This article is chapter 4 of the series “Social Media Marketing for translators, back to the basics”.
Part 1: Back to the basics & Introduction
Part 2: Online Reputation & credibility
Part 3: Online visibility & SEO
Welcome back – and sorry for the delayed posting of this chapter 4, long overdue!
Today we’ll be talking about the basics of Social Networks as a Networking tool for the marketing of a freelance translator.
The best and ideal scenario remains in-person networking – there’s no denying that. The vast majority of marketing successes (acquiring new clients) comes from real life meeting and sharing a cup of coffee at a given event – be it a trade show, a conference or a networking business breakfast.
But we can’t spend our time and our money attending events every week – as translators, we have to, well, translate to keep the ball rolling. Bills won’t pay themselves!
Here’s the good news: Web 2.0 offers an impressive array of tools allowing to network in a powerful way, right from behind your screen.
Here’s the bad news: it takes not only A LOT of time and energy – and patience – to get clients from online networking, but it’s a real jungle out there: there are so many tools, so many platforms : which one(s) to use?
In this article you’ll find some tips and starting ideas based on my own opinion and experience. It is by no means exhaustive nor exclusive. I keep repeating in my seminars and presentations that each translator is different, each business is unique and what works for a translator may not work for another. If you’re really serious about online networking, you’re going to have to take the time to experiment, try out and see what works for you and what does not – whatever your criteria for “what works for you” are, you’re going to have to define those and no online markting consultant can help you do that, it’s your decision, your choice, based on your culture, experience, goals, personal life, etc… Again, you are unique.
Differentiate business platforms from personal platforms
LinkedIn and Facebook have actually nothing in common, so whenever I read translators saying “Facebook and LinkedIn are so stupid, it does not work”, I consider – sorry – that it’s a stupid thing to say. I’m more than willing to believe that Facebook is not a very efficient marketing tool for a freelance translator, but LinkedIn is a WHOLE other story.
Let’s say there are 3 kinds of social platforms on the Web:
– Personal platforms: Facebook, former schoolmates platforms, photo sharing services (Instagram, Flickr…), location platforms (Foursquare…)
– Professional ones: LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo and translation platforms obviously like ProZ.com, Langmates, TranslatorsCafé, etc…
– Blurry ones: those are platforms that can allow for both personal or/and business, like Twitter, Google +, Facebook (here as well), etc.
I’m categorizing those based on the translation industry, of course, I’m being simplistic – some platforms listed as personal above can be used for business in other industries – a Flickr has a clear professional dimension for professional photographers for example, Foursquare is a very interesting local marketing tool for shops, restaurants and other B2C industries).
The particular case of Facebook
I’ve already written about the Facebook dilemna in this article, though there is a lot more to say as it is not a black and white issue. But bottom line is, for a freelance translator, Facebook has yet to prove its marketing value. It does however have a certain networking interest as there are many – many! – groups of translators there, some of which are extremely active and where every sorts of discussions take place: terminology help, CAT-Tools help, jobs, general discussions, fun ones, etc. Those are like “mini-ProZ.com forums” actually, very similar in contents. There’s even a group called “Networking translators” and its member are doing just that.
So in a pure networking perspective, yes, Facebook Groups are an interesting tool, provided you protect your profile and make sure your personal stuff in there is not visible to members of the group that you are not “Friends” with. Again, see my Facebook article from April and I suggest to take a look at Part 2 of this series of articles: Online reputation and credibility.
Twitter: a very powerful networking tool
Twitter is a very interesting case. It can be used for both professional purposes and personal ones without hardly any conflict if done well – most professionals there have 2 accounts: a professional account with their full name and a personal one, either locked (that is your tweets can’t be seen unless you accept someone as a follower) or under a pseudonym (or both for paranoids like me ;)), of course if you feel no need for a personal Twitter account (to talk about stuff like politics, for example), you don’t need one. But I’m a big fan of separating personal from business in my online activities, while keeping the professional account a minimum personal. It’s about finding the right balance between too much and not enough.
Back to the topic at hand: Twitter as a networking tool is one of your best friends. Its Netiquette allows to connect with complete strangers, jump into discussions between strangers and therefore showing your expertise, making yourself known, etc. Most people on Twitter are open to discussions and exchange and keen on making new contacts. Twitter is a very informal way of communicating and this applies to business communication – in other words, on Twitter you can break the ice very easily and quickly, there are thousands of potential business contacts and you can have business exchanges in a very informal context. Isn’t that an ideal networking environment?
LinkedIn: the ultimate networking tool
Business networking is the core of LinkedIn. Every single feature on the site is designed and meant to help you network. I seriously made excellent client contacts via LinkedIn. But if you want to make it work, it is extremely time-consuming and you need to be very proactive. LinkedIn has a strict and particular netiquette and you have to mind how you communicate – and what. Last but not least, a rock-solid and mouth-watering profile is an absolute must. Believe me, LinkedIn is a great networking and marketing tool for the translation industry but you have to use it to your full advantage – how often do I repeat that just having a profile here is not enough and that clients won’t start falling from the sky? You have to make your opportunities on business networks like LinkedIn (but that also works for sites like Xing or Viadeo, for example) because even though sometimes – but rarely – they come to you, the truth is, 99% of the time they are yours to create.
Google + : the elegant combo of Facebook+Twitter+LinkedIn
I love Google +. Yes, this is not being objective but seriously, I love it. It allows you to do whatever you want and share it with wohever you want in a very user-friendly and elegant way: circles. Yes, Facebook lists enable to the same separation and to choose exactly who sees what, but let’s face it: these privacy settings on FB are not as simple and user-friendly as G+ circles. No need to have a personal account and a business one. You can do all your communications from just one profile while keeping a clear private/public separation. Unlike Facebook, the risk of awkward pictures from last night’s party or pictures of you in your swimming suit at the last family barbecue is almost zero. Besides, the Netiquette and spirit of Google + is a really sweet combo of the facebook netiquette (allowing for personal stuff), the Twitter one (informal exchanges with complete strangers) and the LinkedIn one (loads of business people using G+ to network). Last but certainly not least, Google + is an extremely powerful SEO help. But then again, like all the rest, you need to be proactive and to work on your G+ presence – and that takes time.
Using Social platforms is an excellent way to network, meet suspects, potentially turn them into prospects and ultimately, hopefully, into clients. The same works for partners, and of course for translators – it’s a great pool for agencies and companies to find service providers. Furthermore, these platforms allow you to bypass the hierarchy: if you send an e-mail offering your services to a large translation agency, your CV may not make it to the hands of a PM. Same goes for telephone marketing efforts: you often find yourself talking to a secretary who will “block” your way to the decision-maker. Thanks to social networks, this is not a problem anymore, you can directly contact and connect with these decision-makers. But the coin does have another side: social networking is complicated, there are many unwritten codes and rules, netiquettes strongly vary from one network to another and there’s such a big crowd out there already that you have to make yourself visible in order to be found. Avoiding faux-pas, having a great profile and actively seeking and creating opportunities, those are some winning-strategies winning, but time-consuming. Be aware of it before going into social networking.
Stay tuned for Part 5 of “Social Media Marketing for Translators, back to the basics” on the power of information!
All your comments, suggestions, thoughts are more than welcome, so go for it!