If you have the time to scroll through any social media feed these days, you have time to market your business on a social media platform.
You may be one of the many freelance translators and interpreters who’ve asked themselves, “Should I market my services on social media?” and “Which social media platforms are best for marketing my translation or interpreting business to clients?”
You’re not alone. I hear this question from translators and interpreters pretty frequently. But here’s the thing. If you’re planning to market your business on social media, keep in mind that it’s a long-term strategy. Setting up an account and creating a few posts is the easy part. But if you hope to attract the right clients for you, it’s important to create a framework or plan to follow to make the time you spend worthwhile and effective. Here are some strategies to help you do just that.
Decide if Social Media Is, in Fact, Where You Can Reach Your Potential Translation or Interpreting Clients
It’s easy to assume that marketing via social media is a “must” for any business. After all, shouldn’t every business use social media to reach their target markets? Well, it depends.
First, determine if your ideal clients—those you really want to keep working with 5, 10, or 15 years from now—are using any social media platforms. If so, which ones do they tend to use and why?
Let’s think about it this way. Most people these days have Facebook accounts. Many also use and love Instagram. A lot of people enjoy Twitter. And most of us have a professional LinkedIn profile. But where are your clients hanging out online? If you don’t know the answer to this just yet, it’s okay. Sometimes it’s easier to answer this question by simply ruling out a few of the most obvious options.
Consider Your Specializations When Deciding Which (if Any) Social Media Platforms Will Give You the Greatest Return on Investment
I bet most of my clients have personal Facebook accounts. They may even be on Instagram. But given my specializations, I highly doubt that they’re using these accounts for their work. Instead, they prefer the distractions these social media platforms provide away from their work.
So, it’s not the best use of my time to try to friend, follow, or connect with them on Facebook or Instagram. Yes, perhaps I could create a business page and target my ideal clients with ads, but I also don’t necessarily want to remind them of their work when all they really want to do on Facebook after 5:00 p.m.is check in with their friends. So, in that sense, I’ve ruled Facebook and Instagram out for my medical and life sciences clients.
That said, someone who translates for the fashion or beauty industry might very well have a large pool of potential clients hanging out on one of these platforms. But given my own specializations and clients, I prefer to look to other potential platforms instead. Following this method of ruling out the obvious options, I’ll move on
I’ve yet to find my main contacts within my clients’ companies on Twitter. Yes, they may have a company Twitter account, which I’ll follow and interact with from time to time. But typically, the people running their company social media accounts are not the decision makers or the ones hiring professional translators. So, that rules out Twitter for me.
Instead, I prefer to use Twitter to connect with colleagues and friends. I can still market my business via Twitter by using it to grow my referral network. In that sense, Twitter is a very powerful marketing tool. But more on that later.
Once You Know Where Your Clients Are Hanging Out Online, Think about What Kind of Content Will Resonate with Them
One platform where I can say my clients definitely do hang out is on LinkedIn. So, that means that if I’m going to create a social media marketing strategy for my translation business, I should come up with a way to regularly engage with them there.
Now, my clients may not be logging into LinkedIn every day, but they do check in from time to time, and they’re connected to more of my potential clients. This can be really beneficial for freelancers! That’s when I go back to the purpose behind the platform and the way my clients use it. Here are the questions I ask myself:
- Why are my clients using LinkedIn?
- What do they want to get out of connecting with others on this platform?
- How do they use the platform?
- When do they tend to sign in and engage with others?
- Where do they tend to be when they use the platform?
Let’s break these questions down a bit. By the way, these questions and this process can be used for any social media platform where you think your potential clients are engaging on a regular basis.
1. Why are my clients using LinkedIn? Like most people with a LinkedIn account, the purpose of using this platform is to connect with other individuals. It’s expected that one is there to do business or form business relationships. So, I focus on that. Building relationships.
2. What do they want to get out of connecting with others on this platform? Like most clients, mine want to connect with others who can help them in their business or position, or who can provide them with a solution to a problem. They also want to see how their friends, former colleagues and classmates, and new professional connections are doing. It’s a way to stay connected without having to hear about what someone had for lunch or read a political rant from their neighbor. It can also be a first step or introduction to someone before taking the leap to forming a business relationship.
3. How do they use the platform? The answer to this question will be different for everyone. But my ideal clients are not usually scrolling through their newsfeed on a daily basis, going down a rabbit hole of posts. They just don’t have time. Instead, they log into LinkedIn to check their inMail or to approve a connection request. Maybe they want to look up a potential partner or client. Or perhaps they’re filling a need by checking in with a LinkedIn Group that reflects one of their special interests.
4. When do they sign in and engage with others? I would bet that my clients tend to log into LinkedIn at the beginning of their workday, on a break, or between meetings. Because of how LinkedIn works and the fact that there is little drama to suck you in like other social media platforms (and if there is, I haven’t found it yet!), people tend to “get in and get out” when it comes to LinkedIn. So, they often use it in small pockets of time during the workday.
5. Where do they tend to be when they use the platform? This is another question that will be different for everyone, but I think it’s safe to say that most of my clients use LinkedIn when they’re already at work—whether they’re in the office or still working from home due to the pandemic—because it very much relates to their professional life. Yes, they may check an inMail message on the weekend now and then, but I feel fairly confident that my clients are not spending their weekends mindlessly scrolling their LinkedIn feeds.
Because I know all of this about my clients, I can come up with a game plan of sorts. It’s easier (and smarter!) for me to spend my time looking for useful content, like articles, that my clients would appreciate and find relevant. I simply send them a friendly message now and then to share something useful or send a congratulatory note about a work anniversary, a promotion, etc. This allows me to check in from time to time and stay top of mind with them much more than if I tried to create a bunch of original content to post in my feed and cross my fingers that they’ll see it.
So, it’s important to determine where your clients hang out online and why they use the social media platforms they use. Then, determine how you fit into this online space in relation to them (or not).
Here’s another example. Let’s say you earn a decent amount of your income by translating documents for individuals. Maybe doing a bit of marketing on Facebook and Instagram is a good use of your time. You could join groups for speakers of your source language that also have the same interests or hobbies, engage with the people in those groups, and provide helpful responses to questions.
Marketing your services on social media doesn’t mean you have to practice direct sales tactics. After all, most translators and interpreters I know don’t want to be confronted with a marketing campaign that smacks of “salesy” copy or one-time offers. And with so much information flying around online these days, your clients are probably also sensitive to this.
Should I Continue to Spend Time on Social Media Platforms Where My Translator/Interpreter Colleagues Hang Out?
There’s a time and place for social media platforms that are not where you would typically find your clients or that are not considered business-related. I said earlier that I hang out on Twitter and that most of my connections there are friends and other translators or interpreters. And one might ask, “But why would you spend your time on Twitter if your clients are not there?” Valid question.
I spend time connecting with colleagues regularly for various reasons, but the main ones are because I like my colleagues and because I know that colleagues are the basis of our referral networks. Who better to refer you to a potential client than a colleague who knows you, understands your skill set, and can speak highly of your professionalism?
I think it’s safe to say that most of us can make a list of all our clients, and we’ll find that a large number of them have found us through referrals. Whether your referrals usually come from colleagues, friends, or acquaintances, social media can help you grow your network further. I can think of several colleagues I interact with regularly on social media. Because I see their names and friendly faces often, I’m reminded of them immediately when I come across a project or client who could use their services. So, I would say—continue to engage with colleagues on social media!
And while you’re probably not using some of these platforms to pitch your business to anyone, just the fact that you’re there and can provide helpful information, engage with others in a friendly way, and have an intelligent and kind exchange, means you’ll inevitably build relationships and trust among those who know you.
Focus on One or Two Platforms and Manage Them Really Well
It does take time to market your services on social media, but so does anything worth doing. If you have the time to scroll through any social media feed these days, you have time to market your business on a social media platform. The key is to choose one or two platforms that will be worthwhile. See the first half of this article to help you determine what they might be.
Consider what type of content would be most helpful to your clients. Is it something you can post in a feed and use specific hashtags to grab their attention? Or would a direct message with some useful information be more effective? Perhaps there are a few ways you can use the same platform to market to your ideal clients.
Once you determine the platform and the method(s) of engagement, commit to 20 minutes a day. That’s all you really need to create a habit of engaging with potential clients and growing your referral network on social media. If you’re like me, maybe you need to schedule this time. I would suggest scheduling your 20 minutes during a time block when your ideal clients might also be on the platform. This means that you’ll have a better chance of reaching them in real time. The more you show up and the more authentically you engage, the more you’ll get out of the social media platform(s) you choose for your business.
What tips do you have for engaging on social media platforms effectively to grow your business and your referral network? Please contact me and let me know.
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee (2018–2020), Public Relations Committee (2014–2018), and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: email@example.com.