On January 12th I will be presenting on the topic "Social Media for Consultants" to the Nonprofit Consultants Network at the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Management in San Rafael, CA (if you are a consultant to nonprofits in the SF Bay Area I strongly encourage you to check it out - CVNL's Peer Affinity Groups).
As a huge fan of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's The Networked Nonprofit book, it has been interesting to look through that lens and see how it applies to consultants. Consultants usually don't fundraise for themselves and they are are not trying to engage supporters in the way most nonprofits do. In my experience, as a consultant I focus on keeping my skills up to date, networking, finding prospects/clients and managing my reputation. I think that is true for most consultants.
So how do The Networked Nonprofit principles translate for consultants? Some of the things that resonated with me from the book are:
Sharing Ideas - prospective clients and colleagues need to know what I am thinking about, working on and what types of advice I give to have confidence in hiring/recommending me. The old model of consulting seemed to be to not give anything away without compensation, but I think it is important to give people a taste of my skills and knowledge for free. Social media allows me to easily share tips and thoughts, both my own and those of others I admire (like Beth , Allison and many others).
Relationship Building as Core Responsibility - Everyone I come into contact with online is a potential referrer if not client or colleague. An important component of building relationships is acknowledging, appreciating and thanking people who mention me, quote me, thank me or give me props. It takes 15 seconds to say "Thank You!" I also try to be sure to share/retweet what others post if I think it is of value to those that follow me.
The Right Metrics - Just as tracking online metrics is important to a nonprofit, it is important for me as a consultant to track which channels and content work best for me. Looking back on my website stats for 2010, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are in the top ten of sites referring traffic. This also means seeing what Facebook posts get the most comments/likes and what tweets get retweeted the most.
Some of the other concepts they discuss also have relevance for consultants online presence, like "Listen First, Engage Second", "Content has a Social Life" and "Small Pilots - Learn, Reiterate".
Though consultants may have different aims online, may of the same excellent practices and habits that are effective for nonprofits work equally well for consultants.