Unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you have witnessed the explosion of social media as a tool for marketing, networking and branding in new and exciting ways. What started out as a few different methods for communicating and sharing online with friends and family has spawned entirely new occupations, from social media marketers to brand management organizations to software applications for everything from backing up your social media profile to monitoring your brand online.
Word of mouth marketing has been redefined, arming customers with the ability to propel a good or bad consumer experience into the viral limelight and customer service representatives with the chance to respond instantaneously to praise or complaints that mention their name.
Now with the recent addition of real-time results to major search engines, the level of potential exposure for brands and businesses and even people by name has dramatically increased. All you have to do is type a brand name into Google’s search box to see the ramifications this can have.
In this post we’ll share some of the misuses of social media that can damage your freelancing brand.
Profile Branding Fail
When you set up your various social media accounts, it is critical to brand them uniformly and professionally. Your avatar, profile background, and any other editable essentials MUST represent your freelance business in a way that ties in with your website and logo and any other existing elements of your brand. If you don’t do this not only are you missing an opportunity to promote your brand, but any potential contacts or clients who visit your social media profiles will most likely dismiss you as someone who doesn’t take your business seriously. Just as you would with any other marketing you do for your freelance business, invest the time –- and possibly money –- it takes to do this correctly.
It’s been said before but I believe we all need to be reminded, especially for those who are just starting out. Before you create your “social media marketing strategy” that will help you conquer the online world and propel your freelance business into global domination, remember that just because you’ve signed up a bunch of new fans to your Facebook page or gained some followers on Twitter, it doesn’t give you permission to bombard them with your self-promotion. Sure, lots of people are doing it, but those that are most successful in social media tend to have something in common: they promote and communicate with others far more than they promote themselves, their business, their blog or their services. Rather than repeatedly spew an endless stream of links to your website or latest blog post every 15 minutes, try building a reputation for yourself as someone who is interested in others, willing to help, offers resources and engages in conversation. This will strengthen your brand and make your freelance business attractive to potential clients.
If the extent of your social media involvement is to automatically update your various channels with your most recent blog post or RSS feeds or resource links without any interaction whatsoever, you will have a hard time increasing and possibly even maintaining your audience of followers, fans or friends. There are arguments for and against automating your social media involvement, but you will injure your brand if you fail to engage in communication and conversation with others. If you insist on automating your updates, make sure to check in regularly enough to interact with comments and questions your updates may inspire. Otherwise, you will be seen as someone who really does not have any interest in what others are saying to you or about you, your business or your social media presence.
Sharing Too Much
Most people have heard the various stories of people getting fired due to Facebook status updates in which they shared confidential company information or publicly berated their employer or posted compromising photographs. While freelancers enjoy the benefit of never having to worry about their boss reading their social network updates, we still have to be aware that tweets, status updates, blog posts and comments are all available to be seen and read by almost anyone. Now that they are added to search engines as well, it won’t take long for a potential client to find that Twitter rant you went on about how stupid your clients are. Be wise in what you publish. Sharing what others may consider too much information could harm your reputation and cost you clients.
Sharing Too Little
While sharing too much can prove fatal, sharing too little about who you are or being entirely impersonal can have a negative effect on your freelance business also. One of the primary reasons many freelancers are hired is because of the ‘personal touch’ we can provide that larger organizations may not. Allow others to get to know you by sharing your interests, activities and other tidbits that may encourage a desire to communicate and possibly lead to a new client relationship.
Social media users are typically looking for people who are social first, businesses second (or even farther down the list.) I have had several new clients mention they considered hiring me because of how I came across as a “real” person on Twitter, interacting and sharing things about my family and my interests. Some people prefer to have separate personal and professional social media accounts to help with this. I prefer to offer personality as an integral part of my brand. Choose what works best for you, but make sure not to present yourself as being so strictly professional that the attraction of getting a freelancer’s personal service is lost.
My History with Social Media
I began using social media as a tool to grow my freelance business earlier this year. Unfortunately, I was a bit of a late adopter, but the increase of clients, connections and brand awareness it has brought to my web and graphic design business is amazing! Through the process of learning how to use these tools, I have seen remarkable growth in requests for proposals, new clients and even work I’ve had to refuse due to an already full schedule. The benefits of social media for my freelance business are still on the rise, and I do not foresee them slowing down any time soon. I have always been primarily dependent on word-of-mouth recommendations from existing clients to bring new ones, so the foray into creating a broader brand familiarity through social media has been a natural extension.
While social media has proven to be a fantastic tool for growth, there are ways of misusing these tools that could potentially perform the opposite and kill a freelance business. As more and more freelancers discover the many benefits that social media can offer us, it is important to be aware of the dangerous missteps that could prove fatal should the unaware wander blindly into these minefields.
Are You Doing Damage with Social Media Misuse?
Have you committed any of these suicidal crimes and caused injury to your freelance business? Or perhaps you have discovered some others weapons of self-destruction that you could reveal to us and help others keep from making the same mistakes. Those that I listed above are the main ones I have come across in my journeys across the social network galaxy, but I am sure there are others that we all should avoid.
Be sure to share your stories, thoughts and comments below so we all can learn how to make the most of our social media usage.
Top Image by justdare