Social media is something many professionals are well advised to adopt given it’s usefulness as a marketing tool . If you want an online presence for your service, company, or personal advancement, social media currently provides the best way to make it happen. You have free access to millions of potential customers and awesome insights with a few clicks. The interconnectedness of humanity has never been more obvious and accessible. So how do you harness this wonderful tool to make people aware of your valuable services? How do you sort through all the noise to find meaningful information channels that help you learn, network, grow, and improve? In this article, I will share what I’ve learned as someone growing up with social media.
Since one can use social media for a few different objectives, I’ll break down the best practices for accomplishing each objective. The objectives are as follows: Growing your business(freelance or otherwise) and professional development.
I’ll cover each of these objectives in descending order.
- Growing Your business
Using social media to grow your business is a must in a growth-over-everything start-up environment. Social media gives your business the power to interact with your customer base in creative ways and unique environments. This way of reaching your customers allows you to infuse your brand with a distinct human touch. To illustrate what I mean, check out this article that highlights a few companies doing social media right. A successful business strategy in social media has these few key characteristics:
- A wide reach and high interaction rate
If you want to better acquaint your customers with the more personable aspects of your brand, you have to dive deep into the social media trenches with them. Scour social media pages of your target market and read their content. Pay attention to their interests and personality, as these are the people that you want to engage with your content. Try to respond to all your mentions (for an added bonus, throw in some brand-related humor) as people will show their friends and expand your reach. Follow and engage competitors and partners, as connections with influencers that share your target market can multiply your social media efforts. The main thing to remember here is to maximize your engagement with the community, as it will breed engagement with your business.
- Focused and Consistent
When it comes to social media use, consistency is a must. Just like I mentioned in my brand positioning article, you must focus on your brand’s core values when producing content. Another aspect of this consistency is the timing of your posts. Don’t post daily steadily and then take a break for a week or two. Keep as close as possible to the set daily or weekly posting goals. If you don’t have those goals in place yet, experiment a little! Start with once a week and gauge the response from your followers. The key is to not change your posting rates wildly and unpredictably. Steady posting frequency will optimally engage your following and allow you consistency in measuring the success of each post.
Consistency of content can become difficult because it can lead to monotonous reposting and you can fall into a pattern that doesn’t grab the attention of your followers. This can be avoided by using facebook insights and twitter analytics to track the latest trends . For example, if you see that your followers are interacting with posts having to do with politics and you’re a marketing company, you could write a post about the difficulties of marketing in a divided political atmosphere. Keep yourself tuned to the content that interests your following and it will pay off.
- Adds Value
This characteristic needs to anchor your businesses social media strategy. Whatever your industry, following, or social media goals, you need to post quality content that people find helpful, entertaining, or insightful. This will do more than anything else to drive engagement and appreciation of your brand. For example, if I were Staples I could do one of two things:
- Post about the back to school buy one get one free sale
- Post an article about the best things to get going back to school shopping and including the items in your sale and why they’re important.
If Staples wants to add value with their social media content, they should go for method number 2. Yes, it may take more time and energy, but people notice that! Posting to social media to educate and help people out will give them a good reason to follow and stay tuned for your next content. If you want engagement, positive interactions, and to help your customers outside of selling them your product, posting to add value to people’s lives is one great way to do it!
Which Platforms to Target
In an optimal situation, your business is active on all social media channels and formats the content for each platform. But most business don’t have the sufficient resources to accomplish this. To find the best platform to post on, you need to analyze your market’s demographics. For younger markets, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter are the go-to platforms. For older markets, LinkedIn and Facebook are the platforms your should work on first. For businesses with visually-appealing products, target Instagram and Pinterest. Whichever platform you decide is right for your business to go after first, always include LinkedIn in your strategy, as it remains the premier social networking site for professionals and businesses. To get a clearer idea of which social media platform to target based on your business and market, check out this article.
2. Professional Advancement/Learning
Let’s be honest; we’re not all going to launch ourselves into viral fame with a blog post or witty video. Nevertheless, social media represents a valuable tool for networking with and learning from influencers in your field, finding job opportunities, and putting your skills out there for feedback from like-minded individuals. Here are the key characteristics of optimal social media use for professional advancement.
- Focused feeds
The first and foremost thing you have to do to optimize your social media for professional advancement and learning is to trim down your following to the most educational and enriching profiles. If you’re trying to learn a new topic by using social media, you have to take extra effort of blocking out the distractions and zeroing in on the improvements you want to make. It’s best to start from ground zero and make a career-focused social media account with which you aren’t following personal friends or entertainment-based accounts.
The term that best describes focused feeds is the “Personal Learning Network”. It describes your workplace relationships, mentors, and other relationships from which you gain knowledge or insight on how to get ahead in your industry. Social media is the best tool to use to expand this network. Look for blogs, company pages, and industry leaders that you admire and follow them. Ask your current co-workers and boss about what content they like to read for inspiration and advice. This way, you’ll have a treasure trove of knowledge at your disposal on all social media platforms for when you’re waiting in line, bored, or on a break. Never stop learning!
- A lot of Interaction!
Social media becomes loads more powerful when you stop reading and start contributing. I can say this from first hand experience. I started as an avid reader on Medium and I’ve developed into an avid blogger. The latter definitely has helped me learn in a more concerted and focused manner. If you want to maximize social media’s role in your professional development, you have to get involved.
So what does getting involved look like exactly? Well, it consists of joining groups with similar interests, commenting on posts that intrigue you, following at will, and messaging influencers in the desired industry. Getting involved also means developing your expertise in areas you want to improve in by showcasing your work on social media. Blog posts on Medium, short snippets on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and posting an infographic or design you made on Dribble, Pinterest and Instagram are all great ways to get involved with the community. Interacting and involving yourself with your virtual Personal Learning Network kills a few birds with one stone:
- It helps you focus your learning on a topic by explaining it to others.
- It promotes you as an asset with valuable knowledge companies would like to hire.
- It expands your network and gives you fun opportunities to meet like-minded people.
Which Platforms to Target
The platform you target depends on your profession more than anything else. For visual/design oriented industries, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, and Dribbble are the best platforms for showing your work and receiving inspiration. For most other industries, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are the best to focus on at first. I recommend Medium for all industries as well, it has a huge variety of communities you can appeal to. The more platforms, the better, but only if you have the time and energy to cultivate quality content across all platforms.
So there you have it! But a post about optimal social media use wouldn’t be complete without… Posting times. Check out this graphic I made (follow the link in the bottom if you want to know about posting times in depth, it’s a great resource).
Thanks for reading :) If it helped you out or if you enjoyed it, a clap is always appreciated.