Social media can be a great way to make useful connections with fellow virtual assistants or potential clients. Matthew Brown explains how to build a following.

Twitter and Facebook may seem daunting for beginners. It can take a long time for anyone to find and follow your profiles – unless you put a little effort into it.

Create a proper profile

It’s worth taking the time to create a decent profile. Fill out the biography sections. Describe briefly what you do, or what your business does.

If you are setting up a Twitter account under your own name, rather than under your business name, it may be a good idea to include your hobbies and interests in your profile. Set your location as your local town or city.

On Facebook, the ‘Page’ function for business use allows you to keep your company’s profile separate from your personal account. Pages can be customised to include company logos and all sorts of interactive features.

Be clear about what your business does. Also use a good profile photograph – professionally taken, if possible.

Follow interesting people

Follow as many people as you can at first. If your newsfeed becomes cluttered, you can always un-follow a few users.

Search for your existing business contacts, and follow well-known figures from your industry. Find people in your local area. You’ll quickly work out who posts interesting updates, and who posts worthless nonsense.

Follow popular users

Some celebrities use Twitter and Facebook prolifically, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. Following celebrities such as Stephen Fry can be worthwhile, as one unexpected RT could boost your followers and business without costing a penny. Don’t expect them to follow you back, though.

Be interesting and add value

The food you ate for breakfast may seem interesting, but no one else is going to care. When writing a Facebook status or a tweet, think of something that others will find valuable.

That doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time. Some of the best social media accounts mix personal with professional, and serious with light-hearted.

Share links you find interesting, tweet industry news, tell jokes, update people about the services you offer, and re-tweet good posts by other people. Try not to sell to people directly, as it might make them think you are a spammer.

Show people that you are an interesting and valuable voice amongst the background noise.

Update regularly

Posting frequently helps attract followers, so try to get into the habit of using social media every day.

Various online services can help with this. Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com//) is a free online application that allows you to update all sorts of social media profiles, including Twitter and Facebook, from the same place. Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) offers a similar service.

Buffer (http://bufferapp.com/) for Twitter makes it easy to build up a ‘buffer’ of tweets, which it will then automatically post to your profile throughout the day or week – ideal for keeping your profile fresh on busy days.

Interact

Talking to people is the whole point of social media, and a great way to gain followers.

On Twitter, the monitor relevant search terms and hashtags (tweets tagged with # followed by a relevant word), and join in the conversation. Discuss the hot topics in your industry.

You could start a regular hashtag chat on a different topic at a set time each week – for example, people in the PR industry discuss communications subjects by tagging tweets with #commschat. How about #VAchat?

If someone asks a question – by @ mentioning you – reply to them. Ask questions of your own. It is a great way to get feedback. The ‘Discussion’ tab on a Facebook Page is useful for this.

If you watch popular TV shows such as The Apprentice (#apprentice or #bbcapprentice), Newsnight (#newsnight), or The Only Way is Essex (#towie), join in the chat on Twitter. Light-hearted banter can gain re-tweets and followers, and sharing an opinion makes your profile appear more human.

Link to profiles

Add links to your social media profiles to your own website, and wherever else you can be found on the web. If you write for an industry publication or blog, try to include links to your profiles in the article.

Hopefully, as your following grows, some of those connections could turn into something beneficial to your business or career.

Matthew Brown

Follow Matthew on Twitter at twitter.com/mattbrown01

Find him on Facebook

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