How to Use Social Media to Build a Referral Economy
Social media is certainly a double-edged sword. As the Internet of Things is the closest humanity has gotten to a true democracy, we want to do our best to time others' sharing of opinions for when they are pleased with us--not just when they've something to complain about. With about 55 percent of people consulting social media before making a purchase, it stands to be one of the most important ways for you to build a referral economy for your business.
That's where developing and nurturing a social media sharing plan is crucial. By the end of this, you will know the best time to ask for a social share, how to persuade people to share for you, and some neat tools that help you do it all.
Ask them when they're happy
Did you just finish a project for a very satisfied customer? Now's your moment to ask them to pay it forward. If you have them on the phone, you can straight up ask them. Try something like:
"I'm glad you like our service. Do you happen to known anyone else who could benefit from working with us?"
- or -
"What would you think about maybe mentioning us in your next newsletter?"
But, more and more, conversations are falling wayside to emails and projects completed in third-party apps. It sucks that you lose some of the personal contact with your clients, but that does offer you the opportunity to automate turning your clients into your very own brand ambassadors. The easiest thing to automate and the simplest level of referral to get someone to agree to is sharing your business on social media.
With Quote Roller's proposal app, when you're notified via email or the app that your business proposal was accepted, you're given the option of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook social shares, with the optimized text shown below. Not only does this trick enable your clients to share your business with the keywords you know work, you can set it up to automatically share their affiliate links, via which they earn 20 percent commission on any signups. Whenever you can make it mutually beneficial, you not only have a higher likelihood of sharing, you create a symbiotic long-term relationship.
Plus, by only asking them to share when they are happy -- like when their business proposal was just accepted -- you aren't bugging them when they are less than happy.
Offer a reward
You don't need a big stick to get them to share, but you can definitely offer them a carrot. Just today, when I had given a perfect review to one of the many freelancers I work with on Elance, they offered me three different calls to action: I could rehire that guy, I could pay him a bonus, or I could share Elance with my social media and email contacts. The first two would inevitably cost our company more money, while still increasing Elance's commission, and I'd have to process some more paperwork; the last option not only is free to me, but it could get a nice coupon to go towards hiring another Elancer. Plus, with all my social media able to pop up with a click of a finger, it's just the easiest of options. The simpler you make social media sharing, particularly working with third-party plug-ins that keep folks logged into their social media longer, the easier it is on you.
Of course, the cheaper it is for you, the better too. Elance follows the brilliant gift card scheme stores have been following for decades. If you buy a gift card, you either are not going to spend all that money or you are going to spend more than the card is worth -- either way, win-win for the store. Or look at the Express' or Victoria Secret's monthly gift certificates in the mail. You can't really use that much discounted underwear, but they keep you coming back for more because you don't want to waste that deal.
Or use sharing as a way to simply encourage new customers to explore what you have to offer. Dropbox made a name for itself by giving you extra space when you refer a friend. PandaDoc gives you five free documents to send when you get your referral on. And both make it easy to shout it loud on your social media.
Some Tools to Ease Your Social Sharing
As much as you want to make it easy for your customers to refer you, you want to make it easy for you to make it easy for your customers to refer you. That's where resources like Ambassador are just priceless. They are a system that helps you convert your clients into brand ambassadors, doing it all for you. Want to create an affiliate program where your referring clients earn commission? They'll automate the setup and payout for you. Plus, they act as a customer relationship manager (CRM) for your affiliates and value-added resellers (VARs.)
So often do I see websites with broken social sharing buttons. Add-This is a great and easy resource to give you the code for all your different social sharing buttons. Or you can use this simple Share Link Generator to customize the message your clients will share on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and GooglePLUS.
So what are you waiting for? Start using social media as a free way to build that referral economy today!
Follow Jennifer Riggins on Twitter