Eager to learn more about social media as she grew her executive coaching business, SixFigureStart, former Fortune 500 recruiter Caroline Ceniza-Levine began joining social media clubs.
One such group, The Social Media Club run by Suitcase Entrepreneur Natalie Sisson—a guru for those who run businesses that don’t use traditional office space—teaches members how to make better use of sites like Twitter. The club, for which membership costs $19 a month, lets each member submit one post a week to the rest of the group. In turn, group members are asked to circulate the post to their followers on social media. One’s weekly post must be about a topic of interest to the members, avoiding sales promotions and the like, according to Ceniza-Levine. “You have to be thoughtful about what it is,” she says.
In the two years that Ceniza-Levine has belonged to Sisson’s club, she has found that her increasing presence on Twitter has helped her attract more press mentions. She believes that her heightened visibility, in turn, contributed to winning a book deal.
When you’re busy running a business, it’s hard to set aside extra time to master social media. But as Ceniza-Levine has found, joining clubs like Sisson’s can be a great shortcut that can help you gather valuable knowledge and contacts as you build a following.
Find Your Tribe
Ceniza-Levine has found that joining a group called Savor the Success
, which advises like-minded women entrepreneurs who must be accepted to the group, has been a good way to round out her knowledge of branding, marketing and PR. While this group doesn’t bill itself as a social media club, membership comes with access to discussions in a virtual cafe—which Ceniza-Levine considers to be one of the most valuable benefits. Not only does she pick up tips she can use in her business through her regular visits there, but she also sees an uptick in attention on Twitter on the days she posts comments. “I get more retweets when I use the Twitter café,” she says.
Connections First, Deals Later
Eric Bryant, the Bedminster, N.J.–based director of the publicity firm Gnosis Media Group, has participated in and hosted many free Twitter chats on topics ranging from small business to innovation.
The etiquette in these forums is similar to that of social media clubs. The emphasis is on exchanging knowledge and making connections, not one trying to sell. “You start to develop online friendships,” he says. “Other members of the chat will refer business to you when they have a business opportunity or referral.” He should know. In the past five years, he’s won about 20 customers who needed services like having a press release written as a result of referrals from people he’s met on Twitter.
Meet in Real Life
With certain contacts you meet through social media clubs and the like, it will eventually make sense to meet in person. That’s what Ceniza-Levine did when she learned Sisson, a world traveling entrepreneur, was going to be in New York. Ceniza-Levine is now involved in one of Sisson’s projects. Without Twitter, Ceniza-Levine says, “I would never have made that contact.” Some groups that gather on Twitter for regular chats have a “clubby” aspect and encourage members to meet in person, notes Bryant. If you’re looking to expand your professional network, pay attention to announcements and get out there.
Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist and editorial consultant who specializes in small business, entrepreneurship and careers. A former editor at Fortune Small Business magazine, she has written recently for Fortune, Money, Crain’s New York Business, Working Mother and many other publications. She is co-founder of $200KFreelancer, a community for freelance professionals, and Endhousearrest.com, for homeowners looking to sell.