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Social MediaI recently ran into a client who thought he didn’t need social media to grow his business. As it turns out, after I showed him what a small investment in social media could do, he couldn’t get enough.

He went from avoiding social media to embracing it in the five seconds it took him to pull the stats and see my efforts were paying off – to the tune of $1,000 in sales for just an hour’s work. During that hour, I set up a Twitter account, followed several people interested in his niche, posted a few tweets linking back to his content, and engaged with some potential customers.

If you’re a writer looking to branch out into social media – and you should be – your current clients are a great place to start. But what if they aren’t willing to give you a trial run?

Well, first, it’s important to understand why they’re reluctant.

Most of the time, they’re scared of social media because they don’t really understand it. It’s never been a part of their strategy before. They’re confused why you think it’s necessary now.

Also, companies are used to being in control. They don’t like the thought of getting “out there” and connecting with their customers so directly.

Traditional advertising was as simple as creating a TV or radio ad, putting it out there, and waiting for sales.

If a customer had a problem, they took it up with the company and no one – except maybe their close friends and family – knew about it. You didn’t have to worry about someone calling you out on poor customer service or people posting reviews online.

It was an easier time, but now customers are demanding that businesses interact with them online, especially through social media.

In fact, according to HubSpot, people who “like” brands on Facebook are 51 percent more likely to buy something. Those who follow a brand on Twitter are 67 percent more likely to purchase.

Marketing through social media means business owners have to let go of some control. They have to let their customers have a say – which is scary.

They may have heard the horror stories about companies getting bad press from social media. Like Chipotle, who had to deal with fan outrage after an employee posted on Facebook that she ran over a cat on her way home and didn’t care. Or United Airlines, which had its reputation damaged after a YouTube video showed their employees throwing and breaking passengers’ guitars. Naturally, they’re worried about their reputation and the effect social media could have on it.

So, how can you convince your clients that, when managed correctly, social media is the best way to reach more new customers and that it should be a part of their marketing plan?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Show them what people are already saying.

One of the fastest ways to make a strong case for your argument is to do a little research first. If your client has a fairly good-sized company, someone is probably saying something about them online.

Do a few searches (in popular search engines, Google Alerts, or TweetDeck) to see what comes up.

Take screenshots of tweets, updates, or reviews about the company.

Then determine how many of these posts and comments are positive, negative, or neutral. This will probably be an estimate based on the information you find, but let’s say you find 20 comments. If 10 of them are positive, that’s 50% positive – or 50% negative/neutral. (When you approach your client, you won’t just bring “bad news.” You’ll tell them how your strategy will turn the neutral and negative comments in their favor.)

If there are any questions from customers that haven’t been answered, make sure you bring that up to your client. Questions like, “I’d like to buy your blue widget, but I’m not sure what size it comes in. Please advise,” can be especially persuasive because they show your client they’re actually losing money by not engaging with their customers.

2. Include their competitors’ information.

Your clients want to keep up with the competition. So be sure to tell them what other companies in their niche are doing in social media and what success they’ve had, including glowing reviews from customers. If their competitors haven’t yet embraced social media, this is a great chance to convince your client to get there first.

3. Use evidence to make your case.

The proof you’ll want to use will depend on your client and their market. But, in general, you’ll want to show that your client’s target market is active in social media.

If they’re targeting fishermen, for example, showing some social media groups for fishermen might be persuasive.

If your clients’ ideal customers are grandparents, you could share this statistic with them: 45- to 54-year-olds make up the largest age group of people visiting Facebook. They account for 30 percent of the overall traffic (according to Google Ad Planner).

Also, you can use data on social media usage or social network demographics published by organizations like eMarketer, MarketingProfs, or Nielsen to make your case when it makes sense.

And here’s another statistic that should be pretty universally convincing …

Forty-one percent of Internet users trust information on Facebook. And if the information is posted by one of their friends, the trust level increases up to 64 percent. (According to a study conducted by Invoke Solutions.)

For businesses, this means they have instant credibility, which equals more sales. If they can get a few of their customers to post information about them, they have the chance to sell to those customers’ friends.

Many businesses are taking advantage of this statistic by offering incentives to customers who share their company’s information with the most people.

4. Offer to start small.

You can start with just one social media platform or just a few hours a week. The platform you start with will depend on the business and the goals they’re trying to accomplish.

Speaking of starting small …

A lot of people jump into social media thinking it’s going to bring tons of visitors to their website overnight … but that’s just not the case.

The best thing you can do is to set realistic expectations from the very beginning. Don’t tell your potential clients you can change things overnight. Tell them it will take some time, and then work with them to set realistic goals for the first few months. Realistic goals would be small monthly steps like getting one sale from social media within the first month or increasing their website traffic by 10% within three months.

5. Have a plan for everything.

Remember, some clients are afraid of social media because they’re afraid of generating negative publicity. So tell them up front what you plan to do if someone says something negative about the company on social media.

What will you say if customer service issues come up or if someone makes a complaint? How will you handle it so it looks good on the company and satisfies the customer?

One possible solution, depending on the issue or complaint, might be to apologize publicly and invite the customer to contact the company via email to get a refund or replacement.

Having plans in place for this sort of thing puts the client at ease. It shows them you’re a true professional who cares about their image.

6. Explain the many benefits of social media:

  • It’s a cost-effective way to build relationships with customers because most platforms are free.
  • It’s a great way to get feedback on products and services.
  • It’s a source for information about their competitors.

As you can see from the above ideas, businesses would be crazy to miss an opportunity to build their brand awareness with social media. I think after you try some of the tactics above, your potential clients will see it that way, too.

Give it a try and then let me know how it goes. Comment below to join the discussion …