Facebook is often overlooked when it comes to freelance networking, in favor of LinkedIn and even Twitter. I think this is a mistake. Yes, if all you want to do is pitch, LinkedIn and Twitter provide more direct methods. However, when it comes to building a brand, making lasting connections, driving traffic to your site or blog, and getting both support and valuable feedback from like-minded people, Facebook groups can’t be beat.
Back in June, I wrote a post on how to select the right Facebook groups for you called Freelancer’s Guide to Facebook Groups. Now I want to discuss how to get the most out of those Facebook groups once you’ve selected your favorites.
1. Classy Self-Promotion
If you want to get clients and/or site traffic out of your Facebook groups, promoting yourself in a classy way that doesn’t violate common group rules or come off as spammy is essential.
Group rules will vary. I’ve found that smaller groups are more likely to allow you to post a personal, promotional link at any time. There are fewer members, so the wall doesn’t get overwhelmed with people only sharing their own article or book or website links rather than interacting with the group.
The majority of groups, big or small, however, usually have a strict rules about self-promotion. Often, you can’t post personal links (or at least start a whole thread based off a personal link) except on designated Share Days. That’s fine. There are still ways to promote yourself throughout the week.
First, see if you are allowed to share helpful links in response to a member question. I am very active in a group that does this. Should someone post a comment asking about whether or not they should charge hourly, per word, or per project, I insert a link to my post How Should I Charge? in my comment. But here’s the key. Don’t just drop the link. Interact first. Respond directly to the person. Explain what the post is about. If their question includes two parts and your post only covers one, give an answer to that other question in the comment and then add the link answering the other half at the end. This makes your comment more personal, gives a sense that you know what you’re talking about, and thus makes that person more likely to take the time to click and read.
I have increased the traffic to a number of posts on this blog using that method. I’ve also seen a small boost in affiliate sales (and an even bigger boost in affiliate clicks), and I believe they are related.
If you see a post from someone you think could potentially be a client, the method is more or less the same. For instance, sometimes in writing groups, I’ll see posts from people asking what to expect when they hire an editor, how much editors cost, or how they can find an editor. I don’t just drop a link to my website and have done with it. For one thing, that’s not really a “helpful” link. I didn’t really answer their question, now did I? That would probably be seen by the group administrator as a self-promotion and may be removed. First, answer the question. Act like you’re talking to a potential customer who has that question. Be professional and personable. Preface the comment with “I’m an editor, and …” That gives your answer credibility and sets you up for your big finish. If their question was about price, quote your rates. At the end of your comment, say something like, “You can check out my website for more information. If you’re actively seeking an editor, I’d love to chat more about how I can help. ” Or, instead of dropping a link (not every group allows even “helpful” links outside of Share Day), you can say, “If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to PM me.”
Doing this has led to a number of discussions and negotiations for me, including a coauthoring project. I personally haven’t come to an agreement on a project this way—the person either couldn’t match my rates or wasn’t ready to hire an editor right then and there—but the opportunities came to me through minimal effort. I actually just finished up a short sample edit (1,500 words) for an author I met this way. We’ll see if anything comes of it. It’s a numbers game, just like cold pitching, but without the extra legwork of an entirely cold approach.
2. Use the Group’s Search Function
Facebook has changed the location of group search bars a few times. Currently, it’s on the left hand side of the group page. Why is this important? If you’re in a sizable group that’s been active for a while, chances are if you have a basic question about rates, pitching, finding clients, etc., it’s been asked before. Probably multiple times before.
Do a search for key words like “pitch,” “set rates,” “LinkedIn.” Threads containing those words will appear, and you can read through them. This saves everyone in the group, including you, time. You can see lots of answers immediately. Reading through those responses may answer your initial question but then give you more specific, targeted questions about your own business and how you can personally implement the basics. Ask that question on the group wall. You may read about something you’re not familiar with in the responses. Do another search, and if that doesn’t pop up, ask what it is on the group wall.
Using the search bar not only lets you do your own research about more basic/general questions faster, but also makes the group thread more enjoyable and helpful for others in the group, especially the more experienced folks in the group (the ones you want answering your questions). I check my favorite group, Writing Revolters, every day. I see so many of the exact same questions. Sometimes twice in the same day. I’ve also noticed that the more that question gets asked, the fewer responses it gets, and the more likely the responses it does get say something like, “Well, I’m new at this, but …” People only want to answer the same general question, like “What is a cold pitch?” so many times.
Search first, read the results, ask a more targeted question, and you’ll get better responses.
(In a similar vein, avoid questions like “How do I get started as a freelancer?” or, even worse, “What is freelance writing?” entirely. Those are HUGE, incredibly generalized questions. No one is going to be able to answer that in a Facebook comment. No one is going to want to. Do a Google search for things like that before interacting in a freelance writing group.)
3. Utilize Group Files
Again, the “Files” tab of the group can be found on the left hand side of the page. These files usually serve both beginners and veterans alike. Not only can they serve as another way to learn about the basics, but also provide ways to connect with fellow group members, make valuable contacts, learn about the industry, etc.
Group admins will often add lists of their favorite resources, links to helpful articles, etc. In larger groups, sometimes there are Google Docs that members can update. For instance, I belong to a group that has a list of magazine editor names and contact information in the Files section. Members can go into this Google Doc and add new editors, give an update that an email address is no longer valid, etc. That same group also has a list of industry events by location, lists of writer workshops, etc.
Some groups won’t utilize files as much as others, but it’s always a good idea to check out that tab when you join a new group. If you find that it’s lacking, but you have some sort of guide or an idea for a list that would be helpful to the group, see if that section is open for all members to contribute. If you’re able to add files (usually you are), there will be Upload File and Create Doc buttons at the top of the page.
4. Make Outside Contact
If, in the course of participating in group threads, you really click with someone, reach out to them directly with a PM. Connect, forge professional relationships. That’s what networking is all about.
By doing this, I have found beta readers for my novel and created a referral partnership with a fellow ghostwriter.
Respond to people’s comments. Tag them and say, “I agree with _____” if you like their answer. Then expound with your own two cents. Read other people’s posts on Share Day and let them know you if you liked them. And don’t be afraid to start a thread asking if people want to connect for a certain purpose.
I found that fellow ghostwriter I made the referral deal with by commenting on a post asking about book ghostwriting. We responded to each other’s answers, had a great discussion, and then she found my website link on my Facebook profile and reached out via email.
I found my beta readers by responding to a new member post that really caught my eye. This woman had flair, humor, and an impressive background within her post. She also mentioned she was slaving over a novel. I mentioned in my hello comment that I’d been looking for a few writers to swap novels with. She was interested, and another talented female author responded to our comments saying she’d like to get in on the action. We all started PMing and clicked instantly.
The more you participate in the group, the more you’re going to get out of it (duh, right?). Provide help, don’t fear asking for help, and utilize all the resources the group has to offer. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and lead people to your blog and your services, but make sure you’re keeping it classy. Just make sure you aren’t spending all day in the group as a way to procrastinate.
Most importantly, have fun. Make new friends. Freelancing can be a lonely business. Reaching out to like-minded people in a Facebook group is a great way to not only learn new things and get new leads, but also to keep yourself sane and sociable. Still, don’t forget to leave the house every now and then, guys. 😉