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social-crowdIf you’ve ever wondered whether or not social media can help you as a freelancer, the simple answer is — absolutely. Being social on the web has many rewards; including connections, community, interaction, exposure, and trust. These five elements are critical for a business to survive, and with social media you can make sure you are building all of them.

If you’re new to the idea of social media for freelancers, or aren’t sure how it can help out your business, I recommend you look into these social media basics to get a better idea of what this is all about.

Once you’re familiar with the idea of using social media for your business, then this post is for you. Here are 5 simple tips that can make a big difference to your success with social media.

1. Pick a Name and Stick With It

Before you even open an account on any social media platform, you’ll want to make sure you pick a name that will stay consistent. This is one of the key things that many people don’t seem to realize. If you have the same “profile name” on multiple platforms, it makes it much easier for others to find and remember you. It also helps you create a better personal brand if you become popular on these networks. For example, My user name is ritubpant on all social media/networking platforms. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Flickr, LinkedIn among many others as ritubpant. This makes it much easier for others to find me if they need to connect with me on different platforms.

Tip: You can follow this tip for your profile picture as well. If your picture is consistent throughout different platforms, it’s much easier for people to recognize you. Think of your profile image as a business logo.

2. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Many freelancers dive into social media and end up putting all of their energy and effort into one social media platform. This is not a great approach. Although it is good to stick with platforms that are popular in your industry, it’s key to build a community and a brand in different platforms. Make sure you are seen throughout the web. Some services may have millions of users while others may have only a couple thousand. Don’t go for the number, rather go for the quality network and community that you can build on these platforms. Having a presence on different accounts gives you a chance to connect to more people and eventually will help you grow your freelancing business.

3. Choose and Execute

Although this point may sound contradictory to the one above, it’s really more of a complimentary approach. As I have mentioned above, you should have a presence on several different social media platforms — however, you should also be able to maintain that presence. There is no point in creating a profile on 50 different platforms if you can only use five platforms actively. It is important to have a presence on different platforms, but engagement and participation is the real key.

Make sure you choose platforms that are relevant to you. Don’t spend a lot of time creating a profile on a social media platform that you will end up abandoning. If you never participate with that particular community, there is no reason to have an account there. Besides, if someone ends up looking for you in these platform and finds you inactive for months, it might give someone an idea that you are not worth following or keeping up with. Don’t give anyone a chance to think negatively about you or your brand. It’s better to not have a presence than to have one that is abandoned.

4. Active Doesn’t Mean Obsessive

In order to get the most out of social media you have to be active on the networks you’ve chosen. Being active, however, doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed. I use many different platforms each day and I am quite active on these sites — even still, there is no point in updating a Facebook profile or Twitter account just for the sake of it. As they say in blogging — if you have nothing to say, it’s better to say nothing. Follow that rule on social media platforms as well. A couple twitter updates each day is normal but on LinkedIn once a week is more than enough (or a few times if you are active on LinkedIn groups). It’s important to be active on different social media platforms, but make sure your participation brings value to other community members and is not a nuisance to yourself or others.

5. It’s All About Interaction

Social media is all about interaction. If you want to be seen and want others to take interest in what you have to say or do, you have to be an active participant. Whether it’s Facebook, twitter or any other platforms that you utilize, participation and engagement is the key to succeeding in social media. Social Media is often seen as a free tool to help you when it comes to exposure and creating a name for yourself or your business, but you need to keep in mind that it costs both time and effort.

This is the reason that I mentioned earlier that you need to choose the specific sites that you want to use. If you don’t think you can actively utilize a platform, it’s better not to be there at all. It’s all about the community, participation, and engagement. The more you give, the more you get. The more you engage, the more exposure you will gain.

Add Your Tips

These are some of my favorite tips for succeeding on social media, but there is a lot more out there. If you’re very familiar with social media (and I know a lot of you are) then why don’t you offer a favorite tip or two for our readers who are just getting started?

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I have lots of friends, followers and connections on various Social Networking sites. Too many? Well, I’ll let the Social Media gurus tell me that. I like keeping up with people. Seeing where they have been, what they done, seen, etc. I like hearing what people have learned, tried and failed at. To me, Social Media is a way to extend a group of friends/acquaintances far beyond my town, business or vacation trip locations, etc. I value my Twitter, Facebook and other peeps, except for “those people”. #fb

“Which people?” you ask.

Oh, you know, “those people”. The people that post that one topic, over and over again. It may be a great topic, like their business, political or religious beliefs, famous quotes from famous people, etc. One topic, posted by “those people,” over and over again.

We’ve all met “those people,” in real life, too. The person who only talks about 1 topic the entire time. You try to change the subject, but somehow, they find a way to bend the subject change back to the topic they were on, and it continues, for all time. Being passionate about something is great. It drives us to better ourselves, our families, and sometimes our planet. However, there is balance.

Balance. Not too far “this way,” or too far “that way”. Balance.

Getting back to my Social Networking connections. I can give people a few infractions of “Buy my stuff!” “Listen to my show!” or “Never sit with your back to the door. Abraham Lincoln”. I use Social Networking sites to promote my projects, as well as my friend’s projects, so I know I toe and cross the line at times, but I try to keep it balanced. Be yourself first, then express your passion, second.

I love to catch up with friends. They tell me how they are doing; their job, family, pets, almost winning the lottery, etc, etc, then they mention a new venture they are involved in. That’s great. A full picture approach. I’m always interested in the person. Sometimes mundane information about the child that put raisins up their nose, the dog that barks the Love Boat theme, the long overtime hours someone is working. I like it. That helps me connect with the person. I know them better now. A person sharing their life (even mundane) information, helps me connect on an emotional level. I care at that point. When I care, I let my guard down to listen completely to more. That “more” is their passion.

When someone walks up and asks you for money, you normally pull back. “I don’t know this person,” “What will they do with the money,” etc, are the things that cause us to be wary. Becoming emotionally connected (even reconnecting) makes us more interested in someone’s passion. When we emotionally connect, we now trust, then we listen and care, too.

I have blocked some Social Networking folks for the business posts, over and over again. Perhaps they don’t feel that their life (even the small segment they feel comfortable sharing with the Social Networking group) isn’t interesting. I have news for them – it is.

Your life matters, and is important and is interesting to me and others.

You, are not just your beliefs, business, or political thoughts. You are the day to day events in your life. The grumbling at traffic. The wandering to find where your car was parked. The dinner you created from “what’s in the cupboard”. The laughing so hard it hurt, after you realized that singing the songs from the commercials with your children might bother the neighbors. The good, the bad, and the ordinary, because what’s ordinary to you, may be a dream for someone else.

Blog You. Post You. Tweet You. You will see people start to connect with you on deeper levels that aren’t just about your business or beliefs, but about you.

Once they know you, they will gladly hear what else you have to say.

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295 fb use.jpgUsing Facebook at work could actually improve the performance of employees, says an article in Advertising Age.

Approximately 54% of American companies have banned Facebook and other social networks in offices, according to figures compiled by USA Today. That’s because employers are worried about lower productivity or their company getting bad press.

Well they shouldn’t be, says this article: letting people on social networks in the office could actually have a positive effect. Facebook agrees – they posted the article up on their fan page.

Being a magazine for people in the ad industry, one main advantage they point out applies most to people working in communications or PR: “Marketers are at a clear disadvantage when they don’t have first-hand usage, insight and experience with social-media channels.”

The need to understand social-media wouldn’t apply to road-workers or neurosurgeons in the same way. But Advertising Age claims there are five basic benefits to any employer who lets their workers social network from the office:

1. Team-building and camaraderie
Screw paint-balling and expensive picnics, social-networking will help your team bond free of cost, and improve colleague relationships.

2. Productivity benefits from brain breaks
Advertising Age quotes research from MIT confirming that taking breaks helps us learn and be more productive: “A 2006 study observed rats pausing after exploring an unfamiliar maze. The neuroscientists theorized the rats were using the break to re-trace their steps in the maze for memory purposes — thus leading to better productivity during the next maze run. Well if it works for rats… Mind breaks lead to employee satisfaction and better productivity. This results in increased morale, reduced employee stress, low absenteeism and more engaged, healthier employees.

3. On-the-job training
Social media can serve as a virtual think tank. Advice, focus groups and mentoring can all be found through Twitter or professional groups on sites like Linked In.

4. Trust and transparency
Advertisting age says: “Banning employees from this widespread communication tool is akin to telling your employees they can’t use the phone for personal calls or e-mail friends and family. It’s a signal your company is oppressive and in the Dark Ages.”

Abuses of trust can be dealt with any the way any other performance problem is.

5. Listening/monitoring
Complaints could hurt the corporate brand but allows the employer a chance to address complaints or dissatisfaction.

6. Brand evangelists
Happy employees write positive happy things. Ad Age says that’s a huge recruiting benefit.

Do you social network at work? Convinced by these benefits?

Some general reactions:

One commenter says:
“I think Facebook has a case of megalomania and is starting to believe it can be useful in any situation, marketing, at work, maybe saving a life, who knows. Facebook could be the answer to any problem.”

Another one points out the obvious..:
“I’m pretty sure that people goofed off at work long before Facebook and the Internet. Taking away social media will just lead to more creative goof-off tactics AND will also disarm employees from staying on top of current technologies and communications.”

//

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Across the pond, European privacy regulators could be about to throw a spanner into the works of attempts by social networking sites like Facebook to find new ways to increase profits as they try to restrict the way internet groups release personal data. The European move marks the first attempt by regulators to address the “open” Internet platforms that the social networks, led by Facebook, have rushed to create, The Financial Times reports. “By letting other applications ride on top of their systems, tapping into personal data about their members, the networks have sought both to tie in users for longer and create money-making opportunities.”

However, regulators say tighter rules are needed to protect personal data given to these third-party developers. In particular, they believe developers should be subject to tough European Union privacy and data protection rules, even when the companies concerned are located far from Europe.

At the same time, they argue that many corporate marketers who have turned to new forms of social media as a way to reach consumers should also be subjected to stiffer regulations. Given the growing importance of applications used on social networks, the rules amount to “a road map for their business future”, Jeff Chester, a US privacy advocate, tells The Financial Times. “Users don’t know their information is being collected and used,” by third parties, he added.

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More than 3 million Facebook users registered for usernames in the first 12 hours after the social network allowed them to create easy-to-find, personalized Web pages, the company said. 

”It’s rewarding to see so many people are interested in getting a user name,” Facebook spokesman Larry Yu said yesterday in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. While traffic to the site was higher than usual, he said the introduction of the feature went smoothly. 

The idea behind the new names and addresses is to simplify locating friends on the site. Previously the URL for one’s Facebook page consisted of a long, cryptic combination of numbers and letter, but users who took advantage of the free feature were given pages with simple URLs, such as Facebook.com/BJoKellum. 

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