Using Social Media to Your Advantage

It’s hard and the time commitment is tough, but it’s worth it and quite a lot of fun

I’m not a social person, I’m quite socially awkward. I loved the draw of social media where I could consume content and never actually had to contribute my own to anyone or anything. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are great because I can learn and experience so much without ever revealing myself. Then came a day where I didn’t want to be on the outside looking in, I wanted to be apart of the conversation. I wanted to have discussions and share information and knowledge I knew as well. I decided to take some steps and work on growing my personal brand on social media.

Picking the first social account to create

Starting with a Twitter account seemed like a good idea. It was a social media that I use almost daily, I thought it would be perfect to try gaining brand recognition. I’ve run my Twitter account professionally for around 3 years. To my surprise when last I checked I have around 380 followers. Getting to this level of interaction required a lot of time. For me I wanted communicate and interact with people that I’d met, shared interesting things, or who I looked up to. Many of my followers are people I’ve met or that I’ve had some interaction with. From these growing connections I’ve gotten a job offer, a speaking gig, and vast amounts of knowledge.

When thinking about what to tweet I try and make it something relevant to my niche — web design, web development, technology, or something geeky. Finding good and relevant content to share is not easy. I used to have a lot of downtime at my old job and spent my whole day reading articles and sharing them. In this past month, having gotten a new job, I’ve realized how tough it is to maintain a simple Twitter account. Lucky I came across a extension that has saved me a lot of time.

Automating for the Win!

I use an application called Buffer to create a maintained feed of content. This allows me to remain relevant by posting content that I would normally but spread out over days. Recently my buffer account has been constantly empty and I’ve had no time to keep it up. The effort it takes to find an interesting article, tweet or product is so hard. I never really thought about the time commitment when I was bored and had time to look for inspiration. Now that I’m so busy I want to try and look for content but it kinda feels like another job. For more popular people or people with more custom content to create it’s probably easier. I’ve been in a creating drought so I’ve nothing of my own to showcase too much.

Be engaging, talk to people or answer questions

This was one of the hardest things for me to do. It’s silly I know, afraid to be social on social media. It can be something as simple as responding to something someone wrote. You can work your way up to direct contact, DMing someone. This may get you answers or it may not, it’s a very personal way to connect and some people may not respond. What I did find out is how nice most people are when you start a conversation. I’ve gotten help from a simple tweet plea that has turned into a larger project that I’m really excited about. I learned so much from that conversation. I’ve started some chats based on answering questions and following people. You really never know until you try.

Other social media options

I find Twitter to be intuitive for me and I enjoy looking in and going through my timeline quickly and sometimes interacting with people. Some other social media I use for design and development is Instagram, Medium (obviously), and Dribbble. I know that you can use Facebook, Snapchat, Pintrest, I don’t prefer them myself.

Instagram

I really like Instagram for inspiration and am starting to get better at using it for promotion. Properly utilizing hashtags and making good content is key for exposure. Since I’m a bit slow on creating actual content it’s a slower choice than something like Twitter where I can find articles at will. You need to be good at either curating a select group of material, branding, logos, beautiful pictures, etc or you need to have a fairly constant stream of created content coming in to keep your profile active and interesting.

It’s a good place to display recent client work, if your a freelancer, a personal project or something that you think is cool. The interactions are purely visual, no one really gets in-depth comments. If you create things with the intent to sell them you can easily market and sell those products through Instagram. This could help your following and obviously your products.

Dribbble

Similar to Instagram, Dribbble is very good for inspiration though it’s a bit tougher on self-promotion. The hardest part is getting the invitation to join. Though it feels like you need to be extraordinary in your design or be able to promote yourself exceptionally well. I’m always looking for comments or feedback and never seem to get any. Many people feel Dribbble is a place to show off fancy design versus functional design, it’s really up to you. Put your client work or a dream redesign or a cool button idea that would never really work, it’s your place to show-off your work. It used to be a better place to get jobs but with the new change to the system some people have seen this become more difficult. I’d advise making it the sole way to get client work.

Medium

Finally, Medium (this place). I was told by many product designers and designers the benefits of writing. You don’t even need to release it to the world but just writing it for yourself. Writing helps settle your thoughts and you can still contribute your knowledge. I’ve found it an interesting exercise so far, my thoughts don’t always translate well to an article and it causes me to take some time and think thoroughly about the topic. It’s time intensive but I do quite enjoy it. It’s a tough commitment, I went with twice a month and was doing well even got ahead in writing content. Then the hubris came and I stopped writing because I had enough articles. Then I ran out of articles, so make a schedule and remember getting ahead doesn’t last forever.

The bottom line is…

There is so much to be gained from social media, it’s a question of how much time are you willing or able to spend. Just Twitter is pretty time consuming, so add maintaining an Instagram channel and trying to write bi-monthly. And, it’s already stretching the limits. I’m trying to show my Dribbble some love. Managing social media isn’t easy and it’s not something you can just sit down and assume they can maintain. Now given you don’t have to be nearly as intense as I am about it. I’m kinda running these things with a professional mindset a little more than a purely friendly one. If your just going to socialize and make friends, then frequency and content aren’t of the utmost importance. If you want to make an impact and reach people with your work or good advice, then it’s time to buckle down and ask yourself the important question.

What does your time commitment look like?

Can you really write a new article twice a week. Create something interesting for Dribbble every week or few weeks. Find good quality articles every day to post to Twitter? This may seem simple but imagine the time needed behind-the-scenes to make that all possible. A new article can take hours of writing and research, a dribbleshot is more hours of a current project or a side project, and searching the net and reading the articles is even more hours. This is a lot of time spent on creating content of dubious quality. And, since it’s not a one time deal you have to keep up that schedule if it’s what you want to be know for. That will get exhausting pretty quick, if you’ve got a normal job; any kind of family and friends; and personally commitments in general. This mistake means your social media becomes like a secondary job and you don’t want that to happen.

If you feel this way you need to cut back on social media and properly manage your own expectations and those of your followers. 1 great article is better than 20 alright articles. Sometimes the idea of quality over quantity should be what matters most. Don’t overextend yourself, try and have fun with it, and don’t let it become a burden. It should be something you enjoy doing, if you feel like your struggling it’s time to reexamine what your doing.


Back after a break of writer’s block. Hope you enjoyed it and share any thoughts in the comments below or on my twitter @teekatwo.

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