A small business owner’s guide to using social media – Part 2

This post is continued from Part One of A small business owner’s guide to using social media by Phoebe Netto of Good Business Consulting

Just like society has golden rules and universal principles on how to interact with others, social media also has similar rules to operate by.

Social media is one of the greatest tools available to small-to-medium businesses and sole operators. You can communicate directly with your ideal clients without going through a ‘middle-man’ such as a journalist, advertisement or website.

When operating by the following rules, social media can deliver your message to new audiences, provide you with new connections, and act as a platform to share your expertise and thought-leadership:

(For the first three rules of social media use, click here).

4.        No yelling in the hallway (or on social media)

Would you ever walk into a room full of strangers and announce, “I can take your business to the next level at half the price”? No? Didn’t think so. So don’t do it on social media.

If you notice that someone on your social media platform asks for a recommendation or complains that they can’t find a good provider of a certain product or service, then sure – feel free to suggest a solution or offer to discuss offline with them. You might even land a nice piece of new business. The point is to be helpful, with brings me to my next point.

5.        Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you

Use social media to share, give value, help others, provide helpful information, collaborate, and create a reason for people to want to know more about you and what you do.

You can give value and at the same time promote your business by sharing links to your blog, provide thought leadership, expertise and helpful advice. This shows that you are passionate about your industry area and gives people a non-confrontational and subtle way to experience your knowledge.

Make sure you also share other people’s blog posts, links to useful website, spread great social media content (such as tweets) from others, and promote other businesses (if worthy of promotion). Remember, it’s not all about you!

6.        You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason

My mother always used to tell me this and she was right (as usual). Social media is not a forum for monologues. Those who do not interact or listen to what others are saying on social media will eventually find themselves very lonely (offline and online).

Worthless tweets and overactive robots cause more harm than good.

Instead interact with others by asking questions, offering advice and responding to other people’s online questions.

7.       All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Show your personality. People do business with people, not companies. So make sure show your personality so people can feel a connection.

Be sincere. You can’t fake relationships – even on social media. Put a smile on the faces of those who follow you.

When you follow these principles you are well on your way to building important connections with your ideal clients.

Phoebe Netto is the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a marketing and public relations consultancy for small-to-medium businesses.

Phoebe has a background in public relations and marketing, and takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses with big budgets, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives.

www.goodbusiness.net.au (be sure to sign up for the Good Business Consulting newsletter and check out the blog while you’re there)

@Phoebe_Netto

phoebe@goodbusiness.net.au

Who is your customer – really?

Knowing who the decision makers are is an important part of business. You need to know who will be signing your contracts when you’re negotiating with a new client.

When you’re making your first deals it’s easy to get excited when you get a nibble. But is the person you’re negotiating with really your customer. Is the person you’re talking to really going to make the decision to hire you?

My friend Valerie recently told the story of her interaction with a real estate agent.

So when I walked up to the 10th inspection (this time with partner), I was ready for the usual drill. The real estate agent looked about 23 years old, was well groomed (they all are), and had his clipboard at the ready. He smiled as we approached and lifted his pen, ready to take down our details. As I opened my mouth to tell the real estate agent (we’ll call him Jason) my name, he held his hand out to my partner, introduced himself and asked my partner his name.

Well, that’s ok. I don’t mind coming second in the introduction stakes. There’s no hierarchy here. After all, he can’t shake both our hands at the same time.

So I waited

And waited

The mistake the real estate agent made was that he thought the man was the decision maker in this transaction. In real estate, it’s often the woman who is more influential in the transaction.

When we meet with a client it’s important to understand who were are actually dealing with. Is the person we’re talking with going to be able to seal the deal and, importantly, authorise our invoices for payment.

At the first meeting, it’s important to know who you’re really talking to. The trick is to learn that without being too pushy. After all, the person you’re talking to might not be a decision maker but could be influential. Asking questions about the process for getting the contract is a good way of finding out who will make the decisions without insulting the person you’re speaking with.

Also, do some research. It’s amazing what you can learn from company websites. Many companies make available their tendering processes. It’s worth checking this so that you understand how the potential client makes decisions.

How do you know if you’re negotiating with the right person? What are your tips for making sure you negotiate with the right person? Let me know in the comments.

Contracts – copyright, ownership and intellectual property

When you complete a piece of work and deliver it to a client can you re-use it with another client? Or, can the client then use it over and over? Can they on-sell it? Can you resell it to another client? All of these questions have, at their heart, the basic principles of copyright, ownership and intellectual property.

As a a freelancer, you need to decide whether a piece of work has any recurring or ongoing value.If it does then you need to protect that value by withholding copyright. That means making the terms of use clear for that piece of work to the client. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you take a photo at a sporting event and sell it to a newspaper. Will you give the newspaper ownership of the image, allowing them to use the image over and over with the newspaper and their other publishing properties? Or will you retain ownership and only license the newspaper to use that image under a specific set of circumstances?

Ali vs Liston 1965- from Philosofi

The image on the right is a great example. It’s one of THE iconic images of boxing legend Muhammed Ali at the peak of his powers. He destroyed the champion Sonny Liston in one round of boxing. Ali glowers over his opponent, seeming to to be taunting him to get up after a devastating blow.

Now, imagine if you were the photographer of that image and saw it being reused all over the place for close to 50 years. I imagine that you’d like to receive a commission each time that image is used. Well, if you shot such an iconic image, or wrote a brilliant story, then you can write a contract that restricts your client’s use of your work so that either you received a payment for each re-use (if you’re a journalist, these are usually called reprint fees).

When you negotiate a contract with your client you need to take matters like this into consideration. Are you selling the work to a client of granting them a license that limits use of your work in specific ways? The following is an example of the intellectual property clauses from a contract I have with a consulting client.

9.         INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

9.1      <my company>:

(a)       agrees to assign to <the client>, all existing and future Intellectual Property Rights in existing or future Materials;

(b)       acknowledges that no additional documentation is necessary to complete the assignment made under paragraph (a) and that by virtue of this Clause all existing Intellectual Property Rights in existing Materials vest in <the client> and all future Intellectual Property Rights in all future Materials, on their creation, will vest in <the client>; and

(c)       must do all things reasonably requested by <the client> to ensure that the Intellectual Property Rights are assigned to  <the client> under this Clause

9.2      <my company> warrants that the Intellectual Property Rights assigned to <the client> under Clause 9.1, and <the client> use of those rights, do not and will not infringe the Intellectual Property Rights of any other person.

9.3      <the client> grants <my company> a royalty free licence to use any generic models or methodologies that are not confidential, provided the use of those materials are not used for or in relation to a customer or competitor of <the client>.

In this case, I’ve sold the my intellectual property rights to the client. This suited the terms and the nature of the engagement.

Here’s an example of a similar clause from another agreement I’ve previously used – this time from a publisher.

I hereby assign a license in the attached article (in all printed and electronic forms including internet distribution) for a period of 120 days from submission to <the client>.

<the client> may not on-sell or provide a usage license to another publication without the express written consent of <my company>

If a license to re-use the work is granted, <the client> will pay the author 50% of the amount of the agreed fee shown on this order upon each re-use of the enclosed article.

In this case, I didn’t sell the work – I licensed it. If you think the work you’re producing is likely to have some ongoing value then it’s important to protect that value.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share? Do you dig your heals in with your clients over intellectual property issues?Lets chat about it in the comments.

Quick Tips – getting PR to communicate with you

What's your favourite communication strategy for PR?

It’s happened to every journalist I know. You need to talk to a PR person to get some piece of critical information and they don’t respond to email or messages promptly. How do you get PR to communicate with you and respond in a timely manner? Here are two tips. One was passed on by a colleague and the other was one I resorted to recently.

1. Check your email for when PR usually sends their messages

This tip was passed on by my friend Zara, the Editor of PC World New Zealand. When you need to send an email to a PR person and want them to respond, search back through your email and look at what time the PR person usually sends their mail to you. This will give you an insight into their work habits and help you find a time they’re more likely to respond to you.

2. Go public

I used this tip just this week. I called a PR agency who had promised me a review unit for a product round up I’m currently writing. As I’d not heard back, I made a call to their office and was told someone would bet back to me within half an hour.

Well over an hour passed and there was no call. So I sent a message over Twitter – in the public tweetstream – making mention of the slow response. Within a few minutes I received a direct message telling me someone was going to call me within the next 15 minutes – a promise that was met.

So – what are your tips for getting PR folks to respond to your requests? Is there a trick that works for you. Please share your tips through the comments below.

Starting out – how to advertise

When you first start out freelancing, it’s important to work at getting new clients. Without clients, there’s no work to do. If there’s no work, there’s no meny coming in. And without money the whole roof over your head and food thing starts to look like a luxury. But how do you advertise and let people know you’re out there?

During the first months of your new business – and you are a business and need to operate like one – you need to work hard at finding new customers and keeping them. That means delivering above and beyond what they expect.

A couple of weeks ago, guest poster David Hague told the story of a motel he stayed at. In case you missed the main points, here’s a summary:

  • deliver great service
  • deliver something unexpected that’s easy to do
  • keep customer records and note what they really liked for when they return

The unexpected thing is the hard one to do and will vary for every customer. It might be providing some extra images with a story or nice packaging if you’re delivering a product. Whatever it is – make it memorable.

Another post over at the Pocket Mojo blog describes a software developer who says the following:

We do not want to annoy you in any way.

Look at your workflow. Is there something you do that forces your customer to change what they want to do to fit in with you? If there is – you need to change it.

So, what’s all this got to do with advertising?

Happy customers become advocates. Every piece of research I’ve read on the topic says that referrals by happy customers are THE best form of advertising. How many times have you purchased a product or hired a tradesperson on the basis of a friend’s recommendation?

Your clients are the best and cheapest advertisers for your business.

What do you do for your clients that helps you stand out? What can you do to get more referral business? Share you thoughts in the comments.