For Lara Galloway, social media is fun, rewarding and nothing less than the source of nearly all the business for her coaching firm.
Galloway estimates that she’s developed contacts with more than 95 percent of her clients through Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites on the Internet.
“It is fun. It is social. But there are some amazing, important connections going on out there,” said Galloway, a work-at-home mother of three in Michigan who founded Mom Biz Coach.
Other entrepreneurs can similarly prosper through social media if they focus on building relationships and helping customers rather simply pitching products and services, Galloway said during a presentation hosted by the Mesa County Women’s Network in Grand Junction.
A “mompreneur” who’s literally made it her business to help other women blend family and work priorities, Galloway has developed a large following on social media, especially Twitter. Forbes magazine once included Galloway among 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter.
Galloway said the Internet and social media are parts of a dramatic shift in the way consumers search for products and services. Consequently, businesses have to change the ways they market those products and services. While such traditional marketing techniques as advertising still work, they work even better in conjunction with social media, she said.
Consumers no longer respond in the same ways to promotions that push features and benefits or efforts that try to convince them to make a purchase, Galloway said. Consumers prefer instead approaches that relate to them and engage them while offering specific solutions to their problems, she said. “People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”
Consumers also welcome opportunities to interact with businesses, to offer their opinions and develop relationships.
To that end, Galloway offered 10 steps to using social media to prosper.
The first step, she said, is for businesspeople to put their best foot forward. That includes offering help and answering questions as well as listening more and talking less. “Be a real person,” she said. “It’s easy.”
The second step, Galloway said, is to “find your people” — identify and connect with potential customers who are likely to make purchases.
Social media sites offer ample opportunities, she said, since they connect like-minded people with similar interests. Moreover, the potential audience is huge: If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous country on the planet.
One of the goals of social media should be to cultivate relationships. Quoting Seth Godin — the entrepreneur, author and public speaker — Galloway said businesses should strive to turn strangers into friends, friends into customers and customers into salespeople.
It’s also important to provide good content through social media sites, whether it’s timely tips, answers to questions or other relevant information.
Businesses should join in on those conversations on social media, but refrain from explicitly promoting products or services, Galloway said. “It’s more about conversations than pitches.”
Social media sites also offer businesses opportunities to listen and learn what customers are saying and what they want, she said. On Twitter, it’s possible to follow the short messages called Tweets on a given subject simply by using a few key words. “It is perfectly reasonable to eavesdrop on social media.”
When discussing products and services, it’s important to explain how a business can solve a customer’s problem rather than tout features or advantages. Businesses that are successful in solving problems turn their customers into a voluntary marketing army, Galloway said.
Businesspeople shouldn’t be shy in talking about their work, though, whether it’s sharing challenges and successes or asking for help, she said. “Become a relatable human.”
Businesspeople also should become a “regular” in joining in on social media sites on a regular basis. Galloway recommended that businesses spend at least a minimal amount of time on social media sites on a daily basis. “Fifteen minutes a day is better than nothing.”
Finally, Galloway advised businesspeople to “pay it forward” by praising other businesses on social media when they experience good service or have purchased good products. “Pay it forward will always pay you back,” she said.