Effectively Using Social Networking to Build Your IT Support Business - Part 2

Scott Calonico

Use social networking to grow your MSP. 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!

In the first part of our article, we looked at the principles of Social Networking, the Return on Investment (ROI) and the difference between Social Networking and Social Media.

Next, we look at “Content Loops”

Content Loops

You’ve already realised the key to Social Networking is through adding value. You can add value to your network through conversations, articles, videos or pictures – content that people will appreciate.Content loops

We’ve already mentioned Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Scribd. So many channels! Which is the best one to use?

The answer is – all of them.

People consume information in different ways. Some love the written word, others prefer images or videos, many more still prefer listening. For each of these people, your message needs to be in a medium they prefer.

It’s not as much work as it might seem, and that’s thanks to creating “Content Loops”.

  • Let’s say you create a video and upload it to YouTube. Naturally, it has a link back to your web-site.
  • To draw your blog readers attention to this video, how about putting a blog post together that talks about how you filmed the video?
  • For your Twitter followers, you may then Tweet about both the YouTube video and the blog post.
  • For those of your connections on LinkedIn, the same principle applies – use Status Updates to share details about the video and the blog post.
  • Over on Flickr, why not share some photographs about the video recording process, and provide links to both the video on YouTube, and the article on your blog site.
  • Naturally, when you next send out your e-mail newsletter, you’ll have a link to the video in it too.

Different people consume different information through varying channels. Help them to find you!

The Tools to use

But with so many channels available, what tools can you use to make the process of creating content loops more efficient?

There are a plethora of tools out there, and we’d encourage you to take a look at many of them to find the tool that is the right fit for you – but here’s a look at some of our favourites.

Tweet deckTweetDeck allows you to post updates across a variety of Social Networking sites including the “big three” of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn but also to sites such as Google Buzz, MySpace and FourSquare.

In addition to cross-posting updates, Tweetdeck is a great tool to allow you to effectively read the updates of lots of Twitter followers. Once you start using Twitter effectively, you may realise you are following too many people to keep track of updates. Tweetdeck allows you to use the Twitter Groups function, or it’s own Tweetdeck Lists to segment those you follow – perhaps having multiple groups such as “Friends”, “Business”, “Suppliers”, or even by area of expertise – i.e. “MSP Guru’s”, “Marketing Mavens”. You can then use different columns within Tweetdeck to read the updates that you’re interested in.

Outlook connectorMicrosoft Outlook Social Connector is an add-on and free download for Microsoft Outlook 2010.

Once installed, you configure it with your Facebook, LinkedIn and Windows Live Messenger logon details. It then displays a small window at the bottom of e-mails and contacts, showing you their latest Social Networking status updates – along with other useful information.

This might be useful for you to review before you make a telephone call to somebody. Starting out the call by asking the individual how their holiday went (information gleaned from Outlook Social Connector) is a great way to begin bonding and rapport, and to let the other person know you’re interested in their Social Networking updates.

Social Omphhttp://www.socialoomph.com is a web-site that provides a number of Twitter related features, including the ability to monitor Twitter for keywords – such as your brand name, or phrases such as “IT Support in Birmingham”. Tweets that match this search parameter are then delivered to your e-mail inbox daily. It’s a great way of seeking out conversations that you may want to participate in.

Google alertsLikewise, Google Alerts is a free service that allows you to monitor the Web for keywords. You might use it to keep track of when your blog articles have been referenced, or when your company name has been mentioned.

Bitly When sharing links, a URL shortener such as bit.ly is invaluable. As well as reducing those long Web Addresses into something more 140-character friendly, bit.ly allows you to track how many times the link has subsequently been clicked on. A great way to record metrics. Likewise, goo.gl is Google’s own URL shortener, and has the benefit of increasing the SEO of any links you share with Google’s Search facilities.

For a more in-depth look into the area of tools you may consider, you might also be interested in reading the blog article “The Tools I use… Productivity Tips”.

Blogging

One area of Social Networking that should not be overlooked, is Blogging.

Blogging is free and easy. Many people are reluctant to start blogging because they believe they have nothing to say, and that nobody will read it.

Take the view that it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it!

The real benefit of blogging is that it teaches you to effectively articulate your thoughts and points better. It’ll make you a better salesmen, a better speaker, a better party guest!

It’s easy to get started blogging – web-sites such as WordPress.com or Blogger.com allow you to quickly and easily setup a blog and get started. Tools such as Windows Live Writer allow you to easily compile blog posts and upload them.

Most bloggers fail because they are in-consistent in posting, or worse, give up altogether. If you are consistent with your message and the frequency of your blog posts – you will form an audience over time – just don’t expect results overnight.

As famous blogger Seth Godin says “If you are good at it, people will read it. If you’re no good at it, stick at it, and you’ll get good at it”.

Blogging effectively builds you brand and it builds trust in you and your company.

If you need still need convincing that blogging is a good idea, then take 90 seconds to view this video from Seth Godin and Tom Peters.

Seth Godin & Tom Peters on blogging

Many people have a company blog for more “corporate” messages, and a personal blog for their own more informal messages. Both work, but don’t be afraid of using your own voice within your blog. Remember, people do business with people they like.

In the final part of this series of articles, we’ll take a look at tips for using the Twitter, LinkedIn and Faceboook. How to blend your traditional networking and social networking, and how to be aware of Social Networking etiquette.

Be sure to stay tuned for the third article in this series, which we'll run on Friday.