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15 Common Mistakes Many Social Media Freelancers Make and How to Avoid Them

Social media is a waste of time, according to critics and contrarians, who say it’s better to spend time improving websites and blogs. But these people are professional scaremongers, often journalists looking to get clicks to their own online writing and look good for their old-media bosses. Each time one of these stories hits Twitter, many of the freelancer social media managers we know seem despondent and start looking for another line of work.

Here’s the truth: Digital marketing budgets are expanding. Companies are finally admitting that they need an Instagram budget. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll only go up from here.

As social media continues to take over the internet (and the world), it’s going to get more competitive. There will be many reasons to get out of the business altogether. For those of you who stick it out (and you should, since it’s not going anywhere), here are the 15 mistaken moves you should avoid making:

1. Trying to Please to Everyone

We understand the appeal of winning over every single person on the face of the earth. This is impossible, as many of us learned the hard way.

Find your niche and focus entirely on it. Determine what your readers like and what they have in common, then appeal to their taste. Your audience will become your biggest booster if you’re consistently engaging and relevant; for example, concentrate on writing about mountain bikes instead of the cycling industry in general.

2. Maintaining A Low Profile

Do rock the boat. Be different. Ask yourself: “Why should people follow my social media account instead of one of the endless other options?” First and foremost, of course, you should focus on perfecting your craft, but ultimately, just getting Tweets perfect will not be enough in the oversaturated and fast-changing business. To reach greater heights, your content should stand out as unique. If you sell something, sell it with completely different messaging than the usual ad-copy way (i.e. “We have the lowest prices” or “We’ve been around for 50 years,” etc.) Find the humorous angle; failing that, find the human element (“New restaurants open every day in this town; only one of them has had four owners, all with the last name Henderson.”)

3. Relying on Automation

Automation is certainly tempting, we’ll admit. But like all seemingly “easy answers,” it becomes an addiction that can eat away at you.

People don’t want to see robotic posts all the time. They want human emotions, communication, and discussion. They want to feel that they shouldn’t miss the next (and every) word out of your mouth. No matter how much automation you rely on, share your thoughts, reply to comments and adopt the latest trends naturally — and don’t forget to phase out some automated posts over time, no matter what.

If you find yourself addicted to automation and need a compromise solution, try one of the following services to ease that social media publishing pressure:

  • CoSchedule, an editorial calendar for WordPress, allowing for better planning.
  • PromoRepublic, a content calendar system with a template library, built-in graphic editor, even post idea generation.
  • Buffer, a softwater app for social media posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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4. Assume You Know Everything

Social media marketing is deceptively simplistic and secretly requires a specific skillset and knowledge. Don’t believe it? Sure, SMM is not as complex as nuclear physics, but it still requires a lot of skills, as well as some theoretical background. Publishing posts is easy once you get into a rhythm, although to increase your audience and see actual viral success, you’ll need practice, original ideas, a vision for the future and knowledge of market trends and where the audience is today. To stay competitive, you can never give up on improving your social media expertise.

These are our favorite resources to stay on top of trends, all blogs/websites:

5. Poor Client Communication

Many freelancers believe that clients hire them because they don’t know how to deal with the work. The truth is, most people who hire social media managers from outside the company are aware of what needs to be done; the bosses simply ran out of hours in the workweek to deal with it. They likely know the basic principles and will notice if you do something wrong.

Don’t risk it by being a smartass. Explain things without using complicated, “inside baseball” terms. Agree with your clients whenever possible.

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6. Taking on Too Many Projects

Balance is everything, both personally and professionally. It’s tempting to accept every project your grateful clients offer you, but this is actually the perfect test for your ability to say “no” to getting paid when you don’t need the money. So many freelancers say yes to everything in case the money runs out, then wonder why they end up with unfinished projects, unhappy clients and unpaid invoices. Simply, they didn’t say “no” after saying “yes” to everything early on.

Your mantra should be “quality over quantity” because that’s what pleases clients, ultimately.

7. Not Using Enough #Hashtags

More and more, people are searching hashtags to get to information quicker. If you want your content to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible, badmouth the idea of hashtags all you want but, ultimately, swallow your pride and append them to every post. Use as many as you can, concentrating on the trending or widely-used ones (#foodporn, #selfie, #nyc on Instagram, for example, or whatever is popular at that moment on Twitter); the only rule about hashtags is that they must be relevant to your post or brand unless you want to be unfollowed or, worse, flagged as a spammer.

Our recommended tools for choosing the right hashtags (as well as general social media marketing help):

  • Hashtagify.me to find relevant hashtags for a particular keyword or phrase
  • Talkwalker will help you break down useful hashtag metrics
  • RiteTag will oversee and provide automated advice on your Twitter hashtag use
  • Tagboard helps people visualize their hashtags across multiple social networks
  • Trendsmap shows you what’s trending worldwide
  • Hashtracking is a helpful tool for running campaigns and events with running hashtags
  • TweetBinder can track your hashtags for you

8. Ignoring Your Share Numbers

Share functions are not as discussed in social media operations because it’s much easier to see the effect of likes and comments. Once someone shares a post to their own Facebook page, for example, brands tend to forget about it, as they often don’t see what kind of reaction its content gets. But sharing is the key metric for figuring out a kind of word-of-mouth hit on social media.

Remember to add social sharing buttons to your website or blog, as well. (Use ShareThis and AddThis to create share buttons, follow buttons, and other marketing tools.)

One excellent way to track and encourage content sharing is by running giveaways or sweepstakes in which users must share a post to enter.

9. Taking A Client’s Word For It

Although this mistake isn’t solely related to social media, it certainly has had a devastating effect on pretty much any freelancer with a few years under their belt.

When you first started freelancing, you were probably afraid to ask for and sign a decent contract. You were too eager to please… and some startup probably stiffed you for a few hundred or even thousands of dollars in back pay — even if the company itself continued to exist after you gave up trying to collect. This is exactly why you need a contract – to protect yourself, since many state and international laws are lacking when it comes to freelancer pay and lawsuits are costly and time-consuming (not to mention an uphill climb when it comes to businesses that don’t operate in your territory.)

You can find sample contract agreements on Elance, Pandadoc, or Tidyforms. And don’t feel afraid to ask for a contract yourself — every legit business should be used to it and will probably be more comfortable if you sign one to protect them.

10. Post At Random Times

Is your post still a masterpiece if nobody sees it? Not in social media.

Determine when you target audience is online and schedule your posts to that exact time. Study your stats regularly to get a clue about these time frames. (As a general rule of thumb, Instagram users are online just before lunch and in the hours after dinner, while Facebook peaks around 3pm EST for U.S. users.) In any case, built-in social media analytics or editorial calendar tools to identify the proper time.

11. Follow The Rules… Every Time

As a super-motivated freelancer, you must have already read more than a dozen how-to articles, tips and rules about social media marketing. Now that you have consolidated all that information, concentrate on the only rule that every really matters: engage your reader.

If your followers (or newfound fans) like your long posts, make your posts long! Maybe they want to see a barrage of infographics — listen to what the audience is telling you and focus on that. Check your stats and everything else will come naturally — rules be damned.

12. Not Planning For the Long Term

This is the most obvious mistake many freelancers make. How long do you think you can successfully manage a slew of social media profiles without a plan?

SMM planning is most effective when your goal is very specific. Consider the following issues before formulating your plan:

  • Business goals
  • SMM objectives
  • Target audience
  • Competitors
  • SMM platforms
  • Risks and benefits

Planning is much easier with an editorial calendar. Here are some we recommend you try out: CoSchedule, PromoRepublic, Buffer, Hootsuite, Kapost, HubSpot, DivvyHQ, and Content DJ.

13. Not Editing Published Posts

Your posts are not set in stone. If you see that a Facebook status update doesn’t deliver on your initial idea – tweak it. Add more text, pictures, graphics – anything that may help you improve it – or simply change the copy to something more direct and arresting. You’ll feel relieved once you cut or bury what wasn’t registering with your followers.

14. Treat Every Follower As A Member of Your Target Audience

If you have 5,000 followers, it does not necessarily mean they are diehard fans who “Like” you for the exact same reasons. Build strong connections through interesting content, eager communication and mutual respect. This is the best way to gain a loyal audience.

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15. Relying on Cute Animal Pictures or Silly Memes

Unless your brand is about pets, you will cannot post more than a rare, unrelated, clickbait article, image or other piece of content. (If you don’t know what clickbait is, just ask yourself: “Is this relevant to my brand?” If it’s no more than once per week, forget it.)

When you get tired of social media’s serious side, feel free to take a break by visiting: http://9gag.com/cute or http://justcuteanimals.com. Just don’t share their content on your brand pages if it doesn’t fit with your long-term strategy.

Final Thought: Do Let Your Intuition Guide You

If you are ready to become a super-professional social media freelancer, then develop your intuition, which will help to set the right course for your SMM campaigns. Always analyze what you do and never make hasty decisions. Especially if it involves cat photos.

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