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December 10 2013

15:53

Social Media: Finding the Balance Between a Waste of Time and Necessary Networking

Ah yes, the all too constant struggle of networking with social media. It’s one of those necessary evils that everyone, from job seekers to freelancers to name brand companies, have to rethink constantly. This is why it is one of the most commonly discussed topics across multiple industries. We all know just how important social media is, and most of us continue to struggle between making it a successful marketing avenue and a waste of time.

As a freelancer who has struggled with wasting hours on social media and completely ignoring it for a month (or more) at a time, I have learned a few ways to help me narrow this gap between the two extremes. Now, have learned how to better focus my efforts with social media. It’s still not perfect, but I am on the road to tightening down my efforts and am already seeing results. And for those of you social media skeptics, even when I was only flailing along with social media, I gained enough clients through my exposure via Twitter and Google+ that I haven’t had to search for clients since I became active in several social platforms.

If you are a business owner, freelancer, or even an individual simply looking to build up a strong network in your search for a career, you may find the following tips to help you better take advantage of the benefits that social media has to offer. Hopefully, some of the resources below will help you greatly reduce the time-suck trap many fall into with social media. Use your own experience in combination with these tips, and like me you may find clients knocking down your proverbial door.

So, take a look at the following 10 tips and resources and get ready to re-adjust your social networking plan into one that will waste less time and build more positive results for you and your business ventures.

Schedule Social Media Time

This is one tip that I still struggle to maintain. Yet, it’s advice that social media experts give over and over again. One of my, and I’m sure others’, biggest problems with social media is letting it interrupt other daily work tasks. This is why setting aside a half hour, an hour, or any other necessary block of time for social media can be so beneficial. You can even schedule social media time every hour or twice a day. Just find what amount of time works best for you and stick with it. Keep out of all of your accounts except for during that scheduled time. Having a certain time set aside for social media keeps you focused and, consequently, more productive.

Don’t forget that some social media tasks may require a bit more time. For instance, scheduling posts ahead of time (see the next section below) may require a longer time slot than, say, responding to comments. And weekly you may need to set aside an extra block of time for catching up just in case you have extra activity that week. In the following tips, you will find quite a few resources for helping you cut back on the extra time you need for those tedious social media tasks.

Sign Up with an Auto Post Service

There are lots of different resources both free and paid that will save you mega-time on daily or weekly posts. The extra benefit of these services is that you can schedule your posts for the month at a single time, and then essentially forget about posting until the beginning of next month. You can either go with a service that only posts for one platform, or one like Hootsuite that will take care of your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media pages. I have found Hootsuite very easy to learn, and it comes with free and paid account options. SocialOomph is an excellent one that is free for Twitter. With a Premium account, you can also incorporate Facebook and LinkedIn, auto-post your blog posts, conduct emails, and more. You may want to try Post Planner if your focus is on Facebook and Twitter, since it allows you to scan what is popular in your niche and even allow you to share other’s posts in your scheduled updates.

Use Paid Promotional Options

There is a huge misnomer floating around that social media is a completely free method of marketing yourself online. However, between time-saving resources and now the promotion options provided by the top social media platforms, you really need to set aside at least a small budget for social media marketing. Facebook’s Promoted Posts are really the only way to ensure that your followers are ever going to see your updates in their news feeds. LinkedIn has Sponsored Updates, and Google+ even now allows for posts to stretch across both columns in the news feed – for free!

Now, of course, you shouldn’t pay to promote every single one of your posts. However, the really important ones you should definitely promote, and this should be on a semi-regular basis, like once a month. Promoted updates are also a good idea if you feel like you simply need that extra burst of exposure every now and then, even if you don’t have a truly groundbreaking announcement to make.

Download Mobile Apps

Make sure to have mobile apps of each social media platform you use. The purpose of apps is not so that you can waste even more time on social media, although the social media platforms certainly love this. I have found that having the apps on my phone makes it easy for me to catch up on some networking while waiting – in line at the bank, in line to pick up my kids from school, at the doctor’s office.

All of the main social media platforms now have free apps. And there are also some great apps for managing several sites from your phone, such as Hootsuite. Eliott Marrow provides an incredible list of social media apps on the Jeff Bullas blog that definitely are worth checking out.

Filter Spam from Relevant Contacts

Many Twitters users have an auto-direct message feature that goes out every time someone follows them. This is just one example of a spam-like message that warrants no need for a response. On Google+, users have the option of emailing contacts when they share a post. And Facebook of course emails you every time you get mentioned in an update. Some of these direct contacts you will certainly want to follow up on to keep your contacts happy. Plus they are a more productive way to remain active on your accounts, as opposed to just browsing through a news feed and responding to random posts.

However, they will require filtering, especially if you have multiple accounts and lots of contacts on each. On Google+, for instance, don’t worry about commenting on every single shared post. Sometimes you may just want to +1 it. The same goes with Facebook, simply Like an update unless it really calls for a comment. Just practice making that judgement call in the amount of time it takes you to glance at your email preview or notifications and keep moving.

Use Software and Apps for Finding Shareable Content

Personally, I don’t do a whole lot of sharing of others’ content, which isn’t exactly the best practice. However, I am a writer so have an overabundance of my own content to Tweet and share daily and weekly. If you don’t have your own blog or a ton of your own work to share, then a great way to find content to use in your auto-post service is with an app made specifically for this purpose.

An excellent tool for finding content across multiple channels of social media based on hashtags is Tagboard. It makes finding content fast and easy, and it’s also a great tool to use for getting involved in conversations in your niche (i.e. building connections in real time). Another great one is Swayy. This tool drops the most interesting or relevant content into a single platform, which you can then immediately share via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

One note to make: even if you do schedule content once a month or so, it doesn’t hurt to save a bit of time on the front end. If you finish scheduled tasks during your social media slot with time to spare, then you can always browse for content and save it a document for your next month’s content. Of course, if the content is timely, you are better off just sharing it the moment you find it, but many niche content can be reshared months after the first publication and still garner lots of feedback.

Spend Less Time Finding Images

We all know how vital images are for making posts stand out in a news feed. My biggest drawback to including images is how long it can take to find them. Of course, when you are in a huge hurry, you can just use the auto-thumbnail selection when posting links to Facebook or Google+. But a large image does draw a lot more attention.

You can save time finding creative commons images (those pictures that the author has marked free to share) with tools such as PhotoPin or Compfight that allow you to search creative commons Flickr images by keyword. If you have trouble finding images in the right size and don’t have a clue as to how to use an image editing tool, Smush.it is a very quick and easy way to quickly reduce your image size and resolution to improve load time.

Quickly Manage Twitter Followers and Un-Follows

Twitter is one social media platform that is highly effective for gaining exposure and building a network but also can be one of the greatest time-wasting sites. What I found to be the hardest part to manage on Twitter was my followers. There simply is no quick way to look at your followers and follow them back. This is where a Twitter tool becomes very necessary.

One of my greatest time-savers has been Tweepi. This cool, free little tool allows Twitter users to very quickly follow back other users and to even un-follow the ones that are not following you back – among other very helpful time-saving Twitter tasks. Another great social media tool that provides follow and unfollow help along with analytics and more is ManageFlitter.

Track Results

To really know if you are spending the right amount of time on the right activities in social media, you will need a way to track your results. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources available for quite the robust tracking. Google Analytics is probably one of the most popular free tracking tools. It does take some time to really learn, but the good folks at Google have provided plenty of help for you to quickly get your analytics up and running.

Klout is another excellent way to not only see how influential you are across various networks but also to see what niches you influence. Plus, you get lots of cool discounts and freebies, called Klout Perks, when you reach certain milestones.

Socialbakers’ Analytics Pro helps you see what actions have given you greatest growth in your social media networking. But this isn’t the best feature. It also shows you what content is the most interesting for your connections – and what gets them involved the most. It works for tracking Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and while it isn’t free, Analytics Pro does offer a free trial.

Eliminate Time on Irrelevant Social Media

Not all industries benefit from the same social media sites. For instance, I have found that Google+, LinkedIn, and especially Twitter are my greatest sources of relevant connections. Facebook and Pinterest are simply voidless time-sucks, and YouTube and Flickr take too much time with little results. You may find that MySpace, Pinterest, and Flickr are your greatest sources of helpful connections. Or maybe Facebook is the only one that is worth your time.

However, this does not mean that you can simply ignore the rest. You simply need to put almost all of your time into those sites that provide you with the best results. The other ones you can simply fill out your profile and check on your notifications to make sure you haven’t had a prospect contact you. At the very least, make sure you have a full profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, even if none of these are relevant to your industry. The reason is that signing up on these big four make you more visible, both to prospects who just happen to only have an account on one of these sites and to Google and other search engines.

Have you learned some ways to help you spend your time wisely on social media tasks? Please share below!

Social media cloud photo credit: daniel_iversen via photopin cc

September 30 2013

13:41

Best LinkedIn Tips for Creative Professionals

linkedin logo

In the creative world, it can be quite difficult to find time to market yourself. Many of us spend every moment of our free time simply trying to get a project time within the timeframe we promised. Some of us work from home with kids and a spouse often causing distractions. Some of us spend all day at a job then come home at night to our freelance work. As such, most creative professionals have very little time to spend on social media, even if it is a key way to market yourself.

This being said, social media marketing is still an important part of gaining new clients, making a name for yourself, and building valuable connections. You simply need to set aside time each week for social media. And one of the most important social media accounts that a web designer, graphic designer, musician, fine artist, photographer, or even a craft artist can have is LinkedIn. While Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or other social sites are definitely important, a LinkedIn account is where you can really show your professional side. And it’s important for connecting with other professionals looking for your services.

Just make sure to make the most of your LinkedIn profile as a creative by following some important tips:

Choose Keywords

Hopefully you already have a list of top keywords with which you have optimized your name or at least your website. If not, then create a list. Write down as many terms you can think of that clients may use when searching for your services online. Make sure they are long-tail keywords, meaning that they are at least two, and preferrably, three or four word phrases. Then include the top ones in your LinkedIn profile. For instance, any descriptions of projects or your list of skills are good places to include some keywords.

Start with a Strong Headline

Another excellent place for your top keyword or two is in your headline, also known as the summary. Make sure your headline not only includes your top keyword phrase but is also helps you stand out. What is your speciality? What do you do better than other graphic designers, painters, illustrators, performers, etc?

Strengthening your headline also includes making sure your profile picture portrays you as a professional in your field. Now, keep in mind that as a creative professional, you do have a little more creative license in your profile picture. But this still doesn’t mean that you should use a snapshot of you with a beer in your hand or in your swimsuit on the lake. You want your picture to show that you are serious about your career and work, not a flaky freelancer who can’t get it together enough to even upload a decent picture of yourself.

Get as Detailed as Possible

In completing your profile, fill in as many categories as possible that LinkedIn provides. If you only had time to fill in the basics when you first opened your LinkedIn account, be sure to complete it when you have time. Think of LinkedIn as a digital Curriculum Vitae. Prospective clients want to know as much about you as possible. And if you only have 30 minutes a week to dedicate to social media, then spend 15 minutes of that time on filling out your profile until you feel it is complete.

Now LinkedIn has a section for displaying publications. This is an excellent place for including links to any works of yours published both online and offline. Even with offline publications, try to include a link, such as the Amazon page for a printed book.

Customize Your LinkedIn URL

Customizing your LinkedIn URL can be a pain if you have had your profile awhile. However, it’s an excellent way to help clients find you easier when they don’t have your link immediately accessible. Just as with Facebook and Google+, your URL can include your name – www.linkedin.com/in/yourname.

To customize your LinkedIn URL, click on “Edit Profile” either in the drop-down menu under the Profile tab at the top of the page or in your headline box when logged into your profile. Once you are in editing mode, you’ll see your URL in a tiny, almost indistinguishable font at the bottom of your headline box. Click on the “Edit” link next to that URL.

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Once you click on that almost unnoticeable “Edit” button, you’ll see a box on the right side of the page with “Your Current URL” as one of the editable options. Click on the link titled “Edit your public profile URL”.

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Finally, a box will pop up in which you can enter your name as your profile URL.

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Post Updates with Images

LinkedIn is not like Twitter. You will end up annoying connections if you post several times a day. Posting an update once or twice a week is sufficient and will let connections know that you stay active on your account. But what should you, as a creative, post?

If you have a blog, include the title plus the URL for your most popular blog posts. Or post a link to an article that you found interesting. Just keep your updates professional, since LinkedIn is more of a business social media. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t include humor – just make sure that it either is a part of your portfolio or that it relates to the professional world. Keep your updates clean.

Above all, try to include images in as many of your updates as possible. They will help you stand out in the LinkedIn stream of updates and also encourage more clicks. The only annoying part of including images is that you can only upload them as a file – no easy image selections attached to a link as with Google+ or Facebook.

Advertise Your LinkedIn Profile

One of the best ways for those in the creative industries to market themselves is through social media. But, social media won’t do much for you if you don’t advertise what you have, and letting everyone know that there are multiple avenues for them to research you makes you that much more accessible. So, on your website or blog, make sure to include a LinkedIn button on every page. Do the same with your email signature – make sure to create a link for our LinkedIn profile (preferrably with the anchor text as “LinkedIn” or “Connect on LinkedIn”).

LinkedIn now has this nifty little button you can copy and paste in several different sizes. You can place it on your blog or in your email quite easily. You may have noticed it when you went in to edit your URL. Just underneath the box that on the right titled “Your current URL”, you will see “Profile Badges”. Simply click on the “Create a profile badge” link to see the different sizes with HTML you can copy and paste.

04-linkedin-tips-for-creatives

Best LinkedInGroups for Creative Professionals

LinkedIn created groups as a way to make connections that lead to clients, get feedback on your own projects, ask advice when you are stumped, and remain up-to-date on the latest news and technology. The unfortunate side to groups is that they attract a lot of spam, which can be frustrating to wade through, to say the least. The design of LinkedIn groups is also not exactly intuitive. It takes lots of time to wade through posts and create posts.

However, your involvement in the right LinkedIn groups can make you much more visible on Google, especially if you include your keywords. There’s not a “perfect” list of groups for creative professionals, but the following list will help you get started. Your best bet is to keep signing up for groups until you find the ones that provide you with the most helpful connections and information. To do so, simply select “Groups” from the search bar drop down menu and enter keywords related to your artistic industry.

Do you have a LinkedIn group you would recommend to fellow creatives? Or LinkedIn advice? Feel free to share below!

LinkedIn Logo Image by clasesdeperiodismo, on Flickr

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