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In last month's column, I discussed the use of social media to build credibility, trust and confidence in the marketplace.

I also mentioned that organizations such as pizza parlours, bars, restaurants and golf courses are using social media as revenue generators, which raised an important question from readers: How do the rest of us, who don't run restaurants or golf courses, grow using social media?

Social media are great communications tools that help build relationships and assist in the exchange of information. However, for many of us, social media cannot be considered direct revenue generators.

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It appears there's not enough focus on the overarching strategy.

Tell me how to use it

Some companies open a social-media account, add targeted followers, send them messages and then they make money. But it's not realistic for most businesses.

For the rest of us there are two ways to use social media:

• Build a reputation by listening, responding and sharing.

• Integrate it into a strategic sales and marketing campaign that promotes an offering.

A reputation-building tool for professionals

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If you're a professional who has specialized knowledge in any field, whether it's marketing, human resources, sales, or even plumbing, you should be using social media to grow. Not to grow revenue, but to grow in influence by improving credibility, trust and confidence in the marketplace.

By delivering good content and connecting with people who want to hear your message, you're developing a reputation and social media is a great tool to help you spread that message through mass collaboration.

That reputation is extremely valuable because after many years and thousands of hours of investment, you can leverage that reputation by providing offerings your community can use to make their lives better.

Getting to that point takes discipline and many years of effort as demonstrated by the success of Gary Vaynerchuk.

If Gary did it why can't you?

Mr. Vaynerchuk became famous for being one of the early adopters of social media. He used a combination of Twitter and a video blog to grow his influence in the wine industry. After many years of investment in his reputation he managed to grow his parents' wine store from a $1 million annual business to a $50 million one.

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He didn't use social media as a revenue generator. He used it as one tactic to communicate with the market. His strategy was to build his reputation and to become the world's foremost authority on wine.

It was the decision to become an authority that brought people to him. It was his investment in educating the market that built his reputation. And it was social media, along with other tactics, that communicated his messages and allowed him to interact with the rest of the world.

Offerings and integrated sales and marketing campaigns

Another way to use social media is to leverage it as a communications tool within an integrated sales and marketing campaign.

Before developing a campaign you need an offering the marketplace wants or needs. Webinars or teleconferences are great options because you're not trying to sell the farm. You're trying to educate the market with a compelling presentation or a proposition and a webinar is a great way to do it.

To get the word out you might use direct mail, landing pages, advertising, e-mail, phone calls and, of course, social media.

Social media along with the other tactics will help spread the core message of what you're bringing to market. But it's important to note what's generating revenue is not the individual communication tactic. Instead it's the complete package that includes the webinar and the integrated sales and marketing campaign.

Something to think about

Is social media the revenue generator or is it your reputation that will ultimately bring in the revenue?

Is social media the revenue generator or is it your offering within an integrated sales and marketing campaign that generates the revenue?

What are you going to put your time and effort into? Spending infinite amounts of time in social media or spending your time on building credibility, trust and confidence in the marketplace, or building valuable offerings the marketplace needs?

Focus on building your reputation – that's valuable. Focus on educating the marketplace and spreading the word with a strategic sales and marketing campaign – that's valuable.

Once you have the first two, all of a sudden social media becomes a lot more powerful and more valuable for you and your community.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes that many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, that many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don't translate into positive results, and that all three groups are too comfortable following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts to resurrect the impact of marketing.

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About the Author
Innovation and Growth Enabler

Ryan Caligiuri is a growth strategist who works with companies in hyper-competitive marketplaces that want to increase leads and demand to fill their pipeline, that need help breaking into or taking control of already established markets, when there's a need to create more revenue streams or a need to become more influential in the marketplace. More

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