Are You Failing at Social Media?
You may be on social media and still see no benefits for your web design business. How could this be true, you might wonder.
To answer the question, let me share a childhood memory from my school days. Many of my teachers started each class period by taking roll, calling out the names of the students who were registered for the class. If you were there, you simply answered “present” or raised your hand when your name was called. Of course, nobody answered for the students who were absent that day.
Being marked “present” was important because it meant you would receive credit for the day’s activities in class. If you were simply enrolled in the class, but never showed up, your chances of passing were slim.
When it comes to social media, some web designers are like those students who were enrolled, but never showed up. They may have a social media profile out there, but when it comes to social media participation they’re failing. To make effective use of social media for your web design business, you have to take part.
In this post, we’ll take a look at five steps to help you use social media to build your web design business.
Step #1: Define Your Social Media Plan
As with any other business venture, it’s important to have a plan for using social media. Your plan doesn’t necessarily have to be in writing, but you should have some basic strategies and goals. Don’t expect to get results if your social media usage is haphazard.
Here are some questions to help you develop an effective social media plan for your business:
- Who are my clients and prospects?
- Where do my clients and prospects interact online?
- Who are the online influencers in my field?
- How do I want prospects, clients, and other web design professionals to perceive me?
As you discover answers to these questions, the direction your social media plan should talk will start to become obvious.
Step #2: Build Your Social Media Presence
Where should you build a social media presence? If you asked the questions I suggested in Step #1, you have a pretty good idea where your clients and prospects interact online. You definitely need to be where your clients and prospects are.
For U.S.-based web designers, I always recommend the big four social media platforms as a bare minimum. Here’s a brief description of each:
- Facebook. This social platform ranks #1 in most lists of social media site popularity. The most recent statistics are from eMarketer, as quoted in Shea Bennett’s recent post on social media statistics, published on the AllTwitter blog. Facebook’s own statistics put the number of users at over one billion.
- Google+ . Recent studies show that Google+ is now more popular than the older social networks of Twitter and LinkedIn. While Google+ is relatively new to the social media, it has been growing quickly and offers many benefits (such as hangouts and connectivity to Google Drive) to small businesses and freelancers.
- Twitter. This is a unique social media tool built around micro blog posts of 140 characters. Despite the character limitation, the social platform has been extremely popular with celebrities, writers and journalists, and many others.
- LinkedIn. This platform is significant for web designers (or anyone looking for work), not only because of its size, but because of who is on it. LinkedIn was designed to appeal to professionals. Nearly every Fortune 500 company is represented here as well as the CEOs and key decision-makers for many smaller companies.
You shouldn’t necessarily limit yourself to just the most popular social networks, however. There are a number of smaller communities that are very active. If you find a forum or site where your prospects interact with each other, that is a good place to be.
Step #3: Complete Your Social Media Profiles
Who are you, according to your social media profiles?
Guess what? For many prospects, what appears in your social media profile is exactly how they’ll perceive you. Your social media profile is the very first impression that they’ll have of you–and you can’t make a first impression twice.
Examine each of your social media profiles carefully to make sure that it is complete and reflects your business goals.
Here are some things to look for:
- Image. First of all, your profile should have one. Lack of an image is a sure sign of a fake account or a spammer. Your profile image should be professional. It’s okay to use a logo, but people respond better to a face.
- Description. Your profile should describe your business. Tip: If you have an about page on your website, try condensing it to the most important points to come up with a powerful social media user description.
- Contact information. Even if you have a professional image and a good description of your business in your social media profile, prospects need a way to contact you directly.
- Links. Include links to your website, blog, and portfolio. Linking to blogs where you’ve written authoritative posts in your specialty is especially important on Google+.
- Participation. Last, but not least, your social media profile should reflect some recent activity. We’ll discuss this more in Steps #4 and #5.
Step #4: Examine Your Social Media Shares
Social media sharing as a freelance web designer or small business owner is not the same as the way you probably shared on social media in college. Avoid posting about wild parties, your latest escapade, or even mundane details such as where you ate lunch. Your prospects aren’t really interested in those things, and in some cases sharing them could actually harm your business.
One strategy that many freelancers and small businesses use is to regularly share information that you know will be useful to your target market. Naturally, this would include information from your own blog, but don’t simply broadcast your blog posts and press releases. Include information from other leading sources of information. You’ll know you’re doing it right when someone thanks you for your helpful shares.
Also, be on the look out for prospects who ask simple questions that you can easily help them with. Naturally, you don’t want to provide extensive free consulting through social media (at least not on a regular basis), but you’d be surprised at the number of simple questions that are asked that would only take a few minutes of your time to answer.
When it comes to building an online presence for your web design business, you are what you share.
Step #5: Control Your Social Media Interactions
Are you enrolled in social media, but fail to show up?
A surprising number of web designers are. Like my childhood teacher who didn’t give participation grades to kids who were absent, you can’t expect to benefit from social media unless you actually take part. It’s not enough to simply have a bunch of inactive profiles.
By take part, I don’t mean that you have to live on social media 24/7. There are many large and even medium-sized companies that can afford a full-time social media specialist, but odds are that your design business isn’t one of them. Don’t even begin to compare yourself to those who are on social media full-time–you’ll only get frustrated.
Fortunately, by interacting intelligently with others on social media you can still reap benefits in just a few hours a week. Sure, you may not rake in thousands of leads like a major brand would, but you can connect in a meaningful way with a handful of targeted prospects every week.