Friday, February 15, 2013

Be Real in the Virtual World: Building your Social Media Strategy

Posted on Friday, February 15, 2013 by International Coach Federation

When you think about it, coaching and social media are about as similar as oil and water. Coaching is very human and real whereas social media seems intangible and impersonal. Although it seems counterintuitive, coaches who take advantage of “impersonal” social media have better opportunities to deliver powerful experiences, engender trust and build strong relationships with a larger number of their ideal clients.

Over the past decade, I have worked with a lot of coaches, many of whom feel uncomfortable about the Web as a tool for building their practice and building relationships. Here’s some of what I hear:

  • I don’t know where to begin with social media, so I avoid it.
  • I focus on human relationships and the web is impersonal, so it’s not the right tool for me.
  • Working on the web takes a lot of time that I just don’t have.
  • I don’t see the benefit of social media when it comes to finding my ideal clients.
  • There are so many options (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.) and I don’t know which are right for me.
Do any of these statements resonate with you?
Social media can be your best opportunity for enhancing relationships and expanding your practice. The web is quickly becoming the place to find new clients and convince potential clients who are considering you that you’re the perfect coach for them. And more and more, people are using the web as a research tool – to find the goods and services they seek. And those services include coaching.
 
As Google quickly becomes our primary research tool; you can almost guarantee that prospective clients will scour the web to determine whether or not you’re the right coach for them. So you need to be visible and available in the virtual world if you want to expand your success in the real world! You need to be part of the virtual community so you can build real relationships.
 
When building your social media strategy, integrate these three essential actions:
 
1. Be Real.
Personal branding is based in authenticity. Your virtual world brand must match who you are in the real world. And unlike personal interactions, the web gives you fewer opportunities to build emotional connections with your audience. So you need to be crystal clear about what you want to communicate and committed to expressing the true you in everything you do online. That means branding your bio or social media profiles (injecting your personality, values, passions, etc.), incorporating your style and point-of-view into what you write and post and using your headshots and video as ways for people to get to know you and connect with you on a deeper level. Being ‘real’ when building your brand in bits and bytes will help you stand out and attract the attention of your ideal clients.
 
2. Be Focused.
The web is vast. According to worldwidewebsize.com, the indexed Web contains at least 8.71 billion pages. And there are literally thousands of different social media tools you can use. It would be exhausting to try to be visible everywhere. And maintaining conversations on multiple social media channels will squander your limited communications time.
 
To get focused, start with your ideal clients. Know who they are, where they show up on the web and how they like to interact. For example, if your target audience is sales executives, learn where they go for information, find the sales portals that accept guest posts, identify the top Blogs for salespeople (where you can post comments and connect with readers) and know which social media tools sales people favor (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, something else?).
 
And one last thing. Limit your preaching to the choir. It is great to be part of the coaching community on the web, but unless your ideal client group is other coaches, make the majority of your online contributions where your clients hang out. Sure, it’s valuable to connect with your colleagues on the LinkedIn ICF Coaches Forum; but don’t confuse that with your social media strategy for increasing visibility with clients. In addition to contributing to the coaches forum, join the LinkedIn groups where your clients spend time and become part of those communities too. Understand the difference between collaborating with colleagues and connecting with clients.
 
3. Be Consistent.
Whether you choose Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook or decide to have your own YouTube channel or Vlog, be regular. Social media only works if you work it. By that, I mean that consistency builds recognition and memorability. Strong brands don’t go into hiding and when it comes to the web, that’s doubly true. To make this happen, you need to put social media activities into your calendar or do-list. Strong relationships are built through regular, branded interactions. If you plan out a year of quarter at a time, you will be able to thread a story through your online communications to get your message heard and understood by those you seek to influence.
 
Social media is an outstanding tool for increasing your visibility with your target audience. Build your social media strategy around your personal brand - authenticity, focus and consistency - and you’ll expand your success and increase your fulfillment.
 
Dubbed the Personal Branding Guru by Entrepreneur, William Arruda is the founder of Reach Personal Branding, author of the bestselling book Career Distinction and Ditch. Dare. Do! and curator at Personal Branding TV (www.personalbranding.tv) - the premier multi-media resource for professionals interested in building their personal brand. If you liked this article, check out William’s latest piece in the February edition of Coaching World, entitled “Use Hue to Build Brand You: Eight Ways to Use Color to Get Noticed by Clients.”

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