Social media is magicWriter Susan Crossman of Crossman Communications went from not having to work hard to needing to drive serious business to her door.

With focus, training and active participation in social media, she can now be choosy about clients. She spends about an hour each morning tending to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, a process she calls gardening. “It’s a fair time commitment, but it pays off,” she promises.

Non-profit consultant and admitted geek Amy Sept of Nimbyist Communications has made social media part of her daily life for years.

She started using Twitter as a way to meet people, knowing that being a military spouse will mean regular moves. As well as meeting people in her personal and professional lives, she’s also found social media to be a great tool for networking and professional development.

Digital marketing and social media specialist Andrew Schiestel of tbk creative has been using social media since he was a teenager, starting with popular online role-playing game Everquest.

He believes the power of social media comes when we can find a way to digitally replicate our social relationships. His stories included a $100 giveaway and a “Take your body back” Facebook campaign joined by 5,000 women.

The trio shared their experiences and advice at a panel discussion on Using social media to grow your business, put on by IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators. Here are a couple of other takeaways from “the gardener, the geek and the giver,” as they were dubbed by meeting coordinator Patricia Davies:

Benefits of being active in social media

  • Susan admits that “you can get lost in there [social media] all day” but the results are well worth it. She has been hired by new clients, found new opportunities, stayed top of mind and even found a publisher for her first novel, Shades of Teale.
  • Amy says every business lead has come to her through social media, including contracts with two clients through Twitter.
  • For Andrew, blogging has led to new business, improved search engine optimization and has helped win accounts when the prospective client has “seen a side of tbk Creative they may not see in an RFP.”

DOs and DON’Ts

  • Do keep active in the channels you choose.
  • Do use scheduling to tweet or post during periods where you might not be active online, but check in at least once during the day.
  • Do have a purpose and goals for your online participation.
  • Do figure out your ideal clients and where you might find them.
  • Do keep your content professional.
  • Don’t talk about yourself all the time.
  • Don’t do/say anything digitally that you wouldn’t do/say in person at an event; someone is sure to notice! Ask yourself, “Would I be OK if this was in the paper tomorrow?”
  • Don’t focus on building numbers, but instead check if you are building value and making meaningful contacts.

Susan was the one who called social media “magic,” saying her blog went from no responses to regularly generating emails and calls. “It has really worked beautifully for me,” she said.

How about you? Are you using social media to good effect? What other benefits have you seen?

Related posts:
How freelancers can use LinkedIn
Making the most of LinkedIn
Tips for keeping up with social media
How often do you tweet?

Image: Helico and Creative Commons.