What exactly does a social media consultant DO, anyhow?

Since announcing yesterday that my doors are open to social media business, several friends and potential clients have written to me asking, so what does that mean you actually do?

Like most consulting positions, social media consulting can mean a lot of different things. Consultants provide a huge range of services and their prices fall across the board. But me? I’m looking to help businesses and organizations use social media to extend their reach.

My services fall generally into two categories:

1. For businesses who don’t have the time and/or the know-how to use social media themselves, I help them create a plan and then implement it for them. Could be as simple as growing a following on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, or a more in-depth online community-building strategy. It all depends on your specific goals and budget.

2. For businesses who know how to use social media or want to learn, I help them figure out which networks and strategies will be most effective for their goals and how to leverage them effectively. I can tailor a plan, talk with you over the phone and leave you to implement it (with optional follow-ups), or I can coach you through implementing that plan if you’re starting from scratch with social media. A lot of my ideas revolve around social networks, but I also help with blogging, finding customers in forums, etc.

I’m also available to write press releases and reach out to appropriate media for businesses that would benefit from some more traditional marketing.

If what you need falls outside these categories, that doesn’t mean I can’t help you! By all means, drop me a note, let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll give you an idea of how much it would cost. Since I’m just starting to turn this into a business, I’m willing to size the scope of your project to your budget. Especially for small businesses and organizations with financial restraints, I recognize that working with you to make my services affordable helps us both.

My e-mail: alexiskgrant@gmail.com

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Want to help me succeed? Post this on Facebook, tweet it or tell a friend who might want to hire me! Thanks, y’all!

I’m open for social media business!

My job hunt has taken an unexpected turn. A good one.

Though I’ve applied mostly for journalism positions, plus a few other writing-heavy jobs, something different keeps falling into my lap: social media gigs.

I resisted it at first. I see “social media consulting” and immediately think snake-oil salesman. I mean, who really needs someone to help their company with social media? Everyone knows how to do this stuff!

But everyone, apparently, doesn’t. Look at the job boards, and you’ll see tons of social-media positions. (Mashable Jobs is my favorite social-media-heavy board.) Lots of companies that want to expand their client base through social media don’t have the know-how or the time to do it.

These positions keep finding me. Here’s one example: I applied for a writing/editing position with an international organization. The woman in charge of hiring wrote me an e-mail saying that yes, I looked qualified for the Web-writing position, but what they’d really noticed on my resume was my social media skills. Would I be interested in a job along those lines?

Now, social media is on my resume, but I hadn’t exactly highlighted it. Mostly because I didn’t realize how much I could leverage my experience in this field. Yeah, blogging and building online communities and using all sorts of social networks is part of my daily life. I use those tools because they help me accomplish what I need. I ran the @freeroxana Twitter campaign because I thought it was an important cause. I created a Ning group for writers of travel memoir because I saw a gap in the writing community. I figured out the ins-and-outs of using social media for networking because it helped me with my job hunt. I put that experience on my resume because I thought it made me more marketable all-around, not because I expected an employer to hire me specifically for those skills.

But small businesses and organizations are offering to pay me to build online communities. C’mon. How can I say no to that? I’m excited to help them!

On top of that, it seems that all the press releases I threw into my trash as a journalist are now coming in handy. For small businesses looking to build online communities with the end goal of finding new clients, it turns out I have something else to offer: I can write a damn good press release, and I’m smart about figuring out who to send it to. I’m an affordable one-woman social-media-slash-media-relations band! Who would’ve thought?

So I’ve started taking on clients. And thanks to this bridge-builder we call the Internet, they can be in the next town over or across the country. I’m not jumping off the job search train just yet, but this might have the potential to turn into a full-blown business.

If you know a small company or organization who wants to extend their reach and needs help doing it, you know where to send ’em.

If you’re in the social media biz too, I’d love to hear from you.

Conference takeaway: It’s all about how you tell the story

I had an Ah-Ha! Moment at the Compleat Biographers Conference this weekend. (Yes, there might be a biography in my future. But I’m not ready to share details yet.)

We’ve all been told a million times that the success of a book depends on how the author tells the story. It doesn’t depend on the plot, although a good plot helps. It doesn’t depend on the topic, although a popular topic helps, too. It depends on your voice, your story arc and the narrative you create.

Biography is a perfect example of that. Why? Because some biographies have been written dozens of times. How many authors have written about Lincoln, Jane Austen or Marilyn Monroe? A lot. But each one found a new way to tell the story.

This is something I didn’t really understand when I started writing my travel memoir. I thought my book’s premise — what it’s like to backpack solo through Africa as a woman — would interest readers and draw an audience. But having a good premise isn’t enough. It’s got to be an awesome story. One with a beginning, middle and end. One with character growth. As literary agent Susan Rabiner said during one of the panels, “Nobody wants a history of a life. Nobody wants you aggregating. They want an authorial voice.” In other words, it’s all about what you can bring to the table — not some cool thing that Lincoln did. It’s all about how you tell the story.

Other tips I learned at the conference:

Be creative with your book proposal. Author Robert Kanigel suggested giving yourself freedom and creativity in format, and Rabiner backed him up on this. Yes, every proposal needs certain components. But your main task is to explain why you want to write the book, and you can do that in a unique way. Kanigel once wrote a proposal in the form of a letter. Whether or not a proposal is in letter format when you submit, Rabiner said starting out that way can help authors who feel intimidated by the proposal-writing process, whose writing is stiff or lacking authentic voice. A letter that explains the merits of the book, written to your agent or your publisher like she’s your best friend, can help you find your groove.

Add this to your reading list. Editor Helen Atsma suggested The Lost City of Z as a refreshing way to tell a biographical tale. Anybody read this one?

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