WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT
Don't believe the hype. If you fall into the mistake that simply "owning" technology makes you marketable, you're bound for disappointment.
While I have come to believe that social media is the greatest evolution in web technology and web culture since the addition of pictures and video, it is just a tool. Nothing more. If you are willing to work and use the tool, you can create some great results.
Unless you let it devolve into a flea market.
What do I mean? Well, a flea market or swap meet is a giant collection of stuff thrown into one location with everyone screaming for attention. There's no real organization and a whole lot of junk. All this clutter makes it a pleasant distraction, but for finding something of value, you'd have better luck sweeping an empty field with a metal detector.
For 99% of people, YouTube is a flea market. If you find yourself distracted by things like Mafia Wars and Farmville on Facebook, you're not really that concerned about your social media productivity.
On the COW, we like to say "More Signal... Less Noise," and that rings true for business in general. Proper use of social media allows you to effectively communicate with personality and expertise - but it is still a tool. Adding social media to your existing network of clients and peers can strengthen and expand it, but you can't create a network from nothing. Just as having a phone won't make the clients call you, the same goes for social media.
WHY DOES SOCIAL MEDIA MATTER?
Besides the joy of catching up with your buddies from school and seeing family photos, social media really does matter to business. Whether you're self-employed, a producer, or a business owner -- you need to keep a network. People work with, and hire, professionals that they know, respect, and often, simply LIKE. Business is all about personal relationships, and so is social media. Social media interacts with all facets of business. In my own business, I regularly use social media in several ways, including:
The world is a pretty cluttered place. If you want to stay busy, you need to stand out from the crowd. Among the things I do to achieve that is to actively produce content, much of it at CreativeCow.net, that educates the greater community...which also raises awareness of my firm, and the kind of knowledge and experience I can bring to a project.
Standing out in the crowd.
By tying my social media efforts to my brand, we register as relevant in a crowded market. You'll get nearly 50,000 returns on a Google search for RHED Pixel.
Whether we're hiring for a full-time position or a contract, I advertise first to my social networks. These referrals are always better than the responses we see from Craigslist. If we are looking for crews in local markets I use my contacts on LinkedIn and Creative Cow to find the best team.
I keep in touch with my best clients so that they remember to reach out to us. For our last open house event, more than 50% of the RSVPs came from social media. In fact we created a Facebook event to help remind folks and raise awareness. Based on friends' recommendations, several new folks came to the event.
We've already gotten new work and have several meetings set up for future projects.
KEEP UP TO DATE:
Being cutting edge means that you need to be able to spot trends and important technology before it hits the mass market. I can thank social media for helping me pick up on technologies like DSLR video, iPhone apps, and numerous plug-ins that make my life easier.
It's also a way to listen to what your customers are saying, both good and bad. Once you hear, you need to listen...and act. With a little practice, you can quickly detect trends and opportunities.
I have found that just having a website or running ads doesn't work well for our type of business. There's a lot of competition, and there's always somebody ready to work for less. Through social media though, my contacts and clients hear about our activities, accomplishments, and recent projects. They in turn often repeat these to their networks. This does lead to new work, as referrals are where two-thirds of our new work comes from.
From there, social media can facilitate real conversations with prospective customers. By keeping a close eye on new connections or followers, you can spot leads. Looking closely at who's asking for help or leaving a comment, you might want to follow up. Encourage others to share or re-tweet your content, then look to see who's interested.
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