Lesson 10: The Importance of Social Media With Freelance Writing
Marketing yourself is crucial if you want to be a successful freelance writer. This means emailing editors, networking at events, handing out business cards—and being very active on social media.
Personal and Professional Accounts
I mentioned in an earlier lesson that it’s important to have a website or a professional profile of some sort so editors can find you and sources can Google you to confirm that you’re legit. (This happens, especially once you start interviewing higher-profile people with limited time to talk to journalists and writers.)
Some freelance course instructors will tell you to have separate social media profiles to represent your professional brand. The choice is yours, but I tend to mix personal and business on Twitter and Instagram—it works for me because it shows editors, followers, and sources what I’m working on as well as what I’m doing in my free time, like working out, traveling, and meeting athletes and influencers.
I keep Facebook for personal use, unless I’m sharing an article or looking for sources in a pinch (this is especially helpful for articles that need sources like moms or women or men who are dating).
Pinterest is an often-forgotten social media resource. I pin articles I’ve written there as another traffic driver. Google+ is another place where you can share your articles, tag brands, and mention sources. I share articles there and link back to my personal site to drive traffic.
Snapchat is a great place to learn about what brands are doing. I’m new to it (I know, it’s been around for a while), but you’ll want to decide if you want to use it for professional or personal use.
Don’t forget about YouTube, which is more than just vintage TV clips and cat videos. I’m not on there delivering lessons (yet!), but YouTube has videos that can teach you how to do pretty much anything. It’s also another place where you can research the brands and clients you’re pitching and connecting with.
For all these accounts, I recommend using a high-quality, professional-looking photo. You don’t have to hire a photographer, but using a selfie as a profile shot isn’t great for social accounts you use for business. Think of it as a photo that accompanies your résumé. It’s not necessarily about beauty, but you don’t want to look like you just woke up. Ladies shouldn’t wear a low-cut shirt, and men should skip the stained, ripped shirt or a controversial funny T-shirt.
Social Media Can Help You Connect With Sources
I’ve used Twitter and Facebook many times to try to contact a celebrity or hard-to-reach source and messaged them, or found their agent’s name and contact. Have a presence and more than three followers before reaching out to people via social media.
Why Is It Important to Know What’s Happening With Clients/Brands Social Channels?
As a former social media editor for Prevention and Muscle & Fitness Hers magazines, I can tell you that social media often influences brainstorming meetings and assignments.
If a health magazine posts an article titled “The 7 Worst Foods to Eat at Lunch” on Facebook, and it gets hundreds of likes, shares, and comments, you’d be a wise writer to mention that article’s social success when you pitch the editor “The 7 Worst Foods to Eat at Breakfast.” It might sound unoriginal, but sometimes an editor needs some evergreen (not timely) content that’s a solid traffic generator. So you should look for those and for articles that get lots of pins, retweets, Instagram likes, or comments.
In some situations, the social media editor is also a senior editor who’s assigning content. (That was my role at both magazines.) They’ll be impressed that the writer pitching an idea spent extra time noticing what was resonating with their readers and pitched accordingly. The same goes with pitching a brand.
If you want to create content for or work with a brand in some way, it’s smart to be following them (of course), liking some of their posts, retweeting, sharing, and promoting their content on your own channels if you feel inclined.
This article showcases what makes a social media campaign successful for some brands.
Share Your Published Piece on Social, and Tag Your Client
Some of my best advice on social media is simple: Share your work when it’s published. You got the assignment (yay!), it was published, and you’re excited! Share it on your social media channels using the client’s or outlet’s handles (and your sources’ handles if appropriate). Then email your sources the link, thanking them again for their time and encouraging them to share the link, including the clients’ handle and your social handle.
Many of my editors see when I’ve shared something I wrote for them (and like it). It’s often appreciated because you’re helping to drive traffic for their site or simply get your fans and followers to read their website. Remember, it’s wonderful to be a talented writer, but being business savvy and keeping your clients’ goals in mind is just as important if you want to get repeat assignments from them. And you will!
I also include my website link, Twitter handle, and LinkedIn profile in my signature on every email I send.
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You might be juggling a full-time job while kick-starting this on the side, so you might not have time to get sucked into a social media vortex. On Sunday schedule your posts for the week ahead using a free Hootsuite account, with at least one post in the morning and another in the afternoon. Once or twice a day, find an article to retweet or like from one of the accounts you’re working with or would like to win.