The well-known evangelists of our internet world keep preaching a simple formula:

  1. Design your brand
  2. Identify your message
  3. Get your message out
  4. Amplify your message

As business professionals, we follow this call to action religiously. We write and share articles or post inspirational quotes that will resonate with our online communities. We follow others who are aligned with our own goals, and then we repost and re-tweet their messages to our followers. According to the social networking guidebook, we are doing everything right.

But let me ask you this: how is that working for you? Are you seeing any results? And if you think you are getting results, how are you measuring them? I’m going to share with you a secret to find more clients the right way.

As a speaker, trainer, and coach, I work with numerous businesses and entrepreneurs who keep telling me the same story. They follow the rules of social networking because the gurus say they need to. They often start off diligent with their social networking strategy, but they eventually get too busy with more pressing concerns. They log onto Facebook only when they have time to kill, or they schedule a mandatory couple of tweets, and they stay away from LinkedIn until they decide to find a new job.

Let’s be real—many people don’t really understand how spending a whole lot of time on social networking is actually putting money in the bank.

To understand social networking and make it work for your business, it’s important to first understand the WHY before you roll out a strategy. If WHY you are posting and tweeting is unclear, you will continue to spend valuable time socializing without knowing if your efforts are effective or not (i.e. measuring the results). To help you understand your social networking WHY, I’m going to review the logic behind the gurus’ steps.

  1. Social networking is about influence. The more your message and unique viewpoint is followed and reposted, the more influence you have. In business today, influence means competency. Therefore, all businesses must advertise/socialize—even the one you run from your kitchen table.
  2. With consumers being able to shut out ads and fast-forward through commercials, advertising is now more subtle, such as product placements. We no longer rely on prominent advertising outlets to tell us about new gadgets or styles. Instead, we look for “social proof” in our physical and virtual communities.

    A product or service lifecycle traditionally follows the Bell curve (see illustration below).

    Roger's Diffusion of Innovation Bell
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Google+
    • Pinterest

    If someone else (innovators) likes a product or service, we are intrigued. If more use it (early adopters) and rave about it, we all must have it (early and late majority.) It is important to understand that you have to woo the innovators to stand any chance of selling your goods and services.

  3. Attracting early adopters is how your product or service gets vetted further and they help you build a track record. From there, your consistent influence makes it much easier to persuade the majority that what you’re offering is worth having. Your influence grows because you are believable, consistent, and your message resonates with others.
  4. It’s your job to identify and show consumers why they should hire you. Your point-of-view needs to be clearly defined and your internet persona must be aligned with your USP (unique selling proposition). Otherwise, you may come across as being fake.
  5. Social networking influence is measured by the number and quality of interactions you create with your community and followers (a.k.a. you tribe). Once you become influential in those circles, you have gained the power to persuade. Now, you can offer many more products and services that provide solutions to problems many people have and the clout you have earned from the innovators and early adopters is the social proof the majority of people are looking for before they buy.

Have you ever noticed that Oprah isn’t slammed for featuring products? She makes each product she touches an overnight success because her tribe trusts her judgment.

Before you get back to posting updates and writing blog posts, decide what you want to achieve first. Study the Bell and identify who your current customers are. Gain influence by communicating with a clear viewpoint. Why is it interesting, why are you posting it, why does it matter to your followers? Instead of just posting what you think we may find interesting, tell us WHY it matters so we can understand more about who you are and learn to trust you.

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