Social media is all around us. In the UK, there were over 38 million active social media users in 2016 – 63% of the entire population. Facebook is the leader of the social media pack, but many other social networks have become household names: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Google+ and Pinterest are just a few of the most popular.
With so many places to hang out in social media, it’s no wonder that, on average, each of us has five social media accounts. Before you say that this is way too many, think about all those that may have perished along the way: did you ever have a MySpace, FriendsReunited or FourSquare account? Perhaps you registered for one but haven’t used it in years – it also counts!
At all events, just as you are on social media, the chances are that your clients are on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Google+. However, knowing that your audience can be reached using a particular channel is not the same as actually getting business results from said channel. Be
honest: is social media delivering for you professionally, or is it wasting your precious time?
Here are my three top tips for using social media for professional purposes:
1) Start with an end in mind
First of all, know what you want from your professional social media usage. Do you need to network with your peers so you can feel you’re part of a community, vent about shared problems and keep abreast of industry news? If so, Facebook (and Facebook groups in particular) is your friend.
Do you want to use it for in-depth market research, prospecting for new business and growing and building your professional network? LinkedIn is the answer (you may want to download my LinkedIn for Linguists book – its content applies to most other freelancers, as well as individuals wanting to establish a reliable professional brand).
Are you mostly an audiovisual person? Try YouTube. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine after Google, and if you are happy to talk in front of the camera and enjoy watching videos, it can be tremendously useful. Video content, just like audio content, is on the rise, so worth considering if it’s a medium you feel comfortable using.
Perhaps you want to know what’s going on in the wider world, engage with all sorts of organisations and individuals in short and sweet bursts. You are ripe for Twitter usage. Or maybe you aren’t interested in social media at all but have heard somewhere that social profiles are good from a search engine perspective. In this case, go for the easy win: if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google+ profile by default.
Every social media network is different, both regarding the user base and the way it can help you connect with others. The key here is to understand that no single social network will give you everything. Be clear as to what you want from your professional social media usage, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted from it.
2) Prioritise your use of social media
With so much choice and so little time, it’s essential to prioritise. I suggest you focus your efforts, particularly those that require regular input, on just one or two networks. Your social media channels will be easier to manage if you just have one or two to cover, and you’re more likely to get results from them. So think: where should you spend the time you allocate to social media, based on prior success?
It’s easier to build on something you already have than start from scratch, but at the same time, you don’t want to invest in a social network that isn’t bringing any value to your business. Perhaps you have a large Instagram following, but if those people are more interested in your sunsets than your translations, keep it strictly for personal use.
Likewise, if a large number of your Facebook friends are fellow linguists, and your social media goal is to engage with your peers, that’s the network for you. If you haven’t already, you can also join one of the many Facebook groups for translators and interpreters. However, proceed with care: Facebook is the “stickiest” of platforms, with 59% of users going on it daily. Make sure that you use it with purpose, not as a procrastination tool.
A great social network for professionals is LinkedIn. With 30% of adults in the UK registered as members, it has less reach than Facebook, but its audience means business. People on LinkedIn leave the cat pictures behind when they sign in and are far more likely to welcome professional approaches. It’s also an excellent source of information on clients and potential clients. (Download my free LinkedIn for Freelancers book to know more about how to use LinkedIn to grow your business).
3) Think quality over quantity
Your priority when using social media should always be quality. You don’t want to come across as the Twitter user with an incontinent thumb and the content curation ability of a four-year-old. However, quality comes in many shapes and forms.
Start with what’s on your profile. Your social media account will put you in the path of colleagues, peers, clients, friends and plenty of strangers, and in the high-speed world of social networking, you only have a chance to make a good impression. Your profile should be as good as you can make it. A clear, quality photograph, and copy that reads well and contains no major gaffes are essential. Proofread everything – this is no place for typos.
Quality also applies to the type of relationships you build and how you engage with others. Listen before you say anything. Ensure your comments are relevant, to the point and add value to the conversation. Also, if contributing to a group discussion, notice if there are any rules of engagement (many groups will have a note of some description at the top of the conversation thread – make sure to read it).
As for the content, it’s up to you, but think of who you’re trying to reach with your social media efforts and why to ensure your content is valuable, relevant and engaging for them. You should also check your content is optimised, i.e. that the words used or associated with it are the ones people use when searching for this type of content online.
Don’t obsess about posting several times a day. Two reasons: number one, we all know how a quick check of your social media profiles can turn into a whole morning; and number two, in most cases it doesn’t matter if you only post every few days. If you do want to post daily, try using a social media management tool such as Buffer.
Finally, remember that social media is a journey, not a destination. It evolves all the time, so what’s relevant today may well be irrelevant tomorrow. Think about it as an ongoing work-in-project, and keep up with the changes.