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Practical Tips for Using Social Media

Everyone is interested in social media. But while most people use these platforms in their personal lives, many remain baffled about how to effectively use them in business.

The Progressive Accountant asked Wayne Schulz, a CPA who operates Schulz Consulting in Glastonbury, Conn., to share tips on using social media. Schulz has been known for his ability to draw attention to his business through electronic media, a business that has been a one-man operation throughout most of its history. Here are his thoughts:

For promoting your company,- collecting leads for those who will buy your goods or services. Among the tools that I find work are the following:

1. Create an email newsletter that is sent regularly with helpful content (But no ads!). This takes six to nine months to see results. Don't give up.
2. MailChimp is my favorite email marketing and list manager. (http://www.mailchimp.com).
3. Use RSS to email you newsletter if you blog regularly and you can have MailChimp automatically create each issue!
4. Create online sign-up forms easily in MailChimp.
5. The free version is quite flexible so you can try before you buy

We regularly sell $20,000 service deals from newsletter subscribers who call asking where to send the check (more typical are deals in the $5,000 to $10,000 range).

In order to blog effectively, use WordPress or some type of blogging software to create content easily on your website.
1. Templates will make WordPress look like a regular corporate website.
2. Here is an example - my site at http://www.s-consult.com.
3. Post content regularly, at least three to five times per week).
4. Share those posts on Twitter and Facebook.
5. Rely on your posts showing up in Google search.

Titles are the most important aspect of a blog post. Make sure they contain words your customer would use to search. And be very specific. Here are some samples.
1. Good: Accounting Software Tips.
2. Better: 10 Accounting Tips for Sage Customers.
3. Best: 10 Ways Sage MAS90 Version 4.5 Upgrade Will Make Your Accounting Department Smile.

The Platforms
Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are important to the extent that they build your brand (or your company brand); drive traffic to your own website (hosted on your company domain); generate leads that are confident enough to buy from you without shopping.

Whether you participate in each will depend on your business. Where are your customers gathering?  Businesses will gravitate toward Facebook.

LinkedIn = Hidden gem
To get the most out of LinkedIn either start or heavily participate in quality discussion groups.
Tip No. 1: Most members of LinkedIn groups get a summary daily/weekly of activity in their groups. If you are making valuable contributions to the discussion areas then they will be seeing you name a LOT.
Tip No. 2. If you start a LinkedIn group and grow the membership, then as administrator you can send one email broadcast per week to the entire group. This can be a great way to further prove your skills to an audience that might be made up of potential customers.

Regularly participate in new social activities - always with an eye toward whether these activities will produce qualified traffic to your web site. It takes some time to see results so be patient.

If an activity is not working, move on.  However, be sure you are measuring site traffic as this is the only way to know if your activities are working. There are two services that you might utilize:

1. Google Analytics = Free, but not real time.
2. StatCounter = Not free, but real time.

When it comes to using social media, here's what I find works:
1. Be consistent. Set goals to post content regularly (this is key).
2. Measure your website traffic.
3. Watch what others do before you jump right in.
4. Watch what tech bloggers adopt and talk about (techmeme.com is a great site for this).
5. You don't need to do everything tech bloggers do, but they  are excellent early indicators of new technology.

Here's what never worked for me:
1. Overtly selling.
2. Spamming discussion groups with "please call me I can help" type posts.
3. Sending email newsletters with lots of advertising (or any ads). I found that people tuned out.

Wayne Schulz is the founder of Schulz Consulting. He began his career working for two professional service organizations and managing their consulting divisions. He has been active not only with the implementation of Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 accounting software but often is engaged to help clients design or evaluate their current accounting procedures.

The philosophy of Schulz Consulting has been built around one of being a consulting firm first and a sales company last. This is evidenced by Wayne’s unwavering claim that he is the world’s worst salesman but perhaps one of the top at providing client service to his loyal base of clients (many of who have been with him since 1986).
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