Most people who know the name John Salmons think of the 13-year NBA career that spanned Philadelphia, Sacramento, Chicago, Milwaukee, Toronto and New Orleans, culminating in an impressive total as high as 18.9 points per game.

Today, however, he's accomplished an even bigger feat by pivoting to entrepreneurship.

Salmons advises or invests in a number of ventures under his umbrella company, John Salmons Enterprises. His portfolio includes Midici Pizza, homes built from storage containers (Three Squared Inc.), Ufan8 karaoke, and the Fancheer app designed to bring brand engagement to sports.

Whether the game is basketball or business, Salmon's rules for success are the same.

Initially, as a new entrepreneur, Salmon was reluctant to build his visibility in social media. Today, however, he has amassed a following of 45,000.

I sat down to talk with him about how he did it, how he surmounted his privacy concerns, and most importantly, how he's using his social media strength to advance his business:

Conner: What led you to feel more comfortable being open on venues like Facebook?

Salmon: My brand management team was doing a great job growing my numbers. However, I noticed that engagement would go up and down.

After a while, what I realized was my team was just trying to do the best they could taking dated content and making it inspirational. I decided to shift gears and do weekly calls to discuss my current thoughts on various issues and what was going on in my life.

Immediately, there was a big jump in engagement because the message felt more authentic and relevant. I covered topics ranging from who I thought were the best athletes of all time, to various social issues, and sharing the content of the admissions letter I received from the University of Miami's MBA program.

What did you do to take your Facebook page following to 45,000, and have you seen a specific business uptick from that?

My team and I focused on targeting the audience that would be most receptive to what I had to say. We looked at geographically targeting the areas where I played for those teams in the NBA, followed teams I played on, and were interested in entrepreneurship.

For each post we do micro-targeting, meaning that based on the content of the specific post, we target people who are most interested in that content.

If I am writing about Kobe Bryant, for example, we target people who like Kobe Bryant. When I posted about the Olympics, we targeted people who like the Olympics. When I started my new franchise, we targeted people who like the franchise or who like the franchise concept in general.

Do you have any experiences in social media that went less well than you'd hoped, and how did you deal with that?

I wasn't a fan of social media when I played because I thought it was just nonsense. I've come to love Facebook because of the ability to build community and engage in meaningful ways.

I'm still adjusting to Twitter. The 140 characters is limiting and doesn't mesh with my personality, so I've made the decision to let my team really manage that more directly while Facebook is the medium I use best to communicate the things I'm thinking about.

I also love LinkedIn because it allows me to focus on business activities and network with great people I can potentially do business with. I've met potential partners and even people who I think will become personal friends on LinkedIn.

Was all this growth organic or was some fostered in other ways, and if so, what's his opinion of that, pro or con?

It has all been organic.

And what are you hoping to do with this following next?

It took several months to develop the brand, and seeing the social media reaction has played a big role in informing me how the marketplace saw me. We want social media to be a way to communicate and get engagement around my key business ventures and the philanthropic things I do in the future.

Salmon's four biggest tips for fellow entrepreneurs:

1. Everyone curates content. But don't overdo it. Curated content should just be only a small portion of your social media mix. Instead, focus on developing and posting original content from your own thoughts and experiences.

People love to engage--it's what makes social media unique. Branding is about developing an emotional connection with your target audience.

How can you do that if you are just re-purposing the content of others?

2. While you can use a social media team, make sure you are engaged and that your voice is accurately reflected. You know why people like you, so don't propel them away by being disengaged. It will only waste money and hurt you.

3. You don't have to be present on every social media outlet. Determine which outlets you like the most (and that your audience likes most). It is more important to be great at a few outlets than mediocre across multiple sites.

4. Micro-target each post. Most people develop a target audience one time, which they continue to use for every "boost." But on platforms like Facebook, you should create a target audience for each post, based on the content involved. This allows you to maximize your engagement and your potential audience.

A well-written post can increase your following and engagement and demonstrates that you have a thriving social media presence which is attractive to the people you have not yet engaged.

All of these ideas are applicable for entrepreneurs. If you are not yet heavily involved in social media, perhaps Salmons' ideas can inspire your own next pivot as well.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
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