What Web Designers Need to Know About Social Media Influence

by Laura Spencer

on August 15, 2013

in Business/Freelance

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What does influence mean in the context of freelancing and design? For web designers and other freelancers, the term influence is most often used to refer to social media influence. Influence refers to the ability of a person (such as a web designer) to persuade others to take a particular action or to feel a particular way.

Imagine being able to guide a large number of people to a goal of your own choosing–for example, purchasing your web design services. Would that be beneficial to your web design business?

You bet it would. The benefits of influence for any business or organization are great and that’s why social influence has been the topic of a number of recent studies, articles and even books. There have even been a number of tools developed to measure social media influence.

Is social media influence important for web designers? What should a web designer know about social media? Let’s find out.

Are You Influencing Others? Are You Being Influenced?

You may think you’re immune from being influenced, but you’d be wrong.

You’re exposed to factors that influence you all of the time. All of us are. Social media is just one of those factors. Social media influencers can impact what we buy, what we do, how we vote, and even how we feel.

According to a press release from the Advertising Research Foundation, a five-month study of over 2000 shoppers found that for 22% of those studied, social media was a significant factor in purchase decisions. That’s slightly less than one out of four consumers who are influenced by social media–a number that’s likely to grow over time since social media participation continues to increase.

And of course, many of us may not even be aware of how we are being influenced, or by whom. But with growing evidence of the importance of social media influence, web designers can’t afford to ignore how their social media presence affects their own business. In fact, for a growing number of us, our social media influence is part of our brand.

Influence, Branding, and Trust

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Whether you’ve given much thought to it or not, your design business has a brand. Your brand includes what others say and think about your business. The more trusted you are, the more likely you are to have influence.

Here are some tips to help you increase trust for your web design brand and become more influential in your field:

  1. Be transparent. Some folks think transparency means sharing everything about yourself, but in my opinion what it really means is being the same person in all situations. For example, if you treat your friends and family badly, odds are that you will treat clients the same way. And sooner or later, fakes are usually found out.
  2. Be first. When it comes to the online marketplace, being first carries a great deal of authority. That’s why it’s important to stay current with trends and new technology. Early adopters and those who successfully implement new ideas are more likely to become influential.
  3. Be top-notch. Delivering poor service and bad web design has never been a good way to run design business. Word-of-mouth can spread like lightning online. Your clients may have contacts and connections you aren’t even aware of. Don’t give them any legitimate reason for complaining about your business.
  4. Be relevant. If you want to gain influence, focus is critical. You need to be sharing and learning about topics that are meaningful to your intended recipients (for us, that usually means clients and potential clients). Random sharing rarely works to achieve your goals.
  5. Be deliberate. Most of us don’t think much about our brand or our level of social influence, which is a shame because we really should put some thought into it. Understanding your brand and taking steps to move it into alignment with your business goals can definitely produce results.

With the growing importance of social media on branding and influence, it’s no wonder that a number of tools have been developed and are being developed to measure social media influence.

Influence Measurement Tools

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Although the study of the impact of social media is fairly new, a number of tools have been developed to measure social media influence and effectiveness.

I recently covered four free social media measurement tools in a post titled 4 New Free and Low Cost Ways to Measure Social Media Results, published on Vandelay Design blog. To review, the tools I covered there include:

  • Twitter Analytics
  • Google+ Ripples
  • Klout
  • Pinterest Analytics

A few more low cost or free tools to analyze the effectiveness of your social reach include:

  1. Ask your client. Most of us forget this simple no-tech method of finding out what social media efforts are working. When a new prospect or client contacts you, simply ask how they first heard about you. A few won’t remember, but most will be happy to tell you how they found out about your business. Keep a record of the answers.
  2. Facebook insights tool. If you have a Facebook page for your business, you may want to look into Facebook’s insights tool, which Facebook recently updated. You can learn a lot about how successful the information shared on your Facebook page is at reaching an audience.
  3. Google Analytics. You probably already have Google Analytics set up for your website or blog. What you may not know is that under Traffic Sources there is a Social section that includes information about referrals and more. Google Analytics can be really helpful in determining which social network is driving traffic to your site.
  4. Kred. This tool is similar to Klout in that it allows users to impact each other’s scores. It also assigns an influence number to each user. I like that you get a visual image for each tweet that includes how many times it was shared. At this time, the tool seems to be primarily for Twitter and Facebook. There is a free version available.
  5. TweetReach. TweetReach Pro is not a free tool, although the site does allow you a free search, which will allow you to view a partial report. This tool is specific to Twitter. I include this tool because I feel that it can be helpful if you want to measure the effectiveness of a particular tweet.

It’s important to remember that the study and measurement of social media influence is in its infancy. It will only improve over time.

Your Turn

Have you given any thought to your web design brand or your social media influence? If you have, what tips do you have for improving your online presence?

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About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.