Straight talk about Social Media

I’ve struggled with social media both in my personal and professional life. Between Twitter, Facebook, Google + and all the various outlets that are available to put yourself out there it’s difficult choosing which ones to focus my time.

This is an important issue to tackle because it’s important to build a solid and organized social media presence if art is your business. My philosophy is you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it, so rather than try to work through this problem myself, I looked through my LinkedIn account and decided to pick the brain of the smartest person I could find on the subject.

The journalist in me always wants to give credit for idea that aren’t my own unfortunately, I can’t give direct credit to the person who offered the advice. The nature of her job won’t allow me to give a company name or title. All I can say is that she is a business strategist at a very popular Fortune 500 company in the Bay Area.

I’m thankful for the help. My hope is that all of you can benefit as well.

Deciding what Social Media to use

I think it’s agreed that using social media is important, but for a writer, artist, or other creatives that seeks to make a business out of their work, it is paramount. I wrote about platform in an earlier post, but to give a brief definition: It’s all the ways you are appealing to future clientele.

That definition is vague on purpose because it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. Before ever deciding on which social media outlet be clear about your platform and by extension who that future clientele is.

For me, this means making myself appealing to editors and publishers that seek to publish my work. Social Media is a means of building an audience by engaging with them through the various outlets available to me. This makes me attractive to my future clients because there will be a built in following for my work. That makes promoting a book or shopping an article much easier because they know that the people following me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or my blog will read whatever it is I write.

In trying to tackle this subjects, I kept on trying to think of what the pros and cons are of each social media outlet are and trying to evaluate which ones to use and then deciding on which ones to focus my time.

A valid approach, but flawed in one way. It fails to consider the most important factor in all of this. Where is my potential audience?

“Think about where of your demographic is,” she said. “Find out where most of your demographic is speaking to each other.”

The simplest way to do this is to talk to the people you serve. When a client comes to you for a job just ask them what social media outlet they use and then actively connect with them through it. Let your clients and the people you work with dictate which social media you will use then you will be be more likely to maintain it because the practice has grown organically.

It’s a mindset you have to cultivate so be thinking about opportunities to connect with people at all times.

Say you run a letterpress shop like my sister Olivia does. Referrals are word of mouth and the appeal is coming into the shop and seeing for yourself how she makes her print products.  If a potential client comes to her seeking a service, engaging in social media could be simple as asking them to connect with her through Facebook or Twitter after the initial meeting.

Once a client knows you are using a specific social media outlet they are more likely to engage with you on it. Be aware that if you make a commitment engage with somebody on social media then be sure to actually have a conversation with them.

It’s rude when you know your having a one sided conversation in real life so don’t do it over Facebook, Twitter and the like. Remember, it’s social media so the Golden Rule does apply.

Engage with people in a professional manner and you will be treated in kind.

Engagement could be as simple as writing clients a thank you tweet or note on their facebook wall. Common courtesies like that aren’t relegated to real life and could often mean the difference between a client giving you a referral to their hundreds of followers or friends.

This organic approach can also lead you to new social media outlets. If a client says they are using something you’ve never heard of then be open to exploring what it could do for you. Be willing to engage with your audience where they are most comfortable not necessarily where you are most comfortable.

If that’s on Pinterest, Yelp, Instagram or anything else. Give it a shot.

An Integrated approach

Deciding the number of social media outlets to use and how to integrate them effectively is just as important as which ones to use. Not everybody has a team of employees to launch and maintain an effective presence on multiple social media outlets so think carefully where you want to put your time an energy.

“The generally accepted dogma is that consumers want different content for each medium. It has to look like you care about the person. If it happens to be Facebook or Twitter you have to think about how you might engage them.”

Where your audience or clientele is going will dictate which outlets to use, but if you are going to be using more than one keep this in mind. This is social media not “social link aggregator” or “social spam bot” so be sure to interact with people as if they are right in front of you.

If you apply all the rules of civility and professionalism in real life to the Internet world then you will be just fine. Remember that you are not operating in dead space so even though that status update or tweet is going out to hundreds of people there is a brain and two eyes that are looking at it. People are smart enough to realize when you are being lazy so put in the time and effort to think about what you are doing and how you are engaging with people.

That’s a long way of saying think before you open your mouth.

“The best thing is to decide what the call to action may be. Whatever it is, establish a clear objective with the goal of user engagement.”

When you put up a link, explain why you are putting it up. Refer people to our blog post on Facebook, but ask an engaging question to get people commenting. Engage with the people following you and they will respond in kind.