I've been delivering training on Social Media, from the basics of setting up accounts to more advanced strategy, for several years. The basic courses I deliver are often full of business owners who manage their own marketing and they all face the same problems: How do I find the time to engage on social networks and which ones should I invest time in? As a business owner myself, I can relate to these questions; I mean, how do we find time to update our Facebook status and send multiple tweets per day when we're busy servicing clients, attending networking events, doing the admin and accounts and trying to achieve the illusive work-life balance?
If you're in this boat too and want to know how to get the best from social media without wasting time on fruitless activities, read on!
Identify your 'Why?'
Before we begin, let's just take stock of where we are in our business and what we want to achieve going forward.
Take a moment to really consider why you are using social media in the first place. Is it to increase exposure for your brand? Maybe you're looking to generate new leads for your business? If you're using social media because someone told you you should be, this exercise should be a way of reflecting on that and identifying for yourself why you should be using it.
Identifying your 'why?' will give you more focus when planning your strategy and what you want to say on each social platform. By the way, your 'why?' may be different from one platform to another. For example, you may be using Facebook to engage with potential and existing customers and LinkedIn to connect and network with your peers.
Find the most appropriate platform for your business (not you!)
Next, you need to think about where your target audience hang out. A quick search on Google will bring up some interesting stats on the demographics (age, gender) of each social network. Use this information to see which aligns best with your target market.
Here's a few examples:
Scenario 1: You're an Interior Designer with lots of photos to share, and your target audience are 30-something females. Therefore, your perfect social network could be Pinterest.
Scenario 2: You're a Financial Advisor targeting business owners. They are typically male and over the age of 35. Therefore, LinkedIn could be your perfect social media partner.
Scenario 3: You're a Dog Walker and new clients come via word of mouth referrals. Facebook is a great platform for getting your clients to refer you to their friends and family.
The mistake some people make is to choose the platform that they are comfortable with, perhaps because they use the platform for personal use and are familiar with how it works. Unfortunately, the easiest platform for you to use isn't always the most appropriate for your business and reaching your customers, so make sure the platform you choose will benefit your business.
Don't spread yourself too thinly!
There's no shame in admitting that you simply can't cope with maintaining half a dozen different platforms - who can?
Pick one, develop a strategy and focus your efforts. As with many things in life, you get out of social media what you put into it. If you try to take on too many accounts, you'll find yourself quickly becoming overwhelmed and you simply won't have the resources to invest the time needed to get the returns.
If, after a few months, you feel you can take on a second platform without sacrificing the engagement on the first, do so.
Remember, if you see competitors are on many platforms, it could be that they have someone in-house to do their social media or they outsource it to an agency. Whilst I believe every small business owner should invest time on social media on a regular basis, it's not your full time job, so don't beat yourself up if you're not in more than one place at once.
Create a schedule
I don't know about you, but unless I write things down as an appointment in my diary, they very rarely get done (especially if it's something I don't like doing!).
For this reason, I create a timetable for the week - kind of like we had at school - although I think 'week planner' is the more commonly used term for grown-ups. Everything is scheduled into a slot whether it's a client meeting, networking event, preparing a client report or writing a blog post (yes, this was once on a week planner!). Social media is scheduled in as an appointment, which means it gets done!
To download a week planner, here's a useful resource that's completely free, just pick your preferred layout and print or download to edit it in Word.
Ideally, you want to be engaging each day on social media, but if that's just too much for you, consider a free tool like Hootsuite to schedule updates in advanced. It also lets you control which updates you see, so if you're easily distracted by Facebook updates or tweets, you can choose not to see them when you log in.
Pulling it all together
We can't all be social media superheroes, but we can get some really fantastic results if we really focus. So identify your 'why?', choose the most appropriate platforms to invest your time in and schedule in an appointment each day or week for putting on your social media 'hat' and start engaging!