I hate it when people are like holy shit, you need to spend less time on social media. It’s such a waste of time, man. Get out there into the real world.
I mean seriously, what the fuck? You just know the people who say that are the type of douchenozzles who ‘streamline their processes’ and ‘optimise their days’ and ‘hack their lives’ and ‘make me want to stab myself in the eye with one of those little corn-on-the-cob forks’. (God, I bet they take the ‘readability’ function on Yoast seriously too.)
Because hey, guess what? Those usernames on the other end of Twitter are real people. You know that, right? They have fingers and eyes and anxiety just like you do. And that is kind of the whole point. Because getting to know those people can be pretty fucking excellent, both for your personal life and for your business (often closely entwined when you run a personal brand).
As an online business owner, you probably feel like you should be doing social media ‘better’ somehow – either that or you think you waste way too much time on it. You’ve probably thought about signing up for every single platform out there to ‘maximise your success’ or whatever. You’ve probably also thought about deleting all your accounts, because OH GOD THERE’S JUST SO MUCH.
So I want to share my thoughts on social media with you and how it can be fucking awesome for your business and life.
Why Social Media is Awesome
1. Easiest networking ever
Being a fabulous millennial, I grew up with the internet. So ever since I was about 12, making friends on the internet is something I’ve done. Yeah, back before it was a normal and socially acceptable thing to do. Man, MSN Messenger. Remember that? I still have friends from those days, only now we talk to each other on Facebook and Twitter.
Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t form ‘real’ friendships online, because you totally fucking can, even if you never meet them in person. I’d argue you can form deeper friendships online, because you end up talking to people you have shit in common with and ‘hanging out’ much more regularly than you could in person. Though that’s not to say you can never meet in person. I jump at the chance to meet people I’ve become friends with online and have already met several so far this year (and am looking forward to meeting a few more who’ll be visiting Edinburgh later this year).
Why am I talking about making friends when this section was supposed to be about networking? Well, because as far as I can tell, they’re basically the same thing.
2. It’s easy to stay in touch with people
As someone who loves to travel and meet new people, social media is the best. FOR EXAMPLE! Back in 2013 I met a couple of travel bloggers, and when I was in Lisbon last year I ended up hanging out with them a lot. But that never would’ve happened if I hadn’t been able to add them on Facebook. And this goes for so many other people I’ve met at various points throughout my life: I’m able to catch up with them because we can easily arrange shit via Facebook – but I’m also able to get to know them better, which is a crucial component of friendship, you know? And that’s really hard to do when you meet and then pass each other like ships in the night.
3. You can meet new friends via your old friends
Although I love getting to know new people, I hate making the effort to meet new people. Like, how awkward is rocking up to an event where you literally know NOBODY? My favourite way to meet new people is to be introduced to them by somebody I already know – and social media is fucking brilliant for that. The best part of this is that you don’t have to spend any time vetting these people or figuring out whether they’re total weirdos you should probably avoid. Because they come with a pre-approved stamp of, er, approval from people you already know. (Plus, you know, internet stalking.)
4. When you work alone, it can be a lifesaver
I legitimately think that one of the reasons I am able to handle so much time alone is social media. Because I AM talking to people every day and having meaningful conversations. Sure, it can’t replace a deep, soulful bear hug, but it’s just perfect for alleviating those everyday lonesome blues that creep up on you after too many days in sweatpants, hunched over your laptop.
This is the most beneficial thing business-wise, of course, but it doesn’t often happen without the above steps. Because here’s what happens when you get to know people on social media: they remember you, they learn about you and that work you do, they grow to trust you and, hopefully, like you. And that makes them much more likely to think of you and send people/customers/clients your way. They might even suggest collaborating on a project together, or something else unforeseen that could help grow your business. You just don’t know, guys, so throw yourselves out there and get to know people!
How to Use Social Media for Business
1. You do not have to do it at all if you don’t want to
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: you do not HAVE to use social media to run a successful online business. If you really don’t want to, you shouldn’t. Because if you really don’t want to, you will do a shit job of it. And what is even the point of that? (But don’t just rule it out because you’re shy!)
2. You can choose whatever damn platforms you want
Twitter is the place where writers and editors hang out all the fucking time. (ALL THE FUCKING TIME.) It’s a good place to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on it. I use it because I enjoy it. I am on LinkedIn, but my profile is half-formed and I log in once a quarter to reject everyone who’s tried to connect with me. However, I know some of my students make great use of it. Pinterest? No fucking thanks. I will occasionally use it to show my mum how I think she should decorate her bedroom, but that’s it. Nothing business-related at all and I’m okay with that.
3. Actually talk to people, would you?
If you use social media purely to share links to your latest articles, just stop it. (I mean, you can do this, but don’t ONLY do this.) You’re supposed to talk to people. The worst thing you can do (I mean, okay, maybe not the WORST thing – *glances at a certain corrupt president* – but definitely not a very effective thing) is exclusively share links to articles, without ever saying anything to anyone. Even worse are people who exclusively share links to their OWN articles, without ever saying anything to anyone.
Like, it’s called SOCIAL media, guys. The whole point is to get to know people on it. And for people to get to know you. This is difficult to achieve if you never have any actual conversations.
How I Use Social Media for My Business
1. The Untamed Writing Facebook groups
This is easily the most productive side of social media for me. I’m specifically talking about my OWN Facebook groups here: I have one for my students, where we discuss anything related to freelance writing, and one for my 28-day writing challenges, which anyone is welcome to join. Both are brilliant in different ways. I’ve found this to be the absolute best way to grow a community around Untamed Writing. As one of my students put it, ‘I do love this group. It’s like we’re all colleagues but we just work in different departments.’ And then this happened and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside:
2. Other Facebook groups
I’m also part of a few other Facebook groups which are great for my business but also my personal life. Which are basically entwined anyway, so it all works out rather well. One in particular that springs to mind is one for copywriters in Edinburgh, where we share useful leads with each other and, more importantly I feel, arrange booze-ups on a semi-regular basis. I met everyone in that group online before I met them in person.
3. The Untamed Writing Facebook page
Are you sensing a theme here? I’m pretty good at Facebook, guys. Although my page is less active than my groups (um, because I’m the only one that posts on it) I do share all my latest blog posts on there, as well as other useful/interesting/entertaining shit I think my followers will enjoy. Some good conversations can happen there, too.
4. Facebook messages
This is hands down my favourite part of Facebook. I talk pretty much daily with a couple of close friends and we regularly discuss new business ideas (as well as life in general). I’ve become much closer friends with these people thanks to our Facebook conversations, too.
5. My lifeblood, Twitter
I fucking love Twitter, guys. I do share my own articles on here, but I don’t share them relentlessly like some folks do. My posts get shared automatically when they’re first published, and then I tend to retweet them when I see other people sharing them, with perhaps another ‘proper’ share or three from myself when I remember.
Anyway, what I REALLY use Twitter for is talking to people. I’ve met some fantastic people through Twitter, several of whom I’ve met (or have plans to meet) in person. I also learn about events and conferences this way, which is pretty handy. Even better because now I will actually know some people in advance when I rock up to them. I don’t try to sell my products or services on Twitter much. I just chat with people, get to know them, and from time to time one of them will recommend me for something, or I’ll recommend them for something, and it’s all just very nice and friendly.
6. Instagramming my travels
I don’t know if I should really count Instagram as part of my business social media, but what the hell. I basically use it for personal reasons (I like to document my travels, mostly) but I will also share my posts from it on Twitter and my Facebook page, which can spark some conversations. And there’s the whole ‘selling the lifestyle’ aspect of it, I suppose, which is useful when you run a ‘lifestyle business’. Hmm. That’s not why I do it, though.
And that’s it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I use them because I like them. I don’t use LinkedIn or Pinterest or Google+ (lol, is that still a thing?) or anything else.
Do it your own way. Make friends. Meet some of them in person. Enjoy a fantastic new network of potential referrals. Don’t feel so fucking isolated all the time. Procrastinate a bit too much, yes, but who the fuck wants to be perfect anyway? NOBODY LIKES A PERFECT PROTAGONIST. Also, puppy memes.