As a web designer or web developer, you probably have a firm grasp on the social media/social networking scene. What I’m finding, however, is that although many people in our industry understand how the Social Web works, surprisingly few of them are actually using it to their advantage for landing more gigs.
With that said, here are a few strategies to help you find new business, generate more leads, and make more sales through social media.
I’ll focus on two social networks: LinkedIn and Twitter, but many of these techniques are universal in that they can be tweaked and reapplied to your preferred social networks (Facebook, Plurk, Yelp, Quora, what have you).
Before You Get Started
Make sure your social media profiles are up to par. When someone stumbles across your profile for the first time, you only have a few seconds to get his or her attention. Your Facebook Pages, LinkedIn groups, Twitter profile, Digg profile and so on, should be appealing to your prospective customers. Your profiles should give people an incentive to follow you or reach out to you.
As an example, I spent almost an hour tweaking my Twitter profile until it sent the right message about how I can help people earn more money. Take the time to write a great profile on LinkedIn, create a compelling description of yourself on Twitter — it will all be worth it.
Did you forget about LinkedIn? I hope not. The average household income is higher on LinkedIn than on Twitter and Facebook. That means people who typically hire you are hanging out on LinkedIn. It’s time to get in touch with them.
Join LinkedIn groups and take part in the discussions that members are having. Questions and concerns are often posted in the discussions section of large groups, which makes it a great place to find people that need help. Plus, any time you join a group, you can message anyone in that group.
If there is an industry that you have done work for in the past, then the right group could prove to be extremely useful. For example, I have built a few websites for insurance agencies in the past. It might be worth my time to join the Insurance Agent Development group and gain access to their 700+ members.
From there, I could browse the profiles of different members and send a message with a link to my portfolio to those that look like they need work done on their website.
Search the Answers section of LinkedIn and start helping people. If you go to the Search bar on LinkedIn and select Answers from the dropdown menu, then you can search an entire database of questions posed by LinkedIn members.
Recently, I decided to use the search term "web design" and 34 open questions showed up in the results. That’s 34 people looking for an answer to a web design problem. If you can solve that problem for them, then it’s natural to reach out to them and let them know that you can provide additional help via email. From there, it’s simply a matter of whether they want to pay for more services or not.
Find problems proactively. It’s easy to find people that need help on Twitter. Searching for phrases like, "good logo designer" will always bring up a few people looking to hire someone.
But here’s the crazy thing: This method of finding work is rarely being tapped into.
To prove it, I decided to tweet a help request.
Do you know how many people contacted me? Three.
There are over 200 million people on Twitter and only three of them decided to get in touch. And only two of the three sent a link to their portfolio (as I requested).
I actively told the world that I was interested in hiring a designer, and still, only a few people reached out.
It’s obvious that most designers and developers roll their eyes at chances like these. It’s true that not everyone on Twitter will be a great fit for you, but there is no reason to avoid reaching out when you have the opportunity to land new business.
So, do regular searches on Twitter for problems you can solve. You can search for terms such as:
Search for pre-buyers.Pre-buyers are people that might not be ready to hire you yet, but they could be in the near future.
People who are upset with their current projects are a great example. Take normal searches that relate to your industry, your competitors, or other areas of interest and add words like "problem" or "useless" or "frustrated".
For example, I immediately came across a disgruntled website owner when I searched "web design useless" on Twitter a few weeks ago. If someone is saying negative things, then they are probably looking for a better solution. This is the perfect time to reach out to these people and offer help.
They might not always buy from you right away, but they are looking to make a change soon.
Tip: If you’re searching for more popular terms like "web design" then the -filter:links operator is a great help. It automatically removes any search results that include links, which helps to eliminate the noise and only display more targeted tweets. Here’s a full list of advanced search operators on Twitter.
Things to Keep in Mind
Here are a couple things you should be aware of when you’re using social networks to find more work.
You don’t need to know a lot people, you just need to know the right people. It can be a tough habit to break, but try not to get caught up in the numbers game. Your time should be spent reaching out to targeted individuals on social networks. Stop spraying your digital business card across the interwebs haphazardly and focus on the person behind the computer screen.
The fact that you reached out and made contact with someone does not put him or her in your debt. Networking across social media is all about providing value. Sometimes that means that you will help people out and they won’t pay you a cent. Don’t take it personally. No one is required to "pay you back" for your helpful emails or kind tweets.
Your job is to find out how you can help people. Eventually, all the value that you are providing will come back to you.
What are your successful social media strategies? How have you proactively found new clients on the web? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.