Statistically speaking, social media is a powerful way to land new clients and service existing ones.
I've gotten several new clients through social media, especially LinkedIn. The first was a company owner in Miami who sent me a connect request explaining he'd like to hire me to get his name on search engines.
His email was courteous and to the point. "You don't know me, but I'm interested in hiring you. I'm impressed with your accomplishments." He gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. I Googled him, and found the company to be legitimate. After we exchanged a few emails and discussed his PR needs, I checked out his company further and sent him my phone number. He sent a retainer that day.
Soon after, I quickly realized I could get more new clients if I followed a few simple social media guidelines:
1. Always present yourself professionally, even on your personal social media accounts. You never know who will view your profile.
2. Monitor who checks your profile. Check the person's legitimacy, then send an introductory email.
3. Update your accounts and sites frequently.
4. Ask others to refer you to their clients and contacts.
5. Increase contacts by listing your social media sites on your website, business cards, advertisements, and email signature.
6. Clearly list your specializations and update them as your career progresses.
7. Ask for recommendations from past and current clients.
8. Cross-connect your blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Make sure successes, updates and posts appear simultaneously—when possible—to reach the maximum amount of people.
9. Subtly draw attention to yourself and view the LinkedIn profiles of clients you would like to work for. The companies will see that you viewed their profiles, and they might take a look at yours and see you are exactly who they need to hire.
10. Send introductory messages to people in similar professions and industries to land freelance work.
11. Post client successes to show you can produce results.
12. Follow your media and PR contacts and keep them informed of client story, photo and PR opportunities.
13. Offer social-media directed incentives to lure new clients.
14. Offer rewards/services to existing clients and contacts if someone they referred you to becomes a client.
As you follow these tips, be sure to use caution and common sense. When you meet someone you don't know, there's an opportunity to both gain a new client and meet someone you'd rather not know. It's OK to be suspicious of people—investigate the potential client before you respond.
I follow a few simple guidelines before I reply to people who find me through my social media sites:
- Google the potential client.
- Research the company—look up the website, blog, social media sites, customer feedback, etc.
- Secretly shop at the company to get a sense of its professionalism and customer service.
- Check the Better Business Bureau, public records, criminal search sites, and returns on the phone number and email address.
- Visit the company's social media sites for a few days to get a feel for how it communicates with others.
- Read recommendations from other clients or customers on LinkedIn, as well as posts on Twitter and Facebook.
- Check the company's past experience, qualifications, abilities and accomplishments.
- Ask for a few references.
Sherry Gavanditti is a PR/media specialist. A version of this article originally appeared on PR at Sunrise.