This is Part One of a Two-Part Blog Series on the Unashamedly Creative blog on how freelancers can use social marketing to get results.
Did you know that a third of small businesses are now using social media, while 40% of companies still admit to having no training in this fast-growing medium?
One of the great things about putting social into your marketing mix is that small businesses and freelancers can create a platform for their brand that then has conversations with clients and interested people. It helps you stay top of mind, enables you to build relationships for future work and collaborations and – if you can share what you know – positions you as an industry opinion leader.
By doing social well, and taking a creative approach with your presence, your brand will come to life, attracting the attention of online communities and new potential customers, and helping you stand head and shoulders above your competition (including the bigger brands).
If you don’t do social well, it’s the equivalent of standing on a table at a networking event, emptying a glass of OJ on your head and shouting “Get f*cked the lot of you, I’m going home to my warm PJ’s and a cup of Bonox!” – wrong thing, wrong time, wrong place.
So let’s get started on the right track. Whether you’ve already started playing in the social sandpit, or you’re still wondering how to best approach it, here are some big ticket items to cover off.
It’s a Conversation
Once upon a time, businesses sent out messages about their products and services through the traditional media. The TV program, newspaper, billboard or radio transmitted a message and their audience consumed it. Very Mad Men-esque, also quite expensive for small business owners to maintain.
Of course, it’s never quite as simple as the advertising agencies and traditional media would like us to believe. We also have conversations at the great watercooler of life about these ads and stories, compared to our actual experience of them. We talk about what works for us and what doesn’t.
Now, these conversations have extended onto social networks online: we’re commenting, liking, retweeting, repinning and assigning epic #fails as we see fit.
It’s no longer a conversation with only friends and family – instead we have the ability to reach a global community, connected to people with common interests and beliefs through Twitter and Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, YouTube and much more.
For brands and businesses wanting to participate in social media, it takes a shift in thinking: from a monologue (evidenced by the traditional models of media) to a dialogue.
Rather than harp on about this, if you’re still unconvinced, check out the latest Social Media Revolution video on YouTube, compiled by Erik Qualman. It’s pretty cool.
Remember: people are already having conversations online about your industry and even your brand. Don’t make like an emu and stick your head in the sand. Listen!
There’s no point in setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter account without having some kind of blueprint to drive your activity. Let’s call it a rough social strategy, guided by social media objectives.
What do social media objectives even look like, you ask?
It’s a good idea to first remember what your current business objectives are. Do you want to grow your business, discover new products, or build a public profile? Social media can help.
To grow your business, your social media objective will be to reach new and untapped markets as well as strengthening relationships with existing customers. If you want to create new products, your social media objective will be to use the real-time web as a research tool as well as a soundboard so you can consult your clientele to create the best possible product for their needs. And if you want to build a public profile your social media objective is about positioning yourself as someone who can demonstrate and prove their industry and practical knowledge.
Remember: only set objectives that are meaningful to your business.
Find your Audience
Setting social media objectives goes hand-in-hand with thinking about who your target audience is, and where they might sit in social channels.
What does your clientele look like? Describe them. Where do they live, what’s their age bracket, what are their interests and passions? What’s their family unit look like, what lifestyle might they lead, what kind of industry are they in, what kind of money do they make?
An important facet of this is to think about how savvy your target audience are online. Do they read emails and blogs, are they always on Facebook, are they Gen Y iPhone addicts, are they Mumpreneurs who are Pinners, work-at-home types who stay connected via Twitter, or are they corporate types on LinkedIn?
Even older generations, previously written off by businesses as not being into social media, are flocking to Facebook, driven by the desire to stay in touch with kids and grandkids. Don’t assume your target audience isn’t online, rather, think about the type of people they are and how that might drive their activity in social media.
Remember: Australians are around the most prolific users of social media in the world, and studies show we are open to having conversations with our favourite brands as well as our mates and family.
Find your Channel Strategy
With clear objectives to help guide the way and a picture of your target audience, you’ll need to decide which social channels to be present in.
I’m not one to advocate that you set up on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, Google Buzz, Flickr, Slideshare, YouTube and create a blog before you even put a post online. It’s overwhelming – even looking at that list makes me want to run and hide in the wardrobe.
Instead, find the channels that will best work for your product and service, help you achieve your business and social media objectives, and where you’ll find people to share what you know and find out what they’re interested in.
Here’s a quick breakdown by channel:
Generally, Facebook is for a range of brands and causes, if you can bring to life a compelling story about what you do.
Twitter can help reach a wider, global audience by following other opinion leaders and learning from them as well as engaging in conversations with them on topics of mutual interest.
A blog is a weblog, online journal, a regularly updated tome of what you know, love and think (as there are more than 70 million WordPress blogs alone, that covers a lot of different topics). Blogs create a platform to attract people to learn from what you know.
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool that also enables you to display recommendations for your work and descriptions of products and services.
Pinterest is a visual mood board that sets out the aesthetic of your business, and like Twitter can connect to a whole new audience, driving traffic to your site and increasing subscribers to your blog.
Flickr is a photo sharing site, Slideshare is a presentation sharing site, YouTube is a video sharing site (where an hour of video is uploaded every second).
If someone asks you why you aren’t on a certain channel yet, don’t stress. Just say breezily, “Oh, that. It’s not part of my channel strategy.” Works every time!
Remember: Learn to crawl before you walk, and run before you fly. Start with a manageable social presence, one you can maintain through a couple of hours work a week, and master that before adding to it.
In the next instalment of Social Media 101 for Freelancers, we’ll talk about finding your voice online, creating a content calendar, measuring return on your time and investment, and what to do if things go pear-shaped.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this Two-Part Blog Series on how freelancers can use social marketing to get results.
THIS BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON UNASHAMEDLY CREATIVE.