The Hype of Social Media – How to Build Your Audience and Make a Living From it

There are a lot of modern day “snake oil” salesmen on the Internet claiming that they can make you rich over night if you only sign up to their super duper Internet program. I am sure they must have good intentions. However, they make me think of the American gold rush, where the ones who made the most money consistently were the outfitters selling shovels and other mining equipment. Only a few of the gold prospectors made any money and many ended up poor.

Does this mean that you can’t make money on the Internet? Of course you can, and you can make lots! I just don’t buy all the “get rich quick” programmes and their claims of making millions monthly at the push of a button. Nor do I buy that such entrepreneurs are willing to give away the secrets of their phenomenal success for such moderate prices. Many are selling phoney recycled information products, with little, if any value. Their days are numbered. People are getting smarter.

My starting point for making money, on-line as well as off line, is to follow your passion, and capitalising on some specific knowledge or capabilities you have. I am a great advocate that it is better to be world-class in a micro segment, than trying to pretend to be all things to all people and way down the ranking in terms of expertise. The are actually people out there being experts in things like transportable coffee mugs, laptop bags or Icelandic ponies who are able to live a life of passion and wealth. Finding your passion is a different subject altogether, and I would recommend you read Seth Godin’s book The Dip.

In the following I am assuming that you have already defined your area of expertise, which hopefully is linked to your passion.

As modern society moves from a sales-driven to a buy-driven market place an audience becomes increasingly important. Where there was once a correlation between increased marketing spends and increased sales, this is no longer the case Sellers were once able to push products or services, by bombarding their target market with marketing communication. It used to be like this. There used to be a correlation between marketing spend and your sales. This is no longer the case. We are in a world that no longer is supply-constrained both in terms of actual products and services, as well as access to information. Everybody can have everything and everybody have access to all information. We have moved to a society where buyers chose to buy from suppliers they like or want to be associated with. This is a huge difference over the old way of selling.

This is why having an audience is so crucial: Your audience has chosen YOU because they want to be associated with YOUR products or services.

This article sets out to distinguish the hype from the reality when it comes to building an audience using social media (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.),and how to use these platforms.

Using the social media to build your audience is a 3 stage process. Let me describe what you need to do with the starting pointing in Facebook (FB):

Group 1: Core group of Friends
Group 2: Established Groups / Fans
Group 3: Your website users

The first two groups have the purpose of

a) Expanding your network
b) Establishing yourself as an authority in your area (trust is key to the new buyer-driven paradigm)
c) Attracting people from your network to your website, to make them want to buy something (remember selling is out).

1) Core group of Friends
Facebook is your tool. Remember, “Friends” is a term chosen by the web site, not by you. This will mean that you will hook up with some people you would normally have no intention of having an ongoing relationship with, or people who are marginal to you, or even people you barely know. Think of them as your public. It is important to actively increase the number of Friends in this group.

See Facebook as a tool and not a representation of who you like, or who you want to be close to, or close to you. As an Authority, you are going to be (semi-) public figures, so make a public profile. Who you really like and love is your private matter and you don’t need to use FB to show this – but DO start hooking up with people.

Think of people who you knew in school, university, jobs, and projects, hobbies, and contact them. Then contact their friends too, if you know them, even marginally. When you meet new people hook up with them immediately.

IMPORTANT: DON’T USE THE STANDARD INVITATION TOOL USING YOUR EMAIL ADDRESSES – NO NEIN, NIET!

Make an individual note and send each invitation individually.

The individual note can be fairly standard, saying something like:

Hi Ben,

Hope all is well in your end, it been a while since we [last time you had contact: School, university, job].
I am doing really well here in Singapore. I am now an artist.

I will be launching my first collection later this year.

Take care,
Peter

Or,

Hi Charlotte,

Hope all is well in your end, it been a while since we [last time you had contact: School, university, job].
I am doing really well, still living in Copenhagen working for SAS where I am responsible for their electrical vehicles.

I am currently writing a buyers guide about electrical cars.

All the best,
Martin

To facilitate this you can make the standard invitation in a Word document and then cut-and-paste. You can then add a phrase or two in some invitations, where appropriate, to make certain messages more personal.

Give them a little piece of yourself (your passion or expertise) to make them curious and want to hook up with you so they can follow you.

Your sign-up success will increase dramatically by doing this. My LinkedIn (LI) network increased from below hundred, to over 300 in a couple of weeks, with what people thought was a personal invitation.

As soon as someone accepts your invitation GO THROUGH THEIR LIST OF FRIENDS and see if there is anyone you know which you didn’t think about. I increased my public on FB and LI by about 30% just by doing this on a consistent basis, and I still do it each time someone accepts my invitation.

Also think about who is out of your network, i.e. people who you don’t know but are authorities or public figures in your area. Sent them an invitation.

I sent an invitation to Ted Turner (the founder of CNN and Turner Broadcasting) after I listened to his (excellent) audio biography – and he accepted my invitation!

REMEMBER: NEVER EVER, WHATSOEVER, COME HELL AND HIGH WATER try to sell or spam this group of people trying to sell your product.

It is important that you now start to engage with your Friends at least once a week but not more than twice.

Write about something related to your subject: When you are going on a trip, or to a meeting about your subject matter are, an event, etc. On your return include highlights from the event. This can be a link to a video or an article you find interesting, and remember to write a line about why it’s interesting or the key conclusion. That way you add value to your network, and they can then decide if the want to see the whole article/video. They will start to look to you as an authority.

Never include the trivial “going to work” or “shopping”. This may be considered nonsense spamming and people may get tired of seeing your name. Remember: You can be unlinked.

When people comment on your posts, make sure to comment back. REMEMBER your comments are seen on the FB homepage page of all of our your Friend’s Friends(!). If each person on average has 100 friends and you get 3 comments, your reply comment then reaches 300 people. Think about the power of leverage.

ALWAYS carry your digital camera (or camera phone) and take photos of people you meet and talk to, even it is only remotely related to your subject. Immediately add the photos to your FB page and then “tag” people (if they are not on FB tell them in your invitations that you have posted their photo on FB), this way they get a message on their wall which will be seen by all their Friends. This is a powerful way to build interest towards you.

2) Groups

Groups are special interest groups where all 130 million (!) FB members can join, if this is a subject that interests them. Groups enable you to to get yourself known.

Join other Groups too. Not only will this enable you to expand your subject matter knowledge before creating your own Group but it will also enable you to increase your Friends.

When you join a Group be active and contribute.. People will then want to be Friends with you and request this. People generally want to hook up with people who they consider knowledgeable, a leader.

There is an old adage in sales, which says that people buy from people they like. The more time they spend with a sales person, the more will like the sales person.

For Groups it is even more important you try to think of who (out of your network) you would like to join your Group and sent them an invitation.

The Group on LI should be a Common Interest Group. This is not the same as a FB Fan Page.

You will of course make an announcement on your FB/LI home page that you have created this Group. When your Friends join your Group, it will be seen, you’ve guessed it, by their Friends.

When new Members join your Group, make sure you send them a short note to welcome them to the Group, tell them what’s going on, what your background is. Invite their comments. As with your invitations, you can make a template, which you can then personalise for each welcome note. Being new to a Group is like going to a party, not knowing anyone. It is nice to have the host welcoming you and “showing” you around a little.

AGAIN, when people comment on your posts, make sure to comment back. REMEMBER your comment is seen on the FB homepage page of all of our your Friend’s Friends(!).

Use the Tagging function in Groups.

REMEMBER: NEVER EVER, WHATSOEVER, COME HELL AND HIGH WATER try to sell or spam this group of people with your product. Think relationships, not business.

However, you do want to post your comments, input, videos and podcast links on regular intervals.

Doing this thoroughly and consistently, you should be able to build a large following in a couple of months, in time for the launch of your product or service.

FB has a group-like function called Fan Page, which is sort of an in-between a Group and a website. It is a good way to start interacting a little closer with your audience before introducing your own website.

3) Your website
Now we know how to get you known, increase your public and establish yourself as an authority in your field. Now we need to Build your Brand!

Many people start with building a fancy (and expensive) website after which they realise that they have nobody visiting the site. It is much better to build your audience first, so people want to know when you are going to open shop, in this case your website, and then have a massive number of visitors, when you finally open your doors to the site.

With an established audience on social media it is much easier to attract people to your website. You have established yourself as an authority, and your audience has already accepted your role. Now making comments with links to your website is a natural progression.

Today building a website, does not necessary requires a large investment. Depending on your product, a website may come across as too salesy. As an alternative, you can to go to WordPress and download one of the thousands of free themes and build your website from this platform. WordPress is a blog platform, and a blog is a great way to interact with your audience,. From the WordPress site you can chose one of the domain name registrars and hosting services which will cost your less than $ 10/month. These offer excellent and almost unlimited services. WordPress also offers you hundreds of plug-ins that will enable you to customize your site for free. WordPress and handling plug-ins does require some technical understanding, and if you don’t feel up to handling this part, you can outsource this for a fraction of the cost, compared to building your own site.

We are now able to close the circle from the beginning of this article, where we talked about that the market place has generally moved to a buyer-driven market place. If you successfully build and engage with your audience, then after a while they will want “a piece of you” and this is your opportunity to let your audience buy stuff you are offering. NOTE: I specifically didn’t say “sell” your stuff, I specifically said that your audience will start to “buy” your stuff. There is a significant difference and this is a real commercial sweet-spot to be in, which you will only reach if you get an audience and establish yourself as an authority.

Now start building your audience around your passion!