When you’re in business, you use social media differently than you do personally. I was an early adopter on many social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Back then the idea was to connect with almost everyone who asked, to post just about anything from food to puppies, and also to post the same content on different channels.
Over time I’ve found it more useful to be circumspect about what I post professionally and personally, where I post it and who I connect with on various social media platforms. I developed a strategy for using social media that evolved into my social media marketing plan. That strategy includes who I connect with and why.
I go through a purposeful evaluation process when I receive invitations to connect or friend. Through my Facebook user profile it’s been fun to reconnect with people I knew in school. Some of my profile connections follow my Facebook page and help to promote my articles, trainings and posts. Facebook works for both personal and professional connection, although it’s been more about keeping friends and family updated on my work and activities. I don’t have to explain what I do as often as I used to because they see me in action on Facebook.
LinkedIn is another animal altogether. Its purpose is professional networking. My students often connect with me there. I’m more likely to connect with my clients and industry colleagues on LinkedIn than on Facebook because it’s business-oriented and provides greater likelihood of future work. It’s not the place to post pictures of pets or household tips.
When I get a request to connect from an old friend or former family member though LinkedIn, I stop and consider carefully before accepting the invitation. I received an invitation from someone who has not been in my life personally or professionally for 12 years. Given what her LinkedIn profile reveals, she would never be a future client nor be able to recommend me professionally. I have no reason to accept her invitation. It just doesn’t make sense to do so.
Depending upon how you use LinkedIn it can be very profitable for growing your network. It would seem that the larger your network the more opportunity there is to find clients through it. That is not the case because not everyone is a potential client. I think it’s better to keep a smaller network of people who are likely to work with you, refer you or endorse you because they know you or have a really good idea of who you are, than to connect with everyone who extends an invitation.
6 questions to ask before connecting
If there is no logical reason to accept an invitation on LinkedIn, don’t. And no matter what, don’t accept an invitation from anyone without checking out their profile first. Is this person someone that you would recommend? Are they someone who would recommend you? What is the likelihood of you working together and having a good outcome that’s mutually beneficial? Here is a 6-point checklist to help you decide:
Do you know the person? If you have met the person, have worked together virtually or have otherwise engaged and it’s been a good exchange, it’s a good thing to connect.
Do you have mutual connections on LinkedIn? Knowing who knows who and whether you have a number of mutual, first-level connections makes it more likely the person will be a good connection for you.
Do they have a photo on their profile? If there is no profile photo, I don’t accept the invitation. This is my policy for all social media platforms. There is no reason for not having a photo on their profile. Is there a person behind that profile?
Do they have a completed, fleshed-out profile? If their profile says they’re self employed and that’s all, there’s no basis for connection if you don’t know them in person. Where are they located, what do they do, where do they work? These are the points of information by which you can decide if there is good reason to add them to your network.
Do you have common history, such as you both attended the same school but in different decades? I will always connect with fellow alumni, just because of that shared experience.
Are you members of the same group(s)? If you can engage within a group discussion, you can gauge whether it’s beneficial to add each other to your networks.
I’m a strong believer in the benefit of building fences and with making solid connections and doing great work within the perimeter of that fence line. I become more effective and better known in a smaller market then I ever would in a large and broad market. This strategy is similar to having a niche. And as an independent creative professional I work the way I want to work work with the people I want to work with. I don’t have to accept offers from people that haven’t been beneficial in the past, or from people I will not be able to help or would never work with.
I really like that LinkedIn’s options are Accept and Ignore. If I don’t accept an invitation, I just ignore it. It’s not as severe as declining. There is also the ability to block people from seeing your profile, which is sometimes necessary. And it’s easy to disconnect if appropriate.
Create a strategy for your business-related social media marketing.
Narrowing your focus on social media is similar to targeting a particular audience and defining your ideal client or customer. You cannot market to everyone. You cannot help everyone effectively. So focus on building a great reputation in a smaller group of people and you will become known for it.
Diversify your social media tactics. I post a few things on a variety of platforms, but for the most part avoid reduduncy by having a different focus for each. For example, I don’t post illustration projects on Twitter, and I don’t post about Freelance Road Trip on Instagram. I will set up a separate Instagram account for that brand.
Plan your posts so that you get the most exposure among your ideal client audience. If your ideal client is not found on Instagram, don’t waste time trying to reach them there. Go where they hang out. How do you know where they are? Go to their websites and look for their social icons! A prospective client who shows the Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn icons is not going to be hanging out on Facebook so much. But they’ll definitely be on Twitter. Look them up. Learn what they post about. Start engaging with them but don’t be a stalker!
Plan your posts so that you get the most exposure among your
ideal client audience. If your ideal client is not found on Instagram,
don’t waste time trying to reach them there. Go where they hang out.
Set up a tracking method — spreadsheet — and plan your posts. It requires time to research this, but you’ll benefit from doing it. You won’t be wasting your efforts trying to reach people where they aren’t.
It’s not a business until you treat it like a business. Put strategies, tactics and schedules in place for social media marketing, and follow through. Offer value and engage with your ideal clients before they become clients. Over time, you’ll make solid connections that can lead to good work.