Keep business and personal separate
Stating the obvious here, but most student freelancers start everything under their name. I did that when I first started freelancing too. But social media is one of those things that you should really keep separate identities for.
Students often use Facebook and Twitter for personal usage: posting pictures of their friends, parties, events, etc. As a student freelancer, however, your clients aren’t interested in what you dressed up as for Halloween, or that you won a game of Beer Pong. Actually, your clients could be very put off by these things and go as far as to not hire you to work on their projects.
Thus, the solution to this (and this works if you are trying to get hired as a full time employee as well, even part time employee in some cases) is to keep separate identities in social media for different purposes. Keep your personal Facebook, Twitter, etc., but set them to private so only your friends and followers can see your posts and pictures. This will keep outside viewers from seeing your content and misconstruing what they are.
As for your freelancing identities, create a Facebook page and set up a new Twitter handle (and the equivalencies of these in other social media networks) that you will use only for freelancing, and of course keep these public. Post only professional content that you wouldn’t mind your clients (or potential employer) reading and making judgments based off your content.
Keep your friends/followers updated
It’s one thing to have social media accounts in various places, but it is quite a different thing to use them. One really great way to use social media is simply to keep your friends and followers updated. Post what projects you have been working on along with some images. If you are learning a new skill, brag about it a bit.
When you start to use social media in this way, always keep in mind that you are marketing yourself with every status and tweet you post. Those that are following these social media identities are wanting to know more about you on a professional level, so give it to them.
A word of caution: TOO much updating, and you start to become annoying. Be sure to not overwhelm those who follow you because they will quickly stop following you or stop being fans of yours on Facebook. And you don’t want that. Those that use social media alot tend to judge your presence by the number of followers and fans you have on social networks (even though this is a highly inaccurate way to judge such presence), so keeping that number on the rise can help your credibility and your reach as far as marketing yourself.
It’s all about community
Social media is meant to be social. It’s great if you have alot of followers and fans, but you should really build up those that you like on those social media networks as well, and talk to them from time to time. Follow some of your favorite freelancers or designers, or anyone that influences you. When they post something that really interests you, show them love and retweet/share it and send them a message letting them know how much you enjoyed their content.
This can work to your benefit later on. The larger the network you build through your professional identities on social networks, the larger that network is when you need help with something. I can’t tell you how many times I turned to Twitter to get advice on something I was working on, to ask a general question about freelancing, or needed to know where to find something. Most of the time I got really great help and was able to cut down on my time in struggling to find an answer. But always remember, reciprocity is a beautiful thing.
In what other ways can a student freelancer use social media?