sue-140
For Small Business Week, we've asked Canadian small business owners to share their experiences with using social media to create buzz and interact with clients.

Susan Crossman is a freelance copywriter and author in Oakville, Ont. Her small business is Crossman Communication.

I initially began working as a freelancer in 1992, although I took time off for the birth of my two youngest children and to look after my husband as he made the agonizing journey to his death from stomach cancer in 2008.

At that point I faced the daunting prospect of raising two young children alone.  I realized I needed to generate a reasonable income fairly quickly and I also believed that online commerce would ultimately emerge as the predominant way of doing business. As a result, I threw myself into learning about social media marketing and search engine optimization.

madeincanadapromo

SPECIAL REPORT: Small Business

Coverage of the latest small business news, trends and issues, as well as advice from experts on everything from starting and marketing a business, to managing staff and improving the bottom line.

I've used social media primarily to build my reputation as an experienced writer and communicator. When people hire a freelancer, they want some comfort around reliability and integrity and social media is an excellent way to let people get to know more about me in a graceful and unpressured way. I am currently active on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Cinch.fm, an audio blogging site. I also blog every two weeks. 

So far this year, 54 per cent of my income has been derived directly from four businesses that have found me through my social media efforts. Two of these organizations are based in Europe, one is a Canadian multinational corporation and the other is a Canadian-based small business.

Another 20 per cent of my income has been generated by contacts that were influenced by my social media identity. They are all based in the GTA.

Making connections

Another less quantifiable -- but still substantial -- benefit has been the fact that I was able to connect with the publisher of my first novel through social media. There were a number of rare circumstances involved so it might not work for everyone, but the upshot was that "Shades of Teale" will be released at the end of November!

I keep my tone professional, but  friendly, online.  I'm also mindful of the need to provide my networks with solid information that doesn't revolve solely around me. So although I invite people to check out my own links, I also share the great resources other people have available. 

There is still a lot I'd like to learn and there are undoubtedly better ways to leverage my online real estate -- but I'm happy with how things are going and the whole experience is also a lot of fun.

Advice I would give to a small business owner: jump in and stick with it. It's all very overwhelming in the beginning and it takes time for results to come in. Consistency and a solid strategy are key.

I'd also suggest people focus on engaging, as well as building, their network. People do business with people they like and they won't find out whether you'd be a good fit for their own needs if you don't share.