“Social media takes too much time.”
Do you guys know how many times I’ve heard this comment from business owners who are trying to advertise their business online? As though social media success is a thing that just magically happens on its own? Yes, it takes time! Like everything else we do in life, success is measured by how much energy and focus we put into the task. If social media were a breeze, everyone out there would be an internet star and I would be out of business, living in a cardboard box with a sign that says, “Will tweet for food.”
I think the real frustration here lies in the return on investment for the time spent working on social media. Many business owners believe that it’s enough to post on social media platforms a handful of times during the week. When that strategy doesn’t instantly involve a steady stream of likes or new business, the endeavor is considered unsuccessful and shut down. The problem here is the strategy – just like advertising campaigns in other media, social media participation requires some planning and thought. With a little effort, you can both minimize the amount of time you spend on social media while meeting your online marketing goals.
Keep these points in mind when you’re working on social media for your small business:
1. Have a Strategy
One of the most basic steps of starting a business is developing a business plan. Same goes for social media participation. Before you even start posting, you need to devise a plan. Write down your goals for social media engagement – are you seeking to create brand awareness, bring more customers through the door, get more people to your website, or sell specific products or services? Having a set goal will help you decide what content you are going to post. The following points will help you round out your strategy so that you have a clear picture of what and when you are going to post.
2. Focus on One or Two Platforms
A big mistake that small business owners run into is the desire to be on every social media platform out there. Don’t fall for that trap! You will burn out.
Instead, focus on one or two platforms that will best meet the goals you outlined when starting your strategy. Facebook is always a great place to start, but if you don’t know which platforms to focus on I have an earlier post that can help you narrow things down.
3. Create a Stream of Content
Once you have your goals written down, you need to determine what type of content you need to meet those goals. For example, if the goal is to get more people through your door, you may want to post some special incentive to entice them in. You may also want to create content that shows how nice your place of business is, and shows the personalities of your employees. In short, you want to create a story where the ending is an online viewer saying, “Wow…I want to go there!”
Start creating sample posts for your chosen social media platforms. I often create content for clients up to a month in advance – this means I’m never at a loss for posts when I need them. It also means I’m not rushing at the last minute to haphazardly throw something out there. Every post has a purpose behind it.
4. Put Together a Content Calendar
A content calendar is exactly what it sounds like – a calendar where you list all of the social media content you will post over the next week, few weeks, or month. There are no hard rules to creating a content calendar, it’s all about making a planning device that works for you and allows you to strategically place your content. Mine are made in Excel. I know people who have downloaded fancy templates they found online, others who use word documents, and others who invest in content management software.
Use the calendar in tandem with social media analytics, such as Insights on Facebook. This will help you decide when you should post to get the most bang for your buck. Also pay attention to holidays and trending news – you want to take advantage of both of these, as they can offer a boost in the reach (number of people seeing) of your post.
After you have put the calendar together a few times, you’ll find that developing and mapping content becomes easier and faster. Now the time you spend on social media begins to have more purpose and direction!
5. Find the Right Scheduling Tool
Did you know you can schedule your social media content ahead of time? You can! It will save you so much time and allow you to focus more energy on the planning of your social media efforts.
The two major players in the scheduling world are Hootsuite and Buffer. Again, which scheduling tool you opt to use is based on personal preference. I’m a fan of Hootsuite, mainly because I handle so many social media accounts. If I were only focused on a single account, though, I’d definitely consider Buffer – it has some scheduling helpers (like automatically selecting the best times for your posts) that make it extremely useful.
Once you select your scheduling platform, you’re off to the races! Schedule away, but remember the following point…
6. Interact with Your Audience
It can be extremely tempting to schedule your content and then just walk away. Don’t do it! One of the ways you gain an audience on social media is by interacting with people who comment, like, and share your content. That interaction is half of the fun of being online…it is “social” media, after all.
Make sure you have alerts set up on your phone so that you know when people are interacting with your posts. If people have questions, make sure you are answering in a timely manner. If there are comments, see if there is a way to start a broader conversation…the more positive interactions you have, the more you boost your social media standing. Just like building personal relationships in business, this process can take time. That said…
7. If It Isn’t Working, Don’t Be Afraid of Change
If it seems like no one is interacting with your content, or your timing isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change. We all must start somewhere; the beginning can be the hardest part of social media engagement. Expect to change and feel free to experiment. When you find content that people like, and a time that seems to work for posting, go with it! Remember, each social media account is unique – sometimes the rules won’t apply to your business and that is ok. Find what works for your special company.