Consultant: What to Expect

Social media is a new frontier for businesses.  Tapping into social networks online is a great way for small businesses to increase their customer base and get noticed, but they take a lot of time to develop.  A good social network consultant, as a coach or teacher, is a great way to get past the learning curve quickly on sites like twitter and facebook and present any entrepreneur in the best light possible right out of the box.  Here are some reasons why.

Online business has relied on search engine optimization (SEO) since the arrival of the internet.  This is a way of making sure that a website can be found by customers using search engines like google.  It has long been the best way to reach people that are looking for your business and are in a buying mood, so it cannot be over-stressed as an important starting point.

But for today’s customers, SEO alone is simply not enough.  Social networks are the connections people have with each other, not just with products.  A good business has to develop a tight community.  That takes a strategic approach, which is what a consulting social media manager should provide.  A good strategy is one that the small business can implement easily once they have all the tools and skills they need to make it work.

Successful social networks have three major components:
• Contact, or how people find the network
• Content, or something that they like enough to stay a while, and
• Community, where they build relationships with other people like them.
Together, these are the “Three Cs” of a successful social media strategy.

SEO still matters because it a powerful point of Contact for customers who are looking for products, ideas, and other people like them.  The best SEO is never a substitute for good Content, however, so there has to be something more than just a list of keywords that catches a search engine like google.  That skill is still very important.

Building Community around the Content is where a successful social network manager comes into the picture.  There are many tools available to build Community, and many choices that can be made based on the people and products that are involved.  It may make sense to build the Community on twitter or facebook, for example, which are excellent tools.  A business may choose to develop Community on its own blog, especially if Content is very important.  There may even be an existing Community that it is best to just tap into as a contributor or expert, rather than build a new one.

These choices are not difficult, but they do require some skill to navigate.  That’s where a social network manager, as a consultant,  comes into the picture.  There are many social media sites that have their own quirks and advantages.  Knowing their way around facebook or how to time twitter “tweets” are some of the skills that take time to develop.

The most important part of any social media campaign for a business is having a strategy in place.  The “Three Cs” work best when they work together with a consistent message and image.  Without a careful plan that takes into account the relative strength of websites like facebook and twitter, many people often let their tactics create the strategy, rather than the other way around.  That’s always a mistake!

Getting it to work well is more than just a matter of message, however.  The goal is to “close the loop” and have your online Community reach out to friends of theirs as a new point of Contact.   That’s when an online social network really begins to grow and blossom into a highly successful presence on the web.

A good social network manager has the knowledge and skills to understand the relationship between the “Three Cs” and create an online Community effectively.  It’s not a substitute for SEO, but a powerful addition to it.  It’s how you turn one-time customers into loyal fans who rely on your business in their daily lives.  Hiring a social network manager who can do set this up and be a successful coach is the best thing a small business can do on the web today.

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