I’ve always been interested in small businesses. Maybe it’s because of the Napoleonic statement of Britain being a nation of shopkeepers, or something like that. It’s very British to like the underdog. It’s more likely to be the fact that my grandfather started a small shop in London which grew to become the successful family business.
At Endava we help some small businesses out from time to time mainly through personal contacts. This week I met a number of people who have started their own social media businesses. Businesses is quite a loose term because they’re one person, trying to earn a living from one project to the next.
Having worked with some of the multinational agencies who have social media expert practices and listening to some others at Internet World this week, here are some recommendations for the smaller sole consultant businesses out there:
- Create a methodology. This helps you to sound more credible, and helps you keep some traction with clients. Everyone wants to do the first few steps of a process if the first step goes well. If you have a 4, 5 or 25 step methodology, you’ll get longer term revenues if you can demonstrate those steps. You might already have a methodology without realising it (chances are you always do a specific activity for each client and then do something else, and perhaps something else regularly).
- Stop doing stuff for free. Yes, your mate who runs the local chippy wants some advice. Great. So don’t charge any money, but get a case study from them instead, and lots of links from them
- Have a Twitter feed. Yup, I met someone this week who claims to be a social media consultant and doesn’t have a Twitter feed. The conversation didn’t last long
- Have a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is used by sales people in 1 man businesses to 100,000 man businesses. You don’t necessarily need a Pro account. Have an account and for each free piece of work, get a recommendation from the ‘client’ on your LinkedIn profile. Your client doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? Create one for them
- Don’t just concentrate on Facebook or Twitter. Social media includes TripAdvisor, Blogger, and any review site out there. Act like a typical customer and search for the business on Google – Twitter and Facebook won’t be the top results [yet], so where else is the client being reviewed?
- Work with a techie. Chances are (because you’ll probably be quite specialise) that you’ll find a gap in the market for some social media tools and need a techie to help you. Build a new tool and you’ll have the next Radian 6.
- Learn to cold call. Not just on the phone but the local businesses (offices just as much as shops). Tough – yep. Demanding – yep. Depressing sometimes – yep.
- Learn about RSS, build an iGoogle page, use Google alerts, work out repeatable iGoogle page templates and notifications. Use those for customers. It will help you scale quickly. Even the very big agencies set dashboards up for clients to self monitor. As soon as the client sees something of interest it will be you who will get the credit.
- Collaborate with other consultants. Probably unimagineable. Social media is 24×7. You can’t sit by the computer 24×7, so if four of you can handle a shift pattern, it will make a very cheap 24×7 service. And if you share some of the stuff above (e.g. you methodology), you’ll become more efficient.
- Work out the best charging model. I spoke to four independent social media consultants within two days this week. They all had very different charging models ranging from hourly to “whatever” to [random, from what I gathered] specfic costs for specific activities. Work out a proper pricing model and be prepared to either walk away or discount on condition of references, case studies and other points in #2.
- Personally I wouldn’t recommend getting into the moderation scene. There are expert agencies out there who do this very well. If you feel you want/ need to do some moderation, definitely take out the appropriate insurance policy for your own protection.
- Create a blog. Leak your skills/ recommendations carefully and slowly. Point customers to the blog in order to build your credibility. Ask your discounted customers to comment on the blog to say what a wonderful job you did for them (if that was the case). Only one of the four independent consultants I met this week had a blog. How are you going to expect your customers to take social media seriously enough to part with their cash if you don’t do it yourself?
So the really simple checklist for the really simple minded…. make sure you have the following and keep them up to date:
- Public Twitter account – update very regularly
- Facebook account (non public) – doesn’t matter how often it’s updated
- Facebook Page for your own business (public) – update reasonably regularly
- LinkedIn profile – kept up to date
- Blog – updated regularly
- iGoogle dashboard of your clients
- Cold call list (prospects, sales funnel, etc.)
Good luck and please let me know how you get on. For any other small business advice please comment below or contact me on Twitter at @bradbox.