Introduction to Social Media – Facebook for Business
My biggest stumbling block in business, aside from cashflow, is finding qualified prospects. You would think in a country with 160 million legally incorporated businesses, targeting the business community would be easy. The problem is time. There are only 24 hours in a day so if I spend time talking to individual businesses, the most I could talk to in a day is about 40. My 24 hours consist of a 2.5 hour drive time (shuffling my three children and my BFF’s child), 6 hours of sleep, 4.5 hours of preparation, 2 hours of internet (research, facebook, linkedin, 3 e-mail accounts), 4 hours of non-income producing work (training, organizing, eating, conference calls with the team) leaving just 5 hours for actually talking to my current clients and any prospects (that was a mouthful!). Because my prospects are also business owners their 5 hours of talk time usually does not correspond with my 5 hours of talk time.
But with the evolution of the internet, now we have an instant communication mechanism that leverages our most valuable asset - TIME. Recently, I attended a Supplier Diversity Training seminar at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce with an analyst from Dun & Bradstreet. Just 5 years ago, the Dun and Bradstreet database had 80 million records of incorporated businesses in the US. In just 5 years, the number of incorporated businesses doubled to 160 million. Why? Here are a few thoughts –
1) The economy… A recession is actually the best time to go in business for yourself. Starting a business resolves one issue – you weren’t going to get hired anyway! The available job pool has shrunk dramatically with the fall of the financial sector and the American automotive industry (sorry Detroit). This is also trickling down to the advertising, consulting (sorry Deloitte) and print industries meaning we have less jobs but more applicants. The best thing you can do for a company is act like an entrepreneur! The job benefits from not having to pay salary and guaranteed benefits and the worker benefits (in my view only) from having freedom to THINK!
2) Women… The largest percentage of new businesses are women specifically minority women. Even though women fought to go into the job market, they actually sacrificed raising their children to day care centers, afterschool programs and unfortunately, themselves (The number of latch-key children is still growing). Now women are realizing the trade-off and looking for other ways to generate income outside of the traditional 9 to 5 corporate structure. The freedom they seek is finding balance between working and spending more time with their children.
3) Technology… The world has gotten dramatically smaller over the last 10 years. Okay, that is a lie but if I can have friends on my facebook page from South Africa, London, India and as far away as Russia (no Asia YET), then the world seems smaller to me. (I am really hoping to teach entrepreneurship in Philadelphia’s sister city in Cameroon next year!) How did the world get smaller? It happened from a small web-based application that turned into a networker’s dream – FACEBOOK!!
I get more facebook messages than actual e-mail these days. All the e-mail I get is spam (though I read it all; I am an information junky…) but my FB messages are actually conversations that line up my 5 hours of talk time with another business owners 5 hours of talk time. So now we can leverage technology to have a conversation instead of playing the phone tag game! Here are a few helpful hints on how to leverage this great tool to increase your contacts to over 1000 people in 10 months.
1) Create a profile. It would seem simple to actually do this but a business profile has a few guidelines. #1 – Use a professional headshot. Your business is a reflection of you so take the time to put your best face forward. No dogs, no cats but you! This will create brand awareness when you appear in person at networking events. #2 – No games. Don’t accept drinks from your buddies, Don’t play mafia wars and please don’t give out hugs! Though I do occasionally accept flowers on a special occasion and one of my FB friends is teaching me how to be a tycoon, just recognize that this profile is a reflection of your business. #3 – It is not all about your business! Don’t update your status everyday focusing just on you. Your prospects almost always want to hear WIIFM radio – meaning what’s in it for me.
2) Understand when to use groups, fan pages and causes. Groups are used to gather people to share information. Nobody wants to join a group that is strictly about your business. This breaks guideline #3 – WIIFM radio (what’s in it for me). The network, DiversePhilly, uses a group because we can share information to learn about each other’s business and create related events that are just for members of the group.
Fan pages are the ideal tool for your business. Fan pages allow a business owner to update all the fans of the business in a very quick and easy fashion. With a quick simplified approach, fan pages are more efficient than e-mail blasts. An e-mail blast consists of business owners collecting data to create a contact, then the contacts has to confirm the blast and the business owner has to create the content for the blast. Even then only 20% of the people who get the e-mail actually open the e-mail, let alone read it! Most business owners are not spending their valuable time going through this process but fan pages cut through all the red tape by allowing the contact to self select or the business owner can suggest the fan page to the contact. This allows business owners to easily update the contacts i.e. fans, saving the business owners lots of TIME!
Causes should be a non-profit organizations dream! Causes again allow a prospect to self-select or use the influence of the prospect’s friends for joining the cause. This feature saves the organization from spending time and money to find prospects interested in their particular cause. Since the cause is online, the prospect can learn about the cause, join the cause or make donations to the cause without the organization doing any additional work besides setting it up. Then the cause can leverage volunteer’s time by allowing the volunteers to invite people to the cause with a simple click of their mouse. I have actually recruited 453 people to a couple of my favorite causes, peace and love and back on my feet. I guess that is why it takes 1/12 of my time participating in non-income producing activities
3) Be Consistent – My mentor, Sulaiman Rahman, told me to meet 2 new people a day. That is easy to do when we say something positive each day. People are attracted to positive energy so take the time (about 10 minutes a day) to put positive energy on FB and it usually attracts 2 new prospects a day. Simple isn’t it! Then move friends to your group like DiversePhilly or your fan page like the wealth building series.
For more info: Subscribe to the DiversePhilly group on Facebook to stay up to date on the next social media class. You can also write your comments or questions on how to make facebook work for your business!
Until next week, happy internet networking!