6 Social Media Truths for Freelancers

What I’m listening to: Carolina Drama by Jack White

I read this the other day: If you want to be successful at social media, you have to pay for leads.


That’s right. This self-professed expert was saying “Sorry folks, you can’t be famous like me unless you’re paying for the privilege.”

And conveniently enough, he sells both books and consulting services for your benefit. Moreover, he said that in connection with our favorite throw-away explanation: Social media is dead.


I know about this so-called expert because in the early days of Twitter, he connected with me. I reciprocated. Then for the next two months, I received the same “John Doe has followed you!” notice. Every damn day. Even on weekends.

I finally blocked him. If that’s his idea of gaining name recognition, I’m not impressed.

My personal experience aside, what bugs me about advice like this is it just screams “Latest fad!” And it’s not how he built his own following.

The problem with fads is, well, they’re fads. Today they’re great. Tomorrow, they’re what the next round of experts are telling you to forget about in favor of their latest book or course.

It’s like those emails and automated tweeters who promise you 10,000 followers in a week. They’re missing the point. A lot of these gurus are missing the point, I think.

It’s not about how many followers you have. It’s about the quality and relevance of the ones you follow. If you follow 1,000 writers and your ideal client is in finance, you’re not really getting anywhere, are you?

No, you really don’t have to have a blog. Better to not have a blog than to put one up, play with it for a while, then abandon it. Doesn’t say much about your ability to stick with a project, does it? That’s how it reads to potential clients.

Blog posts are as long (or short) as you want. Please. We’ve heard both sides of this argued. Do I measure how many words I write on these things? No. I write just enough (well, to me anyway).

Intelligent conversation goes much farther than shouting. That means the time spent trying to sell someone on first contact is much better spent getting to know them and starting a conversation.

People will say anything to sell you something. Refer to the dude referenced above who thinks you have to buy leads on social media. Refer to the last person who told you freelancing as we know it is dying, and they have a six-week course to help retrain you. Refer to the blogger who talks about earning his first $100K, leaving out just enough detail to tempt you into buying the ebook….

You are not like everyone else. So why follow? Advice that doesn’t fit you, coming from the best expert around, still doesn’t fit. Also, what doesn’t work for them may work for you. Do your own thing and don’t worry about what others are doing. Check out a few influencers on social media and you’ll find quite a range of approaches. And that’s fine. Emulate what feels right, ignore what doesn’t.

Writers, what social media truths have you come to realize?
What are some of the bigger misconceptions you’ve encountered?

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  • Paula Hendrickson February 24, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I’ve realized some people are more concerned about how many social media followers they have than who they are.

    Maybe six months after I got into Twitter in earnest, I probably had a couple hundred followers. Not sure what discussion led up to it, but a novelist who follows me (and I followed in return) asked how long I’d been on Twitter, and when I said six months, she said, “Oh, I had 10,000 followers by then. You’re not doing it right.”

    Um, why would I want or need 10,000 followers when I’m not hawking self-published novels? We all have very different priorities. I don’t know whether she used alternate means to lure followers or if she simply has a lot of fans. (Just checked and she now has 115K followers, so I’m guessing she has a lot of fans.)

    • lwidmer February 27, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Oh Paula, I agree with you. Anyone who tells you to reach for some arbitrary number without explaining why it matters doesn’t win my confidence, either. You’re so right — it’s about your goals, which don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all Twitter follower binge.

      • Paula Hendrickson February 28, 2017 at 11:48 am

        The funny thing? Shortly after I left that comment the self same novelist tweeted her apologies if she doesn’t reply to tweets, claiming she gets so many tweets that HootSuite and TweetDeck can’t keep up, so she’s not always aware when someone tags her in a tweet.

        That’s an example that would get my dad to say, “You’re gonna get round-shoulders patting yourself on the back like that.”

        • lwidmer February 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm

          Sounds like a bit of a humble-brag to me, no? 😉 “I get SO many tweets that I can’t keep up! Woe is me!”

          Underscoring her popularity as she complains. Ugh.