When you are self-employed or are a freelancer, how do you establish your social media presence? After all, it can be overwhelming – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ – where to start?
1. Develop a Strategy
Before you start tweeting and posting, take some time to develop a social media strategy. Begin by asking yourself some simple questions—How do you want to present yourself to clients? What is your brand and how can you best promote that online? How much time are you willing to spend each week promoting yourself online? If you plunge in without planning your approach, then you're waste time and energy.
2. Establish Your Priorities
The world wide web is just that: wide. If you want to plant a flag in every corner of the Internet, then be prepared to spend a lot of time online. For freelancers and the self-employed, time is money. Sure, it is important to promote yourself on social media, but you need to know the most effective ways to use your energy and time on the web.
First things first: find out where your customers are spending their time. If the majority of your customers use LinkedIn, then that has to be your focus. If they're on Twitter, then get tweeting. A simple rule: be where the action is.
3. Create a Coherent Message
We are never quite ourselves online. The eccentricities and restrictions of each social media platform push you to promote one part of your personality while holding others back. On LinkedIn, you're a serious professional, an expert; across the web on Twitter, you're busy cracking jokes. If you want to use social media to effectively brand your business, then you need to create a coherent, single identity across all media.
Use the same photo for every profile. If possible, pick the same username. Take the time to fill out your “About Me” pages and link your profiles together. Your Facebook friends should also be your followers on Twitter, and vice versa. If you post an image or a video on one page, then link to it on your other profiles.
4. Remember To Keep Private Things Private
Despite the ubiquity of Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter, social media is still is a new frontier for freelancers. The rules are being written in real time. As a solopreneur, you have more options than ever—start a blog, build a network, develop your brand by posting, tweeting, and responding to reviews—but as you build a presence on the web, be careful to keep your private life and your professional activities strictly separate.
Put yourself in the position of a potential client and look through your personal pages—Facebook, Twitter, everything. Any content that could upset a client, disrupt a deal, or put your professional reputation in jeopardy should be removed immediately. While it's possible to make your personal accounts private, that may not be enough.
Facebook, for instance, allows users to make their profiles “private.” However, Facebook is notorious for changing its privacy and security standards without properly informing users. Is that old spring break photo really worth the risk of losing a client? Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry?
If you plan on using social media to develop a distinctive brand identity for your business, then it may be best to delete your private accounts altogether, or to radically alter the way you use your private profile to spread information. After all, if you've got something silly or offensive that you want to share with your friends, you can do it on the phone, in person, via text or email.
5. Create A Beachhead, Then Diversify
The key for the freelancer with social media, especially since time is a huge consideration, is to set up camp on one platform first, master it, and only then move out from there. There are all sorts of options of course – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Quora for starters. All are different and offer different benefits, but it will overwhelm you if you try and tackle too many at once or at first.
Social media is all about momentum. The surest way to get noticed: Get on and get going. Post as often as you can and keep your audience in mind. Soon you'll find that your brand have a life of its own.
Have another tip for working social media to your advantage when you're self-employed? Consider leaving us a comment in the space below!