I remember the day I purchased my first Fast Company magazine. The cover story featured a piece by management consultant Tom Peters called: The Brand Called You. That article inspired me to build and sell a web development company and invest in several other businesses.
Almost 15 years later, Tom Peters’ call to action is more relevant than ever before. Social media tools coupled with wireless mobile technologies are revolutionizing our communications landscape. And it’s changing how we market and advertise our businesses, as well as how we engage, support and retain our customers.
Business has always been about relationships and it is no less so today. What is changing profoundly today is how and where we conduct those relationships.
Whether working as individuals or as collections of individuals in small firms, practice professionals stand to benefit (or lose) the most from the changes being wrought by social media. And by practice professionals, I mean financial advisors and planners, insurance brokers, consultants, lawyers, doctors, therapists, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, etc. The businesses built around each of these professionals is built on the same basic foundations:
- demonstrate subject-matter expertise;
- build a reputation for trustworthiness and good work; and
- develop a social network.
It is precisely in these areas that social media tools shine.
Am I advocating that every business should have a blog and a Twitter account and Facebook page? No.
What I’m saying is that every one of the individuals listed above should have a personal social media strategy. Practice professionals should be branding themselves and using social media to articulate and embody those brand identities.
If you’re not sure exactly what I mean, here are a few examples:
- A high net-worth partner in a successful insurance firm should be using social media to connect with his peers in other areas of business about matters of common interest to the successful business owner. The relationships that result from these engagements will naturally translate into business opportunities.
- The sales manager of a car dealership should be using social media to connect with community leaders and support community causes, thereby amplifying his personal influence and building awareness and good faith within the community around his corporate brand.
- A communications consultant should be using her effective writing skills to build a following around a personal blog in which she shares both professional insights and personal interests. The more intimate connections that flow from this type of personal engagement with social media will help her retain clients and attract new ones.
For a wide range of small business owners, a personal social media strategy could be the most important marketing initiative your business undertakes in 2011.