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The 5 non-negotiable social media steps for SMEs

As a small business owner, you have to wear so many hats. In many cases you’re the finance department, the IT department, the marketing department, the HR department, the list goes on and on.

In the latest MYOB Business Monitor survey, one in five business owners now wear an additional hat – the social media manager. MYOB found SMEs using social media were 56% more likely to see a revenue rise, with 28% reporting a rise in revenue and 18% reporting a fall.

Businesses which embrace social media are reaping the benefits and building closer relationships with their customers and suppliers, but where do they find the time? The five tips below are for small businesses to get the most out of social media without it taking up a huge amount of time.

1. Survey your customers

Before you start opening social media accounts or posting updates to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest or LinkedIn, ask your customers what they use. Would they prefer to communicate with you through Facebook or Twitter? Do they use LinkedIn or Path? A couple of quick questions either through email or a platform like Survey Monkey will help you decide which social media platform to focus on. Choose one or two and do them well. Pinterest is a good choice if there is a visual component to your work. Focus your time on one or two networks. So many businesses set up accounts and use them for a few weeks and then stop. This is a waste of time, so focus your efforts.

 2. Listen

Before you think about what you’re going to say or share on your Facebook page, join the platform and listen. You may find groups and discussions on LinkedIn for example that might be of interest. Join them, listen first and then think about engaging in the conversation. Social media is all about conversations and engaging with others, it’s not about selling.

3. Develop and share great content

Think about content you can develop that might be of interest to your audience. Perhaps you’ve decided to blog. Use social media to link to those articles. Can you interview a customer on video about their business and how they work with you?

Or you might want to write an article offering advice for potential customers in how to respond to a challenge they might have? Use social media to share that article and your expertise. Choose a topic for the month or week and base your activities around that topic. If you are running a promotion, make sure that it is part of your calendar. Give freely.

4. Use tech tools to streamline your social media processes

Tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social can be used to manage multiple social media accounts. You can use these to schedule posts to multiple social media platforms at the same time, track responses, competitors and events.

You can post multiple times a day, but you only have to login once a day to look for replies or comments. Similarly, cloud based software such as Zendesk can help you manage your social media, so that your responses, queries and comments from customers are all managed centrally. This can be invaluable when customers can contact you via email, your website, telephone, Facebook, Twitter and other channels. It saves so much time, rather than having to constantly check all of those channels individually.

5. Set a time limit

Social media can take up a significant amount of your time if you let it. It can be hugely valuable for small business but every marketing activity needs to have a time limit. Make sure you update your chosen social media platform regularly, but don’t spend too long checking for responses or reading tweets or posts.

It’s a good idea to set up Google alerts on subjects that might be of interest to you or lists in Twitter to monitor what people are saying on a certain topic. That way you receive alerts when something is published.

Social media doesn’t have to be time consuming. Set a goal for your social media marketing and make sure your activities are targeted toward that goal. Use the tools available to make the most of the time you do spend on social media and limit your time when necessary.

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Michael Folmer Hansen

Michael Folmer Hansen

Michael Folmer Hansen is a vice president for proven cloud based customer service software provider Zendesk (www.zendesk.com) and also managing director, Asia Pacific. In 2007 he became Zendesk’s first ‘employee’, but as a true entrepreneur did not earn a salary for two years. He has helped the business grow from start-up to a global leader in its space, working out of Zendesk offices in Hong Kong and San Francisco before moving to Melbourne in 2011 to set up the Asia Pacific hub and a new development centre.

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