Participation in one or more social media platforms is now a given in both the professional and personal spheres. Nearly every Freelance solopreneur has a presence on at least one social media platform, even if participation is not active. Social media have the potential to provide benefits to business owners, the self-employed and the traditionally employed, but in order to reap those benefits, one needs to understand how social media can best function for you.
The first question to consider is, who’s listening? Do those you want to reach participate in social media for their organization’s needs or just for their own career? That answer will determine which platform you choose. The second question is, what is your business? The third question is, will social media function for you as a sales tool, a marketing tool, or PR?
If you produce a product that potential customers want to see, e.g., landscaping, photography or fancy cakes, then Facebook Fan Page, Google + Business and maybe Pinterest are your social media best bets. These platforms give you a place to post photos of your lovely creations. Musicians, artists and dancers use these platforms to display performance photos and videos. LinkedIn Professional Portfolio also allows photos, slide shows and videos to be posted to the profile. However, LinkedIn has a “corporate” image and prospective customers will not automatically search that platform when checking you out.
Foursquare is ideal for a bricks and mortar business. First, the platform specializes in geolocation, so you’ll ensure that potential customers will find your business and second, you can initiate dialogue between your business and customers. Your customers may have already entered your business and created a page for you. Links to Facebook and Twitter are available. To track your advertising reach and evaluate the platform’s ROI, offer exclusive Foursquare specials and product updates.
Regarding dialogue, Twitter is the king of all social media when having conversations about your business or industry is the goal. Tweet the announcement of the class you’ll teach, the conference you’ll attend and your thoughts on the presentation you just heard at that conference. Store owners tweet the arrival of new merchandise; restaurant owners tweet the daily specials; musicians tweet the dates of upcoming performances.
LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for the traditionally employed and Freelancers who offer business services. I think of LinkedIn as my adjunct website, where I can announce professional victories, post a Power Point presentation that gives an overview of my services on Slide Share and link this blog and supply updates of new posts to my connections. LinkedIn Groups lets me interact with peers in my industry by reading and participating in discussion threads. Recruiters looking to fill jobs troll this platform in search of qualified candidates to interview.
Finally, define how social media can function for you, based on the business you’re in and the way your customers use social media. If prospective customers like the look of the landscapes you design or the sound of your jazz combo and feel comfortable judging the value you provide online, then social media directly impacts the sales process and is for you a sales tool .
If potential customers use Twitter memes to discuss industry developments, then marketing is your social media strategy. Use the platform to establish your bona fides as an up-to-date, in-the-know thought leader. Promote your expertise and develop a following by sharing a steady stream of relevant information (content) that will benefit prospects. Tell, don’t sell.
Google + Business Hang Outs, which allow you to conduct a video call with up to 10 customers who may be located anywhere in the world, make it possible to have an online face-to-face meet-up or meeting, depending on your agenda. Marketing as expressed through customer engagement, market research and customer service is the social media function.
Peer-to-peer PR is the function of LinkedIn. Stay abreast with what colleagues are doing professionally and announce your achievements. Make recommendations and endorsements for those with whom you’ve worked, in either a paid or volunteer position and receive commendations in return. Those looking to hire employees or Freelance consultants always peruse the LinkedIn profiles of candidates, so keep your profile current and complete.
Thanks for reading,