Whether you’re an experienced social networker or just a newbie, here are 10 secrets to growing your target market network online:
1. Create an up-to-date profile and/or fan page
Before you begin a “friending” (i.e. request to become another’s friend), be sure that your profile is up-to-date with an accurate description of what you do, your interests, and your contact info. Make sure you include your website addresses. If you have multiple businesses invite people in your appropriate target market to become fans of your niche-specific fan page.
Follow leaders in your field/industry and “friend” them. This includes popular products, TV shows, or other specific interests of your target market. Anytime you make a friend request, include a personal note, as that will improve the likelihood that they will accept your request. Say something like, “I’m a big fan and I’d love to have you in my network on Facebook.” Once they have accepted your invitation, make comments about their status updates to help you get on the radar and in front of their thousands of friends.
Take a look at the people in the network of your industry leaders, as they are probably part of your target market as well. Send friend requests to those of interest to you. When you friend someone that you only know by association, send a personal note as well, like “I discovered your profile in <name here>’s network and would like to get to know you better by adding you to my network.”
4. Use groups
Look for groups that may contain your target market. In your search for groups, use keywords that describe your niche, industry, geographic area, interests, or whatever other terms you might use to find members of your target market. Join and begin to participate in the group so that they begin to get to know you. Then pursue the member lists for good prospects, start with the members you’ve connected with or have commented on similar posts.
5. Invite your existing email lists and address books
You can use your existing email database to add people from your clients, prospects, and other current contacts if they fall within your target market definition. Add a note to the invitation and make sure you are clear and professional about your motivation.
Most of the popular social networking sites will have a suggestion list for people you might know. These recommendations are pretty solid, because they are based on similar work history, mutual friends and interests. Take them up on their recommendation and add these to your network.
7. Add by interest or industry
Do a people search by job title, industry, geographic location, or interest. People with those terms in their profile will show up in your search, and you can request to add them based on common interests.
8. Build the relationship
Once you friend someone, you need to begin to get to know them and start building trust so that you become their top-of-mind expert in a particular area. Begin building the relationship by posting a quick “thank you” note on their wall, as well as a comment about something on their profile that interests you or in which you have in common. Watch for their status updates, as well, and comment on these when appropriate.
Once you’ve got about 500 followers, create a group for your target market. Provide the group with useful content and ask questions to stimulate discussion and get the members to return to participate in the group. You can post articles, links to blog posts, or videos you have created. Invite group members to any free virtual or face-to-face events you’re hosting. This is where you really establish your expert status and credibility.
10. Integrate your marketing strategy
Once you have a good list of friends and credibility on the site, you can begin mixing in your marketing messages. Social networking sites are designed to be casual and personal, so don’t just copy an advertisement or sales messages. All you want to do is keep what you do and who you are on the top of your prospects minds. You can casually mention what you’re working on in your status, announce events, and make comments offering to help people with your product or service. Remember, people can remove or block you as easily as they added you in the first place.
No marketing strategy works unless you consistently implement it over time.
As a newbie to Facebook, you might want to spend as much as 60 minutes per day researching friends and participating in groups. As your network grows, you may spend only 15 minutes 3 times per week on Facebook. The key to success is to put this strategy on your calendar and make it a routine part of your ongoing Internet marketing tasks.
Many of these social networking sites are strict and very particular about how its participants contact each other.
Many sites limit the number of new invitations allowed in a given day or week. If you exceed this amount you can get penalized or removed for spamming. If you stick with about 50 per day, you should stay within most limits. If you ever receive a warning, you should stop immediately for that day and reduce your efforts moving forward.
While social networking is an inexpensive marketing tool, it can be effective in helping you grow your business. You should maintain your other marketing strategies, and simply add this strategy to your marketing mix. A well-rounded internet marketing plan includes social networking, and it could mean that your prospect well will never run dry.