How To Grow Your Audience And Build Your Brand With Social Media

10 ways to use social media to solidify your reputation, become known, and strengthen your brand without spending money on software or ads.

Woman using social media on a smartphone

There is no denying the power of social media.

When it comes to connecting with, building relationships with, and communicating with your audience — local or global — no other tool has leveled the playing field quite like it.

Instantly available with just the tap of a finger or a quick click, social media provides unprecedented access to both information and attention. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year social media is humming with activity, which means it provides an always-on channel for sharing information, providing education, joining conversations, and interacting with others.

For freelancers and small businesses, social media marketing is one of the fastest yet least expensive ways to gain visibility, become known, and build an authority brand.

But it’s not as easy as it may seem.

Social media branding takes consistent effort over time, a lot of patience, and vigilance.

  • You can’t simply create an account, follow a bunch of people, and expect an audience to show up.
  • You can’t set up social media automation to push out a bunch of basic, general content and then ignore it.
  • You can’t constantly broadcast your own blog posts, sales pitches, and marketing content and expect people to pay attention.
  • You can add social media to your website and do nothing but cross your fingers.

Nope. None of that works. Social media needs to be social.

You need to be there engaging and interacting with people, adding value to the conversation, sharing information, and helping others. And, if you want to build your brand at the same time, your social media marketing needs to align with your business branding.

Using Social Media To Build A Brand

There is no secret sauce to achieving brand recognition on social platforms. Social media isn’t a magic bullet or golden ticket. It’s a global marketing tool that can help you:

  • Build brand awareness and deliver your message
  • Connect with and research your target market
  • Retain existing customers and acquire new customers
  • Test new messages, new content topics, and new offers
  • Learn what your audience wants and responds to
  • Share knowledge to build credibility, trust, and loyalty
  • Have conversations and build relationships
  • Increase website traffic and conversions

Once you have set up your business’ social media accounts, building a brand on social media is all about showing up, gaining visibility, growing an audience, and becoming recognized and known for your thing.

Listed below are 10 underrated ways to leverage social media for branding:

1. Use A Consistent Look For All Images

While I advocate for keeping your social media avatar the same for as long as possible, cover images and feed images can be changed up to stir up interest in your brand, share your brand message, and promote your most current offer. But “changing things up” doesn’t mean going off-the-rails with the design of your images.

A big part of building your brand with social media is about maintaining consistency, which means keeping the imagery used by your business on-brand.

The easiest way to do this is by creating a collection of templates for cover images, posts, quotes, and stories that align with your brand style guide yet provide variety in the way that visuals are used and presented to your audience.

The idea is to create a visual language that reinforces your brand personality:

  • When creating social media template collections for clients, I typically start with 14 different designs adapted to the proper sizing for each social platform the client uses.
  • With this approach, clients can post a unique image each day for two weeks without revisiting a design — and even then, the imagery is still different.
  • This approach creates brand consistency while offering visual variety and keeping the content shared fun and interesting.

If you use a tool like Canva, creating social media templates and resizing them for each social network you use is quick and easy.

If you’re not into using templates or you like to create your social media imagery with tools like PicPlayPost or WordSwag, you can create a unique look for your branded images by always applying the same filter, adjusting the image saturation or contrast, using a duotone (two-color) effect, or even going with black and white images.

2. Keep Your Content Focused And On Brand

If you’re using social media for fun, feel free to post anything you want, whenever you want. If you’re using social media to build your personal brand or the brand of your business, you must be far more careful about what you post because one branding mistake can have a ripple effect with catastrophic consequences.

The quality of the content you create and share will determine the success you’ll have with social media marketing, which is why your content must remain focused on topics directly related to your business, brand, and offers. It must build your reputation, solidify your authority, and inspire people to take action, click, engage, and share.

  • Pick One Thing To Focus On.
    If you’re a financial advisor on one social networking site and a personal trainer on another, your credibility and expertise in both areas will be challenged. Pick one thing to build your reputation around and stick with it.
  • Tailor Your Content To Your Audience.
    When you share your expertise consistently through unique and engaging content and help your audience learn new things and move closer to their goals, it positions you as a leader in your niche.
  • Maintain A Consistent Brand Voice.
    All content you create and post must sound like your brand and reflect your personality. It must use your brand language, phrasing, and words so it sounds like you.

Also, think about what not to post on social media. Don’t post vague subtweets, knee-jerk reactions, public rants, negative content, and passive-aggressive posts, and think twice before reposting, retweeting, and sharing polarizing content from others. Also use the block, mute, and unfollow features to remove any trolls and haters from your social media experience. It’s best to stick with positive content that will entertain, teach, and help others.

3. Help People Get To Know You

Your freelance business is only one part of your life and who you are. If you only ever share business content, you end up hiding a big part of who you are. While most of your social media content will be business-focused, personal content needs to be mixed in too.

Three truths center around the notion that people need to get to know you, like you, and trust you before they’ll do business with you. These truths are the secret to building an engaged audience and your ability to turn that audience into subscribers and paying clients:

  • People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
    Your why and what got you to where you are today will inspire them to take action, so share your story, background, passion, mission, and perspective.
  • People want to do business with people they like.
    They want to feel great about their decision to buy, so let your personality shine and be a real person they can get to know, connect with, and relate to.
  • People who consider hiring you must first trust you.
    They need to believe you will deliver on your promises, so help them feel confident in your expertise by sharing case studies, success stories, testimonials, and lessons learned.

You have to matter to someone before your business content will matter. So provide as many opportunities as possible for your audience to connect with you on a deeper and more meaningful level.

4. Be Social And Join Conversations

Social networks are just that: social networks. If all you do is post promotional content, broadcast your own information, and publish links without taking time to be social and interact with your audience, you’ll struggle to find any kind of traction with social media marketing.

Social media is not about tracking how many followers, friends, and connections you have. It is about building meaningful relationships.

It takes two people to have a conversation and to keep a friendship alive and if all of your online conversations are one-sided, you’ve got some serious work to do! If you struggle to start conversations or find conversations to join, try asking a mix of thought-provoking questions and simple, light-hearted questions. By asking questions, you open the door for others to step into a conversation and make it easier to engage with your audience.

Other tips include:

  • Use and follow hashtags related to what you do on Instagram, try using interactive polls in stories, and test carousels with great design.
  • Participate in Facebook groups where your niche/ideal clients spend time.
  • Create Twitter lists of industry peers, niche accounts, and influencers your audience also follows and prioritize engaging with those lists.
  • Publish native articles and comment on LinkedIn posts to gain visibility and awareness with new people.
  • Join in and respond to questions posed in TweetChats (and be sure to use the official hashtag for the TweetChat).
  • Pin interesting, attention-getting images on Pinterest, and don’t be afraid to repin your content multiple times with different images.

Successful social networking is two-way a conversation so engage with your network. When a follower mentions you in a tweet, tweet back. When someone shares your content, say thank you. When someone leaves a question on your Facebook page, answer it. If someone comments on your Instagram post, reply.

5. Aim To Always Add Value

Before posting, commenting on someone else’s post, or jumping into a conversation consider what your motivation is. Is it to argue and be contrary or stir up problems? Is it to jockey for position, show off, show someone else up, or flex your “expert” muscles? Or are you seeking to share, engage in true conversation, and add value?

To ensure your content aligns with your audience, get to know them by asking:

  • What are they trying to do?
  • What tasks do they need to complete?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What obstacles are in their way?
  • What goals are they working toward?
  • What dreams do they have for the future?
  • What topics are they most interested in?
  • What do they need to learn or discover?
  • What would they find entertaining?

Once you have the answers, use them to guide your social media activity — what types of posts to share and what type of content to create. Providing links to articles and resources, providing a tip or trick, sharing an inspiring quote, and sharing your recent blog post are all ways to help your audience while building your network and expanding your reach.

6. Be Nice And Lift Others Up

Adding value isn’t always about sharing information. Sometimes it’s about creating mental and emotional value.

Congratulating people on accomplishments, telling someone they did a good job, offering authentic compliments, and helping others when you can, goes a long way to create goodwill for both you and your brand.

  • If someone shares a photo of a meal they cooked, tell them it looks delicious.
  • Say happy birthday and happy anniversary. Congratulate people on the birth of new babies, marriages, new cars, new jobs, new clients, graduations, college acceptances, and new homes.
  • When someone shares a win or does something exciting, give them some kudos.
  • When someone shares something they overcame or accomplished, let them know they did a good job or simply reply with some celebratory emojis.
  • When someone creates something you like, point it out and share it.

There’s an incredible amount of mental and emotional value tied to creating positive feelings and helping someone feel seen and recognized. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes or what challenges someone is facing, so help someone else feel great. It may just make their day a bit brighter and put a smile on their face.

7. Share Your Offers

Social media branding is the use of social media platforms to create and connect with your audience, expand your brand, and build authority. It primes people for your offers. Social media marketing, on the other hand, is the use of social media platforms to market your products and services, increase website traffic, and make more sales. It gets people to take action.

To grow your audience and build your brand with social media, you need branding content to position your offers as the best choice for your ideal clients and marketing content to build trust and increase conversions. The trick is striking a good balance between the two types of content.

A Common Approach: 80% of your content should be used to educate, inspire, help, or entertain your audience, and 20% should be used to promote your brand, products, services, and offers. But if you have a full marketing calendar with launches and events, it may be better to aim for a 70% / 30% split.

The good news is that social selling and promotions aren’t anything new. The minute social media began its meteoric rise, marketers jumped on the bandwagon finding every way possible to exploit the platforms to grow email lists, generate leads, and get more clients. Their greed paved the way for small businesses and freelancers to use social networking sites to share their services with a global audience, and frankly, they got people used to seeing ads and promotions, and marketing content.

So take advantage of it. Use your social media brand to share your services, products, programs, memberships, courses, podcasts, blog posts, and videos with the world and take advantage of marketing and sales-focused hashtags and theme days like:

  • #MerchMonday
    On Mondays, pitch your paid offers. Share something you’re selling, like swag, books, service packages, memberships, courses, event tickets, products, and more. Other options: #MarketingMonday and #Motivation Monday.
  • TransformationTuesday
    On Tuesdays, share client success stories and case studies with impressive before/after transformations to built trust, demonstrate expertise, and highlight what’s possible. Other options: #TipTuesday, #TestimonialTuesday, #TuesdayTruth, and #TechTuesday.
  • #WednesdayWins
    On Wednesdays, share a big win or something you’re celebrating, like landing a new client or type of project, making a certain number of sales, hitting your webinar registration goal, reaching another business anniversary, or landing a speaking gig.Other options: #WaybackWednesday and #WisdomWednesday.
  • #ThrowbackThursday
    On Thursdays, boost your credibility and build trust. Share a past case study, testimonial, achievement, podcast interview, speaking engagement, or award won — and tie it to your current services and offers. Other options: #ThursdayThoughts and #ThankfulThursday.
  • #FreeOfferFriday
    On Fridays, build your email list. Share your opt-in offers and anything that’s free, like a webinar, an ebook, a masterclass, a virtual workshop, a checklist, or a tips sheet. Other options: #FeatureFriday, #FridayFreebie, #FridayIntroduction, and #FeelGoodFriday.

These hashtags — already used by tons of other business owners — open the door for brand promotions and provide an easy way to market your business. Just be sure to find the right mix of personal content, conversation, sharing other people’s content, and marketing your offers.

8. Remind People What Do You

People are busy and distracted. They are overworked, overwhelmed, and overcommitted. They’re tackling too-long to-do lists, dealing with a bevy of challenges, and taking care of others — and they’re tired. You can’t assume they have any mental capacity for your marketing messages on top of that or that they remember everything you post.

Even if someone is interested in what you do and how you can potentially help them, you’re just a blip on their radar. Help them remember you and stay top of mind by sharing posts that remind people of the important things they need to know about you, your brand, your services, and what’s possible if they take action.

Your social media strategy must include content that reminds your audience:

  • What you do and the services you offer
  • The types of clients you serve — who your ideal clients are
  • The obstacles your services help people overcome
  • The problems your services help people solve
  • The results your clients experience
  • The impact of those results on their businesses and lives

If you want to be recognized, remembered, respected, and referred, you need to be visible and top of mind. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself and remind people how you can help them achieve their biggest goals.

9. Help Others Build Their Brands

When you read a good blog post or article, listen to a valuable podcast episode, or watch a helpful video, tell other people about it and share the link. When you attend a webinar or take a course and you learn something new or it helps you solve a problem, write a positive review or tweet about it. When you come across a great social media post, like it, retweet it, comment on it, or share it.

Consider the saying, treat others how you want to be treated. If you want people to engage with you, like your posts, comment, and share your content, you need to model that behavior by first liking, commenting on, and sharing other people’s content.

Show people that the work they do and the effort they put into their own brand, business, and marketing is seen and appreciated. Help them build their brand and feel like their work matters. It’s a simple, quick, easy gesture that not only helps you make new connections, strengthen existing relationships, and share interesting things with your audience, but also helps others build their brands and gain visibility.

10. Invite People To Connect With You

As a freelancer, business can get a little lonely. So if you want to grow your audience and build a community around your personal brand, you need to create that audience and community yourself by putting effort into cultivating connections.

  • As you meet new people at business conferences and networking events, let them know that you’d love to stay in touch and that you’ll send them a request to connect on LinkedIn (or whatever platform you prefer).
  • As you host new sales calls, follow up after the sales call with a personal note and an invite to connect via social media.
  • As you engage and interact with new people through social media, be the person who sends the connection request or friend invite, or follows first.

Remember, every other freelancer and small business owner on the planet has goals that are similar to yours. They all want to make meaningful connections, expand their brand reach, build an engaged audience, get more clients, and grow their businesses — and many of them feel just as uncomfortable and awkward as you do when trying to build your brand on social media.

By being the one to initiate a connection, you’re doing them a favor because your invitation takes the pressure off them!

The Truth About Social Media Branding

You, your brand, business, and offers are NOT for everyone. They’re for a specific audience, and perfect for your niche. That means you don’t have to win everyone over with your social networking skills and awesome content. Instead, you only need to win over the people who align in some way with your ideal client persona.

Social media is just one tool you can use to reach more people, and using it to build your freelance brand is far more simple than you may think. Once you set up your social media accounts, all you have to do is be real and authentic and consistently post great content that’s aligned with the brand reputation you want to reinforce — and that content doesn’t always have to be your own content.

So, what are you waiting for?!

Go share something with your audience, like some posts, comment on some others, and share a few too. If you want a conversation, don’t be afraid to start it. You’ve got this!