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Social Media Savvy For Freelancers

Friday, February 03, 2012

By Kim O’Connor

According to a 2011 report on social media issued by research company Nielsen, Americans spend almost a quarter of their Internet time visiting social networking sites and blogs.

That means potential clients are far more likely to learn about your freelance business on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—the sites where they spend most of their time—than any other place on the Web.

In the right hands, networking sites are sophisticated marketing tools. Here’s how you can maximize your time online to boost your professional profile.


Watch the clock

Keep in mind that any social media site will require extra effort on the front end as you establish yourself, connect with others and learn the lay of the land.

Once you’re past that phase, try to keep an eye on the clock. Consider setting aside a block of your schedule each day to handle all social media so you can keep your time investment under control.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin.

The social media sites that best serve your business usually depend on your personality type, your industry and your clientele. Start by focusing your attention on one platform. For instance, a writer might dedicate most of her social media minutes to crafting substantive posts for her blog, and then use secondary platforms like Facebook and Twitter to direct traffic there.


Show off your work

Social networking sites make it easy to showcase examples of your freelance work. Every platform offers some form of user profile or biography, which is a good place to link to repositories of your work (such as your website).

Unfortunately, most people in your network won’t have the time or the inclination to scrutinize your profile. That’s why it’s important to let people know what’s new with your business by providing more timely updates.

Twitter and the status update features in Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to keep folks informed about what you’re doing. A common strategy is to publish links to your latest projects. For example, writers might point traffic to publications in which their work appears, while photographers might link to a gallery of recent images.

Of course, such updates are fleeting; eventually your link will be buried beneath other people’s posts.

LinkedIn offers special tools (called applications) that let you showcase individual projects as more of a permanent fixture within your profile. The applications work by importing media from other corners of the Web.

For example, designers, advertising copywriters and other creative professionals can use the Creative Portfolio Display application to compose a gallery of their best work. Public speakers and consultants can use SlideShare or Google Presentations to share slideshows. Developers can use GitHub to show off coding projects. And just about any professional can use LinkedIn applications to import the latest posts from their blogs and Twitter feeds.

A word to the wise: Avoid syncing all your posts across platforms. If you publish the exact same links and updates to all of your social networking accounts, your posts will sound like spam.

Keep things fresh by posting different content on different sites. If something seems important enough to broadcast in more than one place, reframe it each time so you don’t sound redundant.


Engage in different kinds of conversation

Conversation is the lifeblood of online social networks.

The key to becoming a social media maven is to focus on building relationships.

Real dialogue is a two-way street. That means using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to talk with folks, not to them.

Whether you’re commenting on a friend’s status, reposting an industry expert’s tweet or providing a recommendation on LinkedIn, there are many ways to interact with online communities.

Some freelancers mistakenly believe they should use online networking to communicate with people they already know—friends, acquaintances and clients. But you should also leverage social media sites to search for contacts in lucrative new markets, including companies where you might not otherwise have your foot in the door.

Most mid- to large-size companies have a social media presence on at least one of the major platforms. LinkedIn alone boasts more than 2 million company pages. You can follow a company’s page to stay current on its outsourcing opportunities, key contacts and organizational culture. To connect with individuals within the institution, visit people’s personal profiles on LinkedIn or find them on Twitter using the Who to follow tool. 

Facebook pages (similar to LinkedIn’s company pages) and the Groups Directory on LinkedIn are other great tools you can use to engage in online communities. In addition to keeping an eye out for project leads, you can build relationships with colleagues, monitor the competition and generally stay abreast of the information flow within your industry. Such conversations can help you generate referrals, ideas and collaborations.


Maintain your professional polish

Make sure to keep things professional. Bear in mind that even the most casual comment or update represents you and your business. Always strive for a courteous tone and double-check every post for spelling and punctuation errors.

Some platforms blur the boundaries between your personal life and your professional presence.

Your Twitter followers, for instance, might consist of friends, family, colleagues, clients and strangers. Similarly, your blog might attract a wide variety of readers. Aim for content that is informative, entertaining or both. While you don’t have to be all business all the time, avoid posting too much about your sick pet or your political views.

If you use Facebook, you can create a page for your business that is separate from your personal profile. But keep in mind that changing privacy policies (and the democratic nature of the Internet) make it difficult to completely segregate your private life from your public persona.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid posting anything that could tarnish your professional reputation.


Kim O’Connor is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes about social media.


The NASE Can Help

Want to take a continuing education class to learn more about using social media for your freelance business? Need to attend a conference or seminar to polish your social media skills?

The NASE Succeed Scholarship™ program just might be able to help you gain the knowledge you need.

As an NASE Member, you can apply for a scholarship award of up to $4,000 to pay for continuing education in social media, marketing, finances and other business skills.

The scholarship money can be used for:

  • Participation in seminars and conferences that support the growth of your business
  • Training courses for business certifications and licensing
  • College or university courses, either online or through a local institution

Learn more about the NASE’s Succeed Scholarship™ program and apply online today.

Personalized Answers For NASE Members

Get the one-on-one, confidential help you need from the NASE Business Strategy Experts.

These knowledgeable consultants are ready to answer your questions about social media, marketing strategies and other mission-critical business issues.

As an NASE Member you have online access to the Business Strategy Experts 24/7—at no cost to you!


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