When I began writing this post, I wished I could say that you simply need to close your eyes, blink, and voilà – your perfect clients will appear in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other places! In a way, we do have that magical ability when we log on to Social Media, but it takes some strategy, effort, and good old-fashioned social skills to attract and find clients through this powerful channel.
The Q3 2016 Sprout Social Index, “Turned Off: How Brands are Annoying Customers on Social” provides some interesting statistics on why people follow or unfollow brands:
– 57% are annoyed when there are too many promotions.
– 1 in 4 people are annoyed when they don’t receive a response.
– 41% will unfollow a brand if it doesn’t share relevant information.
– 32% are annoyed by a brand that tries to be funny when it isn’t.
– 34% are annoyed by a lack of personality.
So it seems like a lot of the things that annoy people in person also annoy them online. When I’m interacting on Social Media, I like to pretend that I’m visiting someone in their living room or mingling with people at a conference. The same authenticity that attracts clients to you in person will attract them online, and by leveraging the power of Social Media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, you can attain a valuable following of clients in your Virtual Assistance business.
Here are some tips for finding and attracting clients on Social Media:
1. Put your best face forward.
And I mean literally. Often the first thing people will notice is your profile picture. When I first signed up for Facebook, I was kind of shy, so I used my favorite hockey team’s logo as my profile picture. But after becoming a freelance writer/editor, I realized it would benefit me to be a little less hockey-focussed in my personal Social Media profiles and most certainly in my business profiles, so I’m more careful now.
Here are some qualities to look for in a good photo:
– Professional headshots are ideal (ones that still show your personality, avoiding the fanciness of a glamor shot and the stark formality of a passport photo).
– Fairly recent photos are best (at least within the last 10 years).
– Quality of photo is important (no fuzziness or distortion, no awkward cropping).
Some exceptions to these rules are appropriate. For example, for my LinkedIn profile, I use a photo that was originally taken beside my uncle. There’s a book in the background, which suits my writing/editing focus, and with a black and white filter, the photo is very clear. But the main reason why I use this photo is because I have a genuine smile in it that people respond to, which is an improvement on the awkward, forced smile I had in my most recent professional photos. So in some cases, you may have a non-professional photo that works well for you.
In addition to the profile picture, you want to be sure you have a good header image, preferably one that either illustrates your Virtual Assistant niche or displays your logo. Pixabay has many copyright-free images you can peruse to see which ones might be appropriate.
It’s also important to write a good description or tagline on your profile, one that will grab your potential client’s attention and keep them reading. This is where having your 30-second elevator speech prepared can help you nail down the elements of your description. You can even lead with one of your favorite quotes that sums up your passion for your work.
And be sure to fill in all the fields on your Social Media profile. As Tawnya Sutherland says in her article “How to Use Social Media as a Lead Generation Tool”,
“Sometimes before someone clicks through your links they’re going to check your profile. If you have a bad headshot, and a half-filled out profile, they’re not going to go back and give you their email. Nope. They’re going to click away, never to return. Don’t let that happen. Improve your social media profiles – always.”
2. Choose your audience.
Now that you’re looking good, you need the right people to see you. Out of all the many millions of people using Social Media, a fraction of those will be your audience of potential clients. Here are some ways you can find them:
Research keywords for your VA industry/niche and use them in your profile descriptions, titles, taglines, and anywhere you are describing your current or past work experience.
Find out where your ideal audience is hanging out (which groups they belong to, which hashtags they use, which Facebook Pages they follow, which lists they belong to on Twitter, etc.).
The power of keywords for good or bad can be seen in a humorous example from my own LinkedIn profile. When I receive my weekly search stats, I find out that I most frequently show up in search results conducted by animal rights organizations or animal shelters. This happens because I include my maiden name, Petrescue, along with my married name to distinguish me from a niece on LinkedIn who has almost the same first and last name as I have. Funny enough, my maiden name corresponds to some keywords for organizations that rescue and shelter pets. So I need to work extra hard on optimizing my profile for keywords corresponding to my writing/editing niche.
In an article called “1 Simple Strategy to Stand Out on LinkedIn,” John Nemo emphasizes the need to choose your audience by saying “the riches are in the niches!” By targeting certain niche audiences or industries, you’ll have a better chance of attracting clients because you’ll be “a big fish in those smaller ponds.”
3. Speak in terms your clients understand.
So now that you look good and have an audience, what do you say? Well, before you start sharing content, a better question might be “How are you going to speak?”
In this global Virtual Assistant industry, you may have clients who speak different languages. Are you bilingual or multilingual as well? If so, how many languages will you use in your Social Media posts?
Furthermore, what tone will you use? If humor comes easily to you and your target audience seems to enjoy it, you may want to have a light, friendly tone with the occasional cartoon or joke thrown in. If you prefer to remain serious, it’s not necessary to force humor.
But the most important thing to remember is to speak your client’s language in terms they understand. If you have specialized skills, it’s tempting to want to showcase them and impress clients with your knowledge. That’s how I feel anyway. But Jeff Cota has some wise advice in his article “Educate And Attract Clients With Social Media.”
He quotes a farrier (a specialist who cares for horse’s hooves) named Ralph Hampton who uses Social Media to reach out to horse owners:
“Every farrier should know what a broken back HP axis is, but if you start spitting out those terms, clients will look at you like you just sprouted a head,” [Ralph] says. “They have no idea what that means. But, if you tell them the horse has crushed heels, they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I see that.’”
So Cota says, “The key to Hampton’s posts is using common sense terms with which the horse owner can relate.”
Can you think of occasions in your own business where you might need to think about the wording you use?
My editing work began when I was completing a degree in linguistics. I took many courses in syntax, or sentence structure, and am often tempted to use linguistics “lingo” to describe what I’m doing. But if I start waxing poetic about the importance of comma use with relative pronouns, appositives, and nonrestrictive clauses, I might lose a few people who aren’t as excited about hearing those terms as I am.
4. Share valuable content.
In keeping with the idea of using language your client understands, it’s important to share valuable content that speaks to the needs of your clients. As the Q3 2016 Sprout Social Index reports, 57% of people are annoyed by too many promotions. But there’s a way to promote yourself and your services without being too promotional.
You can share what you’ve learned. You can share information about exciting new tools you’ve discovered. You can share encouraging quotes and informative articles.
In a post titled “11 Actionable Social Media Tips for Your Web Design and Development Business,” Kate Denison-Grimes gives the following recommendation:
“Use your social platforms as a medium to show off what you can do! If you’ve been working on a project that has some impressive customizations, or you’ve revamped a client’s brand let the online world know and post examples of client work that showcase your range of skills and abilities.”
I love how Grammarly shares knowledge in a way that’s accessible to everyone. If I wanted to show off my editing skills, I’d post things like this image that illustrates the importance of proper punctuation.
So in your own business, let your imagination soar as you think about what kind of content might educate and enrich the experiences of your potential clients.
5. Communicate generously and authentically with others.
Now we’re entering territory that strikes a bit of terror into the hearts of introverted folks like me – interacting with strangers online. [Insert dramatic music – Dun-dun-DAAA!]
I’m not sure about you, but I get quite shy when I’m in a Facebook or LinkedIn group and tend to hang back and read others’ conversations instead of participating myself. I also tend to avoid liking or commenting on public posts.
But if I were looking for clients, I’d miss out because an effective way of finding them is by communicating with people generously and authentically. When I say “generously,” I’m not referring to quantity, but quality – by being generous with your kindness, goodwill, and kudos to others.
If someone in your target audience posts something on Facebook that they’re proud of, give them a like or a kind comment. If someone posts a question in a LinkedIn group that you know the answer to, be helpful and give your advice.
If someone tweets valuable content that fits your niche and would benefit your target audience, retweet it!
Don’t be shy about joining groups or lists frequented by potential clients. And even consider starting your own group.
In her article “How to Build an Amazing Facebook Group,” Haley Lynn Gray talks about the Women’s Entrepreneur Network group she built on Facebook. It grew from 0 to over 60,000 members in just over 2 years.
She describes the benefits of this experience:
“Think of it this way: you build a group filled with your ideal clients while providing amazing content for them to engage with, and ultimately you bring them into your business. It’s a win-win because you’re giving people a fun, safe place to hang out that supports their wants, needs or desires. And you’re getting lots of really great clients.”
Finding and attracting clients through Social Media is a huge topic, and I’ve just scratched the surface in this blog post. It’s also an ongoing process that needs constant attention as Social Media platforms grow and change.
If you have any tips that have worked for you or any questions about current challenges you’re facing, please share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you so we can help each other through this challenging part of any Virtual Assistant business.