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Networking and Finding Clients on Facebook

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You're offering a service that's in demand. You know who your potential clients are. You're engaging on Facebook as I outlined in my previous post.

If you're doing all these, your Facebook fanbase will grow. But what next?

Marketing consultant C. J. Hayden refers to marketing as a pipeline. Once a client is in your pipeline, you follow up with them, make a presentation of your services, and (hopefully) close the sale. But before you can do any of that you must fill your pipeline with prospects. You do this through your sales funnel.

Your Facebook Page is an online hub for collecting contacts to pour into your sales funnel. It's a good place to make first contact before pulling prospects deeper into your pipeline.

In this post, I outline some advanced strategies you can use to fill your pipeline on Facebook. These include strategies to:

  • Boost engagement directly on your Facebook Page, in a way that helps you cultivate qualified leads, and move prospects towards becoming clients.
  • Use your Facebook Page as a networking and outreach tool. With this strategy, you're not simply expecting clients to come to you. You're going to them.

Facebook Pages are an ideal online networking tool. That's because Facebook is about casual interaction and conversation. As your fans and prospects interact with your Page, they come to know, like and trust you. This helps them feel confident that you'll be a good person to work with. Because of this, Facebook, as a long-term strategy, is a much more powerful tool than cold calling or emailing for building a list of prospects and finding your ideal clients. As lawyer Michele R.J. Allinotte explains:

I find that clients who follow me on Facebook feel they already know me, so it is much easier to make a connection with them at the initial phone call or meeting compared to someone who cold calls me out of the phone book.

Boosting Engagement on Your Facebook Page

Previously on FreelanceSwitch, I showed how regularly posting to your Facebook Page fosters engagement with your fans and helps to grow your fanbase.

Regularly posting to your Page is the foundation of any strategy of engagement on Facebook. If you fail to feed your Facebook Page with regular updates, it will wither and die - like a neglected houseplant or Tamagotchi - whatever else you're doing. On the flip side, feeding your Page with regular updates can be enough to grow your fanbase and find clients. However, there is more you can do to grow your fanbase and increase the chances of fans becoming clients.

Here are three advanced strategies you can use as-is, or adapt for your business:

1. Facebook Contests

Feature a contest on your Page and offer your services, or a related product, as the prize. This increases awareness of what you do, and boosts engagement with exactly the right people: those who need your services.

How people enter the contest is up to you. However, contests on your Page must be administered through a Facebook App. You can find out more - including a list of suitable apps - here.

You can ask your fans to do more, however, especially if you're offering a valuable prize, and you're willing to administer the contest outside Facebook, for example through Survey Monkey, or simple email. If you're doing this, you can promote the contest on your Page, but you must not use your Page to receive entries, judge entries or announce prizewinners.

You could use the contest to help you develop ideas for your business. For example, you could ask your fans to come up with ideas for a tagline for your business, or share which of your services they'd be most likely to use, or explain the problems they have that they need the most help solving.

Alternatively, you can use a contest to get your fans to help you create content to share on your Page. A freelance gardener could ask entrants to send in pictures of their best garden plant; a programmer could ask fans to share their favorite computer or programming related joke; a writer could ask fans to share an inspiring quote about writing or creativity. Again, these entries must be collected outside Facebook. Once you've collected the entries, you can post them to your Page.

Set aside an hour a week to hold a Facebook surgery. Either pledge to answer any questions related to your niche that are posted to your Facebook Page during that hour, or take a selection of the best questions.

When people see their entry on your Page, chances are they'll share it with their friends, boosting engagement with your business.

2. Facebook Surgeries

Set aside an hour a week to hold a Facebook surgery. Either pledge to answer any questions related to your niche that are posted to your Facebook Page during that hour, or take a selection of the best questions.

If you hold a weekly surgery, it's a good idea to decide in advance how much you're willing to share. You don't want to lose potential clients because you've given away your best knowledge for free. On the other hand, don't keep everything back. The whole point of holding a surgery is to help your clients see that your advice works for them.

A bonus of holding a surgery is that it gives you insight into the biggest problems and pain points of potential clients. When you know these, you can adapt your services accordingly to put yourself in higher demand.

3. Time Limited Facebook Coupons

A strategy that works well for freelancers with a large roster of clients - such as hair dressers, fitness trainers, life coaches, janitors, or landscape gardeners - is to offer a time-limited discount coupon or code from their Facebook Page. This encourages fans to become first-time buyers, or if they've bought from you before, it encourages them to book your services again soon.

Coupons can also be used to manage your workflow. For example, if Wednesdays are always quiet for your business, you could offer a coupon that can only be redeemed on Wednesdays.

Featuring special offers regularly on your Page, whether it's once a week, once a month or once a quarter, is a way of encouraging fans to frequently check-in to see your latest updates.

Now, let's look at some ways you can use your Facebook Page to reach out to potential clients.

Using Your Facebook Page as an Outreach Tool

One of the arguments for using Profiles over Pages for promoting your freelance business is that Profiles are better for networking. While it's true that Profiles are a good networking tool - particularly for sending one-to-one messages - Pages can also be used powerfully for public networking.

The aim of networking is to get your name out there and known among potential clients. When people know you, they trust you. So when they think "who should I hire to do this job?", you'll be one of the people who springs to mind. As such, this networking strategy is about using Facebook to get your name and business known and trusted among potential clients. I've used variations of this strategy to find a good proportion of my clients.

The strategy works best if it's targeted. Begin by creating a hit list of potential clients and influencers in your niche. I suggest limiting your list to ten people to start with. If you're unsure who to put on your list, do some research. Though it's Twitter-based, Listorious is an excellent search tool for finding influencers in a particular niche, many of whom will be on Facebook as well. Similarly, Twellow provides a Yellow Pages style directory of Twitter users.

Ideally, you want to choose Facebook Pages that are managed by the person who will hire you. As such, this strategy works best if your prospects are small businesses, social media marketing managers, or high profile individuals with a Facebook Page.

Once you've created your hit list:

  • Log-in to your Facebook Page and Like the Facebook Page of everyone on your hit list.
  • Leave valuable comments on the Page of every person in your hit list once or twice a week. These should contribute to the discussion, and should never be self promotional.
  • Share status updates from their Pages on your Page that are relevant to your audience.
  • Post updates to your Page in which you tag the Page of people on your hit list. For example, share a quote they've said, or use one of their success stories as a small case study. To tag someone, type "@" followed by their Page name.
  • Posting and tagging photos is even more powerful. For example, you could post the cover of a book written by someone on your hit list, tag it with their name, and explain in the photo caption how the book inspired you. If you've met someone on your hit list in person, post a photo of you together, tag it, and explain in the caption why you appreciated meeting them.
  • Show up outside Facebook. Follow your hit list on Twitter. Retweet and reply to their tweets. Comment on their blog. Connect on LinkedIn. Subscribe to their email list.
  • Once you get to know them, drop them an email to say hello. Ask a question, or share something valuable such as an article you know they'll enjoy.

As with all networking, the key is not to overpower your hit list with your constant presence. You'll scare them away if you do that. Rather, show up regularly in places where they'll be pleased to see you, because they know you're a helpful, positive person who appreciates their work.

Networking, even online, can be scary. But when you start - and begin to see the results - you'll be glad you moved past your fear. Not everyone you meet will become a client, but many will become friends and supporters. Now, take the plunge and start swimming!

How do you use Facebook to network with prospect and clients? Share your top tips in the comments.

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