Let me start by saying I love social media.
Ever since I was in middle school, when our most beloved apps and sites emerged, I have been all about creating the perfect social media presence for myself. However, I wouldn’t consider my infatuation with social media as an addiction. But rather, I would consider it as a creative outlet. The countless hours I’ve spent since I was 13 years old crafting the perfect feed, researching how to gain followers the honest way, and planning aesthetic posts led to the awe-inspiring moment when I realized I could make a career out of it.
Social media has been around longer than most of us expect. Most of us, especially those in my generation, Gen Z, think of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Tik Tok, when we hear the words “social media.” To my surprise, the realm of social media is much more extensive than those five sites. Six Degrees, which launched in 1997, was the first social media site, named after the six degrees social theory. Although Six Degrees shut down four years later, it had amassed 3.5 million users, which is pretty crazy considering Snapchat currently has 210 million users per day.
This year, I had the amazing experience of combining my passion for photography and social media as a freelance social media manager for a photographer in Fort Worth, Texas. We focused on Instagram because that’s the platform our target audience is most active on. The account started at 428 followers in March 2020 and currently has 1.5k followers. It has been rewarding to see how much improvement the client and I have created in just a few short months using elementary techniques.
Here’s what I learned about social media management as a freelance social media manager:
The best free social media management tools
Unfold is the best app for story planning and formatting. This app features lots of creative and unique templates for any kind of story communication. While the app is free and includes free templates, it also offers in-app purchases for more template series. Each additional template series costs $1.99.
Canva is a must for quick graphics for stories and posts. You can save brand colors, so you always have the right palette in case you need to create a post on the fly. Canva is very easy to use which makes it a great alternative if you aren’t well-versed in Illustrator or InDesign.
Planoly is the holy grail of social media planning apps. It includes a full content calendar, rather than just a feed of blank spaces like other apps, making it the best social media scheduler. Planoly also includes space to write and plan captions, a hashtag archive, and insights. It’s free as long as you don’t surpass the app’s monthly planning limit of 30 uploads. Unlimited access to Planoly costs $83.99 per year or $8.99 per month.
Similar to Planoly, UNUM is another must-have post planning app. UNUM is a great backup if you run out of your monthly planning limit on other apps and don’t want to spend money to get more. I would suggest UNUM for feed planning on an aesthetic level, where I would recommend Planoly for planning on a logistical level.
StoryArt is another excellent option for story templates. This app features story animations, which is a unique option to display photography. Like Unfold, StoryArt includes the option for in-app purchases to gain access to more templates. StoryArt Pro costs $3.99per month.
Consistency and building a following
It’s crucial to maintain your client’s brand and its message through consistency on social media. Consistency can be shown through colors, language, and themed posts. For example, my client’s brand is light, airy, and family-oriented; therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to post something with dark colors.
The best way to build a following is to recognize your ideal client and focus on the target audience. Here are some techniques my client and I used to increase our following:
1. Product giveaways
My client would often offer a free photography session as a prize for a giveaway on Instagram. To enter the giveaway, individuals would have to follow the account, like the post, and tag three friends in the comments, which leads to new followers. For additional entries, individuals could re-post the giveaway post on their stories. These giveaways were always successful in increasing the following, as well as brand awareness. This is because our target audience, college-aged women and new mothers/families, are responsive to giveaways.
2. Following similar accounts and creating a network
My client and I would follow local photographers and potential clients on Instagram to create a network of mutual followers interacting with each other. This process was beneficial and useful at the beginning. The retention rate is much higher than the different strategies because of the relationship created with the other accounts.
Teamwork between you and the client
Making sure the vision and messaging are clearly understood by both you and your client is essential. Two brains are always better than one. The client will feel a lot more involved in the process if you work together to strategize. My client and I would have weekly meetings to discuss our goals for the upcoming week and review the previous week. At the end of the day, it’s your client’s brand on the line and their voice matters.
Ashley German is a Strategic Communication student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Ashley has experience with social media management both from freelancing and as a social media manager at Roxo, TCU’s student Ad + PR agency.