After more than 25 years in marketing, I recently had an epiphany. One of those moments that stops you in your tracks and makes you think, "What the hell am I doing?"

What I had been doing was advising clients on their social media marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy without actually being a user of social media. Well, that's not strictly true. I did have 57 friends on Facebook, mainly relatives and actual friends living overseas. But I would only take a look at my page maybe three times a year, if that.

"What's your problem?"

At this point you may be thinking, "What's your problem? Do you have to be a fan of something to really know about it? Do you need to be a mechanic to drive a car?"

The problem was, I just didn't "get" social media. I didn't really see what people see in Facebook, Twitter or any of the others.

Given that marketing is about understanding your prospective customer's needs, that presented a problem. For me, anyway.

So I went over to the dark side.

I scanned the social media pages, did the research, examined the user profiles, and concluded that for someone like me who makes a living consulting to businesses, LinkedIn and Twitter were most appropriate for B2B marketing. I put together a clear strategy for both. And I signed up.

My objectives were to build awareness of my consulting business internationally, increase my influence in the markets I serve, and yes, get more business. Not that business was going badly, I hasten to add. But business is business, and learning is learning.

Right away, my Twitter strategy started going horribly wrong. I assumed because I am a brilliant and insightful writer that my work would attract followers in droves. It didn't. It attracted followers, but only in drovelets. That wasn't wasn't enough for me. I wanted more.

But I didn't want to buy followers.

There are plenty of websites offering to sell you 10,000 followers for $29.95. Apparently most of these followers aren't real, but the advantages are twofold. First, big follower numbers give you credibility. Second, even robot followers have real followers which give you virality - there's probably no such word, but it sounds better than viralness. Credibility makes you appear more interesting, which makes real people more likely to follow you. Virality gives your tweets the potential to go viral when your followers retweet them to their followers, and their followers retweet them to their followers, and so on.

I somewhat sniffily wanted people to follow me because they were genuinely interested in what I had to say. I must confess to trying a couple of follower programs, but only those offering free trials. (Google "free Twitter followers".) Here's the story of how I went from zero to 4,400 followers in three months through pure experimentation.

My Twitter journey so far.

Have I picked up business from all this?

Not yet. But as my followers and influence grows, especially among the right people, I fully expect to start interacting with potential clients and referrers. Interaction is what social media is all about, and these interactions are bound to bring in leads and, ultimately, business. I know this because I have already picked up business from my interactions on LinkedIn.  

The power of LinkedIn groups.

I may have only only a little more than 500 connections on LinkedIn but that doesn't matter if you join up with as many groups as can. Because I work in business, franchising and marketing consultancy and am based in New Zealand, I have joined groups such as the New Zealand Business and Professional Network, which has 32,000 members, the International Franchise Association group, which has 15,000 members, and the Digital Marketing group, which has a whopping 568,286 members. When you post to these groups, every member is exposed to your post, which means your audience is potentially enormous. It can also be highly targeted.

As a result, I have received enquiries from as far away as the United States and South Africa. I have also connected with a number of people whom I'd worked with in the past but lost contact with. One of these, a leading New Zealand CEO, remembered me from some projects we'd been involved with 15 years ago and was kind enough to refer me to a friend of his who was looking for an international licensing consultant. I ended up travelling to South Africa to meet with the company's licensees there, and that project could lead to others as the company continues its global expansion.

So far, so good.

I will keep you posted on the ongoing progress of my social media journey, but so far, I have quintupled my website traffic, quadrupled my enquiries and tripled my sales - the ultimate test of marketing effectiveness.

Just as importantly, I am thoroughly enjoying the "socialness" and responsiveness of social media, talking and sometimes debating with people from all over the world and being able to test my content and marketing ideas and monitor the response almost immediately.

Why didn't I start doing this years ago?

Article by Robin La Pere, No Ordinary Business and Franchise Consultants

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Robin La Pere of No Ordinary Consultants has been involved in marketing for many years, since he started as an advertising copywriter and then moved into strategy





"Robin had a significant and positive
impact ... on Signature Homes as a whole, as evidenced by the fact that our business became one of the fastest growing businesses in New Zealand, winning a Deloittes Fast 50 Business Award in 2003, seeing total sales soar by more than 500%."


          Gavin Hunt, Signature Homes