Let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of social media as a business tool for freelancers, or for any other kind of solopreneur or business.
The smart use of social media can be a great way to connect with people in your industry and reach out to potential customers, clients or partners.
The smart use of social media involves achieving absolute clarity over how you use it, when you use it and how much time you spend using it.
To take an extreme example, you can quite easily spend hundreds of hours on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, build up a list of 10,000 followers, friends and connections, and then derive zero benefit from your efforts.
As I watch my Twitter stream, and see some people tweeting dozens of times a day, I sometimes ask myself, “Why? Why is he tweeting so much? What’s his strategy? What benefit is he deriving from all this time spent on Twitter? What is his ROI?”
That’s the first thing. Create a social media strategy for yourself. Decide on why you are using it. Set some goals. Then spend your time on achieving those goals. Also, keep track of the time you spend on social media, and make sure you are getting a good ROI.
Now let’s talk about lunch.
Imagine you have lunch with colleague, peer or old client. Or an existing client. Or a possible, future client. You spend a couple of hours over your meal. That’s 160 minutes of face time and talk time.
A little talk about family stuff. A little moaning about the economy. A then some talk about what you are doing, the clients you have, the kind of work you are picking up, the kind of work you hope to be doing soon.
Maybe at about minute 89, your lunch guest says something like, “Hey, I should hook you up with my pal Frank. He’s the marketing manager over at Xyz Corp, and I know he’s looking for the kind of expertise you offer. I’ll get you guys together.”
That took 89 minutes.
How long would it take you on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin?
Regardless of the time spent, consider the power of the referral. An introduction through LinkedIn is very nice. But it has nothing like the power of someone saying, “Frank, you should talk to Nick. I have known him for years and the other day we were having lunch, and he was talking about this new service he is offering.”
Put simply, a real-world referral is infinitely more powerful and effective than a virtual referral through social media.
How come? Because of the relative power or the connections you make.
You may well have 10,000 connections through social media. But these are vague, misty, fleeting, ethereal and essentially very weak connections. These people don’t really know you. They have no reason to go out of their way to help you. They’re not your real friends. They don’t care about you.
But when you get to know someone over the years, and have lunch each month, and hear about how their kids are doing at school, that creates a very strong connection.
Make a note of how much time you spend on social media each week.
6 hours, maybe?
That’s three lunches.
Which would be the better use of your time?
For most of us I think the answer is to do both. Just don’t get so tied up with social media that you forget the power of real-life, personal relationships.
NOTE: For information on how to use social media strategically, with clear goals in mind, learn about my social media program.