Firstly, about the asterisk*.
I read a lot of these types of headings: ‘How XYZ has increased my revenue by XYZ’, so I’ll start right off by explaining that I'm not necessarily talking about business revenue (although this has definitely seen improvement). I'm talking about the type of work that I am now attracting. It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I now have a book full of interesting projects that are rich in brand strategy and have given me the opportunity to do exactly the type of work that I’ve been wanting to do since I began my business.
How I began
It wasn’t always this way. Let’s backtrack seven months ago when, a month into the start of the new financial year, I became aware of the overwhelming sound of crickets (you know, when things are so quiet, all you can hear is the serenity of the empty field and, well, the metaphorical chirping of crickets?). I’d been back working on my business for seven months after a 12-month maternity ‘break’ and whilst I had a base of regular clients, the new business side of things was decidedly lacking in promise.
I had to do something. I’ll admit, I took a call from a recruiter who reached out during that time and wondered what it would be like to ‘work’ again (what I do is so much fun sometimes, I hardly think of it as work). I did this for about two minutes before reminding myself why I started my business in the first place: to create and attract exactly the type of work I enjoy doing, and to enjoy the flexibility that allows me to ‘be a mum’ and enjoy more time that I otherwise would have with my kids while they are so little. I also really enjoy the challenge of being master of my own destiny and knowing that every cent of revenue comes from my own hard work. So with that clarified, onwards I went.
I had a feeling that one answer to my problem lay with firstly with blogging, and secondly getting out and about on Social Media to promote my writing and business. I’d always loved writing – anything really – so the prospect of writing as a marketing activity was one I was comfortable with. The idea of promoting myself on Social Media? Less so, but I was willing to get over this.
I began my campaign by writing and publishing a few articles right away. When I started to promote my blog, I wanted to have a few ‘in the can’ so that people could get a sense that this was an established practice. It was around the time that my business ticked over three years, so began by writing about this. This was a great icebreaker and to-date is one of my best-received articles. I think my network enjoyed hearing what I’d been up to for the past three years, and gave them something that they could relate to.
I promised myself wholeheartedly that I would publish one blog post per week. It didn’t seem like a big commitment to me; a few hours a week to do something I really enjoyed. And so I did this for a few months, barely skipping a beat (until my post house-moving hiatus, which I also wrote about here). I enjoyed checking the numbers of readers on my blog and seeing the readership grow and which sort of articles were best received.
I’d push these out via my Facebook page and occasionally on LinkedIn. While the sort of engagement (likes and shares) was nothing to get excited about, I noticed within a few weeks that the phone was starting to ring more often, and the quality of enquiry I was receiving began to improve.
Three notable things happened: (1) people that had heard about me through my clients started to call (2) an old colleague who was running a similar business got in touch and we started to collaborate on projects, and (3) another colleague who headed up a much larger branding agency also got in touch to see if I’d be happy to take on work that was ‘too small’ for them (um, yes!). In fact, old colleagues were popping up all over the place and have proved to be a large source of referrals.
Fast forward seven months and business is ticking along very nicely. I’m almost at 100% of my capacity most weeks and have had the opportunity to work on some really meaty projects that have required robust strategic work to drive the creative. I’m in branding heaven. I’ve even started to enjoy using PowerPoint with the amount of data I’ve been needing to present to my clients in the strategic phases (this was unexpected).
So, what’s worked?
I have a theory about social media, based entirely on my own experience of how I interact and use platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. I am a voracious consumer of content, often absorbing countless touchpoints in a day, week, month. I read and appreciate, yet don’t always like, comment or share – they key engagement indicators. I keep up to date with friends and contacts by reading my newsfeed, yet don’t necessarily feel the need to like or comment on each thing that I appreciate (I would feel a little bit like a stalker, or a bit overenthusiastic). I have a tight knit group of people, on all platforms, of whom I like every single thing they post (maybe 1-2 of my best friends, plus family members). But the rest, I choose a little more carefully. I think that’s human nature; we can’t ‘like’ everything in this world. We curate our likes and dislikes in all areas of life, and what we appreciate on social media I believe is no different.
A different way to define success
I was very careful when I started blogging and promoting on social media not to peg the success of my efforts to engagement. I predicted that people would see the posts pop up in their newsfeeds and know that I was ‘out and about’, working on my business and positioning myself as a thought leader in the area of branding. If I did this enough, I’d hope that should they ever find themselves in need of strategic branding work, they would revisit my Facebook page or website, read what I had to say and pick up the phone. Judging on the enquiry that I’ve received from these networks, I think that this assumption has been 100% correct and I continue to hear from people within my network.
For independent consultants like myself, it's a cost-efficient yet highly effective activity which I will continue to do.
Have you had some business wins through blogging and social media? Do you have some tips you could give me? I'd love to hear in the comments below!