A few years ago, social media was the apple of every marketer’s eye. It was supposed to boost our businesses and provide a whole new level of engagement with potential customers. So, how’s that working out?
Admittedly, I’m not the most fervent user of Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn in terms of promoting my design business. But I’ve tried various techniques and have come away less than impressed with the results.
I’m personally convinced that trying to book traditional web design clients through these channels is a waste of resources. Today, I’ll explain why I feel that way, and also share some theories as to where the true value lies.
Who “Likes” Web Designers?
Back in the early days of Facebook, having a business page meant easily reaching every one of your followers. Of course, it didn’t stay this way for long.
Part of Facebook’s long-term strategy was to monetize reach. These days, getting your content in front of every fan requires promoting your posts.
For some industries, this may well be worth the cost. But for a freelancer or small web design agency, it seems like overkill.
That’s because of the type of following web designers tend to have. On Facebook, it’s often existing clients or supportive friends and family. Twitter seems to be designers following designers. LinkedIn is a tangled mess of professionals just looking for some self-promotion.
What’s the bottom line? Those looking for a new website probably aren’t following along. Therefore, paying to promote your posts may not produce the desired results. That being said, we can also forget about organically reaching new people through social channels. Those days appear to be long over.
Areas Where Social Media Actually Benefits Web Designers
So, maybe social media isn’t the client-magnet we all hoped it would be. That doesn’t mean these platforms have nothing to offer web designers, though. Quite the contrary.
There are some real benefits that come with participation. They just may not be as immediately gratifying as landing a new website client. Here are a few that come to mind:
The ability to level up your skills and knowledge is one of the biggest benefits of social media. Between the legions of individual designers/developers and industry-focused groups, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn.
As with anything on these networks, it’s all about following the right feeds. This takes some trial and error. But a good rule of thumb is to start with publications or individuals you trust for content and tutorials. From there, you’re bound to find new feeds of interest.
The fun part of this is that you might end up stumbling upon a tool or technique that you didn’t know about. These discoveries can lead to improving efficiency or even the development of a new service to sell to clients.
Expanding Your Network
Along with learning comes the chance to rub virtual elbows with others in the industry. This offers you a chance to commiserate with fellow designers and developers about the ups and downs of work. But it doesn’t have to be strictly professional. Even a bit of small talk about life can be a great way to reduce stress.
On the business side of things, getting to know other web pros can come in very handy. For example, asking your network about a challenging project can lead to some great suggestions – and maybe even a solution.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put out a question on Twitter, only to see my feed filled with helpful replies – usually within minutes. The camaraderie is wonderful, and it often leads us to try and help one another. This in itself is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, connecting with others opens the door to potentially getting hired on yourself as a consultant. It could consist of helping with a particular project, or develop into a steady gig. It’s not the traditional web design client, but it might actually be better for your business.
Quite often, booking a client who needs a website is one big jolt of revenue, followed by some maintenance money over time. Working as a contractor for another designer could be an opportunity to gain a consistent flow of higher-revenue projects. This isn’t a guarantee, but finding the right partnership is possible.
Social Media Has Potential, with the Right Expectations
As social platforms have matured, the realities of what they can do for various industries have become clearer. For some types of businesses, there is real potential for gaining new clients. Web design, however, doesn’t appear to be one of them.
That’s okay, though. There are some other areas where we can benefit. But much of it depends on our individual goals.
If you’re looking to sharpen your skills, there are a ton of groups and individuals out there to learn from. There are also plenty of opportunities to connect with other web professionals. And, if you’re in the market for some contracting gigs, the connections you make could help there as well.
No, social media is not the cure-all for a web design business. But there is some value. It just takes a realistic view of what you can achieve and a little patience.
I asked fellow web professionals about their experiences in reaching new clients through social media. Here’s their response. Feel free to chime into the thread as well!
— Eric Karkovack (@karks88) January 29, 2020