Social media is well known for exponentially increasing the power of referrals and word of mouth marketing of products. However, business owners can use social media to find more consulting clients. Here are a few tips on how to use social media to generate a steady stream of clients.

Leverage Your Network

Sam Ovens of said in an Entrepreneur magazine article that too many entrepreneurs fail to use their existing network. In this article about Ovens, he said that many entrepreneurs already have a valuable network of contacts but neglect to leverage it. They go to networking events and trade shows seeking clients, but forget to ask friends and family for referrals or positive online reviews. Expand your personal network, too, by joining LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups based on your professional expertise. Your personal social media account will be granted access to these groups and let you connect with other professionals far sooner than your brand new business profile would.

If you still want to attend events or teach classes to demonstrate your expertise, use Facebook events to reach the broadest audience possible.

Build Your Personal Brand to Include the Professional Brand

Search engines give extra weight to websites that have been around for a while and so do potential clients. The solution for many small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs is to cultivate a personal brand built on your professional expertise using your existing social media profiles. This could lead to your first clients by simply letting your existing network know you’re in business and what you can do for them. If you don’t already have a personal brand, create one. If your personal digital footprint would scare away would be clients and customers, clean it up before you start attracting attention to yourself.

Utilise Business Directories

While few customers are searching through a physical phone book to find service providers, nearly everyone is searching the digital equivalent online. Put your business in every business directory, including a link to your business’ home page. This lets you use a business directory to create legitimate, high authority backlinks. Don’t forget to put links to your social media pages like your business’ Facebook page on the business directory listing for your firm, though this is secondary to a link to your home page.

Answer Questions without Selling Your Soul

Look at questions asked on sites like LinkedIn and Quora. If you can give a good introductory answer to someone’s question or problem while advising the need to consult with an expert for their particular situation, you can simultaneously promote your expertise and your business. Be careful not to write a long essay that eliminates their need to consult with a professional, since this could also reveal proprietary information. Think about the “ask a doctor” or “ask a nurse” columns available in the paper and online answering the question at a basic level and then refer someone to a specialist if that isn’t enough; they are giving up their time to do this because it results in leads.

A side benefit of answering questions on these sites is that it builds brand recognition on every site you’re contributing to and can be a good source of high quality backlinks to your website. You could use these user questions to create ideas for blogs you post on social media, as well as direct traffic to your blog.

Social media is one of the most powerful tools for consultants who want to further their brand and make a name for themselves. However, it could also as easily destroy your brand image and put you right back at square one. So, make sure that you apply the principles in this article if you want your social media efforts to work for you and not against.