Unless you are an incredibly well-connected Freelance consultant who is out there making a killing and maybe even turning business away (yes, I know a half-dozen people who fit that description but it ain’t me!), social media plays some role in your branding and marketing strategies. Each platform has its uses and will be a good fit for some businesses and maybe not so much for others. The platforms are all free, but remember that time is a valuable and limited asset. No matter how responsive to social media marketing your venture is, Freelancers and small business owners cannot maintain a presence on every platform, unless you outsource the function (but if the dollars are there, then it could be worth the investment).
As carefully as you manage your money, likewise manage the time you apply to the social media portion of your marketing strategy (and I mean portion, because social media is not the alpha and omega of marketing). Get started by first asking yourself what you would like your broader marketing strategy to achieve and then what each platform can do to support that aim.
Everything always starts with your clients, your target markets. Who are they and what kinds of social marketing might they respond to? B2B clients will require a different approach and will have different expectations than B2C customers, for example. Next, think about what you would like social media outreach to do for you?
Is your objective to promote products or services, or promote awareness of your brand story (that is, who you are, what motivated you to go into business, what your venture sells and something of your values and priorities as regards the business)? Might you like to build relationships and a community of customers who will also talk to each other and you? Does supporting customer service have a place in your social media objectives?
Finally, how do you want to express your story narrative? You will notice that my blog content is exclusively text (but I did include images in two posts and a video in another, a couple of years ago). I’d like to include photos sometimes, but I don’t have time to hunt down freebies online, so I chose to research, write and present topics that you might want to read about in text format.
The biggest of the platforms with about 1.86 billion users (February 2017) around the world, who represent an all-encompassing demographic spectrum. There are somewhat more women users than men and the bulk of the age demographic is 25-60 years. 47% of Americans say that Facebook is their primary influencer when it comes to making purchases (Forbes Magazine).
Especially those who are in B2C and for some in B2B, Facebook will bring excellent ROI. In-store events and promotions, speaking engagements, your workshops and other events can be announced to Facebook Friends. Content provided in text, photos, or video can be uploaded. You can create groups and build communities, or post a customer survey. Share behind-the-scenes information about your business and what it takes to do what you do and in the process engage with customers, strengthen your brand and build relationships.
Does that sound like too much work and too much sharing? Then create a Fan Page and limit your presence to basic info. Be aware that your presentation of text, photos and other content should be relaxed and welcoming, to create a personal feel (but remember that business is nevertheless the context).
You’ll find 500 million users around the world here and 80% are outside of the U.S. On average, 95 million photos and videos are shared every day, with many accessed on a mobile device (present your content accordingly). At least 42% of teens in the U.S. follow Instagram, with the demographic sweet spot 14-35 years and slightly skewed to female. Instagram is about photo sharing, very short video trailers and concise text posting that includes a hashtag # that helps to spread your content. Add a link to your profile bio. Decide if you want a public or members-only account. Links cannot be shared.
Visual storytelling, behind-the-scenes photo montages, social selling, brand awareness, engaging with customers and creating relationships are good uses of this platform. If you are in public relations or special event/conference planning, then you will find worthwhile B2B use, otherwise it’s B2C as far as I can tell.
As of January 2017, LinkedIn has 467 million users globally and it’s considered the gold standard B2B social media platform, very effective for communicating one’s personal brand. I think most users place it at the junction of free website and online curriculum vitae. Business ventures large and small, Freelance consultants, corporate and nonprofit leaders, physicians and dentists, any employee who harbors professional aspirations and most college students have a LinkedIn profile page. Recruiters use of the platform as well, to identify potential candidates for job openings and their success has motivated thousands of companies to post job openings on the site.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform on which to build a community of professional colleagues through your connections and share with them your professional story, successes, highlights and other updates. This blog posts to my LinkedIn page and my connections receive notice of its arrival. Your connections will also share their stories and there is great opportunity to be in touch and nurture relationships.
Professional portfolios, videos, white papers, newsletters, blogs, infographics and SlideShare presentations can be added to your profile page to add depth to your brand story. Links to articles or studies that could interest your connections can be posted. Recommendations and endorsements let others verify your professional bona fides and you can return the favor.
In the Groups section, you’ll engage with colleagues within your industry, or with alumni of your school. Topics of interest are explored through posted questions and group members can respond and in the process get to know one another and possibly, forge relationships that lead to doing business.
We’ll continue next week with overviews of more commonly used social media platforms.
Thanks for reading,