This article is part of our series on Social Media for small businesses. If you have a small business venture and are trying to get social media to work for you, then you should follow the series.
A recent study by Wall Street Journal where they polled over 800 small businesses shows that 6 out of 10 of them are in favour of using social media and believe it adds value to their business. Now that small businesses are finally realizing the value of jumping onto the social media bandwagon, what seems to be lacking are not just the skills but also the time to execute them.
Social media evolves daily. The bandwagon is moving at rapid speed and small businesses fear they don’t have the running shoes to keep up. New platforms, tools, trends and patterns of behaviour emerge everyday and keeping up isn’t easy. Concerns for small businesses on where to begin using social media are many; Should we bother with social media? What platforms should we use? How much time should we spend on each platform? What kind of financial backing will it need? Can the efforts be monetized? How do we ensure getting a steady ROI from the time and money we invest? Can we rely on these platforms as genuine lead generation methods?
While all the concerns are completely genuine, most don’t even get that far. According to a study done by eMarketer, 73% of marketers complained of not having time to even create content in the first place. Here are a few things you can have a go at if you are a time strapped small businesses in order to stay on top of social media strategies, developing a strong and steady presence for your business online.
Research and decide the platforms that work for your business
With the plethora of social media platforms available out there, find out which ones work best for you. Many small businesses tend to find LinkedIn more beneficial then Twitter because they find it is a strong tool for lead generation. Many small companies selling products find Pinterest diverts a lot of traffic to their website as it supports image centric posts. Find out what works best for your business and only invest time on learning and managing those platforms.
Curate first, create later
Being aware of current topics and trends is the first step to address the issue of creating content. Research what people are saying about your field of work online. Social media is a two way communication street. If you are aware of what the current trends are, and you produce content that is relevant to today’s audience, only then can you expect them to respond.
Remember that although you might not use a certain social media platform purposes, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good way to keep up with what’s going on. Twitter, for instance, according to the previously survey by Wall Street Journal isn’t very popular with small businesses. While 14% of small businesses currently use Twitter, only 3% actually see it as having the potential to become a substantial social media tool. However, it is still an excellent way to find out what people are currently talking about. Use it to that end. Your Facebook news feed is also an excellent way to stay up-to-date. Subscribe to blogs and other feeds to get information emailed to you. You might get emails intermittently throughout the day. Scroll through them and bookmark links that might seem interesting and read them all together to be more time effective.
You should consider spending 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes every evening doing this.
Stay on top of content
Once you are aware of the current happenings in the online world and in your business, you will find it relatively easier to create your own content. However, the fact remains that it is very difficult to create content on a daily basis when time is limited. What works for me deciding how many posts/tweets/updates I want to do per week. If I feel that 4 updates on my Facebook page and 6 tweets is a realistic amount, I will prepare 75% of my updates in advance and create 25% of the content on a daily basis after reviewing current trends. This allows me to stay on top of my daily content output without neglecting trending topics.
There may be times when you are severely strapped for time and are unable to research what is happening that day. By creating a small pool of content to publish, although not current, you will avoid having lapses in your social media presence. Consistency with your social media presence will help you build a strong foundation from which to expect consistent ROI.
You should consider spending 3 hours a week on creating content. 2 hours for pre-decided content over the week, although consider getting this done in one go, it’s a lot more time effective. Leave around 7 – 10 minutes daily to create content based on trending topics for that day.
The Daily Must
The one thing you must ensure to set time aside for everyday as a religion is to respond to people who engage with you on social media platforms. A unilateral social media presence is as good as not having one. A 5-minute calendar entry going off every 3 hours during work hours should do the trick. That is essentially just 20 minutes of your workday making the biggest impact helping convert followers to customers. Not responding to users virtually, is like a hanging up on a customer mid-conversation on call. Terrible etiquette and a clear self-inflicted loss of customer. If you are going to venture into creating a social media presence, having the time to respond to customers daily is a basic must.
Review, analyze and reform
Watch the key metrics from your social media platforms, how they change and function. As a basic practice, make sure you review your customers’ behavior using in-built analysis tools that the platforms provide you with. Once you get the hang of it, promote yourself and use Sensible and Social Snap or even more in-depth analysis tools like Google Analytics, and Kiss metrics to see what kind of customer engagement, traffic flow, link clicks, time spent on the website and other page activities look like.
Having a visual stamp showing the results of your social media efforts will help you evaluate and reform your policies based on what is most valuable for your business. “Only 36% (small business) said they use paid analytical or scheduling tools” says Carol Tice of Forbes. Make sure you’re not one of them. Also remember that in the beginning it’s possible that you wont see very exciting or promising results. Not to mention that nascent efforts may not even be measurable because of lack of quantity. However a steady presence can change that.
3 times a week, spending around 20 – 25 minutes each time is a good time to spend on this.
Strike the nail with a hammer, not your fist
What I’m trying to say is, use social media management tools. It is an extremely time-effective way to stay on top of things. Remember the saying, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime? I say, provide him with a tool, the fishing rod, and you will give him the means to fish, eat what he needs, possibly sell some and start a small business.
Do not underestimate the advantage of using social media management tools. They can be slightly tedious and ironically time consuming to begin with because you have to learn how to use them. However sooner than you think they will help you collate and execute all the aforementioned tips easily and you will start turning your social media presence into a golden egg laying goose faster.
Has your small business used social media effectively in the last 6 months? Did you find the time spent worth the returns?