5 Misuses of Social Media That Could Kill Your Freelance Business

tombstoneUnless 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

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.

Self-Promotion Overload

SELF-PROMOTION OVERLOAD

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.

Automated Updates

AUTOMATED UPDATES

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

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

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

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for all these reminders. That is very helpful. I manage a few twitter accounts @frankscloset, @baotocot @fivecolumns.. all have facebook fan pages too. Never quite sure if I’m posting too much, but will definitely be careful about too much self-promotion. Will look into relationships I can build and relevant content to share. Can anyone give me some feedback on these profiles

  2. says

    I agree with everything you said, including the self promotion bit. I do contest the automatic updates, as I feel it isn’t really a bad thing if done correctly.

  3. says

    Great info. I couldn’t agree more with all of the points. I’m still learning on how to ‘perfect’ my strategy with social media as a freelancer. I have it too down-pat as a blogger, and I realize I should act differently when freelancing!

  4. says

    @Tim: I agree with you regarding automated updates “if used correctly”. The problem is that the definition of “correctly” is pretty subjective and I’m sure there are plenty of automated updates that were programmed with what some considered worthwhile reasons. It’s an endless debate and a matter of personal preference, I believe. My recommendation is against automation if that is ALL you do. There is no doubt in my mind (and I have seen it proven) that solely automating your tweets will hinder your brand reputation in social media circles. Thanks for the input!

    @Crystal: I would be interested in hearing some of the differences you see between strategies for bloggers and freelancers. Might be of interest to others at well. Thanks for the comment!

  5. says

    Great article! I too am a bit late to the game, and have only recently been using social media to promote and market myself. I will keep these tips in mind. It has worked very well for a few projects I have worked on, and continue to be involved in, but turning the tables and applying it to myself is a bit different.

  6. says

    Another important aspect of social media, is to have an active interaction with readers. Usually, it’s a single-sided information dessimation that is also largely self-centered and narcissistic. As web is an interactive medium, the real strength is in the capability of having a lively interaction with readers. Adding a personal touch goes a long way gaining trust and readership.

  7. says

    Great post. When it comes to social media, I think of all the things I hate for others to do and make sure I don’t do it. Everything on this list falls into that catetory.

  8. says

    Twitter, more than any other social media, has given freelancers a great opportunity to find work, to post great articles and increase knowledge and stay up-to-date and to just connect with fellow freelancers. We’ve come along way from the days of message boards and chat rooms :)

  9. dan says

    I’m a late comer to twitter. As for making connections it can be good but getting freelance work, i’m not yet convinced. A lot of the requests are cheap. eg people expecting logo designs for $200. No different to the elance mob.

    To me social media is like being in a crowded room and trying to get your message heard when everyone in the room is talking. It’s a full time PR job.

  10. says

    @Dan: I have heard similar stories about failure to find clients and receiving lowball requests for work via Twitter and I have been the recipient of a few of those requests myself (which I politely refused – a big part of that is client education too.) But that happens everywhere – I get lowballed through my website as well. I think this has more to do with how we present ourselves professionally and personally rather than the medium we choose. As my “brand” has grown in public awareness and I have worked on establishing my identity, authority and connections online, those lowball requests have diminished while the increase in clients has been significant. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me and my freelance business, social media is working wonders!

  11. says

    great article Bmac.

    re: Sharing – just the right amount is required. people on social media stream don’t want to see so much self promotion – it really degrades the average quality of the stream itself, and in some cases can be downright spammy. on the other hand, you have to share enough content for things to be useful to followers! it can be a delicate balance for sure.

    re: Automated updates – i can see the usefulness of this, but like most other things in life, it’s good but only in moderation! twitter is a good example here – the streams of updates come so fast that the stream is more like a raging river at times. Lists and filters help, however, you’re bound to miss one piece of great content from time to time. Automating some updates and repeating some updates is useful in this regard, but again, there’s a limit. i probably don’t need to see one specific tweet for the next 3 or 4 months. i’ve probably read it by then :D

    Bruce @transcendwebs

  12. Colin Morgan says

    Well said. As a new comer to the whole freelance web design gig I get alot from articles like these. Keep em comin’ !

  13. says

    Great advice; it’s definitely important to remember how easy it is to overkill promotion on social media sites. It might work for a little bit, but eventually you might start to see repercussions.

  14. says

    Well said. I guess a good way to put it is that if you wouldn’t say/do it in person… don’t do it online. I’m sure there are a couple of exceptions to that rule, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. How many of us have those friends that take it overboard and are constantly pushing a sale, instead of just being a friend? I don’t know about you, but I want to turn the other direction sometimes when I see them coming. There is certainly a tactful way to go about it.

  15. says

    Good, timely article. I’ve been using social media as a marketing tool for about twelve months and learning as I go. I believe the key word is social – to me this means you give a little of yourself and a lot of other stuff for free so that you make people feel comfortable about who you and then they will feel encouraged to read more about you in other media. I don’t expect to get sales directly from social media, my niche market makes decisions via face to face contact in almost every instance, but I know that they read blogs and in some instances follow social media and hopefully when I knock on their door there is a glimmer of recognition.
    john@johncoxon.com.au

  16. says

    Great article. There really is no point to participating in social media if you aren’t going to be social. People want to be engaged and socialized with. The idea is to build relationships and then when they need your particular skill they think, “Hey, let me ask @IAC_Heather. She works in this field.” Or they refer someone they know to you. And there’s your business opportunity.

  17. says

    I recently interviewed a woman who gets 2-3 jobs per week through social media using ping (or ping.fm ?). Not sure if something that rapid-fires your message to multiple sites at once is considered automated, but she is using social media to her GREAT advantage. I looked back through her Twitter and it’s mostly weather (wow-look at the snow!), where she’s eating dinner, or random retweets. Totally mundane stuff…success on social media seems so hit or miss to me…

  18. says

    This is a really great article. I think before the next time I get trigger happy about showing people articles. That said, I only publish an article roughly… once or twice per week so there isn’t that much of an overload.

  19. says

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned in skimming the comments…don’t tweet responses that leave your followers clueless about what you’re talking about. This will cause me to unfollow someone PDQ. Always include enough of the details so that everyone understands what you’re talking about. Use dm’s instead for personal responses that don’t need to go to everyone.

  20. says

    Many people think that they are sharing a lot, but in fact they’d fall under sharing too little. I usually won’t follow someone who only posts links, even if they are useful links and not just self-promotion. There is no shortage of useful (or entertaining) links to read, quite the opposite. Generally it’s people I want to follow.

  21. says

    I like your focus on the personal touch that can be added to your freelance business, and how this in turn attracts more clients. I think that big business scares people away by being impersonal.

  22. says

    Online marketing strategy is an essential part of any progressive business plan but all too often overlooked by many. As a freelancer, living by reputation and contacts, it gives us a competitive advantage over many larger rivals. This article is an excellent place to start your social media strategy for 2010!

  23. says

    Excellent overview of the potential troubles of social media. I think one thing that’s interesting is how nuanced each of these points are – its true that sharing too much is potentially harmful, but where is the line between edgy/engaging and too much? Obviously I understand that sharing info about your manager’s personal life etc is too much, but several of the points you mentioned (including self-promotion) beg the question: when does it cross the line from being distinctive and memorable/successful to being negative?

    To answer my own question, I feel that the line is different depending who you are/what your personal brand is, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

  24. says

    Nacie,

    I think I have the same answer as you gave yourself. I believe there are no hard-line “rules” for how to use social media other than those we create for ourselves. I always suggest that people be themselves above and beyond all else, then take stock regularly about how that works for them. It takes wisdom and intelligence to analyze yourself and your results objectively, but determining the best course of action for your specific personality, brand and goals is vital to lasting success, in my opinion. Continuous evaluation is necessary too.

    Hope that helps! Thanks for the comment. :)

  25. says

    The correct methods and the creativity thoughts have been given for the betterment of the communication and the relationship of the social media…..I will follow your guidelines.keep sharing.

  26. says

    We think common sense is the name of the game for contractors using social media, be professional at all times and remember this is your income stream – don’t put it at risk!

  27. says

    Hi Brian, I find this article very useful for 3 reasons. 1) Its easy to read 2) leaves the user to think and interpret for their own situation, and 3) helped me to clarify my focus with regards to social networking. I’m also new to the social media. Started a blog, Twitter page and Facebook. Now I need to create a focused path of where I want to be within all of this.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] to get anywhere near it. This video explores some of the ways businesses can utilize social media.5 Minuses of Social Media That Could Kill Your Freelance Business – Great ways to avoid freelance “fails” when it comes to your social media [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>