Effectively Using Social Networking to Build Your IT Support Business - Part 1

Richard Tubb

Slimy salesman holding a contract. When we ran our "Finding Customers through Networking” webinar and blog series earlier this year, we had so many questions around Social Networking that we decided to run a separate webinar dedicated to the subject.

During that webinar, entitled “Effectively Using Social Networking to build your IT Support business” (now available to view again) we had a lot of really good questions and requests for more information – so we fingers to the keyboard to write this blog as a companion to the webinar.

We hope you find it useful!

The Principles of Social Networking

Let’s start with the golden rule. When using Social Networking - Do Not Sell!

In the modern age, everyone is bombarded with advertising messages wherever they go. If you’re using Social Networking to advertise, then you’re just another message to be filtered out.

If, however, you use Social Networking to provide content and messages that people will find useful – if you add value and not noise – then you’re much more likely to be successful.

The easiest way of adding value is through education. By providing your network with help, education and opinion on topics you specialize in, you’ll position yourself as a subject matter expert and someone they are interested in listening to.

Also remember that Social Networking is about conversations. It’s not a one-way street! Social Networking gives you an opportunity to interact with a wide audience. It gives people a chance to ask questions, to give you their feedback and opinion. These are things you rarely get when using traditional marketing – so focus on their benefits.

Finally, it’s about quantity – not quality. Having 1,000,000 followers on Twitter is great if you’re a celebrity who appeals to the mass market, but if you’re a local IT company looking to work with Small Businesses – wouldn’t it be better to have a number of good quality conversations with a smaller audience, rather than trying to be all things to all men?

The analogy I often use is that you attend a party. There are 100 people at the party, but you stand in the corner, overawed by the crowd and so don’t speak to any of those people. At another party, there are only 10 people there, but you comfortably chat to each of them. Which would you say is the better party?

The ROI of Social Networking

People often talk about the Return on Investment (ROI) of Social Networking. It sounds great, but what does it do for me? How does it help me grow my business?

Firstly, business *can* be won through Social Networking. My own Managed Service Provider (MSP) won business purely through relationships we had developed on-line.

But in most instances, Social Networking is an activity that helps you start conversations and then develop them through tradition means – telephone, e-mail and face-to-face meetings.

What Social Networking importantly allows you to do is to build trust.

You may be the best IT company in the world, but until your prospective clients know that – you won’t be as busy as you’d like to be.

Social Networking allows people to learn about you, your business and your viewpoints and attitudes from a “safe” distance. Like minded people are drawn to one another, and people do business with people they like – so by putting yourself out there, you’ll draw people who share your viewpoints and want to work with you.

We’ll talk more about how Social Networking and traditional business networking can work hand in hand later in this article, but when thinking about the ROI of Social Networking – think conversations.

Social Networking vs Social Media

It’s worth briefly mentioning the two phrases you’ll often come across – Social Networking and Social Media. What’s the difference between the two?

Most people use them interchangeably, and that’s fine – but typically Social Networking is all about conversations.

Social networking logos

Social Networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook thrive on the fact that most of their “content” is generated through conversations between connected parties.

These sites give you the ability to easily exchange fairly public messages and information between you and your network. There’s a lot of value in these conversations.

More social networking logos.

On the other hand, Social Media sites tend to be about content such as Images, Videos and Documents. Sites such as Flickr, YouTube and Scribd actively seek members uploading their self-generated content and then sharing it with others.

As an IT company, you could be using YouTube to post video testimonials with clients, or educational videos showing bite-sized learning on applications.

Flickr could be used to host photographs of your team and your office (remember, people do business with people they like) or for the technically minded, shots of Comms Cabinets and equipment.

Scribd is a great place to upload White Papers and articles that you want to share.

In all three cases, there are still opportunities for conversations – people leaving comments for instance. But the real trick to effectively using Social Media sites is to generate “Content Loops”.

We’ll talk more about “Content Loops”, along with Blogging and the tools to use to be effective with your Social Networking in the second part of our article.

Using Social Networking to Build Your IT Business - Part 2