Got a Social Media Following? Here Are 6 Steps to Turn It Into a Business
If you’re like most Americans, or like most professionals, you’re already at least somewhat active on social media. You probably have personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, connections/followers on each, and you occasionally post content that keeps you more or less engaged with those audiences.
What you’re already doing isn’t that different from what a full-fledged social media marketing campaign would involve. The only major differences are direction, intention, and scale.
But what if you start scaling those efforts up? What if you could accumulate an audience of thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, and turn those inexpensive social media efforts into a full-fledged business that makes you money? It’s possible, and with the six strategies I’m about to present to you, you’ll see how.
A Note on Direction
Before I delve into the strategies themselves, I want to make it clear that not everything can be a business. It you want to make a profit, you need to offer something valuable. Still, it’s possible for almost anyone to start a business — even if you’re selling your own professional services in the form of consulting or independent contract work. Do some brainstorming here before you attempt the actual conversion process; you’ll need a clear business plan before proceeding.
The Conversion Process
With a business idea and a social media foundation in mind, these are the six steps that can take you through the conversion process:
1. Start with a personal brand. This is technically optional, as you can build a business with a corporate brand at the center of your social media strategy, but a personal brand will make things easier; you’ll retain your reputation even if the business goes under, you’ll engage on a more personal level with your audience, and you’ll cultivate more trust in the meantime. Make a set of “brand standards” for yourself, and adhere to those standards across the board. Get a professional headshot taken, and commit to developing your social personality in line with your vision for the business.
2. Develop expertise. Next, you’ll need to develop expertise in the area of your business; only with this pre-existing expertise will your prospective customers trust you enough to patronize you in the early stages of your business development. It can take a long time to build this, so the sooner you start the better (and if you’ve already started, great). First, choose a niche, and the more specific you are, the better; more specific niches means less competition and a faster rise to the top, plus you can always expand to more general areas later. Turn your profiles into a kind of resume of your achievements in this niche, and start promoting content and engaging in conversations that show off your knowledge.
3. Build meaningful relationships with industry influencers. Next, identify key influencers in your industry. These can be other individuals (personal brands) that are known as thought leaders, brands, or publishers. The only requirements are that they’re active on social media, they have a large following, and they carry significant influence. Start and engage in conversations with these influencers, exchange value with them, and build relationships with them. It will come in handy later.
4. Get published. Leveraging the expertise you’ve already built (and quite possibly, your influencer connections), get your content published on external sources. If you have a website set up, you can use inbound links to funnel referral traffic and gain authority in search engines within your industry. Start with niche publishers, or any publisher that’s decently reputable and easy to get published on, then work your way up to more significant, broader publishing channels.
5. Launch your core product or service. At this point, it’s safe to launch your core product or service — the claim to fame for your business. Run a press release, launch a content strategy, and push your promotions across all your social networks. You may even want to do a lead-in for the few weeks leading up to your big launch, building suspense and mystique around your products and services. In any case, you should be able to attract a significant initial audience, and if your influencers share or cover your announcement, you’ll stand to benefit even more.
6. Tap into your networks to expand. Your trajectory should be constantly moving forward in the social media world. Engage with higher-level influencers. Get published on bigger, higher-traffic publishers. Keep engaging with new audiences to expand your following. The more you engage in these expansion efforts, the more authoritative and powerful you’re going to become, and your customer acquisition and retention will both improve.
Building a business isn’t easy, no matter what kind of runway you build for yourself or what mediums you enlist to help you along the way. Be prepared for this eventuality. Your social media audience, if tapped to its full potential, can give you a massive head start in terms of customer acquisition, but it’s still up to you to deliver the best-in-class products and services that your audience will have come to expect from you. Be a businessperson first, and a social media guru second; that’s the only way you’ll survive.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!