I have never landed a job directly through social media. That is in spite of me having thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers.
While some people will be all too eager to tell you how lucrative social media can be in terms of attracting potential clients, I take a more conservative view. The first thing I would ask these people is just how many jobs they have landed directly through social media. While the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be used as a great outreach tool, you cannot expect to set up a social media account and start attracting clients.
As a freelance blogger you should build social media profiles to demonstrate your prowess as a blogger. A prospective client is going to be impressed if you have managed to amass a sizeable following on Facebook and Twitter — that alone can put you in their favor. Furthermore, social media can also be used to keep tabs on job opportunities and network with potential clients (although I would always recommend that you network via email).
While it can be easy to see time spent on social media as time wasted, you can achieve good results by investing just a few minutes per day. Social media can be a time suck, but only if you let it.
The Key to Social Media Marketing
The key to utilizing any social media network is to understand that your primary aim is not to gain followers from your blog’s existing visitors (although that is certainly a good thing). On the contrary, you want to gain followers from social media users who have never heard of your blog. That is where the true value lies.
Social media networks are so valuable because they already have an audience. Your blog, by default, does not. As I have previously mentioned, the key to blog promotion is to go to the people. Utilizing social media in an effective manner is one way in which you can do this.
Facebook is of course the daddy of social media, with over one billion users. However, it is in my opinion the least powerful source in terms of attracting client referrals, because it is (in my anecdotal experience) dominated by a more “casual” demographic when compared to the likes of LinkedIn and Twitter.
Having said that, it is a truly powerful tool in terms of (a) increasing your blog’s exposure and (b) enabling you to build a micro community made up of your target audience.
But how do you grow a following on Facebook?
No one is going to take a second look at your Facebook page if it doesn’t look like you’ve put a bit of time and effort into it.
However, you do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to branding your Facebook page. In fact I would recommend that in graphical terms, you simply mimic your blog’s design (i.e. the logo and any graphical branding).
In learning how to build my Facebook page I turned to just one person — Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. He has an enormous Facebook following and really knows his stuff.
When the new Facebook timeline was released in March 2011, Pat published an astonishingly comprehensive guide. If you want to learn all of the ins and outs of producing a really top quality Facebook page, I recommend that you check it out.
Set up your Facebook page, complete with mini bio (with a link to your site), profile photo and cover image.
While branding is an important accompaniment to building a Facebook following, your status updates are the real key. Each update you post has a chance of being liked and shared, which exposes it (and by extension, your Facebook page) to a wider audience who may never have heard of you.
What Should I Post?
In short, the more interesting your updates are, the more likely they are to be shared, and the more followers you will receive.
Including graphical elements (photos, videos, polls) will typically boost the popularity of an update — plain text doesn’t generally fly on Facebook.
Don’t treat your status update as throwaway items — they should provide some kind of value and/or entertainment that is relevant to your target audience. Treat them as mini blog posts and try to attract the same level of engagement as you would from your blog posts.
When Should I Post?
I would recommend that you try to post to Facebook 1-2 times per weekday (with the occasional post on a weekend if the mood strikes you).
One can debate all day about exactly when you should post to attract the most attention, but I would say that you won’t go too far wrong between 3pm-5pm EST.
There are two benefits to interacting with others on Facebook:
- It exposes your Facebook page to a wider audience
- It enables you to connect with others in your niche
If you do want to invest a few minutes per day in interacting with others on Facebook, the first thing you will want to do is find similar pages in your niche and “Like” them. Status updates from these pages will then show up in your page’s Newsfeed, which means that you can browse through them at your leisure rather than clicking from page to page.
Interaction on Facebook is primarily done by sharing others’ status updates and via likes of and comments on status updates. You can also post directly to a page’s wall, but it is best to do this with discretion (i.e. don’t do so in a self-promotional manner).
Write down a schedule for Facebook updates — i.e. how often you will publish updates. Adjust it as you see fit.
My social network of choice for blogging and freelance writing, by a considerable distance, is Twitter. I have been able to gain far more followers and traction on Twitter than Facebook and LinkedIn combined. Not only that, I have established countless relationships with people on Twitter, some of whom I’ve gone on to meet in the “real world.” I cannot downplay its value in boosting your blog, network, and freelancing prospects.
Branding is far less important on Twitter than it is on Facebook. In fact you can get away with nothing more than a custom profile image (you absolutely must not keep the default “egg” — people will take you for a spammer).
I would recommend that you use a headshot as your profile picture. Generally speaking, people prefer to interact with people rather than entities, and you will probably be branding yourself as a freelance writer (as opposed to a freelance writing business).
If you decide that you want to spend some time branding your Twitter page, keep it clean and simple. I am no graphic artist but I managed to put together a simple page.
Then you’ll want to move onto your profile biography, where you have just 160 characters to describe yourself. This is your chance to tell people what you’re all about — it is what they will read when they’re deciding whether or not to follow you. It would make sense to present yourself as a freelance writer in your biography.
Set up your Twitter profile, complete with a mini bio (with a link to your site) and profile photo.
Tweeting and Interacting
I could write a whole book on using Twitter, but since that is not the focus of this guide I will keep this relatively straightforward.
Building a popular Twitter profile essentially comes down to two things:
- Following and interacting with people within your niche
- Tweeting out interesting content
If you want to get on the radar of influential people within the blogging world (and/or within the industry in which you want to write), you should follow them and start replying to their tweets with something of value. You shouldn’t pepper them with mindless tweets — you want to stand out in a positive manner. These people may not follow you, but they will get to know you, which can lead to any number of opportunities down the line.
Interacting with other Twitter users is a great way of networking and increasing your influence with those individual people, but the key to building your Twitter following is to be highly active and actually have something interesting to say. Not what you had for breakfast, but the kind of updates that will compel people to re-tweet (which in turn displays your tweet to their followers). What those updates should contain is really dependent upon what “type” of person you are trying to attract — there is no ’wrong’ way of interacting on Twitter (within reasonable bounds).
I’m really just scratching the surface here — if you want to learn more about building a following on Twitter, check out these two posts on my blog:
- How to Get More Twitter Followers
- How I Attracted 10,000 Twitter Followers in a Year
- How To Use Twitter For Exponential Blog Growth
Plan two or three 5-10 minutes windows throughout your working days where you will interact on Twitter. Install the Twitter app on your smartphone so that you can interact while waiting for the bus, standing in line, etc.
I would be the first to admit that I haven’t invested much time in LinkedIn. It is not a social network that I have felt compelled to use in order to grow my freelance writing income.
This is generally down to the type of clients I work with. LinkedIn is, for the most part, made up of professionals and corporate employees — not the kind of people who run blogs that I write for. And whilst I do have one corporate client, they found me via my blog (but contacted me via LinkedIn).
Whilst you certainly should set up a LinkedIn profile and spend a little time populating it, I would not recommend that you invest much more time in it beyond that unless you are specifically targeting corporate and/or professional clients (in which case, it can be a powerful tool).
If you would like to learn more about how to best utilize LinkedIn, check out the following two posts by Kristi Hines:
Set up a LinkedIn profile.