Social Media 101 for freelancers (from writers to sex workers)

I wrote this in response to two professional Dominatrixes who asked me about using Twitter to promote their business, but as I was writing I realized it was relevant to most freelance work.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 9.42.09 AM

My Twitter header image and bio.

In a former life I was a professional fundraiser in the non-profit sector. One of my specialties was social media and peer-to-peer fundraising. While I rarely do that kind of work these days, I’ve found the skills I have translate amazingly well to my current freelance work.

The thing about being a freelancer – any kind of freelancer – is that you become your brand. The pictures and personal anecdotes you share influence what people think about you, and this is a wonderful tool to use to your advantage.

In the internet age consumers expect more and more access to, well, everything and everyone. If something or someone doesn’t have a web presence it may as well not exist as far as a big slice of the population is concerned.

There is a self-centeredness to the modern consumer that can be both frustrating and useful. Some of the writers I know are baffled by how to handle dozens of their twitter followers expecting personal interactions and others are thrilled by the dialogues that spring up on their blog posts. It’s just a matter of using this interaction to your advantage and making sure you don’t let it eat up more of your time than it’s worth.

That last point is vital – let me restate; don’t let social media eat up too much of your time. As a freelancer your time is valuable. So budget your time the same way you’ll budget anything else. Decide that you’d dedicate thirty minutes twice a day to updating your social media and then stick to it. Time yourself if you have to.

There are ways to make this easier. If you have a blog, say through WordPress, you can set it to post to your Twitter and Facebook pages whenever you write a new post. You can also set your Twitter to post to your Facebook. Let the technology do as much of the work for you as possible. Decide what your main point of contact is – ideally a website – and link to your other social media in an obvious place. Many blogging platforms will allow you to import your latest tweets to your website sidebar. This is a great way to keep your content looking fresh even if you don’t post to your website every day, or even every week.

Another important point: don’t feel like you need to be on every social media platform. FetLife, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr… just to name a few. Keeping up on social media could be a full time job – in fact, for large organizations it is a full time job.

As a freelancer you need to figure out where your audience is and focus on that market. Another way to look at it is to evaluate which platform would best highlight your content. If you have a lot of photos, and you aren’t worried about them taking on a life of their own on the internet, Tumblr and Instagram could be good options. Tumblr is one of the only social media platforms that is friendly to sexually explicit content.

If you’re going to do just one social media platform in addition to your website I recommend Twitter. It has some of the most users in social media, and people of all professions use it. It’s a great way to reach a wide audience. Through Twitter actors, authors, and many other celebrities previously unreachable have started interacting with their fans.

Some Twitter tips: Consider your avatar image and bio carefully. That’s how you’re going to make your first impression. If people see one of your tweets and pop over to your profile to see what you’re all about you only have a few seconds to grab their interest and persuade them to follow you. And you need to do it in a 160 word bio. The trick here is to give enough relevant information about what you do and what field you’re in while also being fun and clever. Think about it for a while, write a few drafts, and solicit opinions from your friends.

Make your pictures work for you. Twitter now allows two – make that three if you add a custom background. You can even add content to your background if you like.
[See Tristan Taormino for background content and check out mine for what I hope is good use of related photos.]

Don’t fall into the trap of only selling things on social media. Sure it’s tempting, and I do make a post whenever I have a new book or story available, but make sure that’s not all you post. Show who you are as a person. For kinksters and sex workers, show pictures of yourself in a new outfit or with a new toy you’re excited about using. Post about adventures you’re having in your real life. Any little snapshot that makes you seem like a real person will help.

Some caveats: Don’t post about illegal activities! (This should go without saying, but people do it anyway.) If you’re worried about your safety, don’t post specifics about where you’ll be or when. Consider posting about an event AFTER it’s over.

Do engage your audience: solicit feedback, run contests, answer questions and interact. Social media is a two way street, you need to interact.

Hopefully this will get you started, let me know if you have questions and keep in mind that I’m available for consultations or ongoing consulting work.

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