Social media can be a wonderful tool for freelancers. But it can also be a time sink.
It’s all too easy to spend hours a week feeding the social media beast, without getting any measurable value in return.
All too often we focus on numbers. We want more friends and followers. We want more clicks and more positive feedback.
Once things start rolling and our numbers start rising at a healthy clip, it’s easy to develop a minor obsession. All of a sudden we are spending more and more time finding ways to increase the size of our social media audience.
If this is happening to you, you should press the pause button, sit back and ask yourself this simple question: “Who are these people?”
If they are people like you – fellow freelancers – you are wasting your time. It’s unlikely that any of them are going to contribute significantly to the growth and success of your business. Not impossible, but unlikely.
You’d do better to tighten things up and focus only on two audiences…
Audience #1: Prospective clients
The time you spend on social media has the most value when you use it to attract new clients. Imagine waking up one day and finding a direct message from a prospective client asking you to get in touch.
How can you achieve this? First off, follow their own social media streams and contribute by way of likes, loves and comments. But don’t overdo it. Don’t stalk them.
Most important of all, add value. I constantly see people trying to attract my attention on my own social media streams. They add comments like “Cool!” and “Awesome!” There’s no value there. They are not making themselves look good. You’ll do better to contribute valuable and useful feedback and comments. Communicate your own knowledge and expertise.
Next, make sure the content within your own social media streams is of value to your prospects. Link to your own content only when it is of direct value to your clients. And don’t feature only your own stuff. Also link to articles, videos, podcasts etc that are created by others, but still of value to your prospects. Be a curator of high value. Share the good stuff, whatever its source.
Audience #2: Influencers and thought leaders
The second group comprises people who are influencers and thought leaders in your own space, but not potential clients.
Why bother with these people? Because if they get to know you and recognize your expertise, they will likely share and spread the content you publish. When a post of yours is given the thumbs up by an influencer, it makes you look good, acts as an endorsement and brings you to the attention of other people.
Over time, influencers can then go on to mention you to people who really are potential clients.
If you are going to target influencers, you need to aim above your own pay grade. There’s not much benefit to making friends with people at the same level as you.
On the other hand, you don’t want to aim too high either. At least, not at first.
For example, if you are in the marketing space, you might feel tempted to reach out to Guy Kawasaki. Well, good luck with that. He has almost 1.5 million followers on Twitter alone. He’s going to be too busy to notice you among the tens of thousands of other people who hope he will notice them first.
Find a middle ground… above your pay grade, but not up in the stratosphere.
You can be social in the real world too
These tips for using social media work in real life too. You can build networks of prospective clients and influencers by attending events and conferences.
When you get there, do the same as you’d do on social media.
Be a source of valuable information to prospective clients, and attract the interest of influencers.
Truth be told, while social media is a great tool for connection with people at a distance, meeting those people face to face is a great deal more powerful.
But either way – as I said at the outset – use your time and energy wisely.
Make sure you’re connecting with people who can offer you real value, either today or at some point in the future.
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