Tuesday September 18, 2012 0 commentsI realized something the other day that surprised me so much that I had to write this blog post about it. I realized that I get more Online Visibility by investing my time in my Facebook Groups, rather than on my Facebook business page because, in the groups, there is always a discussion (or two or three) going on that I can contribute to in my Groups, and, thus, build relationships and get noticed by my peers within the group. Some of these groups have journalist and PR professionals as members, as well as my ideal clients.
Why would I want to get noticed by my peers?
Answer: to grow my business and make new friends who are playing in a sandbox that I'd like to play in, too.
Groups are like mini-conferences
I belong to a few very powerful groups in Facebook and LinkedIn. As I visit each of my groups, I feel like I'm attending a conference. At conferences, you have many opportunities to boost your business and inject new energy and enthusiasm about what you do. At a conference, you get educated about things you can immediately apply to boost visibility (which, in turn, grows business) or improve how you operate your company. You meet online friends in person and deepen these friendships; you create new friendships; you create new collaborations. You also gain new business or at least get your foot in the door as someone inevitably tells you "Here's my card. Please call me next week because I really need your help." If you know how to serve people instead of pitch at them, then you'll come home with several leads to follow up on. You can work your Facebook and LinkedIn groups like you work your conferences and networking events and get similar results.
Serve: Don't Pitch
Don't approach your groups with the mindset of "get their business." Nope. That's the same mistake as entering a room full of business owners at your local Chamber of Commerce networking event or workshop and thinking "how many clients can I get here?" Then you start immediately handing out your business card without anyone having asked for it. Wrong mindset.
The correct mindset and attitude to have in all of your networking, both online and in person, is to serve others and serve them consistently so you stay in TOMA (Top Of Mind Awareness). When you are consistently helping people without any strings attached, you'll be the first one they think of when they need to hire you or know someone who needs your services.
Serving others is a good thing to do in life, in general, by the way. You can easily do that whenever you meet new people and old friends and colleagues.
A word about in-person networking...
Before I finish explaining how to grow your business by participating in online groups, you should know how to network in person. At an in-person networking event, after you've introduced yourself to that person who looks lost, like it's their first time attending, ask them how things are going and find out what their biggest challenge is right now. Quite possibly, YOU have a solution for them, whether it be a resource to connect them with (like your local Small Business Development Center, whose services are free) or a book you've read that totally boosted your own revenue after applying its advice; or you could be of service by simply and sincerely listening and empathizing. Quite often, the solopreneur or the CEO or manager of her department has no one to brainstorm with and you could be the one person who helps them get to their next level in business or in life. Maybe by simply helping them set a goal right here, right now and offering to text message them or call them later in the week to see how they're doing.
I could go on and on about what giving of yourself and what bringing value means and looks like. But for a deeper lesson on that critically important attitude, go read GoGivers Sell More by Bob Burg. After reading Bob Burg's book recently (and Tweeting with him now and then), I was delighted to find out that I had already naturally been practicing the attitude of the "GoGiver" mindset all these years. It's just ingrained in me, having been raised by a mother who can't sit still and be waited upon when she visits her daughters. She's feels complete when serving others. And so do I.
Treat your group members like you would want to be treated: with kindness and respect
To serve people means you bring value to them in a big or small way. It means you give them a gift with no strings attached. And it means treating everyone with kindness and respect. These are not new concepts but worth being stated because sometimes group members casually spout off opinions without being mindful that everyone in the group is reading what they're saying and getting a feel for the character of that person.
Results of my group efforts
Depending on what type of groups you're in, you could gain extremely valuable visibility of your brand and/or get referrals to clients you would have never had access to had you not been of service to your group members. Here are some of the results I have been blessed to receive from having been of service in my groups. Remember: I did NOT set out to get these results. I joined these groups so I could learn and contribute. Recently it occurred to me that groups have been way more beneficial to my business growth and self-growth than other "traditional" ways of marketing myself - even from my Facebook fan page.
Keep an eye out for people asking for help or advice. I saw opportunities that were offered and I took advantage of them. But I also simply shared my expert advice and ended up with gifts that others generously bestowed upon me afterward, like this first example:
- A Facebook group member asked for advice about an article she was writing for a national publication about the subject of online reputation do's and don't's. I wrote a lengthy response to help her. She was so grateful. Her gratefulness was enough for me to feel good about helping her. But the surprise gift I received is this: she is going to include me as a source in her article. She asked me for my full name, business name and website link. So, now I will appear in this national magazine that's the "bible" of this niche group who happen to be part of my ideal client avatar. The icing on this cake is free publicity in a popular magazine for ten minutes of my time in writing my helpful answer to my Facebook group member. A possibility is that I could obtain a new client who reads the article and needs my services.
- Another person in that same group above, also appreciated my answer so much that she asked me to be a guest on her popular radio show.
- I've contributed several paragraphs to a book about mom entrepreneurs. Upon publication, the authors went on a book tour all over the country and appeared on NBC Miami TV.
- I'm a BETA tester of a new media website that posts questions from journalists in need of expert quotes for their stories.
- By becoming part of a Joint Venture group, I received several leads to develop websites and do SEO work for clients of my co-Joint Venture members.
- In another of my Facebook Groups, there have been a few opportunities that I simply didn't have the time to pursue but could have probably closed the deal on. One opportunity was to pitch to write a column in a national magazine. Yes: I'm kicking myself now for not dropping everything at the time and filling out the detailed pitch papers.
So there you have a few examples of my own recent opportunities that arose simply by being a member of a Facebook Group and by bringing value to the group by sharing my advice, opinion and by cheering on my members and promoting them.
What about YOU? Do you already belong to a group in Facebook or LinkedIn or another social networking group but might need to step up your contribution? Can you promise yourself that you'll share your advise when asked, promote a member, or just have a thoughtful conversation?
I promise that when you do start contributing and bringing your expertise to the group on a consistent but none-obnoxious way, you'll soon spot an opportunity to shine your bright light and possibly gain an extra benefit, such as a new project or greater brand awareness.
At the very least, your fellow Group members will begin to trust you and want to help you.