Guide to Using Social Networking to Promote Your Services

With so many freelancers and design agencies out there, finding work can often be a major struggle, especially for those who are just getting started. A growing number of designers are using social media as a means of marketing their services, in addition to simply using it for interacting with friends. While social media marketing can be extremely effective, it can also be a big waste of time. In this post we’ll look at some tips that should help you to ensure that your time with social media is well spent.

1. Know What You Want to Accomplish

One of the most common mistakes that is made in social media marketing is not having a purpose or a goal. Many businesses and entrepreneurs recognize the power and potential of social media and social networking, so they feel that they need to be involved. However, simply having a Facebook fan page or a Twitter profile is not going to make a real difference.

Developing a social media marketing plan requires having a specific purpose or goal (if you’re using social networking only for fun or personal reasons then, of course, this does not apply). Web designers may want to use social media to find more clients, network with other professionals, or maybe to build links to their blog or portfolio site. The first step to using social media effectively is to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish. This will shape the approach that you take and the way you use the social media sites. Without having a goal or something that you want to accomplish, there is really no way to know if it is working for you and your business.

2. Market Passively

Users who are new to social media and motivated to use it to market their business will often make the mistake of marketing too aggressively. By nature, social media is all about people interacting with people, and when there is an obvious marketing initiative, many users can be turned off. Aggressive marketing is rarely successful for this reason.

In the case of a designer, an example of passive marketing would be the use of Twitter to communicate with other designers, and possibly with potential clients. Maybe the designer provides help or feedback to other users from time-to-time. Others may see this designer as being helpful and qualified, and when they are in need of services they may reach out to this designer.

3. Choose the Right Sites

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of social media and social networking sites out there. Of course, you cannot possibly use them all or even be active at a large number of them. It’s much more effective to have an active presence at just a few social media sites than to have a not-very-active profile at hundreds of social media sites.

The best approach is to decide on a small number of social media sites (maybe 2-4) that would be ideal for what you want to accomplish. For designers, Twitter is a great place to be active because almost every designer is on Twitter. If you’re hoping to use social media to promote posts on your design blog, niche sites like Design Bump and Design Float can provide a much more targeted audience (although significantly less traffic potential) than major social news sites.

Chose a few sites that work well for what you are trying to accomplish, and don’t worry about not being active at all of the other social media sites. Focus your social media efforts on the specific sites you are targeting so that you can have enough time there to make an impact.

4. Be a Consistent Part of the Community

Once you have chosen the specific sites that you want to target, make an effort to use them on a consistent basis. Social networking is one of those things that can easily get pushed to the back burner when you are busy, so if it is a priority in your marketing strategy, make sure that you have some time allocated for social networking on a regular basis (preferably every day, but at least several times per week).

Social media users are pretty good at picking out who is using the site to truly be a part of the community and who is using it strictly to market themselves or their business. If you become a consistent user that really becomes a part of the community, occasionally marketing your products or services will generally go over a lot better than if you are not a consistent user, and only participating when you want to market yourself.

5. Be Helpful and Approachable

The designers who are most effective at using social media to promote themselves have developed a reputation for being helpful and approachable. People often choose to do business with people that they like. Developing a good reputation and making some friends can go a long way towards improving your business through social media. Rather than using Twitter to always announce your availability for work you could take a few minutes to answer questions asked by other users.

6. Have a Blog

Social media and blogging often go hand in hand. A high percentage of social media users also have a blog, and a high percentage of bloggers also have some social media profiles. Having a blog allows you to use social media for drawing traffic to your site and to build links as well. Blogs are also great for interacting and communicating with others.

Just like you need to have a purpose for your activity on social media sites, you also need to have a purpose for your blog. Are you using the blog to attract visitors who may be potential clients? Are you using it to connect with other designers and developers? Do you want to use the blog to increase your profile in the industry? Do you want to use the blog to supplement your income (such as ad revenue or template/theme sales)? The purpose of your blog will determine the types of content that you publish.

7. Share Your Work

If you are hoping to pick up new clients or to increase the awareness of your work through social networking, you may want to share your work. If you’ve just finished a client project that you’re really proud of, consider sharing a link on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever sites you are using. Showing your work (assuming it is quality) can help to put yourself in the minds of those who may be looking for a designer.

Although it can be helpful and productive to share your work, it also goes back to the issue of being an active, consistent user. If you’re only using social media to showcase your work and not interacting with users in other ways, it is unlikely to be very effective. However, if you’re an active user who has developed a strong reputation and you’re occasionally sharing your work and looking for feedback from other users, it can be much more effective.

8. Link to Your Portfolio and Blog from Your Social Profiles

Almost every social media site will provide you with a profile page that allows you to link to your own URL. Doing so will not send floods of traffic to your site, but it will make it easier for other users of the social media site to track you down or just to learn more about what you do. People who do not know you may come across your social profile and click through to your blog or your portfolio site, and this may even lead to new clients.

9. Integrate Social Media into Your Blog

Having a blog also provides a lot of opportunities to cross-promote your social media profiles and to improve interaction with blog readers. There are plenty of ways to display recent tweets on your blog, to integrate your Facebook profile, or to encourage social media votes with voting buttons or widgets. Among design blogs, buttons for niche sites like Design Bump are common, and re-tweet buttons are also very common now on just about any type of blog.

By integrating social media into your blog you can increase the number of people who are following you or interacting with you via social media, which of course can increase the impact that you are having with social media. Ideally, you’ll want to use social media sites that a high percentage of your blog readers are also using so that there is maximum opportunity for people to connect with you.

10. Focus on Depth of Relationships Rather than Numbers of Friends or Followers

When using social media it’s easy to get caught up in numbers of followers, fans, or friends. In reality, those numbers will not have nearly as much to do in determining your success with social media marketing as compared to the depth and quality of the relationships that you make. Having a high follower count on Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean that you are able to convert those followers into anything meaningful for your business. On the opposite end of the spectrum you could have a much smaller number of followers and still have a greater impact if you are developing real relationships with them and landing new clients as a result.

While numbers can be indicative of impact, that is not always the case. Rather than going after high numbers, make an effort to actually develop something meaningful by getting to know other users. A few solid contacts that come out of social media and networking will make it very much worth your time.

11. Take Advantage of Available Resources

There are plenty of resources available that have been created for the purpose of improving your experience with social networking. Twitter in particular has a huge number of of resources and apps that work with the API. Free options like TweetDeck and Hootsuite can easily save time in your use of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There are also apps and software that you can buy for specific purposes, but in most cases the free options are pretty good.

By finding an app that will help you to make more efficient use of your time you can easily have a bigger impact and grow your network without the need to spend more time on social media sites. Since several great free resources are available there is really no reason to not take advantage of them.

12. Have a Long-Term Focus

If your goal with social media is to pick up a new client quickly because you’re in need of work, it’s probably not the most effective way to meet those needs. The best way to use social media for the purposes of marketing yourself and your services is to take a long-term approach. Building a strong profile and network on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can take a considerable amount of time, which lends itself to being more valuable in the long-term view.

With a proper long-term perspective, social media can tremendously help to improve your exposure in the industry and provide opportunities for getting to know others. At this point when you have established yourself and your social media profile, it is likely that more work will find you and you may not even need to use social media to actively market yourself.

13. Don’t Allow it to Consume Your Time

Although social media can be a great thing for designers (or other professionals for that matter), it can also be a serious waste of time if it’s not kept under control. It’s easy to lose track of how much time you are spending on social media sites, so be sure that your social media efforts are not hampering your ability to perform services for clients or to run your business.

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