Interviewer’s Note: During my interview with Michelle, who runs the Virtual Miss Friday service, she used an interesting term: “social proof.” I was curious how she defined it, and I think she did a beautiful job eliciting the importance of what every social media user needs to keep in mind when trying to figure out how to build relationships with their followings.
Hello Michelle! Welcome to the Pluggio Blog! In a nutshell, how do you describe your business? What do you do for your clients?
In a nutshell I provide business support services online, these services include:
- Consulting and Project Management
- Online Administrative & Customer Support
- Website Build and Development
- Graphics and Creative Design
- Social Media Management
- Content Management and Search Engine Optimisation
I work with clients based on their demand for my services; this might be a one-off project, adhoc ‘as-and-when’ style assignments, and ongoing retainer agreements for long-term reliable support.
How did you get started in this field?
After I left the UK in 2005 and started travelling, I quickly discovered that I was enjoying myself too much to go back, and I needed to be able to earn an income and make a living for myself. I didn’t want to stay static so taking a regular job was out of the question, plus not speaking the native language (I was in Egypt at the time) made it even harder, so I started researching online into how I could possibly run a business via the Internet. After a lot of research and debating, I decided to start a business as a virtual assistant.
What role does Twitter play in your business?
Twitter has been paramount to my business for 2 reasons: The first is being able to generate a steady stream of leads and clients through connection and interaction. It wasn’t until a few years after I has started my business that Twitter really took off and it instantly changed my ability to reach out to a larger net of people, which otherwise was restricted.
The second is reputation and credibility. Social proof is essential in online business, especially these days.
That’s an interesting term: “Social proof.” What do you mean by that?
By staying active, building a following and interacting on a daily basis, I can stay on the map, and people can easily see I am a genuine human being. I also offer social media services, so by developing and maintaining my own Twitter account to a high standard, it gives clients the opportunity to see what I am capable of.
What impact or change have you seen due to Twitter/social marketing?
A BIG one, when I started my business in 2005 I had never even considered something like Twitter was possible. Then when it came on the scene I noticed on a networking site someone has a little message on their profile “follow me on Twitter” – when I clicked the link and saw all the people talking to eachother via @replies, it was like instant messaging only on a massive scale. I quickly became interested, and kept up-to-date with the latest trends. Once people started introducing software for following and managing accounts that’s the point where I saw an opening in the market for offering a marketing service, so I dedicated someone in my company to investigating how this could be used as a marketing tool.
Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?
Absolutely, I now get people contacting me on Twitter because they are looking for a social media virtual assistant and have rarely ever been able to find one with nearly 35,000 followers. I am proud that I have built up a reputation in social media for not just ‘talking the talk,’ but also ‘walking the walk.’ I now primarily use social media as the only method of marketing consistently and I have formulated strategies and techniques to build businesses for my clients, and it’s wonderful seeing the results they achieve from my efforts.
How do Twitter/social media help you achieve your goals?
Twitter allows me to build connections quicker than any other social media tool out there. This is instrumental to developing my business and expanding my client base. I can instantly reach out to people around the world and often will do experiments on how quickly I can locate potential business. Like the one on this blog post http://www.virtualassistant-live.com/how-to-find-your-first-client-today-using-the-beta-testing-technique-with-a-real-life-example/
How did you build your following? What kinds of people/businesses are they?
I work with a variety of different clients, so I can keep an open mind about who I interact with. Generally I will pay closer attention to independent professionals such as Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Reverends, Internet Marketers, Personal Trainers, Interior Designers, Coaches, Event Planners, Consultants, Entrepreneurs etc…
How will you choose who you will follow? What do you look for in a follower?
I look for high quality people to follow, generally they need to be active and have tweeted in the last few days and they need to have their profile completed with a picture so it shows they care about their account. The real aim more than anything with Twitter is to find real, genuine people, when I find these people I’ll also take a look at who they are following.
If you could go back to when you first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently?
I would have instantly gone down the personal branding route instead of trying to ‘social media’ my company. Over the years my business has evolved and so has social media, I have shifted my focus from marketing a ‘company’ to marketing ‘myself’ and things really changed for me when I did that, my social media became more effective, and viral. If you want to really make it, and you’re not a massive company like Coca-Cola, then go for personal branding and real human interaction. Otherwise it’s like sending a machine out to find potential clients.
What does Twitter do for you that nothing else can do?
It allows me to get the word out about my products and services fast and to a large volume of people. I also use Facebook and LinkedIn, but nothing compares to Twitter for speed, efficiency and masses of eyes on what you have to say.
What lessons have you learned about Twitter and online marketing?
There are no shortcuts to anything online, building a social media presence takes time, energy and dedication. On the one hand it can be a complete waste of time if you think you can automate the whole thing with RSS feeds and promotional scheduled updates every 5 minutes, but on the other hand, if every day you build on it, every day you keep sowing, every day you connect with new people, and every day you tell the world a little bit more about yourself and how you can help people, that’s every day you take another step closer to securing the future of your business. Those aren’t just your followers, they are your potential customers and advocates.
Follow Michelle on Twitter here.
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