No doubt you’ve heard it before: If you’re trying to increase your exposure, grow your network, and win more clients, you’ve got to work the social media scene. You may even have created your own Twitter account, grouped your Facebook contacts into relevant audiences for different posts, joined that mysterious Google+ network, or launched your own blog.
Then you realized that it’s all terribly time-consuming.
Like me, you may have searched online for social media plans to help you streamline your networking and marketing activities. And more than likely, you’ve come across two varieties: the work-every-social-network-in-15-minutes-a-day-version that makes you go “Yeah right,” and the you-need-a-full-time-assistant-and-a-marketing-degree-to-do-this-version that makes you think that your working hours might be better spent on other (read: paid) activities.
You’re not alone. Many freelancers struggle with finding the right balance when it comes to using social media networks to market themselves and their services. How much is too much, how little is too little? Which networks should they focus on? What should they share?
For the longest time, I was in that same boat. I had social media accounts on every important network (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Xing) but didn’t actively use any of them to promote my translation business. My posts were irregular and erratic, and there was no perceivable strategy behind what I sent out on any of my networks. Needless to say, I didn’t reap any benefits from my lackluster social media activities.
This year, things changed. Not by themselves, of course. In January, I set myself a goal to be more proactive with my business social media. But I needed a plan – one that was doable for me, in addition to my translation work and without hired help. I wasn’t worried about tracking analytics or measuring ROI. I just wanted a simple outline of what to post where and when and how much time to devote to this effort each day.
The first thing I did was dedicate a specific time each day for marketing purposes. Not wanting to take away from my limited working hours, I decided to start getting up an hour early every morning and use the extra time for my social media and other marketing activities. I call it my Power Hour. I use it to check my social networks, read up on industry news, find and save interesting articles, schedule upcoming posts, and interact with my followers and social media friends.
Some people recommend that if you don’t have the time to be active on all social networks, pick one or two and focus only on those. While I agree with the general idea, I didn’t want to completely abandon any of my networks. I know Facebook’s business pages don’t give you the highest reach unless you pay for ads, but I do believe that an active Facebook page adds credibility to your business. Google+ may still be somewhat of a mystery to many people, but it undeniably helps improve search engine rankings. Twitter is great for finding useful information and connecting with peers. And LinkedIn puts you at your prospective clients’ doorsteps. However, while I post new content on all of these networks on a regular basis, I spend most of my time engaging with people in direct conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn.
I do have two somewhat neglected accounts, though. My Pinterest account only gets updated whenever I find something truly relevant I want to keep, and I am not as active on Xing (a German version of LinkedIn) as you might expect from a German translator. The reason for this may become obvious when I dive into my posting strategy. Basically, these two networks simply don’t fit into it, and most days, I just don’t have the time to devote to additional posts.
So without further ado, here is my posting schedule, which I try to keep up no matter what:
LinkedIn: 4-5 posts each week, Monday through Friday, usually around 9 a.m.
Google+: 4-5 posts each week, Monday through Friday, usually around 9 a.m.
Facebook: 4-5 posts each week, Monday through Friday, usually between noon and 3 p.m.
Twitter: 3 original posts each day, Monday through Sunday, plus a few retweets and/or personal mentions as appropriate; following new interesting people as I find them (or they find me)
Blog: 1 post each month
The timing of my posts is partially determined by Hootsuite’s auto schedule feature and partially by various online resources I have consulted to try and find the best times to post on each network. I am also keeping a loose eye on engagements to see whether certain times might generate more attention than others. I usually auto schedule all posts for the upcoming week at the beginning of that week (during my Power Hour), and I am not ashamed to admit that I am usually posting the same content on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook at the same time. I figure even if someone follows me on all three channels, it is not likely that person will see my content on all channels on the same day/at the same time. As for whether or not the social networks punish cross posting with limited exposure, I don’t know. Maybe one of my readers can comment on that. I personally have not noticed any detrimental effects from this strategy.
Whenever I post on those three networks, I try to curate the content I share by providing a brief summary or a teaser instead of just posting a link or a headline with a link. Most importantly, though, I never, ever cross post between those networks and Twitter! The format of a Twitter post is rather specific, with its brevity, hashtag heaviness and @-mentions, which means those posts are always in a league of their own.
Posting on a regular schedule means you need lots of content to share. Since I only update my blog once a month, my own content is hardly enough to provide an interesting variety. Hence, I spend some of my Power Hour trying to find interesting articles written by others that would match my focus – which, by the way, is on global marketing, international business, German culture, the importance of translation, creative translations and copywriting. I try to stick within those topic areas with all my posts to keep my own brand well defined; only occasionally, I’ll broaden the scope somewhat on Twitter.
To find content I can share, I created Google Alerts for my topics of interest, as well as Twitter lists based on related hashtags and for interesting people. I also subscribed to various blogs and newsletters and add them to Feedly whenever possible. I also created a “paper” with Paper.li that only I receive every day, which provides a daily summary of the most interesting tweets in my defined area of interest. Whenever I come across a relevant article by chance, whether on my PC or on my smartphone, I save it in Pocket under a specific tag to use for later, and every tweet I send out or like gets automatically saved in an archive on Pocket, thanks to a recipe I created with the app If This Then That. This way I always have a backup source of content ready to go, even if I am in a time crunch or just can’t find anything good to share one day.
Now for the most important part: Has all this effort been worth it? Yes, it has! Since the beginning of this year, I have more than doubled my Twitter following (from less than 300 in January to more than 700) and have been approached by fellow Twitter users about guest blogging and being interviewed for articles and podcasts (listen to my first-ever live interview on The Worldly Marketer Podcast). On LinkedIn, I have received numerous inquiries and contact requests from colleagues and prospective clients alike – in fact, three of my favorite new client relationships started with unsolicited LinkedIn messages earlier this year. Plus, over the past six months, my website traffic has tripled compared to that same time period last year.
For the amount of time and effort I put into my social media marketing, I can’t complain about the outcome. I realize there are lots of things I could do to further improve my results – post in LinkedIn groups, for example, or join Twitter discussions by following certain hashtags – but honestly, who’s got time for that? I will do those things occasionally if I have half an hour to spare, but overall, I just stick with my weekly schedule. So far, it’s getting the job done for me.