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A common perception of social networking sites is that they are good for socializing with friends, family, and strangers, “goofing around”, and not too much else. But social media and social networking sites (such as Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, etc.) have been growing in popularity and utility for businesses for some time now. Many professionals are viewing these as tools, taking advantage of them, and using them to build their business. Freelance translators are no exception.
Some translators still seem reluctant when it comes to using social networks as a marketing tool for their businesses (see these ProZ.com‘s poll results from 2009 and 2010). Some are testing the waters, and others have already become adept at leveraging key networks with good results.
Social networking communities provide an opportunity for you to contribute your opinions, interests, and skills on the Internet. They can help you recover, maintain, and build your professional business network. Among the most frequently cited benefits of using social media as a marketing tool for your business are:
- Enhancing your online visibility
- Advertising your name, personal branding and/or services on the Internet
- Detecting and utilizing information that can help you grow your business
- Strengthening your relationships with clients
- Building an online reputation
- Reminding your clients that you exist
- Distinguishing yourself from the rest (by adding/aggregating valuable content)
- “Entering the dialogue and the 21st century”– not using the Web for networking and prospecting for business “leaves you in the cold”
- Building up a defined and selected network of like-minded and skilled colleagues
- Getting your comments and opinions about translation-related topics indexed on Google and other search engines (on Twitter this can be done through a careful selection of “hashtags” like #xl8, #L10n , #languages)
- Staying abreast of the latest news and trends in the industry
Other benefits of social networks include:
- Knowing what your colleagues are up to and following their tips on, and experiences in, translation
- Finding out about interesting industry blog posts (and promoting yours!)
- Following the news from one place (as opposed to going to and browsing every site and/or blog on the topics in which you are interested)
- Receiving help in real-time (Twitter is a good example of this)
- and having fun
Of course, it is important to start on the right foot. Here are some tips that may help you have a pleasant online experience:
- Be clear on what you want to achieve for your business overall.
- Build a user profile that is a snapshot of your skills and of the services you offer (this is what your potential clients and colleagues will see). Keep your professional profile and the activity you engage in with that profile professional.
- Find out what is out there and invest your energy in the social sites and/or groups that reach your target market or networking needs.
- Define and know your criteria for accepting social connections with colleagues and clients and feel comfortable with it (compare the difference of adding a valued, professional connection to simply adding an unknown name to a list of contacts.)
And remember, social networks can be your diary, your address book, a daily newspaper, your online ad and more. It is up to you.