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Social media breeds all kinds of emotions. There’s the FOMO from looking at other people’s perfectly curated lives and wondering why yours doesn’t look like that. There’s the dopamine straight to the dome that comes with each and every “like.” And then there’s the waffling between superiority and inadequacy based on how many followers you do or do not have.

All of these feelings, in turn, breed questions and concerns. Most of us aren’t Kardashians; we’re freelancers or small-business owners trying to build our business, wondering how to do that via social media, and also wondering how much social media actually matters. After all, a Kardashian-level celebrity obviously relies heavily on posting well and posting often to maintain her brand. But what about the average freelancer? Does social media really matter all that much if we have, say, 2,000 followers or fewer?

Natalie Gouché, a Los Angeles-based social media coach and trainer, says that if that’s the way we’re looking at the issue, we may be focusing on the wrong thing. Social media is very important no matter how many followers you have, but your goal should not be to get more followers; it should be to maximize the quality of your content.

“A lot of people come to me and think, ‘Okay, you are going to teach me how to get a million followers,’” she says. “But a freelancer with 500 followers can certainly get tons of business, and actually sometimes more than people who have tons of followers. You just need to know how to work it!”

And that’s what we’re here to talk about today! How, indeed, do you work it? Here are some carefully curated tips:

Figure Out What Social Media Platform Your Target Customer Spends Time On

There are lots of social media platforms, and part of the crazy-making of figuring out how best to harness them is that trying to use all of them at once takes up almost as much time as running your business. That’s why Gouché suggests doing a little bit of Googling to figure out on which platform your target audience is spending their time, and zeroing in on that one above all others.

“I tell people to think of some of the bigger brands or the bigger names in the industry, and see what platforms they’re flourishing on,” she says. “Say you’re a photographer, and you’re finding that this other, big-name photographer has a huge following on Instagram. That may be an indication that you want to start on Instagram first.”

A simple Google search can also help. If you know you want to reach younger people, ask Google where they’re spending their social media time (hint: It’s Snapchat). If you want to reach a more mature audience, query Google about that (hint: It’s Facebook).

Once you learn where your clients and customers are hanging out, you know where you need to focus your time and energy.

“Realizing you don’t have to be on every single platform can be a relief,” says Gouché. “Thinking you have to be on all of them can be really overwhelming.”

Imitation Is the Best Form of Flattery

We are not talking about plagiarizing here. Never. What we are talking about is borrowing ideas from people who (just admit it) are doing better than you, either on social media or in their careers.

There’s no shame, in other words, in hopping on to your favorite writer’s Twitter account and seeing what she posts about, how often she posts, and what kind of tone she takes. If it’s working for her, it could perhaps work similarly for you.

“Going back to the photographer example, have a look at their content and see what people are reacting to,” says Gouché. “Is it the selfies? Is it the photo quotes? A lot of times, those can give you an idea of what to post.”

Another easy way to find out what people want to see from you? Ask them.

“I am a huge fan of surveys,” says Gouché. “No more than five questions. What is it they want to see from you? What are they struggling with? And you take that and you run with it.”

Plus, she says, “when your customers feel you are talking to them, it creates more loyalty.” Bonus.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Yes, there is an 80/20 rule when it comes to social media for business! In this case, it does not mean following your diet 80 percent of the time and splurging on cheat meals the other 20 percent (#leangains). It means that 80 percent of what you post on social media should be valuable and interesting information, and 20 percent should be a call to action, says Gouché.

In order to translate your followers — no matter how many there are — into clients or customers, “you have got to ask people to do something,” she says. That something could be clicking the link in your bio, voting in a survey, or filling out a form or application.

“There has to be something that pulls them in as a lead,” says Gouché, “and once you get that lead, you can proceed however you want.”

Engage With Other Users

Social media isn’t the same thing as writing an article or a blog post. It’s a conversation, not a monologue. For that reason, says Gouché, you need to talk to other users.

“If people feel like they are just fans and you’re not giving them interaction, the likelihood that they are going to buy from you or engage with you decreases,” she says. “If they feel like you are going to take care of them, they are going to respond.”

That means that after you post, you should go back and check periodically to see if anyone has responded. If they have, give them a return shout.

And remember, no matter what platform you wind up on, social media is a game of quality over quantity. To people just looking to ratchet up their following, Gouché has this to say:

“Ask yourself what you’re doing now, and if you can’t get business with, let’s say, the thousand followers you have, what makes you think that if you have four or five or ten thousand followers, you’re going to be able to get business?

“At the end of the day,” she adds, “you have to be really good with what you do.”

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