Freelancers are of a split personality when it comes to social media: they crave the reach and personal branding available to them on these platforms but, let’s face it, reading a Twitter stream with 1,000 contributors seriously distracts from getting your work done. For every journalist who loves the extra exposure for their bylines, another one curses having to update four accounts every time they publish. Ebyline surveyed some of its freelancer members and found roughly that: while many freelancers inhabit social media all the time, a surprising number are still leery of using social media to connect with editors and other journalists and only bother to check in occasionally.
What surprised us? More of our freelancers are on LinkedIn than Twitter, but few participate in groups they belong to. While over a third of freelancers have connected with their editors on social, nearly half haven’t connected to either editors or other freelancers. And nearly a third don’t check their social networks every day.
Ebyline collected survey results from 350 of our freelancers about their social media engagement online.
—Facebook is still the most popular network: 86 percent of the freelancers said that they have a Facebook account, 74 percent are on LinkedIn and 65 percent said they have a Twitter account. Just half had a Google+ account.
—Popularity isn’t everything: 26 percent of respondents said that they do not use Facebook for professional purposes, while only 8.5 percent of Twitter users said the same.
—Most check in frequently, but plenty don’t: Of those who responded, fully 60% said they engage with social media multiple times per day. Another 10% log on at least once per day.
—LinkedIn groups are popular: Around seven out of 10 journalists on LinkedIn belong to a professional group, but nearly three quarters of them don’t actively participate in the groups.
—Only a fraction use social to reach editors: More than 35% of respondents affirmed that they had reached out to editors using social media platforms. But 47 percent have not used social to connect with other freelancers or editors.
Luckily for those freelancers who are taking advantage of editors’ web presence through social media, nearly 8 out of 10 editors said they see online and social media presence playing a growing role in their newsroom duties going forward, according to a 2012 poll from Ebyline and Editor & Publisher.
That editorial prediction seems logical, given that Nielsen data found that in the United States alone, people spend 121 billion minutes per month on social media sites. Facebook far and away eats up most of this time (for now), but as more social networks are introduced via mobile, and more people receive their news from web and mobile devices, social platforms and news will continue to merge.
Our advice to freelancers? Hang out where the editors are and be social.