Lack of time is the biggest reason many SMBs shy away from social media, but it’s no longer a legitimate excuse because some planning and the right tools allow for a clever investment of time in these channels – which will pay dividends.
According to the 2011 Sensis Social Media Report, only 14 percent of small businesses in Australia have a social media presence. One of the biggest reasons behind this is a lack of time. With so many other competing activities for the small business owner’s time, social media activities are either left to the wayside or not bothered with at all.
As a digital strategist I often come across dead social media accounts from businesses that started with good intentions only to flounder a few months later as time pressures squeeze it off the priority list. One of the worst things a business can do for its brand is leave it floundering in cyber space. But don’t fear, there are ways for even the most time pressured of SMB owners to make become social media rich even if they are time poor. Read on for the best tricks of the trade for getting social media to work for you in the time you have.
Choose your platform
The best advice I give my clients is don’t try to be in all places at once, you’ll just end up appearing nowhere. Do your research and understand where your customers are. Social networks are essentially about bringing like-minded people together. Each does so in a different way but they all have communities of people that are continually connecting over common interests.
Identify your customer’s most visited social media platforms, choose two and manage them well. Taking the time at the outset to carefully select where to base your social media presence will limit the amount of time you are wasting on reaching out to people who not interested or appropriate for your product or service. You will also see a better return on the time you put into the platforms you are using.
We’ve all experienced this feeling: sitting down at your computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to impart a great nugget of wisdom and bang! Social media block strikes! What engages your customer over social media is the content you share. Don’t waste time trawling for quality material, make it come to you. First stop is Google Alerts. Visit the site and set up free email alerts for key phrases, then sit back and watch them ping into your inbox. You can choose to be sent relevant links to content, as it happens, daily, or on a weekly basis.
Second stop is Google Reader, where you can set up trackers for all the relevant websites, blogs and social media platforms that you want to follow. It is one of the easiest ways to monitor, categorise and maintain your requested content.
Schedule your posts
To make the most of your social media presence you want to have information going out at regular intervals. Luckily you don’t need to be chained to the computer to make this happen. There are a number of fantastic tools that are downloadable from the web such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite that let you schedule your posts so they go out at set times throughout the day.
You can use them to bring all your accounts together onto one dashboard, allowing you to post to multiple sites at once and saving time from logging in and logging out. You can also link your sites together through Twitter and Facebook apps which are downloadable from the sites themselves or use a Networked Blog. A note of caution here though; social media is about being social so don’t automate all your posts and ensure you make time for live interaction.
Get into a rhythm
Allocate time in your daily routine for social media activities. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, it just needs to be consistent. When you are first starting to build your social media presence you should budget for at least an hour a day. You need to get the conversation with your customers started and a brief shout-out to them periodically won’t cut it.
As an SMB, you already spend a considerable amount of time communicating with your customers. Redirect some of this time to your social media channels and manage it in bitesize chunks. Dipping in here and there will end up being far more costly in terms of time then sitting down for half an hour in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
Time saving apps
As you can imagine, being a digital strategist I have a lot of social media accounts to manage and if I didn’t use some time-saving tools I would never leave the office. Luckily there are some great apps on the market that will streamline your social media accounts, schedule your updates and monitor your responses. Here are a selection of my favourites:
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite allows you to bring a huge number of your social media sites together. You can also schedule your posts, track your brand mentions and analyse the results.
- Tweetdeck: With Tweetdeck you can monitor and manage unlimited numbers of supported accounts. You can arrange your feeds to watch your incoming and outgoing traffic and set up notifications for key messages you don’t want to miss.
- Bufferapp: Buffer lets your pre-program the times for your posts. You can select different times for different accounts and also determine the amount to posts to go out each day.
- Google Alerts: A great “set it and forget it” tool that delivers content directly to your inbox.
- Google Reader: Set it as a widget on your igoogle interface to easy access to relevant content.
Make it a team effort
Finally, spread the load and make managing and updating your social media channels a team effort. Put guidelines in place so everyone knows what is acceptable and what is not. Encourage everyone to have a set time when they are online so they are not constantly interrupted throughout the day by incoming posts.
Keep the activity office bound to avoid mix up between work and personal accounts, a lesson the American Red Cross recently learned the hard way when an employee sent a personal tweet from the Red Cross (“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettinglizzerd”) Twitter account! If this does happen, make sure you follow it up with some humor. @RedCross replied: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”
A well-planned social media strategy can have a big impact on the bottom line of any SMB. Like with all areas of the business, managing the time to implement and maintain it can be a challenge. But however you decide to save time in this area don’t opt for the “I’ll just leave it all together option”. Whilst 86 percent of your follow SMBs may not have a social media strategy, 62 percent of Australian consumers are engaging with products and services similar to yours across social media every day. View time spent on social media activities as bona fide marketing time. And if it all becomes too much, consider outsourcing some of the activities to a trusted freelancer until you afford the time in house.