Social networking sites can give you a big boost when it comes to marketing your writing services online — but belonging to every new site that pops up means that you’ll never have time to write again. It’s important to be picky about which sites you belong to and how much time you spend on each one.
The Big Four
The four best known social networking sites right now seem to be Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn. MySpace you can probably skip entirely — while some publications do maintain a presence on MySpace, the key demographics for the site skew younger and probably don’t include your prospective clients.
Because LinkedIn focuses more on business connections, it’s an important choice for a writer: the site is set up with building connections between professionals in mind, giving you a head start on finding clients through it. The features in particular can help:
- Recommendations: You can give and request recommendations for your past work, letting people see at a glance how great a writer you are.
- Answers: By answering questions on the site, you can demonstrate your expertise and build connections already interested in your skills.
- Introductions: You can ask your connections to introduce you to their connections, creating a larger network where you can promote your skills.
If I was limited to just one social networking site where I could look for clients, I would choose LinkedIn.
Twitter has both major benefits and drawbacks for writers. It’s easy to wind up spending hours a day posting messages to the site on the most inane topics. It takes some planning to develop connections that are actually relevant to your work on the site — many writers wind up following other writers more than anyone else, only making connections within an echo chamber. It is possible to find work through Twitter, though: I’ve posted about articles I’ve been working on and gotten an immediate response from an editor, asking if I could write a piece on the same topic but slanted for her publication. I’d suggest giving Twitter a try, but don’t worry if it doesn’t fit your approach to writing and marketing. You can always delete your account and move on.
Facebook also requires some significant effort to successfully use for building a business. It’s oriented more towards social connections, rather than professional connections, but it can be useful if you’re willing to put a little time into it. However, you can also put a minimal amount of time into a Facebook account and get some use out of it. As long as you post information about your site and yourself, you can often get anyone interested in your Facebook profile to check out your website.
Smaller Sites and Forums
There are thousands of social networking sites beyond the big four: many organizations and businesses even maintain forums and social networks of their own. It’s important to look for those groups that relate to your niche — if you write about cars, take a look at CarDomain, ClassicNation and anything else you can find in your niche. You don’t have to belong to all of them, but having an awareness of them can be useful. Most people seem able to keep up a dedicated presence on two or three different sites, along with a more basic interaction on several more. Much more than that is overwhelming, even if you can add comments quickly.
One shortcut to finding relevant networks is Ning. Ning is a platform that allows anyone to build their own social network quickly. By searching Ning, you can find networks that may be particularly relevant to your niche. If you write about something you’re particularly passionate about but don’t see a strong network for, it may even be worth building your own community on Ning. Wikipedia also maintains a list of social networking sites.
What social networking sites are you active on? How have they helped you?
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