Step into the Way-Back-When Machine and take a trip to 1995, the Internet’s Stone Age. A few dark dingy chat rooms, primitive mail services, and basic websites. In 1995, the Internet was still the Wild West.
A small handful of forward-looking businesses had set up shop online (both Amazon.com and eBay were founded in 1995), and half a dozen major corporations and big-box stores had discovered novel ways to use the web (Pizza Hut began to offer online ordering), but freelancers were largely doing business the old-fashioned way: promoting their services with print ads, making cold calls, speaking to potential clients at job fairs and conventions.
AS A FREELANCER, THERE ARE TWO PRIMARY WAYS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS USING FACEBOOK…
Talk about “that was then”! Nowadays, self-employed business people have direct access to hundreds—thousands, millions—of potential customers on Facebook. Facebook has 500 million users; pages on the site are indexed through Google and other search engines so they are easy to find; and users readily provide and update information about their buying habits on a regular basis. All of that… and it’s free!
As a freelancer, there are two primary ways to grow your business using Facebook: (1) by creating a professional profile to promote your services, and (2) by utilizing Facebook’s search features to target new potential customers and build a business network.
Keep ‘Em Separated
Chances are, you already have a personal Facebook page. You share updates, links, and photos with your family and friends. Sometimes the content is a bit less than professional. That’s fine. You can maintain separate Facebook pages (one for your business and one for you) without compromising your professional relationships, but this will require a little extra effort.
Your professional Facebook profile will still flag you as the administrator of the page, but you can choose to restrict your personal updates to “Friends Only.” Just be careful to check all the right boxes—Facebook’s privacy and security settings are notoriously dodgy.
Now it is time to create your profile. Begin by choosing a tasteful profile picture—comb your hair, flash a smile, and by all means keep all of your clothes on! Resist the urge to change your profile picture too often. Unlike your personal page, your professional Facebook profile needs to be both dynamic and stable.
You want to be recognizable, so try to keep broad changes to a minimum. Of course, you want your picture to be an accurate representation. If you have recently cut your hair, fixed your teeth, or lost 100 pounds, then by all means, update your photo.
Fill out the Info page, providing facts about your business. Let people know where you are located, what services you offer, and a little bit about your history. Let them know how they can contact you.
Links, Embeds, and Beyond
Make your Facebook page work as hard as you do. Link out to your blog or website. Embed opt-in forms and surveys to collect information about the people who visit or “like” your page. Use the info to build a contact list of prospects and communicate with them regularly, either through your Facebook page or via email.
Invite your friends, your family, and all your business contacts to like your page, even if they are not your clients. This will let you tap into their networks. In order to keep people coming back to your page, you will want to post regularly, at least once a day, but let your friends and followers be your guides.
If people are responding positively, then post more often. If your friends are backing off, then reconsider what and how you are posting. Make sure to respond promptly to any comments, and regularly check for new features—Facebook changes all the time, and smart solopreneurs change with it.