Do you participate in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn?
I do. Lately I’ve been tweeting, buzzing, blogging, and updating my status on a regular basis.
The only problem is, I feel like I’m running a race without knowing my destination. In theory, I know social media platforms are a great form of self-promotion. But in practice, I feel like I’m just sending a lot of chatter out into the world.
Because of that, I decided to look into the purpose behind each platform. My goal was to better understand how to set myself apart from all the other tweeters out there, along with building a foundation to promote my business instead of just “making chatter.”
What I found surprised me.
Social Media Builds Reputations
For starters, social media isn’t about going along with the crowd — even though it seems like everyone is doing it. It’s really about standing out. Social media outlets are a key way to showcase your personality and build authenticity online.
Think about it. If we didn’t have all these forums for digital expression, there would be no way to differentiate ourselves as online professionals.
Social media outlets let us harness colors, images, links, and language in a way that makes it possible to separate ourselves from the mass of information available on the Web.
For example, we can upload graphics, avatars, or actual photos of ourselves so readers can put a face (or image) to a name when we make our posts.
Or, we can link our comments to events or stories that hold personal interest for us and offer a glimpse into our values. For instance, you could pepper your web-writing posts with a link to the story about the giant pandas that had to leave our National Zoo for China, if that was something you felt strongly about.
We can also stray away from business-speak and take advantage of acronyms ( LOL! ) or emoticons ( 🙂 ).
It’s a good thing too, because there are a lot of faceless brands and companies out there. Digital channels save us from becoming anonymous web entities. What’s more, authenticity is rewarded online. If you can make your content personal and unique, you’ll be much more interesting to potential clients than anything too polished or refined.
Blog, Buzz, Tweet, or Share?
It’s good to know social media is your ticket to being an individual on the Web, but how do you know which platform to focus on?
According to last month’s Nielsen Report, Facebook is currently the number one destination for social networking, capturing 67% of social media users each month. But right now, Twitter seems to be the network du jour for the marketing world. In fact, Twitter saw a 579% increase in unique visitors in the last year alone.
The same Nielsen Report showed an 82% increase in worldwide use of social media, but the types of media being used are constantly in flux. While Facebook skyrockets, MySpace is quickly losing steam. LinkedIn seems to be holding steady, neither growing nor dwindling. Then there’s Google Buzz, which recently debuted as the next (potentially) big thing in social media.
And, don’t forget the draw of the traditional blog. A blog that prompts comments is just as effective a social media tool as any other.
Given that every one of these platforms allows for regular status updates, it’s tempting to want to spread yourself out over all of them to make sure you cover your bases. And, that’s in fact what you should do — to a point.
More importantly though, you need to first define yourself and the type of industry niche you want to associate yourself with.
What do I mean by that? Simply that you need to come up with something that distinguishes your services from all the other web writers out there. You can pick a specific niche market or a type of web copy. Or, if you’re not yet ready to settle into a niche, choose a color or a symbol.
For example, if you live in the southwest and want people to be aware of your regional location, upload the graphic of a cactus and display it by all your posts. Pick something that identifies you.
By choosing one image, theme, or phrase (e.g., “Web Copy that Wows!”), it’s a lot easier to be consistent across all platforms. And, being consistent is the difference between being thought of as a competitive professional versus just another name in the crowd.
Choose Your Centerpiece and Control It
Once you’ve defined yourself, you need to choose what I call your “centerpiece” media platform. This is the foundation where the bulk of your effort should be concentrated. It’s also the source from where all your other social media efforts can feed (In a minute, I’ll give you some examples of how to make this work for you.)
Ideally, the centerpiece of your approach should be your blog. If you’re not into blogging, at least make your professional website your centerpiece.
Why? Because you control it. You can steadily build the value of your blog or website as you add more content. You also get the direct SEO benefit.
But most importantly, you won’t risk losing all your hard work to a network that may someday fall out of favor. Think about it — Twitter and Facebook are huge right now, but will they still be this popular five years from now? Or even two years from now?
The one thing that will always be true for the Web is that networks can and will fall out of favor. That means there’s great value in building a community of your own, so concentrate your social media efforts in a format that is untouchable by trends outside your control.
From there though, it’s worth the effort it takes to expand to other platforms as long as you keep in mind you may someday lose that content.
Here’s an example of how you can branch your social media efforts off your centerpiece platform (in this case, let’s make your centerpiece a blog):
- You put together a blog about your new Money-Making Website which is all about dog training programs. You use keywords like “dog training” and “pet agility” throughout your blog.
- You sign into Twitter and tweet about the different approaches to “dog training” and how to teach “pet agility” (again, using your keywords). You also add a short link in your tweets that takes readers back to your blog.
- You go onto Facebook and update your status to say, “Just launched my new website — everything you’ve ever wanted to know about dog training and pet agility!” (Keywords again!) You also add a link back to your blog.
All of your efforts support each other, and all roads lead back to the social media platform you control: your centerpiece.
Take the Easy Road When Expanding Your Efforts
With your centerpiece platform defined, it’s actually pretty easy to spread out across other platforms. Here are a few ways to simplify the process:
- Add social media bookmarks to all your content. Let’s say you decide to make your blog your centerpiece. For each blog post, you can add social media bookmarks to make it easy to spread your message. You’ve seen them on other sites — the little widgets that say things like “Tweet this” or “Share this.” By using these, you can quickly spread the same message several times. Better yet, the bookmarks make it easy for people who read your content to help spread your name and message. Then you’ve got many people helping to market you!
- Use SEO across all social media channels. Once you’ve defined yourself and set up a centerpiece platform for your networking efforts, you need to use the same keywords across all the social media channels you visit. Over time, you’ll be well-optimized for those specific terms. People in your industry will begin to associate you with those terms and will start mentally linking you to those keywords. (I think Heather Lloyd-Martin is a good example of this. She has positioned herself so well as an SEO expert that I automatically think of her name when I read anything about SEO.)
- Allow yourself time to build your brand. One thing that’s true across all social media platforms is that it takes time to get your name out there. But, like everything, persistence wins. I recently read about a fellow with thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and blog subscribers. When he first began, he wrote one blog every day for six months. At the time, he was pretty sure the only person reading his blog was his mother. But gradually, word spread and he began attracting hundreds of new visitors on a daily basis. Now his online identity is clear and all of his social media efforts connect back to the point he controls: his blog.
Put Your Strategy in Place and Everything Else will Follow
The take-home is that no single social media platform is more valuable than any other. And, to use them effectively, your best bet is to have an all-encompassing strategy you can apply to each platform — an act that ends up setting you apart from everybody else out there.
The benefit to knowing this is that you can re-use and re-purpose a lot of your messages, making the best use of your time in the long run.
On top of that, it makes it easy to adapt to new platforms as they gain favor because you don’t have to rewrite your approach.
As web writers, it’s our job to dig through all the technology at our disposal and tap the most useful channels of communication. Learn to use these channels effectively and you’ll be able to promote your web-writing career quickly and more easily than ever before.
Of course if you really want to build a solid foundation that makes business promotion effortless, get a copy of Nick Usborne’s Breakthrough Freelance Success Program.
Nick uses this program to show freelancers how to break free from the cycle of just writing to get paid (you know the one – also known as the “feast or famine” cycle). Instead, he offers up a new approach that puts you totally in control of your career.
Just like you need to choose a centerpiece media platform so you’re in command of your social media efforts, so should you have a central business strategy as a freelancer that gives you more lucrative control of your career.
The life of a freelancer is pretty great, but the idea of really being in the driver’s seat when it comes to planning fees and workloads is too good to pass up. I’m definitely in!
If you’re with me, check out the program now.
And here’s to your success as a stand-out web writer!