Why you are wasting your time on social media

If you’re a consultant, trainer or speaker you’ve probably been told over and over again that to be successful you need to be very active on social media.

On the surface it sounds like good advice and social media can be an important part of your marketing strategy. It can certainly help you reach more people and get your message out to audiences who may never have heard of you. But let me be perfectly clear – you can build a business without constantly feeding an Instagram account with selfies.

Social media marketing is not a one-size fits all panacea for business success. But that’s the way it’s pitched to a lot of business owners.

Here’s what generally happens. A small business owner attends a conference or a seminar on social media and the speaker runs through a list of all the top sites and all the billions of people who are using them.

So you leave either inspired or frightened. Inspired about what social media can do to help you grow your brand or frightened by the amount of work it’s going to take to get you a million followers.

I’m here to confirm what your gut is already telling you. That’s a load of crap.

A lot of business owners are wasting their time on social media. Instead of concentrating on creating great content for the platforms where they’re most likely to connect with clients, they end up filling a Hootsuite queue with quotes and inane pictures that have nothing to do with their business and will never resonate with their prospects.

With great content and a sellable message you should be booking conferences, not posting pictures. Click To Tweet

I recently had a client who was signed up for everything by her social media consultant; Pinterest, Instagram, Tumbler, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. So instead of working on growing her speaking business, she was spending all her time trying to grow her social media followers.

If you have great content and a sellable message you should be booking conferences, not posting pictures.

That’s not to say social media in itself is a waste. But you do have to focus on the channels that are most likely to get you in front of the folks who are likely to write you checks for $10,000 or more.

And those folks are probably not on Instagram.

What about Facebook?

Yes, Facebook is huge and your clients are probably on it. But are the on it to be sold on your services or are they on it to keep connected to friends and family? I use Facebook as a hub for some content marketing. I have my blog and my social recycling plugins tied to it to distribute content automatically. I don’t pay too much attention to it. But it at least looks very active if a prospective client drops by when researching my credentials. I also use it for targeted advertising.

There was once a time when a Facebook business page could drive a lot of organic traffic back to your website – as all your followers would be likely to see your posts in their feed. But that changed with an algorithm update that deprecated business content distribution.

Now, if you want to get a piece of content noticed, you need to boost the post with an ad targeting your ideal client profile. That is the trend as social media companies increasingly monetize their data. It’s a pay to play world. So just get used to it.

What I tell my clients – who are primarily consultants, speakers, and sales trainers – is that they should play in the same social media sandbox  their clients are playing in. And for the most part that means LinkedIn and Twitter.

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I’m not saying that all the other social media are a waste of time. But it’s very easy to make your time on them very unproductive. Tackle social media with  a strategy geared toward results and the time you save – not posting quotes – can be spent following up on real leads for proper jobs.

 

Your blog content is a business driver – not a cost

If you run a small business or consultancy you need think strategically about your website content. Even today it’s not hard to find business sites that are the same brochure-ware type setups that were popular 20 years ago. Obviously a lot has changed since Bill Clinton was president. So why haven’t these sites?

There are generally two arguments I hear when I bring up content creation. The first is that the site owner doesn’t have time. The second is that paying someone to write it isn’t cost effective.

Saying you don’t have time to write a blog is like saying you don’t have time to exercise – you have the time, it’s just that you’ve chosen to prioritize something else.

But let’s say you’re not about to change your priorities. What about paying someone to create original content for your website? Let’s say you pay a writer $100 a week to write an original piece of content that is targeted at your ideal clients. Does that sound like a good deal?

I’d argue it is.

In fact I’d suggest that any content you publish is actually a driver of business growth –  without any real cost at all – even if you’re paying for it initially. Blogging is an investment that will eventually show more substantial returns than any paid advertising you’re likely to do.

The traditional methods of lead generation are simply not as time or cost-effective as blogging. B2B marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those that do not. (source)

Another factor to consider is that websites with a blog generally have 434% more indexed pages on Google. (source). And more indexed pages on the Big G means more traffic and more opportunities to make the case for hiring you.

Content is more valuable than you think it is

Creating evergreen content that lives on the internet for months or years is amortised over time – with it’s cost going down every time it comes up in a search, is read by a prospect or is repurposed and shared on social media.

One of the big mistakes is simply writing a blog, publishing it to your site and then forgetting all about it.

Obviously if that’s your strategy, it’s not going to show you much of a return. But if that content is consistently re-shared on social media using a tool like Revive Old Posts, it can constantly find new audiences and bring them back to your site.

I have blog articles that I wrote 2 or three years ago that are still driving traffic to my site.

I write my own blog. So my investment is time. But even If I paid $100 to have someone else create something new and compelling and it drove 1 new prospect to my site every couple of days then, measured against cost per eyeballs, that investment would quickly drop to nearly nothing in a little over a year.

Writing a blog consistently also signals that the lights are still on at your business. I was recently speaking to a prospective client and discovered that their last blog post went up in 2012.

With so many businesses coming and going, having content that is current and relevant shows your prospective buyers that you’re still in business. Remember that most people do their research online before making a buying decision. So you are competing against others in your space who are already creating content on a regular basis.

In a study 47% of buyers viewed between 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a company. (Demand Gen Report, 2016) So if you don’t have content to read you’re already at a disadvantage.

So stop thinking about your blog as a cost or waste of time. Think of it as an investment that will show you returns well beyond your initial outlay and make a list of possible topics today.

You need to actually CONNECT on LinkedIn to find clients

I once made an analogy that some people collect LinkedIn connections like baseball cards. Regardless of value it’s more important for them to have 25000 or more people in their network, than it is to have the right people.

I’ve always thought this was a pointless exercise. With that many connections, it’s virtually impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I use LinkedIn all the time. But I don’t just play the numbers game. I’m not interested in accepting every invitation or sending out invites to people when I don’t see some sort of professional alignment.

Recently I decided it was time to do a little bit more LinkedIn outreach than I’d done in a while. As noted, I have no interest in filling up on useless connections or or becoming a LION. I just want to find, connect and actually build some relationships with folks who may be ideal clients or know somebody who is.

So the trick is to find people who will make my time on LinkedIn worthwhile. And I think I’ve found a way to make it happen. The following is a breakdown of my LinkedIn strategy.  I can definitively say that it has resulted in some great conversations that are moving toward strong business returns. So hopefully this same approach can work for you!

Define your audience

I say this all the time. I don’t care if you’re in IT or professional services, you need to know who is interested in what you’re selling. More importantly do those people have the decision-making authority to make a purchase.

Once you know that open up LinkedIn and mouse over the search bar in the top left column.

Click “People”

Then click All Filters.

Already you can see the many different options you can use to whittle those hundreds of millions of people with LinkedIn accounts down to the ones you need to connect with.

In my case I used four filters:

Connections: 2nd degree

Industry: Professional Training and Consulting

Location: United States

Connections of: I’ll keep this one close to my chest. But it’s someone I know in the industry who is very well connected.

After doing my search I had a very manageable list of 138 people that I wanted to connect with. Now I say manageable because, let’s face it, a lot of folks have accounts and never use them. So I can expect a lot of these people to never respond. But those who do, are already distinguishing themselves as at least a little bit social savvy.

There are no shortcuts to building business relationships

With LinkedIn it’s too easy to simply send a connection request. And if I had one feature request for the guys and gals running things, it would be to ban the generic invite option and force people to compose a proper introduction every time.

That doesn’t mean that every introduction you send has to be unique – but it should stand out from all the others people receive throughout the day.

Here is a sample of one I sent out. Every one of my invites received some variation on this theme:

Hi Bob,

I see we have a few connections in common. I’d like to add you to my network to keep up with what you’re doing and maybe steal some of your ideas for my blog.

Cheers,

Aidan

Apologies if this is a note you received and are now feeling a bit used. You weren’t. I genuinely want to have you as a connection and I probably will steal some of your ideas for my own blog – with credit and a link back to your site of course.

This request showed a bit of my personality and it referenced connections in common. Remember, I used the 2nd degree connection filter  – so I shared at least one connection with each of those 138 people. In some instances I shared more than 50!  

But just adding a new connection means very little if you don’t do anything to follow up.

One of my tricks is to take the conversation off the LinkedIn platform and send a longer note to folks who engage with more than an “Accept.”

To those connections I might say something like:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for accepting my connection request. I love LinkedIn, but I find that it’s far too easy to “connect and forget.” So I’m going to send you a quick note via email so you have my real contact information and I have yours in case we ever need to chat.

Thanks again,

Aidan

It’s important to note that I am not adding Bob to my CMS. He’s not going to start getting spammed with newsletters or sales pitches. I’m actually going to send him a REAL communication from my REAL email address.

It’s actually quite simple to find the email address on Bob’s profile and send an email introducing myself. I’m not trying to sell anything in the email, I’m trying to establish a rapport with my connection.

If I’m interesting enough  – and they are interested enough –  this can then go to a phone call about their marketing. In the last 2 months, this has resulted in multiple conversations, with more than a few progressing to the proposal phase.

Getting connections on LinkedIn is easy. Finding clients takes work. There are no shortcuts. But if you are willing to put in a little digital elbow grease you can make the technology work for you and grow your business quickly.

Four reasons to get off your ass and build an online course

It has never been easier to create an online course and market it to the world. That’s the good news.

That’s also the bad news. Why? Well now just about anyone can do it with very little technical effort or experience.

In 2016 I released my first online course DIY Marketing for Speakers, Trainers and Consultants using a WordPress plugin from Flyplugins.com called WP-Courseware. It was easy to configure and integrated nicely with Woo-commerce to allow me to accept payments online. I still use it today. Excellent tool and definitely worth checking out.

It uses simple to set up modules and units that can include videos, quizzes, downloads and even generate a certificate of completion when someone finishes a course.

Most people are understandably apprehensive when it comes to starting a project like this.  But the truth is mapping out a new course once you’ve gone through the process once isn’t difficult. I’m currently revamping my original course and adding 3 more titles to the mix in the next few months. And I don’t anticipate that they will take me very long to develop.

Traditionally online courses are sold to consultants and trainers as a set-it and forget-it revenue engine. But that’s a lazy way to think about what this technology can do for your business.

Beyond the revenue you might make from a course, let’s consider some of the other benefits.

Building your credibility with prospects

Having an online course shows that you are a content and subject matter expert. It tells prospects that you have seriously considered how to logically present your knowledge to an audience and have gone through the steps to make that knowledge accessible.

Scaling your business to reach bigger clients

If you build an online course on sales training it will probably be very general in its approach in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Perfect for one person looking for guidance in Poughkeepsie, but maybe not so useful to a sales team in Rochester.

By simply going through the process of setting up an online course and learning how to do it, you greatly expand your marketability because you can now offer the manager of that Rochester sales team a custom program that is specific to his or her company.

Better still, if that office in Rochester has additional branches across the country or around the world you can license your program for an extended period of time as an onboarding tool. That’s real revenue.

Providing a more cost-efficient option to price sensitive clients

I once worked with a trainer who offered two pricing models for the same program. The first was an automated 6 week pre-recorded course that was distributed to clients’ sales teams every week and the second was the same program delivered online via a popular webinar platform. It was virtually the same content – with some additional interactivity built into the second option.  How you price each of these options yourself is based on your business model and what the marketplace is willing to take. But I could easily see an in-demand trainer offering option one at a significant discount over option two if only to free up time for more lucrative work.

Using it as a content creation tool

Yes, it takes content to create a course. But it’s a two way street. When I completed my DIY Marketing Course, I had the videos transcribed and used them to write blogs. Later those transcriptions even become a big part of my book DIY Marketing for Consultants, Trainers and Professional Speakers.

And then as I was writing the book, I came across additional information that will become part of the newly revamped course – due out mid-September.  (you can pre-order it here for a super discounted $49).

So where do you start when building an online course

If you have expertise in any subject you can create an online course. Whether anyone buys it is another matter.

So define your audience before your create anything. Once you know who your ideal client is, ask yourself what problem can you solve for them using your expertise.

That becomes the topic for your course.

Now break that topic into smaller chunks. Those chunks become your main modules. Whether it’s 4 modules or 12 modules each module needs to be broad enough that you can break it down even further.

The temptation is to do a single video covering each module. But have you ever tried to stay focused on an online learning video for any length of time?  

“Psychologists say that the average human sustained attention span is 20 minutes. But for online videos, it seems to be about 60 seconds.” – Wistia.com

So you need to keep your units short, impactful and interesting.

This will give you a chance to go deeper into more parts of your subject matter and include more quizzes and accountability steps to make your course useful to individual or organizational clients.

Online courses are becoming a bigger part of the training and consulting economy every day. The best time to get into the market is yesterday. But unless you have a time machine there are still opportunities to make it a big part of your growth strategy going forward.

If you want to talk to me about setting up a course yourself go ahead and book a free 15 minute chat.

Your business blog is not your diary

Blogging and writing business articles is great way to build credibility with your ideal prospects.

But it only works if you deliver real value and engagement.

Recently I’ve come across a few blogs from consultants and entrepreneurs that are filled with other people’s embedded videos and personal reflections on subjects that have nothing to do with the writer’s business.

There’s already a place for this type of content – it’s called Facebook.

If you are a consultant, or any business for that matter, your business blog isn’t about you. It’s about your clients. It’s about identifying opportunities where they can make their business’ better – even if they don’t hire you to do it.

Every piece of content you create should be for the benefit of the people who are going to hire you. As a former music journalist/editor I could easily populate this space with indie rock and punk articles. But that wouldn’t help you become better at marketing yourself. And it certainly won’t push you to connect with me on LinkedIn or hire me to do some marketing consulting, training or web work.

In the end I don’t write for me. I write for you.

At the same time don’t be afraid to let a bit of your personality into the narrative if it’s going to keep people engaged.

If you want to attract the right type of clients (ie. the ones who pay), you better be ready to add some value at every point of contact – including your business blog.

As I’ve said in many articles, “Everyone” is not the right answer to “who is your ideal client?” It’s better to write a blog or article that speaks to a very specific audience than a piece that says virtually nothing to no one because you are afraid to get specific.

Generally speaking, clients don’t care about what you do or who you are. They care about what you can do for them.

So use your blog to demonstrate that you understand their business and that you have value to add.

So how do you do this?

First, create a list of broad topics where you are the expert. This could be sales, management, leadership or anything else you do.

Then break those topics into smaller chunks where your advice and expertise will make a difference to somebody.

Using those broad topics here are a few sample blogs you could write:

“What are the 5 mistakes millennials need to learn when it comes to selling person-to-person?”

“How has technology changed sales and what has been lost?”

“What can managers do to become better at their jobs?”

There’s three blog posts that basically write themselves and can help the person who publishes them establish credibility in very specific marketplaces.

So leave the cooking recipes to chefs and share the kitten videos on Facebook like everyone else. When it comes to writing your business blog, make sure it connects with the people who help you pay the mortgage.