Social Media As a Business Tool: A Primer for Freelancers

By Josh Hoffman, Contributor, on October 26, 2017

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Social media is an amazing tool for indys around the world. “Being active on social media has added a layer of both engagement and credibility to my brand that I wouldn’t have otherwise had,” says freelancer Liz Alton. Before Twitter, every indy had to find room in his or her budget to market themselves beyond word-of-mouth. Now, you can leverage your army of carefully curated online accounts to use social media as a business tool. Not only can you use the vast majority of social media for free marketing (unless you subscribe to the notion that time is money), but you can also explore paid opportunities to complement everything you’re able to do without spending a dime. Take the steps below to start leveraging social media as a business tool today.

1. Strategically Identify Your Channels

Start by asking yourself the following: Which types of clients (small businesses, non-profits or big brands) do you want to attract? Which person (owner, manager or C-suite executive) makes the hiring decisions in these organizations? And, most importantly, which social media channels do these people use to seek solutions for their organizations?

LinkedIn is almost always the best bet for B2B marketing, followed by Facebook, Twitter, Medium and YouTube. That’s assuming that the people you want to attract are all using these channels. It’s also important to select the channels that’ll best bring your work to life. For example, if you’re a writer or journalist, post some prose on Medium. If you’re a photographer or designer, take some photos with Instagram. And if you’re a video professional, hit record on YouTube.

2. Build a Relevant Audience

After you identify the best channels for you, it’s time to determine how to build a relevant audience on each platform. Overall, there are two ways to build an audience: organically and through paid campaigns.

So, how can you build an audience organically on LinkedIn? Use your personal profile instead of a business page to search for and connect with all the relevant people in your existing network. And don’t forget to connect with worthwhile contacts in-person when you meet them in your day-to-day life.

Freelance writer Angela Tague knows the importance of building an audience on social media: On more than one occasion, she’s “received private messages or emails that reference an article [she’s] shared recently, followed by an offer to collaborate on a new project.”

Unfortunately, organic content can be missed by most of your audience. Therefore, if you have the necessary budget, it’s worth investing in paid advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Doing so can maximize your reach and exposure. Start by developing a lead magnet to collect prospective clients’ information, and then begin building your paid campaigns.

3. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

Content is the oxygen of social media, so it’s imperative to develop a content marketing strategy. Make sure that you select channels that’ll bring your work to life in the best way possible.

Understanding the types of content you can effectively create is an important first step. Try to stay consistent with the type of content you provide as a service. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, create a variety of graphics (like GIFs, infographics and animations) to continuously present and promote your brand on social media. If you don’t provide some type of content as a service, leverage your already-existing skills to create content on the platforms your target clients use. If you’re a programmer who also happens to be a strong writer, for instance, use blogging to convey your core message.

As a freelance writer, Tague knows it’s important to use social media to promote her writing services on a daily basis. “I might share links to my business website or talk about current projects I’m tackling,” she says. “However, the most profitable social media marketing strategy to date is simply sharing the things I’ve written for current and past clients.”

Whichever types of content you elect to employ, the key to developing a strong content marketing strategy is to focus your content more on the “end” — or, your clients’ organizational goals — rather than the means, which are your products or services. Use content to paint an easy-to-understand picture of how your services will enable people to achieve their organizational goals. Additionally, don’t hesitate to amplify your personal brand by integrating your personal experiences, passions, beliefs and anecdotes.

In order to achieve the best results with your content marketing strategy, you should establish a regular publishing schedule with a uniform cadence. To make this process easier and more efficient, consider using social scheduler tools such as Hootsuite. Of course, it’s crucial that you leverage tools to measure the effectiveness of your content so that you can double down on what works. Most social platforms have built-in analytics dashboards (e.g., Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics), but you can also use an all-in-one dashboard like Sprout Social to make your life a little easier.

As Tague says, “my social media feeds are living, breathing resumes of my work, with a sprinkle of personality mixed in.” Once you understand how your business can leverage social platforms to maximize its reach and interactions, start developing your strategy (and adapt it as necessary). The sky’s pretty much the limit after that.

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