I admit it, I’m a social media dinosaur. When I first signed up for Facebook I needed a .edu email address. Way back in those days, the “hot new” social network was just for college kids. I never could have predicted the way that it would grow and shape the face of corporations. But here we are, and if you’re a people person with a knack for creating great social media content, then you’re in luck! There are a lot of freelance jobs out there that revolve around social media, so how can you get started?
1. Know the Market
There are so many different aspects to social media, it can be hard to know where to begin. It’s important to learn your strengths and understand the parts of the field that interest you the most. Not everyone can be a Twitter guru, or Facebook genius, and that’s ok. You need to learn where your strengths are and maximize those skills. If you’re a good photographer, try Instagram, if you like making short videos then learn everything you can about Snapchat (RIP Vine), and if you’re awesome at writing short content then maybe you’ll gravitate toward Twitter.Finding your favorite platform is important, but you also need to remember that you’ll need to be able to use whatever social media channel your client prefers.
A lot of times, a freelance client will already have a certain account they want you to beef up. So having an understanding of the major channels can go a long way. If you’re wondering what the most popular social media sites are, DreamGrow has a great list that also includes the number of monthly visitors.
2. Understand the Brand
If you are going to apply to manage a brand’s social media, you are going to need to understand them really What is their voice, their message, their social conscious? What would they say, and what would they never say? This information might already exist if the company has been around for a while. However, if it hasn’t already been established you are going to need to do a lot more work.Defining a brand’s voice takes work, but it is really important to maintain consistency across social media channels. While it is a lot of work, if you get to develop the brand voice yourself it will be easier to keep using it because you created it. Trust me, trying to fill someone else’s shoes can seem easier because things are already defined, but it can be tough to mimic their style.
If you get to make it, you won’t have to fake it.Whichever route you need to take, it’s going to take some time and research to get the brand messaging down. Give yourself time and research them voraciously. Talk to people within the company and see what they think the brand represents. Some companies want to seem young and fresh, others want to see established and like thought-leaders. Find the company’s backbone and build out from there, it’ll be a rewarding and enlightening experience.
3. Know the Pitfalls
Social media can be pretty overwhelming at first. It can feel like you need to please everyone all the time, and we all know that’s impossible. When I first started doing professional social media consulting, I found myself obsessively reading and re-reading my tweets looking for errors or room for misinterpretation. I know it sounds crazy, but I let the horror stories of social media mismanagement creep into my brain. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then check out Entrepreneur’s list of “12 Worst Social-Media Fails in 2016 So Far.” I’m not putting this here to scare you, just to serve as a warning.
It might seem super simple to share some content, slap a funny tagline on, and make money. But you have to be careful, because social media accounts are a huge part of brand’s images these days. You need to represent the brand well, and this means paying attention to your audience and moral and ethical standards. The more you practice, the more you will get into a good groove. You will learn what your audience enjoys and responds well to, and you can give them more of that content. However, do know there will always be trolls and negative voices in the crowd. Always respond positively and politely, and do your best not to engage them further. Everyone in social media management deals with it, don’t take it personally.
4. Build a Reputation
I know a lot of people have designated private and public social media accounts, and if you want to make it a career, that might not be a bad idea. You need to prove to customers that you can get the job done well, and that’s by creating accounts that prove you’re an expert in the field.Sometimes this will mean having a fair number of followers, but more than that you’re going to need to prove that you can create interesting and engaging content that people enjoy. I’ve seen some accounts that only have a decent amount of followers, but they really add value and have a strong positive presence. It’s important to do what you do well and actively engage with people on the accounts more than just amassing tons of people who don’t ever interact with your content. After all, people can pay for social media followers these days. Thousands of followers won’t impress many savvy companies unless you have the content to back it up.When you apply for social media jobs, they’re probably going to ask if you have any examples to show them. If you are new to the field, these accounts are likely going to be your own. Eventually, as you grow as a consultant, you will be able to send professional examples for them to review. Until then, having a strong public account will be enough for some companies.
5. Learn the Lingo
There are two terms I hear over and over when talking about social media management: GA and conversions. Let me just save you some time and break those down for you right now.
– GA – Sounds fancy, but it’s really just Google Analytics. Maybe it’s just me that didn’t know that, but it’s really crucial to the field so I’m going to explain it a bit for the rest of the uninformed. So, this is what the analytics page says about the service, “Google Analytics lets you analyze data from all touchpoints in one place, for a deeper understanding of your customer experience. You can then share the insights that matter with your whole organization.” Frankly, I’m not a fan of that definition, it doesn’t give you much more insight.When I’ve used GA, it’s been mostly to learn what pages people visit, and whether those visits led them to order something. GA can track clicks and trace the path that people take throughout a website, and can even tell you how they entered the site. For example, if you make an awesome Facebook post that lots of people click on to take them to the company’s website, it will show up on your GA reports. This will make your clients happy. GA has lots of capabilities, so you need to learn what your clients want to know, and set the GA reports to tell you that information. Otherwise, you can spend hours clicking through metrics rabbit holes and in the end it’ll all mean next to nothing. Find your GA purpose, and use it to guide you.
– Conversions – This one is pretty simple, and I’m turning to Wikipedia for the best definition, “In electronic commerce, conversion marketing is the act of converting site visitors into paying customers. However, different sites may consider a “conversion” to be some sort of result other than a sale.” You’re converting a visit into something good. It’s that simple.Basically, you’re going to need to find ways to entice users to respond to a call to action. It might be defined by the client, or you might need to suggest what good conversions should be for the company. If you’re selling something, it is pretty easy. A path from a defined social media account straight to an order should do it. You might also be asked to get users to sign up for a newsletter, set up an account, or something similar. Forbes has a great article about conversions that you should read to learn more about the art of conversions, “How To Convert Leads With Social Media.”
6. Understand the Strategy
Behind every great social media account is a solid and well-planned social media strategy. One of the best was to create this is to plan things out really well. There are tons of apps both paid and free that will help you strategize effectively.One of the biggest things I learned was to post a decent amount but don’t go overboard. If you have friends that are constantly popping up on your social feeds with pictures of every sandwich they ate, then you’ll know the frustration of over-posting. Wisdom varies on the amount you should post, but typically it’s a few times a day for things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s a good idea to learn which platforms send user’s notifications when new content is added. This can get really annoying and lead people to unsubscribe.
Post wisely, and you’ll add a consistent number of followers each week.When someone asks you for a social media strategy they want to know what you’ll be posting, where you’ll be posting it, and why you think that’s the best content. This goes back to GA, conversions, and social media metrics in general. Set yourself some aggressive but attainable goals and readjust as necessary. This can be something like 100 new website visitors each month originating from the company’s Facebook page, or 5 new orders a week using the discount code you tweeted out. Your clients will understand that it will take a bit of time to find the right groove, so if you don’t hit the mark 100% of the time that’s typically fine. Still, you are going to need to prove that you can take your plan from theory to practice and do it well, so creating a solid strategy is really important.Some of the most common social media planning apps are:
7. Be Good with Virtual People
Social media management involves a lot of essentially faceless interaction. If you require face-to-face communication in order to get your message across, it’s going to be a little frustrating at first. After you get used to it, things will be simpler and you’ll be able to message and reply pretty easily.Managing social media accounts can often be a pretty public form of customer service. You might want to speak to the company’s customer service department to find what issues they encounter most frequently, so you can handle them when they crop up on your feeds. It’s all about knowing your audience, which takes time.
Social media management can be a lot of fun, and is pretty easy to do from anywhere. That’s one of the reasons it’s a freelancer favorite. Learn the popular platforms and start finding accounts that you enjoy following. The more time you spend engrossed in the field, the more you will understand it (and sometimes be confounded by it). That will give you a great jumping off point to find your voice and being building a career as a social media consultant.
Any social media strategists out there want to weigh in? Share your social media strategist tips and tricks in the comments below!