The marketing power of social media is undeniable. Which is why freelancers and small business owners are always looking for tools that can assist them in making the most of their social media presence. Without the budget to hire someone to manage this arm of your marketing plan, which is a boat many freelancers find themselves in, you alone have to find an effective way to navigate the social media minefield for your brand.
Now this can feel like quite a daunting task when you first begin to look at the field before you, and with good reason. There is a lot to take in. Many different routes to take, and many a routine to build. So if you break it down and take it piece by piece, it becomes less overwhelming and more conquerable a project. Which is where this post comes in.
Below are some ways to help get you and your brand through this potential minefield and safely to the other side. But first a word of warning before you start piecing your social media marketing plan together.
Mind Your Step
There is a reason that I call this a minefield, mainly because it can be one. One misstep and your brand could be in serious trouble. As I mentioned in a post on small businesses designing their UX approach “The established corporate sites have something that small businesses tend to be lacking, enough street cred to buy them some forgiveness.” The same holds true here.
Working on a smaller level, like most freelancers do, forgiveness does not always come cheap. If at all. So you need to cautious when you bring your brand to the social media scene, for there are numerous ways to hurt your marketing efforts as you are trying to help them. Be responsible. Be respectful. Keep in mind that you are always, always an ambassador for your brand as you are out on the social media networks interacting.
People see you as the embodiment, if not virtual personification, of your brand. So act like it. Know that every move you make in these fields must be sure and thought out or things could get messy. You don’t necessarily have the time to dedicate to diffusing situations that may be sparked by one of these social media missteps, so it is best to use your time wisely, and just avoid them altogether.
So as a brand ambassador, plan your approach and maximize your time in the fields to promote your brand right.
Build Routines & Relationships
As I touched on earlier, building a routine will help you get into the habit of regularly checking in and touching base with your followers. This is not always an easy habit to get into, especially as your workload increases. But it is a necessary one. Social media engagement is very much about fostering relationships with your base.
These people are your virtual web of support, and you need to fit them into your daily business routine. Engage with them. Have conversations. Again, you want to build relationships, and that is never one-sided. Use that edge that you have on the big corporations, and give your followers that personal touch freelancers are somewhat known for. Be personal (to a point) and don’t just share about your business, share about your day. Let your followers in. After all, we can pretty much all attest to the fact that all business, often equates to just boring.
So add social media to your daily planner, schedule, whatever you keep to remind you that this routine has to be seen to. As so many sources will tell you, it takes several weeks of repetition to effectively build a habit. So until your routine becomes a habit, you are going to have to make sure you make time for it.
Pick a Lane
Now before you start building your routine, you have to have a plan in place for which networks you plan to tackle. There are many social media platforms that you can use and streams you can populate, so you will want to know which directions you are going to head before you take your first step. Makes sense, right? If you are going to build a routine, you kind of need to know what is going to be part of said routine.
So take a hard look at your business model and what you expect to get out of your social media experience, and then pick whichever social media channels are right for your business. Once again, you may feel this is a bit overwhelming, but you can begin slowly and build each of your networks into your routine gradually. Adding one after you have gotten the routine in place on another.
There is nothing that says you have to go all in at once. We mentioned breaking this whole social media plan down can make it seem more achievable and manageable. Do the same thing when you launch into the trenches here. Don’t overwhelm yourself right from the start. That almost never ends well. In fact, it tends to lend itself to certain failure. So go slow and ease yourself and brand in. Your brand will thank you…if it possessed the power of speech.
When I mentioned you have to build relationships with your followers, one important thing to keep in mind about that is it cannot be done if you are not there. You have to be present and available to connect with the people you are wanting to foster these relationships with. Scheduling is fine, and makes sense for a freelancer or small business owner, but that doesn’t excuse you from making your presence felt.
Replying to those who have initiated contact with you is a must, even if it takes you until the next day to do so. But you need to do so, otherwise your attempts at engagement will be viewed as hollow gestures with absolutely no meaning. And rightly so. Again, this is not a one-sided venture. And if it is for you, then you might just be doing it wrong.
Another thing you need to be sure to see to, is that you are not always the engaged, but at times you are the engager. The one who is making contact with your followers and starting the conversation. Be genuine in your interactions, and don’t force it. Make your engagements natural, otherwise it will be even harder for you to maintain.
Another way that you can be there and show up for your brand, is by actually showing up for your brand. In my area of Colorado, small business owners have organized behind the efforts of one initiative driven individual to get together monthly (and now with even more frequency) for networking and mingling at a Tweetup. These are great opportunities for freelancers to get their foot in the proverbial door to their local markets. Which, if that is where your business is focused, then those are the people you need to get to know.
Give Away Your Content
A rather relevant article came from a friend and colleague of mine, Speider Schneider, on having an RSS feed to ‘give’ away your content, and poses the question in the title, ‘Are You Contented Giving Away Your Content?’. Which for many business owners, the thought of giving away that which you could foreseeably monetize is not something they would see as sound practice. But in these cases, it is.
Social media is a great way to give your content away and connect it directly with your audience. Not only should you give that content away, but you should have your new content shared on the various channels you are populating. This is a great way to market what you are doing and have going on, so all of the content you are generating in this vein for your business, should be freely offered to your followers.
This will also help foster those relationships and connections with those who have started to take note of your brand. It will also help build trust in your brand. In the beginning, you need to gain a following, and until they have a sample of what it is you are doing, those numbers are going to experience slow growth. Not to say there aren’t exceptions to this rule, but as is the case with any number of freelancers, we cannot always afford to role such dice and leave any of our marketing plan up to that much chance.
Incorporate Your Networks
Another approach to take which will help your navigation efforts in these oft unfamiliar fields, is to embed your various social media feeds in to your website or have contact points for users who stop by the site to find you on the channels your brand is a part of. You don’t want to just begin the journey down this path, and not make attempts to bring your users right along with you. Help connect them to this arm of your marketing plan by incorporating your networks into your brand’s presence.
This is not just limited to the website. You can use business cards and other promotional materials to highlight your social media accounts, and direct potential clients to them. There can be a sense of comfort gained by getting to see how a business you are considering working with conducts itself through the various networks. Gives you insight into those behind the business as well. So it can be reassuring to clients, which is why freelancers should take advantage of this fact and incorporate their networks into other areas of their brand.
Don’t Click that Anonymous Link
It’s tempting isn’t it? But resist the temptation, and do not click on that anonymous link that was sent to you. Even if they are telling you people are talking about you (i.e. your business). It’s a trick. A ruse. And could be a very costly one to fall for. A good rule of thumb for surviving in social media and not having your accounts stolen or compromised, is to only click on links that you know where they lead. If it is unlabeled, often, it is unsafe.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but honestly, I see this happen with too much frequency still, to not mention it here in the final bit of the post. Keep your accounts secure, and use caution as you sort through your daily networks.
In the End
In the end, it all boils down to dedication and drive to make a social media presence work for your brand, and not against it. So when you tread through these potential minefields, watch your step, and make a sincere effort to reach out and connect with your followers. There may be dividends awaiting.