People want to do business with experts; they want to feel like they’ve chosen the right person for the job. This reduces the risk in choosing a vendor and provides peace of mind. It’s your goal to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Establishing your expertise and credibility is a two-step process: first you need to know the questions your prospects are asking, second is providing helpful, non-sales-y answers.
Anyone who has been in business long enough knows a lot of the questions and problems that their clients run into. These are likely the same issues your prospects are researching at Google and on the social web.
If you don’t know the questions in advance, there are plenty of places where your prospects are publicly asking these questions: Twitter, LinkedIn and Yahoo Answers are just a few of the more popular ones.
Once you know the questions, it’s time to create some compelling, helpful answers and put them where they’ll do the most good. Here are some of the places in the social media landscape where you can have the biggest impact.
A blog is the perfect place to create quality content that addresses your prospects’ biggest concerns. Use common questions from your best prospects and turn them into keyword-rich content on your blog. As people facing similar problems search for answers at Google they’ll find your blog post, which will give you the opportunity to connect with them.
Whether it’s YouTube or one of the many other video sharing sites out there, try and create how-to videos around the same topics you tackle in your blog. These videos often show up in search results, and for many people video is more compelling than the written word.
To maximize your return with video, create a blog post explaining the video and embed the video into your post. You can further extend the reach of your video by using TubeMogul to upload the video to multiple video sharing Web sites at once.
Your prospects are on Twitter, asking questions or venting their frustrations. By visiting http://search.twitter.com you can search for specific keywords and respond to those people through Twitter. A seafood market might search for "lobster" or "haddock." An accountant might search for "QuickBooks" or "1040E."
If you’re "geographically challenged" you can perform a similar search on NearbyTweets.com, which allows you to search within a given area. A personal trainer might search on "workout" or "diet" within 25 miles of their home base.
As you find questions or tweets that you can respond to in a helpful, informative way, you can try answering them in 140 characters or less, or linking to a blog post or video you’ve created that answers that question.
You should also follow that person. The knee jerk reaction when someone follows you is to check out their Twitter profile to see if they’re worth following back. If you provide a quality answer, or follow someone, you may in turn gain a new follower.
Business people from around the world ask questions at LinkedIn. By answering questions in your area of expertise, you can create networking opportunities and establish your credibility.
Start by visiting the Answers section at LI and browsing through some of the categories they have there. Whether it’s finance, non-profit or sales, you can find an area where you can answer questions in a helpful way. You can also subscribe to categories so that you’ll get updates as new questions are posted.
Establishing your expertise at Facebook is going to be focused on creating a fan page for your business and participating at other appropriate pages and groups.
At your own page, you can provide content that can help your audience and link to relevant resources. At other’s others’ pages and groups, you can answer questions as they come up. However, don’t try and hijack someone else’s group or page to further your own agenda. It’s best to follow the golden rule in social media.
This is just a small list of social media places where you can establish your credibility. Podcasts, Yahoo Answers, discussion forums, industry-specific social networking sites, the list goes on.
Remember that social media is not the place for the hard sell. The goal here is to establish your credibility and help your prospects. This will attract people to your business or service. And attracting clients is preferable to chasing after them.
You can follow Rich Brooks on Twitter, where he pretends he's some kind of expert.