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On June 8th Chicago Social Media Marketers participated in a business workshop “Current Strategies and Future Realities: Growing your Brand” at Venture Hub innovators incubator in Chicago.  This panel-style discussion included CSMM co-founder Alicia Forestall-Boehm along with Christopher S. Rollyson, Founder and Managing Director, Christopher S. Rollyson and Associates, Susan Barahia, Founder BesignOnline and Mark Carter, Founder ONE80, LLC. These industry thought leader discussed the latest trends on the use of digital media to build your personal brand. Communicating your value proposition is key to connecting with customers, partners and others. They addressed event marketing, service design, social media and trust/relationship building for Entrepreneurs, Creatives and Freelancers.

Below is the event transcript of Alicia’s informative discussion on strategies for creatives using social media to promote their businesses.

Almost everyone uses social media - it’s part of our everyday lives but are there benefits of using social media for business purposes? Yes is the simple answer. Frequent social media postings allow you to engage in a conversation with potential customers and clients and to ultimately grow your business. An effective social media strategy can enable you to build community connections through engagement and branding.

Here are 12 reasons why small business owners, entrepreneurs and creatives should be using social media and some strategic ideas to help you along the way.

1.      Branding – Create a recognizable identity for your product or service and replicate it from platform to platform.  This is extremely important for a small business. 

  o   Have a professional website
     §  As the internet becomes an increasingly important tool for artists, it is essential that you understand how to build an effective website.  Your website should not simply serve to display images of your work, it should tell the story of your artistic vision, and it should engage the viewer.  Consider your website as the official version of your artistic identity and proceed with its development accordingly. 
      §  Construct a narrative that weaves through your website telling your story and drawing in visitors. 

  o   Include your logo on every piece of communication. (business cards, signage, etc.)

  o   (If you’re in doubt about whether you demonstrate a consistent brand experience, take a look at all of your pages side by side)

  o   A special note to creatives: Artists need to remember that you are your brand!

2.      Create A Buzz – Get the word out about your products and services in a way that promotes online conversation.
  o   Strengthen in-person events with social media promotion

  o   Create a Facebook event page

  o   Stream, tweet and post live

  o   Support the event with blog posts, press releases, etc.

  o   Create a marketing hook that defines you and sets you a part from the crowd
     §  i.e. As a restaurant your message should be “We offer authentic Naples style pizza every night until 11 pm or until we run out of dough!” vs. “We serve pizza”.

  o   Generating buzz for your brand doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require some outside-the-box thinking.

3.      Community Management – Community management means responding to people who have commented on your posts or have posted about you. Keep an eye on what other people and sites are saying about your name, company, or brand online – and respond to people who have commented.  The ultimate goal is RELATIONSHIPS.

  o   Don’t be afraid of negative comments.  It’s possible to receive negative comments. But, social media provides the platform to explain, to make things right. The fact of the matter is – if someone has something negative to say they can say it.  Ignoring them doesn’t stop the damage.  But, when you reply, you are seen as a business owner who cares, who wants to make the customer happy, and that you’re human. Social media is a two-way conversation, so go ahead and defend yourself – just do it proactively.  TURN A NEGATIVE INTO A POSITIVE

  o   Thanking someone for a nice comment takes only seconds and it will go a long way in getting them to support your business.

4.      Content Part One– On social media channels it is important to not only include self-focused content.  Not every post should be directly about you. People are less likely to follow you or read posts that are always self-promoting. Sharing informative articles will gain you followers and develop relationships.
  o   Provide a value to your connections with helpful, interesting and relevant content in your posts and comments.
  o   i.e. An artist should post about her art, the art world and her community.

  5.      Content Part Two - Video is better than images and images are better than words.

  o   Sharing videos that have been posted by others or create your own video.
     §  i.e. A musician can share a video taken during a rehearsal

  o   Present Your Human Side With Photos - Photos and other types of visual content are highly shareable on social networks.
    §  Posting photos of your business team helps to show your business as a human brand and build relationships with your community.

  o   Don’t worry about not having professional images - Studies have shown that consumers find amateur images more believable than staged professional shots.

6.      Establish Yourself As An Expert – Using forums and message boards to answer questions professionally will earn you respect as an expert in your community. People will look to you for answers, as a source of information.

  o   This is important for Freelancers

  o   LinkedIn is a professional networking site and is a great place to make comments, post links to articles, share your original blog posts or articles and make professional connections.

  o   Join social media professional groups.  These are also great places to have a conversation and network but they will also expose your brand to a larger audience.
     ú  This will direct your conversation to a specific niche – There are so many social networking, social bookmarking, and social news sites that are dedicated to specific niches.  You have the ability to speak directly to these people and not have all the other noise of unrelated topics getting in the way. If you are speaking their language, you have a better chance of them actually hearing what you are saying.

  o   Blogs  (why are they important)
     §  Valuable content on a consistent basis will make you look like an expert.
       §  They enable conversation. Two-way dialog
         §  Can provide excellent content to fuel other social marketing activities.
           §  Another way to put your brand out there

7.      Connecting With Influencers– Find ways to connect and engage with influencers online. Share and retweet their content. Mention or tag them in posts, and participate in discussions on their social media or blog posts. You never know where these types of connections can lead; and the potential to get a link or mention from a well-known industry expert will make your efforts worthwhile.

  o   i.e. For an artist – Comment on a Gallery’s posts, share them, etc.

8.      Choose The Most Effective Social Media Platforms - What social networks do your customers favor?

  o   One recent study on social media usage revealed that the average user has two social media accounts. While some users enjoy using multiple networks, others have found one that they love and stick with it. Bottom line -It’s important to keep in mind that your customers may favor one network today and in six months discover that another meets their needs better.

  o   Follow your customers and prospects so you can network in all the right places.
     §  Think about who you want to target and where you will find them

  9.      Use Social Media As A Source Of Information. Following individuals, businesses and organization is an easy way to stay up to date on new trends, techniques and events that can be opportunities to engage your audience or grow your business and brand.

10.  Social Media Provides Another Way For Potential Customers To Find You – If you’re not high enough in the search engines for potential customers to find you, they can still find you through social media.  So, even if you’re not on the front page of a Google search, it doesn’t mean you can’t receive traffic. Social Media has the potential to send you TONS of traffic.

11.  Social Media Marketing Is Much Cheaper Than Traditional Marketing And Advertising – Social media marketing shouldn’t cost a small business nearly as much as traditional advertising. And, if you do it yourself, it is basically free. However, it will cost you time.  Depending how much your time is worth, it might be worthwhile to hire someone to help with the social media marketing.

12.  Outsource Content Development As Needed - Can your business keep up to date with all the tasks associated with maintaining your social presences (e.g., reading and sharing good content, responding to users’ comments, asking questions to help engage your audience)?

  o   Studies show it takes a midsize company about 32 hours a month to effectively handle a single social media platform.

  o   Studies also show that the companies that have the most effective social media communications are those that have a combination of internal and external people doing social media.


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