Survivial Skills for Freelancers

Social media for small businesses – and why you’re doing it wrong

Let’s get this out the way first, shall we? Social media is as much a pain in the backside as it is a blessing and a way of attracting new clients.

If you’re not disciplined – scrap that… even if you are – it can be a huge, momentous, gargantuan distraction.

It’s also an enormous source of pressure. It sits there in the digital ether mocking you. “Have you updated your LinkedIn profile recently? You really should’ve asked that client for a recommendation by now!” “Wait – you mean you haven’t thought of something acerbic and brilliant to share on Twitter this morning? What’s wrong with you?” “C’mon, you know there’s no point even having a Facebook page these days unless you’re prepared to dig deep and advertise!”

Social. It wants a piece of you. And it wants it NOW.

If you take just one piece of advice away from this post, it should be this: unless you have literally no work – and if that’s the case, I humbly suggest you have bigger problems than how to manage your social media presence – you don’t have time to master all platforms.

You’re not omnipotent. Or is it omnipresent? Or both.

Pick one or two platforms that are best aligned with your client base and do them really, really well. No more.

Sure, you can establish a profile on every platform out there, if you really want to cover all bases – that certainly won’t harm your Google ranking – but as long as your information is up-to-date and relevant, leave it right there, thank you.

Then back slowly away from the time-sapping, energy-draining social media vortex.

Which will you choose?

Those of you with visual businesses – hotels, florists, designers, manufacturers of cute-looking-OMG-I-just-HAVE-to-have-thats – you’ve got it made. In fact, I hate you. Just a tiny little bit.

Your business can flirt with any one of the social platforms and get those customers clicking and buying like a match made in retail heaven. Take your pick. Then take your pics. (Sorry.)

Instagram and Pinterest

Once you know your audience, and you’ve nailed your brand (and I know just the guys if you need help with that) make sure everything you post reflects your brand’s values and a professional image – by that I don’t mean business speak, I mean mistake-free – and you’ll soon be attracting those clients like a match made in retail heaven.

Get busy with that camera and learn to make your business look great. Great social media content doesn’t need expensive gear. Get your smartphone out and get snap, edit, and post happy.

Apps such as Over, Canva and Spark Post help you combine text and images for eye-catching posts, while free apps such as Snapseed and Afterlight are great for editing your pics.

Experimenting will teach you the hashtags and style that works for your audience, and remember, there’s no harm in taking inspiration from competitor businesses that do Instagram and Pinterest well – just no outright copying, please. No one likes a cheat.

Then feel a teeny bit smug – and certainly grateful – that you don’t have to think of clever ways to illustrate being a goddamn freelance copywriter. Because, let’s be honest, Instagram and Pinterest aren’t a lot of use to service businesses. I know. I am one.*

*Okay, so I do them both anyway, but I do them for fun. Any business I get on the back of them is incidental, not planned. Sorry, social media gurus.

LinkedIn

I’m going to stick my neck on the line and say whatever business you’re in, you need a profile on LinkedIn. Not a company page. A personal profile.

LinkedIn doesn’t have to be one of the two or three platforms you decide to do really well. You don’t have to sit on there day in, day out, engaging, liking and posting – but show up and be present.

If I meet someone at a networking event, the first thing I do when I get back to the office is connect with them on LinkedIn. If they’re not on there, I assume either they don’t take their business seriously (and if they don’t, why should I?) or that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. And believe me, I’m only being a tiny bit tongue in cheek when I say that.

Think of LinkedIn as your virtual CV.

I’m in my 19th year of working freelance, and if anyone is out of touch enough to ask me for a CV, I refer them to my LinkedIn profile. Because even if LinkedIn wasn’t one of my three (it is) it would sit there, up-to-date and relevant, showcasing my skills and experience to anyone who wants to work with me.

That’s the bare minimum.

If you want to do LinkedIn well, start by optimising your profile. There are plenty of people out there who’ll happily tell you how to do that. Keep it open in your browser and check it once a day. Keep your profile up to date. Like and comment on relevant posts. Ask your clients for recommendations (I’m up to 102, at the last count). Congratulate people on their new jobs.

But be authentic. Don’t like and comment and share for exposure. That doesn’t feel good.

You might even consider posting your own articles on there, just like this one.

I’ve had such good results from my LinkedIn articles that I’ve started posting all new blogs on there and using my other social media accounts to drive traffic to the post on LinkedIn, rather than to my website.

I know. Controversial.

But it’s not, really. Engagement on my most popular post – remember the secret confessions blog? – looked a little something like this: a tiny little circle representing all 3,200+ of my LinkedIn connections, and a great big circle representing views from second-tier connections. That’s a LOT of engagement, and a lot of quality leads heading my way.

Thanks, LinkedIn. I love you, too.

Twitter

I love Twitter. There are still predictions of it going down the pan. I hope that doesn’t happen.

But people still get it wrong. They post things like this:

Looking for a copywriter? Let me write your website for you!

*hides eyes*

Has it gone yet? Seriously, that’s the quickest way to turn people right off your business. Social should be just that – a chance to engage with people. Be professional, but don’t be afraid to share your personality. People deal with people, remember? Not bland, faceless companies, bun-fighting for every job that comes along.

So dial down the desperate, and start engaging, informing, and entertaining.

Get your name out there as a trusted source of information on your area of expertise. Share tips, tricks and advice. Reply to questions. And be nice.

Facebook

I’ve never been convinced about Facebook pages as a tool for service businesses, but perhaps that’s simply because it doesn’t work well for me.

If you’re in the business of selling cupcakes, jewellery, or another photo-friendly product, it can work really well – and there are many pages out there that prove it.

That said, I keep my page up to date, and aim to post daily. Language-relevant funnies and thought-provoking questions get the best engagement for me, but trial and error will show what works for your business.

Whatever business you’re in, you’re more likely to attract new customers and sales through Facebook if you’re prepared to advertise. And that’s a whole other subject.

So, that’s it. I know – I haven’t touched on the virtues of scheduling, the value of video, or the pros and cons of narrative vs ephemeral content (think Snapchat and Instagram stories), but then I’m a copywriter, not a social media guru. Besides, I can always save that for another day.

Which platforms work best for your business? Drop me an email and let me know.

I bet you didn’t know a copywriter could do THIS…

“So, you’re a copywriter – what do you actually do?”

For a while now, my stock response to that question has been “I write websites” – mainly because it’s something everyone can understand.

But I’ve had a few meetings recently in which the client has been visibly surprised when I’ve talked about some of the projects I’ve worked on – which got me thinking about how easy it is to get typecast in business.

It goes a little like this…

I write a website for a start-up business. They love it. They tell their colleague, who’s also setting up a new business. They ask me to write their website. They love it… and so it goes on.

While this isn’t exactly a problem, it does mean businesses are missing out on a bunch of the marketing and messaging services that I – and other copywriters* – can help them with.

Strange…

I remember an ad from a Cheltenham-based printing company that ran daily in the local paper some years back. All it said was, “strange…. some people just use us for printing…”

I found it odd at the time, but now I understand what they were getting at. In the same way that certain graphic designers are best known for designing logos, writing websites is just one aspect of what a good copywriter does.

With that in mind, here are just six of the lesser-known things a skilled copywriter or editor can do for your business:

1. Preaching to the converted

If you have no problem attracting leads but you struggle to convert those leads into business, chances are your emails are to blame.

A copywriter can review the email enquiries you receive and your responses to them, then create a set of email templates that you can adapt to suit each enquiry. They’ll tighten, polish and strengthen your message, add personality and sparkle, and make sure your call to action is clear and compelling.

2. Get connected

Done right, LinkedIn works wonders for business. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 93 per cent of B2B marketers consider it to be the most effective channel for lead generation, and I’ve lost count of the number of new clients who’ve got in touch after finding me on there**.

If your profile is a bit of a mess, a copywriter or editor will help you knock it into shape and inject the personality you need to present yourself in the best possible way.

3. Case in point

Do you show off the work you’ve done for your clients? Case studies or project profiles are a great way to bring to life the ways in which your products or services solve problems for your customers.

Done some great work? Shout about it! A copywriter will interview your clients and write up a set of case studies that you can add to your website and promote on social media to attract the clients you want.

4. Speechless?

I’ve edited many a speech, TV or radio interview over the years, including dozens for the CEOs and directors of Europe’s leading entertainment network. Most of them aren’t native English speakers, so I help them ensure their tone is just right for an international audience.

An experienced editor will make sure your message is crystal clear for your audience, and that it presents you in the best possible light.

5. Style it out

Everything you write on behalf of your business reflects your company’s image. Does your writing support your brand, or damage it?

House style guidelines cover everything from the use of dates, capitals and punctuation to words and phrases that are specific to your company, and your industry. They’re a handy reference guide that can help take the pressure off anyone who’s writing for your business, and many good copywriters – including this one, of course – will be happy to develop guidelines for you.

6. Show off

Been offered space in a local magazine or the trade press? Perhaps you have a PR company that can knock up some tasty copy to make your new product or service shine. If you don’t, a copywriter will relish the challenge.

If you have a relationship with a good copywriter they’ll understand your business and what makes you tick. If not, provide a sound brief so they can produce an article that makes your business stand out from the crowd.

Above and beyond

So there we have it – a quick outline of some of the services that go beyond the standard ‘websites, brochures, leaflets and blog posts’ you’d expect from an experienced copywriter.

If you’d like to find out more about how any of these services can help your business become more successful, call me on 07973 269608 or drop me an email.

*While I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience or skills, I’m pretty certain I’m not the only copywriter who provides these services for their clients. It’s just a question of finding one with the combination of experience, skills and approach that works best for your business.

**According to LinkedIn, I have an all-star profile. It’s not hard to do, but if you need help getting yours up to scratch, get in touch.