Illustration by Marc Scheff

3 rules for successful social media marketing

Social networking can be a great marketing tool if you follow three basic rules:

  1. Be good
  2. Be nice, and
  3. Have a high signal-to-noise ratio

If you put out good work, people might pass it on. If you’re nice, people will feel comfortable contacting you. If they go to your social web and find good, on-topic content, they might follow you – creating a larger audience for your good work. And the cycle, ideally, continues.

Social networking is not a panacea. If your work isn’t up to scratch, you’re mean and you tweet 20 times a day about your favorite snacks, social networking will not help.

But done right, social networking can effectively lower the barriers between your work and potential clients. Here are a few ideas on fitting social networking into your successful business strategy.

© Illustration by Marc Scheff

The IRL (In Real Life)

Because it’s so easy to have a wide online circle, the face-to-face is a much rarer – and therefore more memorable – experience. A face-to-face can also put a client at ease; art directors are flooded with submissions, and that personal interaction can help you float to the top (if you follow rules No 1. and 2).

Illustrators Alex Hart, Noah Bradley and Aaron Miller have all shared stories with me about face-to-face introductions at events or conferences, and how that gave them the recognition they needed with potential clients. When they followed up on Facebook or with an email, each told me, that personal interaction helped convince the client to follow up with actual work.

The Kick-Starter

© Illustration by Marc Scheff, from Babies First Book of Zombies.

I recently used the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to fund a small print run for a self-published kids’ book. The author and I linked to our project on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ maybe twice a day, not a hundred. We reached out to a few friends with large followings and asked if they wouldn’t mind tweeting it.

Within two days we got a cold call from the man who’s now our agent. He loved the project and loved that we landed 300 percent of our targeted funding goal. Thanks to the social web, we have an agent pushing our project and a book pitch in front of publishers – people we could never reach on our own.

The Casual Conversion

© Illustration by Tim Piotrowski for InsideCouncil

Anyone can be a client, so review Rules No. 1 and 2 again. Tim Piotrowski worked a temp gig at McGraw Hill in Chicago and got along well with one of his coworkers. A year later they reconnected on Facebook. He had posted his illustrations on his profile – his personal page, not some fan page that people have to “like.” He didn’t know his friend was now an art director at a magazine with an illustration budget, but because he “friended” her, she saw his work and has given him a few regular commissions.

The Fourth Thing

Fourth, but not least: Make a clear decision on who you are, personally and professionally and support that identity with your social media content. This is where your signal must overcome the noise.

Potential clients will see you, and effective marketing means making it clear what they’re seeing. For example, on my social media sites, I keep my personal posts very limited and stick to content I don’t mind clients seeing.

If you follow the rules, there are lots of ways social networking can be an effective marketing tool. Just remember what Michael Pollan might say: Post good content. “Not too much.” Mostly creative stuff.

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