Social media is hot stuff. I’ve always said that it is the great playing field leveler and game changer of this century. Just five years ago, you couldn’t do half of the stuff you can do now. It has taken branding, marketing, customer service and interpersonal relationship skills to a whole other level. For me, it has allowed me to experiment with different methods of delivery and engagement for the Empower Me! brand. I’ve also been able to expand my reach globally.
Empower Me is founded on social media. What started as a small network for women of color, have become a global brand for upwardly mobile professionals around the world. Yes, the world. For me, it’s not just about marketing our message. Using social media has allowed us to enter certain markets with a much lower cost of entry and short start up time. And we’re building a strong, growing brand. Hopefully this can inspire you to tap into the power of social media as well. Now I’ll share some of what we’re doing, but I can’t go giving away the farm!
As with anything in life, you need a strategy and a plan. If you were driving cross country you would have a map and plan your route. Social media is no different. You have to figure out what you want out of it, what you hope will be achieved, how you plan to get there and what tools you need to help you along the way. Jumping in blindly to see what happens almost NEVER works. And more importantly, be open to revising and changing course at times.
How We Use Social Media
As you already know (because you’re here reading!) Empower Me! Magazine will be launching in both print and digital versions. We’ve used this website and blogs in the interim as a blogging platform and cross connected it with various social media sites we use. We encourage discussions and conversations on sites like Facebook, Viadeo and Linked In to get the dialog going and bring it back to the blogs. We have 20 guest bloggers who also share the content via their social networks which increases our traffic. They are pretty awesome. Go check them out.
I host Views From the Top radio show on Blog Talk Radio. The show allows me to reach a large international audience with my message via the internet and on iTunes. Because we use BTR’s platform, we save ourselves the headaches associated with the crowded landscape that is terrestrial or satellite radio. We’ve had guests ranging from the every day career person to business leaders to celebrities and billionaires appear on the show. People get excited about our content on the show. The show has also been selected as a Top Heavy Hitter Radio Show for Small Business by Business Trends this year. While the most popular, it’s not the only game in town. There is Live 365, TalkShoe, LA Talk Radio and Shoutcast. Don’t have an entire show you want to do? That’s simple. Create a podcast. Cinchcast allows you to create small micro podcasts. You can also record your own podcasts on your computer and submit them to sites such as Pod-P-Matic, Podcast Alley, Podbean and iTunes.
We are relaunching Empower Me! Institute this fall where we’ll be providing professional development courses and training in social media branding, networking, career management and entrepreneurship via our new proprietary social learning platform. Trust me when I say it’s going to take your learning experience to new levels. In the past, we’ve used video conferencing and teleconferences to deliver content. Creating your own classes then delivering via social media tools allows you to save time and money and reach a broader spectrum of people. The key is in the marketing but you had better have kick ass content that people are interested in. You can use tools such as Skype, DimDim, Oovoo, etc to provide live training.
Our biggest pending launch to date will be Empowered Woman TV. It is a TV channel solely available on the internet. We currently use LiveStream to share live and on demand content. It is a powerful social media tool in that viewers can participate during the shows via chatting. It costs millions to launch a new channel in cable tv. We’ve reduced the time and ease of entry and cost by using this social media tool. But be on the look out. Our technology team is working on our own platform. You can use any number of platforms (Ustream, LiveStream, etc) for live broadcasting. But don’t forget about the on demand stuff too. YouTube, Vimeo and Viddler are great sites. Examine them all to determine what your needs are and which one(s) work best for you. Although we’ll still maintain a presence on LiveStream, having our own channel will allow us much more flexibility and freedom. Stay tuned.
Social media is not about “me, me, me”. Too many people get caught up in that “look at me” mode and forget it’s supposed to be SOCIAL. It’s about two way dialog with your audience and responding to what their needs are by delivering what they look for in terms of content, education, information, resources and networking. For us, it’s through media, publishing, networking and professional development. We are careful not to constantly shove a marketing message in people’s faces. It’s a carefully orchestrated partnership between us and our audience. Give and take 50-50 listening and speaking.
We cross connect on various social media sites for maximum effect for the brand. Social Media has allowed us to cross barriers of entry that would have been prohibitive 5-10 years ago. Not to mention that we utilize all of the popular (and yet undiscovered) sites and tools to manage our branding message. Overall, I think social media has been the bridge between us and our audience in print, online, education, radio and internet tv. I am so excited to see what the future holds. StartUp Nation didn’t select us as a Top 10 Savviest in Social Media winner for nothing! The best is yet to come…you ain’t seen nothing yet! Speaking of StartUp Nation, be sure to go vote for us this year. We landed in Top 10 last year, this year, we’re going for the win!
Make sure you are using ancillary tools to get your message out such as sharing and bookmarking sites (Add This, Share This, Digg, Stumble Upon), cross posting sites (Ping.fm, HootSuite) and link shortener sites that double as an analytics site (Bit.ly, Ow.ly). Social media branding means absolutely nothing if you can’t share and analyze your performance. Social media is not Twitter, Facebook & Linked In. Those are tools you use to network and are part of your overall social media plan. And don’t forget other forms of promotion. There is email marketing (Constant Contact, Vertical Response), blogging (WordPress, Blogger) including guest blogging on other people’s blogs, online PR (PR Web, PR 24-7) and good old fashioned discussion forums. You want to be able to be seen and heard in as many places as your audience hangs out. Never make generic or automated messages. Mix it up a bit. Sure those aggregator sites are great. But it can get repetitive for your audience, especially if they follow you on more than one medium. Also don’t discount the power of good old fashion publicity. And make sure you share your social networks and social media tools in signatures and any marketing collateral such as business cards, blogs and websites.
Social media can do wonders for your brand, business or career. But you have to be willing to test it out and find what works for you and your audience. It can’t be an exercise in vanity or ego. Commit to a two way conversation and focus on delivering the best of yourself to that audience. Make sure you ask them what they want and engage them. Otherwise you’ll end up being just another voice in the social media sea.
Adrienne Graham is CEO & Sr. Recruiter at Hues Consulting & Management Inc, and the CEO & Founder of Empower Me! Corporation, a media, publishing and professional development organization for the upwardly mobile professional woman. She is the voice behind Views From the Top Radio Show and the creative social media visionary responsible for creating Empower Me Institute, Empower Me! Magazine, Empowered Woman TV, Next Level Business Coaching, the Power Brok(H)er Club, and the Empower Me Networks. She is also the author of Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking. You can also catch her blogs on Forbes and Examiner.com.