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.GETTING STARTED
In a tough economy or challenging market you need to get creative. You also need to choose wisely where to spend your time and effort.
The key is to keep your network manageable. Getting 10,000 friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter will not mean real world business. I regularly go through and screen social media requests -- it may take a simple question like "How do I know you?" to help you screen your accounts -- as well as remove friends or followers. If I don't know someone, I look closely at their bio and connections. If it's someone I want to get to know professionally, I add them.
On Facebook, I only connect to people I know. Everyone else I point to a fan page.
On Twitter, I examine the profile of all new follows. If they are interested in digital video, motion graphics, or photography, I keep them. If they are into Search Engine marketing, get rich quick schemes or "fun" dates, I block them.
If you attract people who have a genuine interest in what you create, then you can find people who have a need for your services. It is far better to have 200 connections of people who are actually interested, than 5,000 people who just want to drive up their social media "friend" or "follow" counters.
SOME CLOSING TIPS...
MAINTAIN MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS:
- CREATIVE COW: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR MEDIA PROFESSIONALS
Cows - Social Media
If you visit CreativeCow.net, you can see great examples of social media in action. The best thing about the COW is that it brings a global community together who share ideas and support with one another. Well before social media was "trendy," folks have been connecting and helping each other at the COW, now in its 10th year.
Members of the community can ask questions and make requests while other members respond. People in need of help can recruit volunteers or contractors. And the whole thing is easily searchable and accessible -- even from that computer in your pocket, your smart phone.
Once you get the lay of the land, you can enhance the COW community yourself. Advocate for the community and raise awareness. Tell friends and recruit others.
The next step is to actually contribute. If you see an opportunity to help, do so. Write an article or post a video clip that adds to the knowledge base. Once you register for COW membership, you automatically have a COWblog.
Don't worry that you're not an expert. If you see a question that you know the answer to, or a discussion that you can add your perspective to, go for it. Comment on posts or articles by other people -- and if you watch the demo reels, vote for your favorites.
I have landed numerous design and consulting jobs because others need the expertise that I have been able to demonstrate in my COW posts.
Even after a couple of posts, you may well find that the traffic generated by the COW's 2 million monthly visitors puts your entries at the top of your Google listing. For me, the COW is my #2 hit after my corporate website.
Make those appearances count by filling out your Creative COW profile. Tie it to a business listing at services.creativecow.net -- then post your videos at reels.creativecow.net -- reels, commercials, shorts, trailers, title animations, music videos and more.
The whole crux to making social media work is to get a "sticky net," one with several strands that can catch eyeballs. Be sure to stay visible in the world's largest network of media professionals.
If you have diverse interests, you may want to separate them on the web so you can better leverage your connections. I do believe in letting my personality shine through in social media, but I still maintain private accounts. Consider making Facebook identities for your company or different activities, including personal interests.
While virtual networks are great, the occasional face-to-face meeting goes along way. By using services like meetup.com, I can create in-person events. We've put on over 20 podcasting meet-ups in the Washington, DC area. This has led to a great network of colleagues and some real-world business. I also regularly attend trade shows, conferences, and group meetings, which lets me maintain the social side of business development.
Are you offering up genuine content with personality? Make sure you are sharing what's interesting and not merely re-tweeting or posting a ton of links that don't matter to your peers.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS REAL
I was resistant. I am still skeptical. They are many social media hucksters. Social media has its own (and particularly annoying) spam. It can absolutely be a time suck, which is why the savviest of users use dedicated applications or phone applications to streamline their participation.
I have made social media a part of my business. I keep in touch with my best clients and vendors. We know a little bit more about each other and in turn think more highly of each other. I know that the first people I call for business are the ones I think of first. Social media leads to "passive intimacy" and allows you to keep in touch with those that matter -- but on your schedule and in an asynchronous manner.
The best advice I have is this. Be a pessimistic optimist. What I mean is, open your mind and try new things, but don't expect your world to change overnight. A true business network takes years to build, but it is the solid foundation to a successful career and enjoyable life.
Interested? Chances are you're reading this magazine because you create content for a living. It may be corporate video, a feature film, an interactive website, or some other genre. You create stories -- content. You want an audience for your work, and for your clients.
Welcome to social media.
Washington, DC USA
Richard Harrington, owner of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company in Washington, DC, is a certified instructor for Adobe and Apple and has worked on more than 25 books related to video and photography. You can find him in the Adobe Photoshop, DSLR Video, and Podcasting COW forums, and hosting Creative COW podcasts for Photoshop for Video, Apple Final Cut Pro, and more.