Ah, social media! The newish frontier. Can we all take a collective moment and think about how quickly the world has changed?
… welcome back. Social media has changed the way we organize, the way we celebrate, the way we stay in touch, the way we mourn, and yes – the way we work.
Social media fluency is especially important for freelancers, who can use platforms to attract clients, get gigs, and raise their profiles.
While there's a lot of best-practices out there, growing a community online takes common sense and uncommon empathy. Here are some guidelines to help you get started:
Have a social media presence
Yes, it is 2015. Yes, unless you are a member of a prominent spy agency, you are probably hurting yourself and missing out on opportunities by not having some kind of presence on social media.
Freelancers, especially, often have good luck getting gigs via social media – it’s a boon for any industry that operates on word-of-mouth.
Take a few online tutorials if you’re feeling skittish; most social media platforms are built to be user-friendly, so it typically doesn’t take long to learn the ropes. Then come on in! The water’s fine!
Post with frequency
On most social media platforms, 1-2 (germane) posts a day is ideal. What do I mean by “germane?” Boring, passive-aggressive, or offensive posts do you no good.
Share interesting articles; post exciting or stirring images. Remind people about upcoming deals or events.
How-to professional tips often do really well on social media, especially if portioned out in regular intervals. Content that involves a call-to-action (“Which graphic should we choose? Vote here!”) can also get a good response. But most of all…
Humor does extremely well on social media; so does content that solicits emotional responses. Y’know why?
Because it’s human – and people like feeling like they’re interacting peer-to-peer, not with social media ‘bots.
We don’t add Facebook “people”, we add Facebook “friends”, and that’s very much part of the social media culture: friendliness, informality, imperfection.
It’s okay to mess around a little bit; as long as you use some discretion and don’t actively bad-mouth clients (don’t do that; you’ll get fired) or say actively offensive claptrap, silliness and intelligent observation is a GOOD thing.
Don’t be afraid to be loose, human, funny, absurdist, passionate, joyful, excited – to let your own point of view breathe. That’s what makes you interesting!
I make obnoxious, funny observations on social media because I make a lot of obnoxious, funny observations in life, and it tends to get me work that suits my natural tone. Professionalism doesn’t have to mean stiffness; find what works for you. Which leads me to…
Think about your audience
Who are you writing for? What kind of things are they interested in? Are you looking to attract more clients, or to build/maintain existing relationships?
Let your ideal audience inform your tone. Be on the lookout for advice or articles that may appeal to them. Be responsive to comments.
Think of ways to include your audience that are focused on THEIR needs – whether you’re entertaining them, providing helpful tips, or giving them special treatment (hello, social media discounts).
Join the Union (it's free!)
Use EXTREME discretion when posting your information in comment sections (i.e. “I’m a writer! Check out my stuff at www.pleasereadthispleaseplease.com!” ).
If you’re looking to find new clients, take your time. Build friendly relationships with people before instantly pitching them – most don’t take well to instant “friending + solicitation”.
Again, try to interact on a thoughtful, peer-to-peer level; it can be tempting to constantly emphasize quantity over quality on social media, but don’t fall down that hole. 1-2 GOOD, INTERESTING, AFFECTING posts a day is worth way more than 10 “filler” pieces.
Advertise your presence on social media, but don’t shove it down people’s throats; instead, attract them with your content.
Be a jerk
This should go without saying, but, ah, it needs to be said.
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a bully. Don’t say hateful things, and watch it on the nasty comments.
Don’t complain opaquely about your present gig; you’d be surprised how often some friend-of-a-friend will identify the culprit in question.
Don’t forget that for every person who actively responds, many more are reading. Remember that even if you take your post down, it takes about two seconds to take a screenshot.
I generally try not to put anything on social media that I wouldn’t be okay with having read out loud in a public forum. Fortunately, I have a high embarrassment threshold.
Again - have fun, get a little silly! But don’t be a troll.
The only exception: if you’re in the habit of airing discriminatory remarks or hate speech, by all means post it – so the rest of us know to boycott your business.
Have your own social media dos and don’ts? Share 'em in the Social Media Marketing Hive – and remember, we’re all reading!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.