network, social, social network

How I Started Marketing Myself

One of the things I do on social media, which is something I also recommend other professionals to do, is to be active. You don't need to be there 24/7, and you certainly don't need to be on every network, either.

Just be active on the ones that matter.

Be where your audience, your ideal client, is hanging out. LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups are my favourites, followed by Facebook Groups. (Other than paid ads, Facebook itself is not targeted enough for my taste.)

Groups are terrific because they're usually centered around a topic, theme, or industry. By responding to a person's question that happens to fall in your audience or realm of expertise, your answer will get noticed, perhaps liked, replied to, or even shared.

Sometimes, you can ride the coattails of someone's existing follower base, clout, or audience. Including your competitors.

You can comment on their posts, or reply to other people's comments on their posts. It might seem a little sneaky but it's perfectly ethical. And effective.

In short, you want to get noticed, get clout, and get traction.

In the beginning, when you’re trying to get noticed, the best way to do that is by giving advice out for free. Remember that no one will pay you money if you're unknown and your advice is unproven.

You can be active by engaging in other people's content. If they have influence and large followings, add your own comment. Be active in their threads. If their post has a lot of comments and views, others will be notified of your response.

It's social proof at its best.

In my early career, there were no “social networks.” So I couldn't comment on other people's stuff. There were little to no blogs, and they had negligible traffic.

I did have my own blog at the time (remember LiveJournal?), but blogging back then was new, unheard of, and mostly for journaling. It wasn't seen as a content management platform.

I wanted to showcase my expertise.

As a young marketing consultant, I had written books and articles on marketing, and I was the editor for one of the first Internet marketing companies, which was later acquired by the late Corey Rudl.

But I had no case studies. Nothing that specifically showed my skills.

So here's what I did. In the late 90s, I wanted to offer something for free. Something that was easy, quick, helpful, and persuasive enough to get my “foot in the door.”

Of all the marketing advice I could give out, I chose copywriting. It was easy for me to do. I wanted to offer free critiques of other people's copy.

Since the web was young, and more and more doctors were launching their websites but with gawdawful copy, I saw an opportunity. I decided to launch a discussion forum for copywriters.

The forum served three purposes:

1. It was a way to showcase my expertise.

The goal was to post critiques of websites I wanted to work with. It gave their owners a taste of what I could do in the hope they would see it and perhaps hire me to rewrite their copy — and eventually to help them with their marketing.

2. It was a subtle form of prospecting.

If they didn't hire me, then others, including competitors of the sites I critiqued, would lurk on the discussion board and read my stuff. If the client didn't hire me, others would eventually approach me and hire me instead.

3. It was an ideal tool to source subcontractors.

Other copywriters joined and posted their own critiques. I learned a lot from them. But when I got busier, I needed help. I wanted to outsource some of the work. The board gave me a chance to see who was good enough to hire.

In essence, I created my own little “social network.”

Today, there's a variety of topic-specific, industry-specific, and niche-specific discussion groups on social media in which you can be active. As long as your audience (or key influencers in your industry) can read your content and advice, you're good.

But being active isn't limited to responding to others and engaging with other people's content. You should post your own content, too.

If you're too busy, you can hire a social media coordinator to help you. I've previously talked about hiring a content compiler or curator, who will gather content you posted on social media to create new content on your blog.

With a social media coordinator, it's the converse. Have them go through your other content and pull out snippets, quotes, and brief pieces of content for you.

The coordinator can look at your blog posts, social media shares, newsletter issues, guest posts, article contributions, courses, transcripts (e.g., podcasts, interviews, webinars, etc), comments on other blogs, forums, etc.

They can then share these snippets on your social media for you.

In other words, you can curate your own stuff.

If you have been in business and writing for a while, chances are there's gold out there that you've created, which can easily be repurposed and disseminated on your social media profiles.

I use a tool called MeetEdgar. There's also Buffer and Hootsuite, which are similar. These tools essentially help you manage the content you want to post on your social media profile, pages, and even groups.

They can also pull content for you, too. MeetEdgar has a variations suggestion tool that pulls snippets of content from a blog post or RSS feed.

Ultimately, whether you're an experienced professional or an aspiring expert, content marketing is by far the most effective means of creating traction for your business. But that content isn't limited to articles or blog posts.

Be active on social media. Particularly in places that count. And be generous with your help. Your investment in time and free advice is an investment that will pay dividends. I know this intimately.

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Strategic marketing consultant Michel Fortin