by Susanna Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau)
I was asked this question yesterday – and decided it deserved a longer answer. Because no short answer does do this very important questions justice.
There are several points to social media activities, where you can be lead astray, and most of the mistakes are made not only by freelancers but also by others – for instance, companies or brands. An advantage a brand may have, though: They already have made a name for themselves (created a brand) while a freelancer usually starts at zero at building a brand – or a reputation as an expert, thought leader or simply as a nice and reliable person to work with. If you (as a brand) already have that reputation your start will be much easier – and often faster than for you the freelancer.
Selling/finding new customers is a long process – that is no different in social media than anywhere else.
That is the first mistake some people (not only freelancers) do: They expect results to come quickly after their first action. Usually, that is wrong. Social Media is about creating – building visibility, building relationships, building a reputation, building a brand. And that takes time online as well as offline.
Social Media is about interaction and connecting. Not about sales pitches. Find your target audience and provide what they want first.
That directly leads to the second possible mistake: Who are you talking to? Many people rush into social networks and start shouting sales pitches, without even considering, who they want to reach and where they can find them. Imagine going to a baby shower and trying to get someone to listen to your monologue about copywriting (or whatever you offer). Your sales pitch, however, perfected you have it, is out of place on that occasion. The same goes for social media.
Usually, we all start out with a new network with connecting to the people we already know. But the truth is, to sell your service to your best friend, you don’t need to be on Facebook or Twitter. Before you start shouting out your sales message into empty space, figure out, where you can reach your target group.
Everybody needs a message. What is the value you provide? What do you want to be known for? Why should people want to work with you?
Next, think about your message. How many friends do you have on Facebook, and how many people do you follow on Twitter? If it is below 100, then you might have the chance of checking every update they post. If it is much more, you have to be select. (I guess the sales pitches are the first updates you will ignore… see lesson 2.)
The messages, the content you share and the wording of your posts are crucial to your success. To get the attention of your target audience, you have to share stuff they want and need – not what you want them to read or sell to them.
You have to earn the attention in social media. If you give something valuable to your audience, your audience will not mind if you include your contact address and a description of your service. Do not do it the other way around. If you do not believe me, go to your next networking event and instead of saying “Hello, nice to meet you…” say “I offer xy service at cheap rates” and see what happens…
If you want to know how to grow a social audience, leads, and customers for your freelance or small business – check out our ebook “The Social Traffic Code!”
Being a freelancer is always harder.
As a freelancer, you are working on your own. If you have many clients, you probably have very little time to spend on social media. Especially in the beginning when everything is new, social media for business takes time to get it right. As a brand, you can usually either share the tasks or employ someone, especially for social media.
As said before, as a Freelancer you have to start from scratch. As a brand, you often would build on your loyal customers. Just imagine how many people will like a brand like Ferrari, without even looking at Ferrari’s social media activities – and how hard your painter next door will have to work to gain the first 100 fans.
(Also many freelancers I have met do not plan such a long time in advance as brands do. Thus, the investment freelancers have to make into social media might pay off too late for them to consider it a win).
If this sounds like it’s not worth doing it, don’t get me wrong. Because when you do it right, your success as a freelancer can outshine most (if not all brands). Ferrari doesn’t get as much added visibility from 30 million Fans as you get from 30,000. Everyone already knows them. You get a chance to compete with social media, and you should do your best to make the most of it.
Sure, it takes time. Sure, it takes effort.
But when you do it right it is worth your weight in gold.