February 12, 2011Social Media for Complete Beginners – Part 2
Why do you need social media?
I suppose I should start at the start: with an explanation of exactly why you should be using social media. It doesn’t matter what you do: if your business in any way relies on web traffic, and, specifically, your organic page rank in Google, you need to be using social media.
Why? Because Google changed the rules.
I set up my own business as a freelance copywriter at around the time when core SEO strategy was to have a good site, with lots of keywords and information, and a regularly-updated, keyword rich blog that attracts lots and lots of inbound links. It’s still a solid strategy. But it’s no longer enough.
In December 2010, Google changed their minds and decided to use social media links as a signal to determine a site’s quality, and thus its page rank in organic search.
The effect is slim for now, but it represents a sea change in policy — social media links are only going to grow in prominence now the genie is out of the bottle. He’s not going back in. It’s no longer enough to produce good content and <i>hope</i> people share it. You’re going to have to actively manage your social media presence.
Adapt now before social media links gain more importance. Or risk your site losing page rank — and losing you business. Adapt or die.
I’ll be blogging my conclusions early next week, as well as writing a separate post about setting up a Facebook page for your business.
Until then, for anyone who’s interested, I kept a diary of my week — I guess this will only be of use to social media newbies and people with too much time on their hands, but if you’re interested in how I got on, read on!
Getting started with twitter
I swore I’d never use Twitter. But it was time to swallow my pride: Twitter had to become part of my core SEO strategy. I dusted down the account I’d created last year pre-emptively but never used. To my shock, people were occasionally trying to talk to me or share things with me on it.
Lesson number 1. I’d created the account simply as a placeholder to grab my username and future-proof myself. But if you have a social media account, don’t neglect it. People may be trying to talk to you on it.
At first I was bewildered. “Switch to the New Twitter,” I was told on logging in. I felt a bit like Monty Burns — “Hold on, meistro! There’s a new Mexico?” But it was easy to start following people I knew. Some of them even followed me back.
I added a mix of freelance copywriters, agencies I admire, and friends. It took me less than two hours to discover some information that interested me: the average daily pay for a middleweight freelance copywriter this year is £200 – £300, confirming that my daily rate of £200 was pretty much spot on — with room to raise my prices later in the year if I needed to, and still be competitive.
Facebook: Who needs a page anyway?
Facebook was harder I couldn’t find the page that let me set up a page. Eventually I googled it. I was given a bewildering array of options. Am I a brand? No, not really. What about a public figure? I wish. It seems vain, asking for “fans” — who cares?
I created the page anyway. But I didn’t know what to do with it. Useful information? It’s already all on my website. Cross post my blog entries? To who? No-one’s following me here. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out a use for the page. In a way that Twitter seemed instantly accessible and friendly to me, Facebook seemed pointless. Who wants to “interact with a brand” anyway? Not me.
I couldn’t bring myself to spam my modest personal friends list with a business request. 95% of my friends list have nothing to do with my business. They’re school friends, uni friends, people I met in the pub. They don’t care about Allday Creative. Why should I ask them to “like” my site?
At the end of day 1, my Facebook page was as it started. “0 people like this.” I go to bed a little downhearted.
I’m actually really enjoying Twitter. But then again, following 20 people is easy. I see people who follow 6,000 people. Do they really have time to read it all?
The 140 character limit
The hardest part is getting used to saying what I want in 140 characters. Yes, as a copywriter I have to write short copy. But I’ll sometimes get a day to write a single sentence, if the sentence is important enough. This kind of brevity combined with speed is new to me. I have to sacrifice meaning for space.
A copywriter tweets a blog post about B2B cliches, with the word “solution” as his top cliche — something i’ve previously blogged about. I reply to him. But instead of saying it’s my “least favourite” word I say it’s my “most hated”. Which is stronger than I intended — but it fits in 160 characters. In other words, you really have to think extra hard about what you tweet.
Still unsure what to do about my Facebook page, I turn my attention to LinkedIn. I quickly import my address book and found that 54 people I’d had contact with were on LinkedIn. I felt 12 of them were relevant to my business and added them all, along with a couple of friends who also worked in the creative industries. Within the hour, a third of them replied. My conclusion? If you like LinkedIn, you must really love it.
But after adding everyone I knew, I was stumped. I guess I just had to wait for the connections to roll in — to keep my page updated more regularly, to add people as I worked with them. Again, I was going back to rule number 1. If you have a social media page, keep it updated. I integrated my twitter feed into the page to keep it looking fresh. A definite improvement.
Too busy to tweet
On Day 3 I found what I’d feared most: I didn’t have enough time. Several client enquiries came in at the same time as a lot of work was due out. I spent 12 hours at the office. I barely had time to read my emails, let alone follow Twitter.
At the end of the day I’m exhausted, I’ve barely sent a tweet, and my facebook page still has 0 fans, something I promised I’d deal with today. I briefly wonder how some people have time to tweet hourly, every day — without it getting in the way of their jobs. I guess they’re just better at multitasking than me.
I also realise something else: when I’m working, I actually have very little to tweet about. I’m a quiet guy. I don’t feel the need for the world to know what I’m doing. My social-media-phobia is growing again.
Facebook page is still languishing. 0 people like it. Can’t blame them – there’s nothing there. Realising I’m hopelessly out of my depth, I contact a marketing expert I did some copywriting work for recently. She agrees to help me with my Facebook problem when I’m a little less busy.
Ironically, I got to know her because she was one of the very few people who went out of her way to not just read my site, but also to communicate me and compliment me on my work on my private Facebook profile. I still don’t know what to do with my page, but I guess this is evidence that Facebook can work, used correctly.
Next lesson. Twitter and RSS go hand in hand.
I see a tweet from one of my favourite blogs, Copyblogger — they’re a bit repetitive sometimes but they’re always in the loop. I was planning to send out a few old-school sales letters (based on the Ogilvy technique) to some of my favourite companies to drum pu business. But someone on Copyblogger has beaten me to it, and now everyone else will be trying it. I probably would have spotted it on RSS. But the belt-and-braces approach may have saved my skin.
Twitter is definitely a distraction. At quarter to five I’m looking at funny tweets from Mother London and daydreaming about working there, rather than concentrating on the financial services brochure I’m supposed to be writing. I figure I’ve spent about an hour using social media today. At my hourly rate, that means today’s tweeting has cost me £25. I begin to wonder where my ROI is.
My ROI arrives, in the form of a client enquiry — someone has seen a blog entry I’ve written thanks to Twitter. Of course, this was happening anyway — without my need to be active about it. People have always tweeted about and shared my posts without needing me to give them a nudge. But now I feel as if I have greater control. I can see who’s writing about me and find out more about them. And, of course, I can promote my own work. So long as I’m not constantly spamming people with things about me, which I’m not.
I tweet out a request for some help with some copy I’m writing: valentine’s day fortune cookies. I get one reply. It’s hardly huge, but it’s something. As week 1 draws to a close, I only have 19 followers – but I’m starting to see the potential ROI spending half an hour using social media a day will give me. Not to mention, hopefully, the organic search boost.
I’ll be going over my analytics later this month with a fine tooth comb and giving you all a detailed, useful report.
Finally, as the week draws to a close, I learn some big news, again, on Twitter — although I do more detailed research on RSS. Facebook is changing the way it handles pages to make them more like user profiles — getting around my problem of wanting to separate business and pleasure — at the moment, the only way I can convince someone to “like” my business is to use my personal profile to “like” theirs — something I’m not comfortable with as I like to keep my personal and business life separate. It’s big news — and another sign that like it or not, social media marketing is gaining in importance every single day.