It's not a new way of doing business; however it's a brand new way of acquiring new business. It's the Online Social Network phenomena. We often see many of our coaches come through and ask us point blank, "Can I really grow my coaching practice using Online Social Networks?" Our answer is always consistent—yes!
Then, of course, comes the "how" question. We begin by telling them that it's similar to when we are coaching: it all starts with the right mindset. First of all, make sure you are ready to do some new things. It's like when you take that bold move to switch from a conventional cell phone to a Blackberry® or iPhone—you want to make sure you are ready to commit. Just like that example, when you make the change, you accept the change, and when you work with the change, it works for you. However, I always repeat this: only when you commit to it are you really making the change!
Now that our coaches are ready for something new, we tell them that they already know how to do most of this. They look puzzled and we continue to explain. Remember when you first started out in business and you joined a chamber, network club, private club, leads club, association, or even a health club? You most likely did this because you wanted to connect and network with "like-minded" people, people who had something in common, whether it was at a career level, industry level, belief level, health level, or charity level. Then, based on that foundation, you built trust and connected to those with whom you found similarities, who you liked, or who you would consider doing business with until given a reason not to.
The Right Club
Online Social Networks function the exact same way. So let's go through the basic steps of being successful with what you already know. First and foremost, find a club or social network that you think will be the most successful with your "like-minded" people. We recommend you ask those you respect and find out where they hang out. Most of our coaches gravitate toward LinkedIN, as it has a very professional flavor and maintains a high level of integrity with its members. However, you have to like your "club" and Online Social Network, so make sure you know others who are there as well.
After you have made your choice(s), make sure you are ready to complete a full profile. Do not skimp here, for if you are complete and relevant to what your website and articles say, and connect this to your coaching practice, the networks will typically do a ton of work for you. Make sure you don't leave anything relevant out of your profile.
Some key areas NOT to overlook in your profile:
- Full Professional Description
- Professional Postion(s)
- Board Position(s)
- Charity Affiliation(s)
- All Education
- Military Background
- Awards and Certifications
- Special Interests and Hobbies
Remember, when you fill these out, do not cut and paste the old stuff. Make sure you are extremely current and relevant. We also recommend that you freshen up this area quarterly as you progress with your practice. You are likely to expand your methods, techniques, accomplishments, and approach-update this information on your profile. You might also speak differently depending on the ever-changing economic climate. This will begin to build your Internet footprint and as we like to say, your eReputation!
Your Hard Work
We are not really sure why, but it seems that everyone always forgets their hard work. They write so much web content, articles, Powerpoints, speeches, emails, blogs, etc. and take so many pictures and videos that they actually forget to use them. Take all this hard effort, your expertise, and your knowledge and extend your reputation to the network that is looking for you. This is the most common part overlooked. People forget to continuously post their hard work all over the Internet for people to find. The network you choose will most likely allow you to feature your items prominently for your new prospects to find.
Remember that social networking the "old way" or the "new way" only works if you are active. Just like everything else in life, you get out what you put in. Decide where you should go within your new Online Social Network and start talking. For instance, there are very relevant groups, subgroups, discussion boards, and blogs in which to partake. If you're new at this, you can simply jump into an existing conversation, making it easy and fun! If you are not sure or are hesitant, then watch others' conversations, responses, comments, and replies first, then begin when you are ready. However, do not wait too long, for while you were reading this article, someone already found a coach just like you because they responded to a post or answered a key question. Don't forget, people are on the Internet because they are "looking for answers"!
Acquire New Business
The last and very important step is that we are doing all this not only to build our reputation, but also to obtain new business, right? It is quite simple. Let's go back to the first section of this article and get back to what we know. Now take those people who find you online based on your complete and relevant profile, content, or expertise and conversations, and take that connection out of the online network to an offline phone call or even an appointment. How? Ask!
You will do fine from here!