are entering the world of SM with all kinds of initiatives - some great, others not-so-great. This does not mean that you enter the world of SM for the sake of doing something. You shouldn't blog or place Twitter posts because you feel you have to...you need a plan first. And above all, you need relevant content.
2. You have to work at it.
You're putting enough hours in at your firm, I know. So realize before entering: even the big players haven't figured SM out yet. Creating useful content takes time... a lot of time. Realize that before going in. It's much easier to add contributions to discussion groups than it is to create a blog.
And take the time to build your network. Do this by letting others in the community know that you're the expert they need (do that by making meaningful contributions). It's what Hubspot calls "inbound marketing," which is letting people come to you, instead of you to them.
3. There's not (necessarily) instant gratification.
While SM can indeed boost your ego (Look Mom! I have 500+ connections), it probably won't win you clients, at first. Think of SM as a networking event, where you get to talk to a few people, build rapport, exchange business cards, make some follow-up calls, etc. Then realize that time constraints are gone --- meaning, people can respond to posts much, much later than they would to a phone call or meeting.
These are three simple things you ought to think about prior to beginning an SM campaign for your services: get out there, add meaningful content, and remember that you'll have to be patient.
(Image of touch interface by Microsoft)