Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Starting a social-media business

At a function yesterday I was approached by a young business-school grad looking for some advice about starting a social-media consulting firm. How, she asked, should she start?

My advice was fairly simple. Pick a niche. Any niche. In a city the size of Toronto, you can't set out to serve the whole city. With limited time and scarce marketing dollars, you have to focus your attention on a market segment that really needs your help, and which you are uniquely positioned to serve.

Choosing a target market helps you nail down the specific needs of that market and the best way to reach them; only then can you target your message appropriately.

So I asked her what her interests were, her industry experience, where she was from. And then I suggested she use criteria such as those to select her niche, and work on a few compelling reasons why she is the best person to serve the needs of that market. Maybe it’s the community where she grew up, maybe it’s a sector she studied in school, maybe it’s the industry that gave her her first summer job.

Once you know what your market is, I suggested, figure out an approach. What needs do these people (or businesses) have, and what tools can you provide to help them? Figure out a compelling message that highlights two things:
• Your customers’ specific needs;
• Your personal expertise and abilities.

Then start getting your message out, through whatever channels best serve your target market: direct mail, posters, website with search engine optimization, key influencers, email, video, postcards, press releases, etc. Include a compelling, time-limited offer (say, a coupon for a discount or a free consultation) that will encourage interested prospects to call NOW!!

If you are going to say you're a social media guru, you'd better prove it. You’ll need a professional-looking website, a compelling Facebook page, a series of razor-sharp videos on YouTube, and a tantalizing Twitter feed.

You need to demonstrate your proficiency and creativity. I've met web designers who had loads of excuses for having lousy websites, but I would never hire one of them.

And of course collect all the testimonials you can and pursue every referral opportunity. Once your business is underway, you will need all the positive feedback you can get- for your own confidence as well as your clients’.

Any advice to add?

1 comment:

erin said...

Hey Rick,

Great post. I get approached a lot by people who are looking to advise companies on their social media presence. Your advice that "If you are going to say you're a social media guru, you'd better prove it" is right on the money. Make sure you practice what you preach, and that you're up on all the latest trends. Being able to make a Facebook fan page does not make you an expert!

Cheers,
Erin