As freelancers we rely on social media to interact with clients, potential clients, and other freelancers.
Social media is a great tool for freelancers (and since social media is most often free it’s very budget-friendly). But if you’re not careful, social media can also take up a lot of your valuable project time.
Of course, strategies will vary for each individual freelancer. However, over the past few years I’ve put a lot of thought into social media strategy. The tips in this post should work for most freelancers.
Decide Which Social Media Tools to Use
There is a huge universe of social media platforms available. Deciding on which ones to participate in can be confusing. Here are a few questions to help you narrow your choices:
- Are my clients active in social media? If so, which platforms do they participate in?
- Is there a social media platform or tool that most of my freelancing colleagues use?
- Do any social media platforms address my freelancing specialty?
If you find that most of your colleagues and clients are active on a particular social media platform, that’s a good indication that you should have a presence there as well.
Here are six social media platforms where participation will benefit most freelancers:
- Blogging–Not only does blogging help you to connect with others, it can also help establish you as an expert in your field.
- FaceBook–This social media platform has a huge group of users and shouldn’t be overlooked by freelancers.
- Forums–Since forums generally hone in on a specific topic, participation can be a great way to target your social media interactions.
- Google+–A quickly growing social media tool, Google+ has the reputation of having a more technical user base.
- LinkedIn–The corporate world has embraced LinkedIn as a way to make connections and for that reason you should too.
- Twitter–There’s more to Twitter than meets the eye. This microblogging tool has influenced trends worldwide.
Ideally, you would be able to establish a freelancing presence on all of these platforms. However, at first you may want to focus on just one or two of these areas due to time constraints. Which brings us to the our next point–exactly how much time should you spend on social media?
Determine How Much Time to Spend
If you jump in without a plan, social media could easily consume all of your time. That wouldn’t be good for your freelancing business. That’s why I recommend designating certain times specifically for social media during your day. I’ve found morning, noon, and the close of business to be the most effective for me, but you may want to experiment and find your own best combination of times.
For most freelancers 15 minutes, three times a day (once you’ve set up your profiles) is enough to maintain a good online social media presence. Of course, if you just launched a new product or happen to be a social media consultant, you’ll spend much more time on social media.
There are third-party apps for most social media platforms that let you spread your participation over a 24-hour period. TweetDeck and HootSuite are just two popular examples of such apps. These tools are a good way to ensure that you reach users in time zones all over the world. However, it’s also a good idea to make sure that at least some of your social media networking is live.
If you find that social media is too distracting, there are also apps to help you limit the amount of social media time that you spend. LeechBlock and Nanny for Google Chrome are two examples of such apps.
Once you’ve budgeted some specific times, you may wonder who to connect with on social media and how to find them.
Connect with Others
Naturally, you’ll want to connect with the contacts you’ve already made as well as the people that you know in your day-to-life. Consider adding these folks to start out:
- Former boss(es)
- Current or former teachers
- Current and past clients
- Work colleagues (past or present)
- Family members
- Bloggers who write about your freelancing niche
Basically anyone in your extended network who could have a lead on a freelancing project and who is already active social should be invited to connect with you. In addition, many social media sites suggest followers (friends or fans) based on your current followers. Review these suggestions carefully–they could lead to valuable connections. You may also wish to add your social media contact information on your blog or website. Some freelancers even include it on their stationery and business card.
Now that you have built up a social media network, you may be wondering what you should share through social media.
What to Share
What you share on social media sites as a freelancer is different than what you would share if you were just using social media for personal use. As a freelance business owner, you may want to think twice about sharing certain topics or downloading family photos. Without careful planning on your part, it’s easy to share T.M.I. Be sure to check the privacy settings for whichever platform you’re using unless you want everyone to see everything.
One of the biggest mistakes that new freelancers make on social media is making it all about them. Have you been at a social gathering and met someone who talks incessantly about themselves? Naturally no one wants to be around that person and it’s the same on social media.
Instead, balance information about you with relevant information that your connections may find useful or entertaining. Of course, it’s okay to share about yourself from time to time–but such shares shouldn’t dominate your social media contributions.
Also, if someone interacts directly with you and their profile matches that of the folks you’re trying to connect with, be sure to acknowledge them. If they ask a question, answer it. If they share something you’ve shared, thank them. If they message you, reply. The higher the quality of your interactions, the better the relationships that you will develop–and some of those may lead to business relationships.
What social media strategy works for you? Share your answer in the comments.
Image by son_gismo