How social is your freelance business?

However much you’d like to, you can’t ignore social media.

From humble beginnings in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard bedroom in 2004, Facebook is now used by around a third of the world’s population. Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have fewer users, but still in the multiple millions.

freelancer using his phone for social media at desk in home office

It’s estimated that at least half - probably more - of users only access social media on their mobiles. It’s increasingly a 24/7 medium. 

So even if your business isn’t on social media, it’s virtually certain that your customers are. Not to mention your competitors.

And it’s not a question of “Which platforms should I be on?” but, “How should I use each platform?”.

The big one: Facebook

Facebook has over 70% of the global share of minutes spent on social media, and is used by around 2.7 billion people every month.

Gender-wise, it’s split 52% female and 48% male – a pretty even balance. (I know some believe 52% to be an ‘overwhelming majority’. But we won’t go there.)

You may think Facebook is just for posting selfies and cute pics of your kids, but it’s great for:

  • building your brand – even if you don’t have a website, you can create a Facebook business page for free. 
  • driving traffic to your website – post links to your website and blog when you upload new content there.  
  • creating leads – running Facebook competitions is a great way to build engagement, increase your audience and promote your services.
  • engaging with your audience – It’s a great customer service tool. Reviews and recommendations on Facebook carry a lot of weight. 

The chatty one: Twitter

40% of Twitter’s 330 million active users are on there every day – not all of them replying to Donald Trump’s latest tweet.

It’s the ideal platform for:

  • reaching a lot of people – if you use #hashtags in your posts you’ll appear in search results for people looking for that word, even if they don’t follow you.
  • dealing with customer issues – two-way communication is a feature of Twitter so you can respond directly to a customer, start a conversation, offer an explanation or apology, or deal with their issue personally via Twitter’s direct message option. They’re likely to value your efforts and, hopefully, tweet about how helpful you’ve been. 
  • sharing news – Twitter is a primary news source these days, even more so than Google. So put your news on there, and comment where appropriate on relevant topics. 
  • reaching the media – Journalists frequently use Twitter to search for stories and ideas for features.

The business one: LinkedIn

Owned by Microsoft, LinkedIn has around 250 million members logging in every month. The difference with LinkedIn is its overt business focus. It’s not built for selfies and social chit-chat – although that doesn’t stop people doing just that, much to the disdain of some users.

Use LinkedIn to:

  • build personal contacts. If you don’t have a personal LinkedIn profile, get one now and use it to connect with people you meet – not just those who could become a customer, but people who can introduce you to other people, offer you advice, provide a useful sounding board, or help you out with stuff you don’t do yourself.
  • showcase your business. LinkedIn company pages are, according to expert John Espirian, “a bit rubbish, but they indicate that you’re a ‘proper’ business. Do most of your posting from your personal profile – that’s where most of the engagement takes place. But use company pages as a showcase for your latest blog or external content.”
  • search for work – LinkedIn is useful if you’re looking for a job or a new business opportunity. Not only is the platform teeming with recruiters, its work search algorithms can help you connect with potential employers, clients and collaborators.

The one with pictures: Instagram

Instagram’s millennial-heavy audience means it’s perfect for anything aimed at 18-34 years olds, who make up more than two-thirds of its user base. Owned by Facebook and with lots of cross-posting opportunities, it boasts around 1 billion active users every month.

It’s a very visual medium so is perfect for:

  • third-party endorsement: Instagram influencers, from the Kardashians to vegan diet gurus, can make or break a product, and there are whole PR teams set up to track down and sign up those elusive brand ambassadors.
  • creative brand-building: Instagram is a great way to get ‘behind the scenes’ with your business and use images and videos to showcase what you do and how you do it. 
  • product launches - 60% of people surveyed by Instagram said they discover new products on the platform.
  • promoting an event: ‘Instagram stories’ have a slideshow format and are only live for 24 hours, but they’re displayed prominently at the top of users’ feeds.

The key thing with social media is to engage with your customers, not just talk to them. It’s  a dynamic and ever-changing medium that allows you to interact with your audience in a way your website, brochures and emails can never do. 

So find out where your audience is and don’t just show up, join in!

Meet the author

mary whitehouse.jpg
Mary Whitehouse

Mary Whitehouse is a copywriter, PR and content marketing strategist and runs Word Service Marketing Communications. Based near Birmingham, she works with organisations in the UK and beyond to give focus and personality to their marketing and publicity efforts.

See more at the Word Service website or Mary’s online portfolio. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.