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Why independent trainers need to use social media

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From Twitter to Yammer and Facebook to Flickr, the modern trainer shouldn't just dabble in social media, argues Judith Germain, they should whole heartedly embrace it.
Social networking is finally becoming a mainstream activity with many now holding Facebook and Twitter accounts. There is more to social media, however, than just networking and the whole gambit of ‘social’ technology should be considered by the professional trainer.
Social media transforms media messages from broadcast (one to many) to social conversations (many to many). Your media message is spread through the social interactions of others. It can be the basis of a good attraction strategy, one that brings you advocates and increased revenue.
Social media cannot be ignored even as it stands ready for the next innovation and for a professional independent trainer, commanding the social conversation around your chosen area is fast becoming a must. Many are saying that if you are not involved, your place in your chosen market will be quickly usurped by others who are already engaging in the social conversation.
One of the first things that independent trainers need to consider is how to leverage their reputation and demonstrate their expertise in their chosen area. The effective use of social media can help make this attainable.

Social media, not just a broadcast mechanism

A successful strategy sees individuals using social media as a way to broadcast their message, to start awareness of who they are in the fast moving conversations with your audience or followers. One of the biggest issues facing professional trainers is the ability to stand out from the crowd of other trainers and be seen as different. A common mistake when entering the social media foray is to start broadcasting your message to all and sundry – without defining your message and your uniqueness. There is no point in blasting out the message 'I'm a trainer' as you will soon be swamped by the messages of other trainers. By spending your time developing your message you will be able to use social media more effectively.
Twitter is an excellent example of broadcast to conversation media where you can build your reputation as an expert in your field. By limiting your messages to 140 characters Twitter encourages you to be succinct and add value to your audience. Professionals who use Twitter well tend to follow the formula: 80% of their messages are links to other experts, 10% personal and the final 10% business related to the professional. These individuals have large follower counts.
Whilst your customers may not be on Twitter, your advocates and referrers probably are which makes Twitter a useful mechanism to understand. Follower counts of over 5,000 are more advantageous to you when building your reputation. Real-time search will become more important in the forthcoming years. This means that when someone searches for you or your expertise, conversations on Twitter and other social media will rank higher than traditional websites or even blogs. Real-time search has the power to destroy all the time and effort you've put into search engine optimisation.
 

Social networks – a godsend for trainers?

Social networks have the dual ability to leverage your reputation and demonstrate your expertise if you have a successful networking strategy. You will need to be building and nurturing your reputation as an expert in your field on these networks as well as providing glimpses into your personality.
Business networks for the professional trainer can reap rewards in increased sales and referrals. By having conversations on these networks trainers can draw people towards them. A lot of these networks allow professionals to blog, post in forums and even advertise their services. Most of these sites have good 'Google Juice', which enables your musing and messages to be accessed anywhere in the world. Most buyers, corporate or otherwise, tend to look up their potential suppliers on the internet. If you cannot be found online then increasingly you are ceasing to exist.
A word of caution though, social networks have the capacity to damage your reputation. There are enough tales of woe of professionals posting inappropriate pictures or messages on sites such as Facebook and them being found by potential clients.

Social media - demonstrating expertise

Demonstrating expertise is still relevant even if the trainer works on an interim or fixed-term contract. Short videos of you presenting, articles and blogs in trade press and social networks as well as dynamic content on your websites all helps.
Use of LinkedIn is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and for potential clients to see how your previous clients rate your services. Social proofing in the buying cycle is still an important factor when decisions are being made.
In this day and age it's becoming increasingly important that we live out our professional lives on the web. If we aren't on the web we don't exist and potential clients lose confidence in our ability to meet the needs of the organisation. If you do not understand how to use these modern tools then find an expert to guide you through the process of setting up a strategy which you can easily implement in the time frame you have available to you whilst utilising your talents and expertise in the best way possible.
Social media coupled with social networking can often make the difference between being found and getting paid...
Judith Germain is founder, principal consultant and mentor of Dynamic Transitions a leadership company specialising in working with Troublesome Talent®, often called mavericks and improving leadership performance within organisations. Judith provides strategic mentoring, social media training and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit www.developing-leadership.com or email [email protected]

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