To the indie writer, the world of social media can be both liberating and terrifying. On the one hand, there’s never been such a cost-effective and direct route right into the arms of potential customers. On the other hand…there’s never been such a cost-effective and direct route right into the arms of potential customers. An engaging social media presence can turn a small clothing business into a ModCloth, while an aberrant tweet on a bad day can sink a your business when it’s just finding its sea legs.
So, what’s the social savvy but overwhelmed writer supposed to do? It’s time to break out a good social media guide and follow these steps.
Stay on brand
At the end of the day, social media is a form of marketing with the ultimate goals of increasing brand awareness, generating excitement about your work, and eventually making more sales. Just like with any other type of marketing, staying on brand is of the utmost importance, whether that’s registering the same usernames across all of your social media accounts, or using the same tagline. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you’re a freelance writer or a one-person team doesn’t mean you can’t brand yourself.
However, unlike in traditional marketing, this does not mean talking about your brand (and your sales and how cool you are) 24 hours a day. It does not mean communicating with an agenda (even if you’ve got one). “Staying on brand” in the social media world means first finding your unique and very human voice, and using that as the conduit for your social media activities, whether you’re engaging in conversation with a follower or promoting your own content outright.
Determine target audience
All social media sites aren’t born equal. The crowd that’s addicted to Twitter isn’t the same crowd that scrounges around YouTube for the next viral video. And, just because everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook these days, doesn’t mean everyone and their grandmother hang out in the same places on the site. Before you get started on social media, decide who your audience is — determine demographics, interests, and general personality types. Then do a hunt on your chosen social media sites to determine just where your targeted audience congregates, be it on message boards, a certain blog, or on a subject matter expert’s feed. With your clear brand voice on your side, you’re now ready to have engaging conversations with your customers.
Set rules of engagement
Without a doubt, social media will put you closer to your readers and potential clients than ever before. While, as previously mentioned, proximity should prompt you into speaking more authentically and casually, this does not mean the people you meet on social media are your best friends and that all professionalism can fly out the window. Social media is still a very new area and the social rules remain murky at best, so it’s worth devising your own rules ahead of time to prevent going astray. A few questions to consider:
1. What will the protocol be for dealing with negative press? Where will the line be between trolling and complaints that merit response?
2. How much time will you devote to each chosen social media site?
Plan your social media posts
Sure, you know that you need to post frequently and consistently to social media sites to maintain a following. But it’s not like you can produce and share brilliant expertise articles three times a day. The best way to keep things fresh is to both plan things out ahead of time and build room into your social media calendar for breaking news. This article goes into much more depth about how to do just that, but a few highlights include:
1. Planning out your editorial calendar in advance
2. Mixing up types of content, whether it’s re-tweeting expert social media posts from someone else in your industry, developing a content-varied blog, or running contests for potential clients.
3. Becoming a breaking news source for your industry with the help of Google alerts for hot topics.
Measure the results
There’s a lot that’s “soft” about social media; after all, it’s not like you can easily measure the long-term psychological effect of a single Facebook post on a customer’s decision five years from now to buy from your company. But you can measure month to month growth in followers, as well as the number of people who share or react to your social media content. And you can also keep a close watch on hard money stats, like the percentage of your social media followers who eventually become customers or clients.
Just remember, with social media, it’s less about the mass of people following you than it is about the number of people engaging with your brand. That, after all, is the main goal of any social media campaign: to humanize your brand, and connect more authentically with your readers.
So get strategizing, get connecting, and start the conversation!