When I first went to university in 2006, social media was in its infancy. I was a proliferate MySpace and Bebo user, but initially snubbed the idea of Facebook when a Maltese friend suggested it to me.
Today, both of my original social media profiles are probably still out there somewhere, but they serve no business purpose. I’m also a member of the social network I snubbed, plus a handful of others. While some of them receive a lot of my attention, one or two fade into the background when life gets hectic.
If you’re a freelancer of any kind, you should probably have a website, and hopefully, you will have a blog too. Although organic search results were once smooth, today you need to delve into the worlds of paid and social media marketing. Fortunately, said worlds aren’t murky, and lots of our favorite social media sites provide business promotion tools. But, unless you have oodles of time on your hands, you probably shouldn’t start promoting your freelancing business by using all of them at once.
Because of this, I am going to guide you through each social media site, the advertising tools they provide and help you decide which one is best for you. Are you ready? Let’s go…
According to Statista, Instagram has 800-million monthly users. Compared to other social media sites, it isn’t too saturated on the advertising front. But, what is Instagram, and is it right for your business?
In short, Instagram is the place we all head to when we want to show off the shinier aspects of our lives. We post edited images of ecstatic moments from our latest holidays. It’s a world of illusions, where few of us would show off the rage that ensued when we waited for four hours in a customs queue.
Because of this, Instagram is a highly personal site. It gives you the chance to provide your perspective, and current customers with a behind the scenes look at your business. Show the glitzier side, and you will appeal to their emotions, leading to a personal connection that makes them more likely to buy from you.
How do you use Instagram to promote your business?
After setting up your brand’s Instagram page, the network will give you the chance to highlight it as a ‘business’ rather than a ‘personal’ account. Doing so allows you to link it to your freelance business’s Facebook page if you have one. Once you’ve done this, you need to:
Create aesthetically-pleasing pictures that highlight how your business operates
As I’ve mentioned, Instagram users love aesthetically pleasing pictures. As such, they don’t want to see snaps of your crumb-crusted keyboard from last night’s attempt at writing while eating pizza. They love lifestyle-blogger-style images of neat desks and fantasy world living.
So, when you advertise your business via Instagram, you need to take a picture that looks good, provides an insight into your freelancing efforts in a behind the scenes manner, and you’ll probably need to edit the photos too. Instagram does provide free editing tools, but I’ve found AColorStory is also a useful app.
When you post a photo, write a short and sweet caption. Then, add no more than three to five hashtags. While throwing in the maximum of 30 may attract more ‘likes,’ these are usually automated and superficial. So you’ll look messy and won’t gain worthwhile followers.
Showcase new goods
Bearing the above in mind, you can take photos of new products and showcase them. Or, if you’re launching a new service, make sure your office looks tidy, get a friend to take a photo of you all well-dressed and smiling, and post it as an ad. Again, using hashtags, you can attract organic followers, but don’t overdo it.
Make followers aware of promotions
Once you do gain followers, you can use apps such as Canva to create pretty graphics that highlight developments. However, your promotion to aesthetically-pleasing/seemingly pointless post ratio should be low. Otherwise, you’ll receive unfollows if people feel you’re spamming them.
Ideally, you should post no more than one to three images per day. Fortunately, this is what makes Instagram so straightforward; you don’t have to dedicate LOADS of time to it on the posting front. It’s just those pics that act as time-suckers instead.
Use one of Instagram’s four business ad options
Today, Instagram has four advertising options for you to choose between:
- Photos; Create a clean and beautiful picture and Instagram will make it appear in the feeds of relevant followers.
- Videos; From video tours of your office to day-in-the-life-of style insights, you can promote videos too to draw attention to your freelancing business.
- Carousel ads; Do you have more than one photo to promote? Instagram also permits carousel ads, which are great for showcasing products.
- Stories; If you use Instagram, you’ll probably notice that ‘stories’ appear from your friends at the top of your feed. Now, Instagram allows businesses to intersperse them with their story ads.
What are the perks of using Instagram to promote your business?
Customers and clients are visual creatures
Instagram gives your customers a visual insight into what you do. Uploading the right type of photo can seem more enticing than paragraphs of boring content.
There are fewer limits on hashtags and content
With that said, you do need to write a description of some sort. Unlike Twitter, Instagram doesn’t place strict limits on how much you can write. If you intend to use the network as a mini blog and you have longtail hashtags for a niche service, this is very useful indeed.
Instagram’s insights help you tweak your ads for the future
If an ad isn’t performing well, you can use Instagram’s ideas feature to see why. It’ll show you who is viewing your ad, who is clicking and provides details about their demographics. Using this information, you can return to your ad and adapt it, so it targets the right audience and you don’t throw away money.
Who wouldn’t benefit from using Instagram to promote their business?
I use Instagram to promote my blog and my affiliate site. While I’m not a ‘heavy’ user as such, I do find clients and draw attention to my affiliate content.
With that said, Instagram doesn’t work for everyone. Here are some of the reasons you may not want to use it:
You’re targeting a demographic that doesn’t use Instagram
My affiliate site focuses on maternity fashion. Younger women of childbearing age LOVE Instagram, so it works well for me. However, if your target demographic is older, the network may prove pointless. Before setting up an account, research whether your target audience uses the site.
You’re not all that great at taking photos
Take a look at some of Instagram’s most prominent lifestyle bloggers to see the standards you need to meet. If you’re not likely to reach them, you have two options: learn a little more about Instagram photography, or abandon the idea.
When I first began writing this post, which considering the length seems like forever ago now, I did state that you shouldn’t waste your efforts trying to become a fabulous photographer. Since then, I started listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and my attitude has shifted. If you enjoy taking photos and the process of tweaking them, go for it on the basis that you’ll obtain creative joy at the very least.
Facebook’s new algorithm makes it hella expensive
Just in case you weren’t aware, Facebook and Instagram are now married. Unfortunately, the sites’ combined algorithms mean advertising efforts heavily favor those with big budgets. As such, you’re likely competing against large companies that overshadow yours if you intend to pay for ads.
Facebook statistics are continually changing. But, the latest ones claim that there are 2.13 billion users active each month around the world. To me, this is marvelous, as I can target my freelance writer services to an array of English-speaking countries and businesses.
Another thing I love about Facebook is the way you don’t feel lost in a sea of users like you do when you’re using Twitter. Although I love Twitter and I do Tweet, seeing my feed makes me feel as though I am whispering into a giant chasm at times.
How do you use Facebook to promote your business?
First of all, you need a Facebook account. Yes, that may seem like a moderately obvious statement to make. However, you don’t set one up just for your business in the same way that you do for Instagram.
After setting your account up, you then make a page for your business. From there, Facebook guides you through determining specific options. For example, are you promoting a personal blog? Website? Online store?
How you then proceed depends on the site you’re promoting. If you have one, that is.
Technically, you don’t need a freelancing website to work as a freelancer. However, I highly recommend that you create one; otherwise, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to get private clients and make advertising revenue.
Some tips for making sure your Facebook business page is a success
- Make sure your brand’s profile picture is clear, recognizable, and consistent with your other social media channels. If the picture is you, try to use the same image for each account.
- Fill in your ‘about’ section so that visitors know what your business is about. Not only does this attract more likes, but it also increases the likelihood that any money you invest in ads pays off. Users won’t click ‘like’ or visit your site if they don’t know what it’s about.
- Make sure each post you create is consistent with your branding. I tend to use Canva because I am naff at tools such as Photoshop. In Canva, I have set up brand colors and fonts to ensure I remain consistent.
- Seize the opportunity to boost organic posts, but make sure you tailor them to your audience. Facebook will give you the option of narrowing your target audience down, so you don’t throw money at pointless ads.
- If you do use Facebook ads, make sure you track their success. There’s no point in continuing with a campaign if it’s not drawing attention to your services. Keep tweaking until you find an approach that works. With my affiliate site, my target audience was easy to identify. For this one, not so much.
What are the perks of using Facebook to promote your business?
The targeted advertising is ridiculously slick
Until I read She Means Business by Carrie Green, I didn’t realize just how smooth Facebook’s ad targeting is. It’s easier to navigate than Google ads, and it brings you closer to the audience you have in your mind.
You can boost a particular story
Whether it’s a new product or a blog you just wrote, few experiences are more frustrating than posting it on your Facebook page, throwing in a few hashtags, and seeing it fall into nowhere. If you want to draw more attention, you can set a per-day budget and boost exposure using the slick target advertising I mentioned above.
The messaging feature makes customer service easier
If your customers have a Facebook account, they can message you via Facebook for general inquiries. If you’re anything like me, this means you’ll find it easier to respond quickly and keep people happy. Why? Because your customers’ emails aren’t falling into the sea of junk that’s in your usual account.
Who wouldn’t benefit from using Facebook to promote their business?
Steer clear of Facebook if you don’t want to harness a relationship
Facebook is very interactive. Unlike Instagram, it’s not a case of posting an image and waiting for a few double taps. Once your audience grows, they’ll interact with you publicly. Failing to respond to them publicly leaves you looking and feeling vulnerable, as well as a little douchey.
Don’t use it if you can’t handle negative comments
If there’s a social media network that’s home to negativity, it’s Facebook. Take a look at any large brand’s page, and you’ll soon see rants from customers and clients. Again, not responding quickly looks terrible, and if you start to argue back, you look even worse.
You need to commit
Following from the above, once you start your business’s Facebook page, you need to commit to it. Failing to do so leaves your customers feeling as though you don’t care. This doesn’t just mean responding quickly either. You need to post consistently, and if your approach isn’t working, you have to use analytics to figure out why and act on it the reason. I will discuss ways to make this easier, below.
Hello Twitter. Although I said earlier that I sometimes feel as though I am whispering into a chasm of nothingness when I Tweet, I can’t seem to stay away from it.
Twitter is a busy and fast-paced social network. It’s addictive, so you can get sucked into Tweeting throughout the day and oversharing. Like Facebook, most interactions are very public. At present, it has 328 million monthly users. This makes it smaller than Facebook, but it is a hectic environment to operate in.
How do you use Twitter to promote your business?
Just in case you have been hiding under a rock recently, Twitter has now expanded the number of characters you can use from 140 to 280. Twitter’s character expansion means more considerable scope for using hashtags that are relevant to your business. Plus, you can write more about the blog/product you’re advertising, or the topic you’re feeling particularly ranty about at the moment.
Otherwise, there are lots of ways to use Twitter to promote your freelancing business:
- Make sure your account is consistent with your brand; Use the same type of colors, a Twitter handle that represents your brand, and remain consistent in the images you Tweet. Don’t forget to fill out your Twitter bio, add a picture or logo, update your cover photo, and add a link to your site. Nobody likes to Tweet to or follow an egg that appears purposeless.
- Be prepared to interact; Twitter is going to suggest accounts for you to follow. The first ones will mostly be rubbish. Trust me; I had no interest in following Robbie Williams when I first set up my account, even if I did listen to him as a teenager. Try to follow people in your niche. They may or may not follow you back. However, when you do visit Twitter, donate some time to meaningful interactions with them. When I say meaningful, I mean avoid the type of spammy comments that appear on blogs. Don’t just tweet back with “Great Tweet,” open up a little dialect for God’s sake.
- Begin Tweeting about whatever is relevant to your brand; Promote products, tweet your latest posts, and throw out some stuff you wrote a little while back. However, even though your Twitter feed is yours, it isn’t all about you. If you want people to follow you, you should remain current and helpful. That means Tweeting other people’s stuff too and giving your opinion on it.
- Make sure you use your voice; As a freelance writer, I love to use my voice online. Make sure you’re using yours too. It’s tempting to spot a successful account and decide you’re going to mimic what that person is saying. Don’t; in my advice to freelancers post, I highlight why it’s essential for you to do you if you’re going to build a niche.
- Add in photos; People are visual creatures. They love images. That’s why Facebook wants such a low text to image ratio on its ads. If you lack in photos, use apps such as Canva. To create visuals every once in a while. Or, ask a genius over at Fiverr to do the work for you.
- Don’t be afraid to court controversy; I’m not saying you should go about insulting people, that’s just areseholery. But, don’t be afraid to court controversy. Ryan Air’s CEO once let the tabloids believe that he was going to start charging customers to use the loos onboard. The result? People were losing their shit, but his airline drew a lot of attention at a point when budget airlines were all competing in an era where people were scared of flying. A little negative press isn’t always a bad thing. Also, I recently flew with them to Lisbon and Tenerife and they were fab on both occasions.
What are the perks of using Twitter to promote your business?
People LOVE to deliver feedback via Twitter, which is useful for your business
You know that crazy chef Gordon Ramsay who loves to visit restaurants and scream about how rubbish the proprietors are? I distinctly remember him telling one owner during an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares that he has never cared about good feedback. He wants the bad so that he can always improve.
If someone has an issue with your service or wants to give you feedback, Twitter is one of the avenues where it’s most likely to happen. Oh, and it’s also an excellent source of testimonials, especially if you can gently nudge your clients in that direction.
It’s a great source of lead generation for freelancers
Lead generation is an area that a lot of newbie freelancers struggle with initially. If you use hashtags wisely, you can search for freelancing jobs. For example, “writingjobs” or “graphicdesignjobs.” Some accounts are set up for this purpose. I follow a few that tweet freelance writing gigs each day, so if something catches my eye, I can jump on in there and apply for it. It saves me from sifting through the crap on sites that are otherwise good for finding gigs.
On that note, if you do choose to use sites such as Fiverr, Upwork, or Etsy; you can use Twitter to promote yourself using hashtags such as “freelancewriterforhire” etc. Initially, this all seemed ridiculous to me. But, it does work.
It’s a cost-effective solution if you’re on a low budget
Although there are options to pay for ads using Twitter, this isn’t entirely necessary as it is with Facebook. In fact, using hashtags and interactions alone can boost your lead generation and your freelancing business’s following significantly. If you’re on a tight budget and just starting out, Twitter is the one for you.
Who wouldn’t benefit from using Twitter to promote their business?
It takes a while to build your audience
With the above being said, building your audience does take time and effort. After reading Carrie Green’s book, I realized that picking a load of social media channels and attempting to use them all at once is time-consumption suicide. But, if Twitter does appeal to you, you will need to spend time socializing on there.
You’ll need to use blogging hours, dedicate a set period each day to interacting with others, and respond as Tweets come in. Fortunately, there are automation tools you can use to streamline all of this, but Twitter is a time-sucker.
Just about anybody can hijack your hashtag campaign
If you do successfully start a hashtag campaign, anybody can seize it and either make it all about them or turn it into a complete joke. For example, Britain’s Got Talent winner Susan Boyle announced her new album using the hashtag susansalbumparty. Go back and read that slowly. If your mind is anything like mine, you’ll soon see why it became ridiculous.
It has the potential to become time-consuming
One of my biggest pitfalls as a freelance writer is distractions. Messages come in, and I make the mistake of responding immediately. I decide a new app is useful and react to every single notification. When you first get started, and you do need to interact promptly, Twitter forces you into this scenario. As such, it becomes time-consuming and can distract you from the tasks at hand.
More than 150 million people use Pinterest on a monthly basis. That statistic makes it seem like a small fry social media outlet compared to the likes of Facebook, but it’s still worth your business’s attention.
For one, if you can master the mythical art that is creating a gorgeous infographic, you’ll receive thousands of pins. Guess what that leads to? Thousands of more readers. If you’re reliant on affiliate links or advertising revenue for your income, this becomes invaluable.
Just in case you’re not aware, and I’m not aiming to be patronizing, Pinterest is where people worldwide create virtual mood boards and add images to them. If you have a blog, product, or business, you can use Pinterest to promote it in a variety of ways.
For example, here are some of the ways I use Pinterest to promote my business: (admittedly, I am not doing brilliantly on the followers front right now.)
- When I create a new Etsy printable, I pin it immediately
- If I write a lengthy blog post, I create an infographic and pin it to garner attention
- When I’m bored during my commute, I create pretty quote pictures using Canva and pin them to draw in more traffic
The three above examples aren’t the long and short of how you could use Pinterest to promote your business. There are other ways, too.
How do you use Pinterest to promote your business?
Like Instagram, Pinterest depends on you having an eye for creativity. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest doesn’t entirely revolve exclusively around photography. You can create infographics, steal inspiration from your competitors, and analyze the traffic that comes from the site to fine-tune your technique and hone in on your target audience.
Make sure your Pinterest account is a business one
Having a business Pinterest account gives you access to analytics and adverts. With the former, you can assess whether your approach is working and tweak it accordingly. With the latter, you can pay to make your pins stand out and garner more followers/repins quickly.
Check out what your competitors are doing
When I say check out what your competitors are doing, I don’t mean plagiarize them. Instead, look at the influences in your area, head to their board, and generate inspiration from there. Pin some of their pins to secret boards of your own so you can see what your target audience loves to pay attention to. Like those analytics, this tool helps you fine-tune your approach.
Recognize that people are on Pinterest to spend money
On a recent flight to Lisbon, my partner and I mused over an outdoor sauna room while lurking in the air hostess’s galley. I was making him hide there because I used to be one and I wanted to peek at their equipment while he kept watching out for staff for me.
Don’t worry; my weird flight story isn’t entirely pointless. I’m just trying to demonstrate how many of those who use Pinterest do so because they are crafting mood boards that detail their ideal life. Hell, I use mine to plot what each new house I move into will look like.
Therefore, recognize that people are on Pinterest to spend money. So, if you are of the crafty disposition or you’re flaunting affiliate products, don’t let Pinterest’s ability to propel customers your way pass you by. Showcase products in the best and most fanciful light, so they’ll make it onto my latest dream home board too.
What are the perks of using Pinterest to promote your business?
If you can create a vibrant pin, you’ll drive a lot of traffic to your site
Let’s say your latest fabulous pin catches the eyes of many a keen Pinterester. Great, now lots of people are going to repin it, which means their mates see it, and suddenly you have a boost in traffic. Who would say no to that?
You’ll harness the power of image search
Suddenly, you don’t need to rely on Alt tags alone to drive traffic to your site using Google image search. Pinterest does a bit of the work for you, helping you appear in Google’s results and providing valuable backlinks at the same time. As such, it’s excellent for SEO as well as traffic.
But, it won’t be for long. If you hop in on the Pinterest game now before it reaches Facebook and Instagram levels, you’ll operate to the disadvantage of your competitors.
Who wouldn’t benefit from using Pinterest to promote their business?
You don’t have time to create rich pins
I know I keep mentioning it, but there are tools out there such as Canva that make this more comfortable for you. With that being said, all of those devices don’t generate pins out of anywhere. You still need to put the effort in, and I’m still finding out the problematic way that a half-arsed pin isn’t worth said effort.
Your audience may not be Pinterest appropriate
Okay, so more guys are using Pinterest now. My partner is one of them and he’s about as hairy and as butch as it gets. However, it is primarily a female field, so before you go pouring the effort in, make sure your demographic forms parts of Pinterest’s users. Otherwise, your pins fall on deaf ears.
Your hard work can sometimes drive traffic to someone else’s site
If someone repins your pin, that’s great. It does give you more Pinterest points, but at the same time, there’s a slight tradeoff. If it crops up on a board belonging to someone with an already strong following, you may drive traffic to their site and not yours. Because of this, your efforts feel heart sinking redundant.
Which social media network should I choose, then?
Okay, if you haven’t managed to glean that info by now, then have a little reread and see which one fits your freelancing/business model the best. Mostly, you need to check out whether your target demographic uses the network if you can afford their ad revenue should you need to use it, and how much time you have to dedicate to it. Each one becomes time-consuming in its way; remember that.
As a scientist, I should probably encourage you to try and test. Take the same approach to each network as I do with my new face creams. Give it 28 days, minimum. Why? Because that’s the time, it takes for dead skin cells to shift entirely and for some reason, I like to apply that utterly unrelated rationale to my freelancing efforts too.
If the results work, then great. Or, if you’re enjoying it and not seeing results, just plod along anyway. As a freelancer, you’re probably a creative. I recently discovered from Big Magic that being creative doesn’t have to mean achieving perfection; if you’re enjoying your outlet, you’re getting what you need from it in some way.
If you want to choose more than one, use automation tools to save time
Want to use several at once? I’ve always been the type of person who likes to play with a million new toys at the same time. It’s for that reason that I use Hootsuite, and I won’t waste my time recommending other automation platforms because:
- I’ve now realized just how fucking long this post is.
- I have no idea how they work, so I’d be making a baseless recommendation
And, breathe. Thanks for reading my ramble, and I hope your social media adventures work for you as far as promoting your freelancing business goes.
Any insights, tips, or tricks? Add them to the comments. I love hearing from others, it just rarely happens.