Face it, some days you wish social media would just go away so you can get back to running your small business. Sure, you like Facebook for keeping up with family and friends, but what the heck are you supposed to post about your storage unit business? Instagram and Pinterest are great for pretty pictures, but you’re a plumber–what’s pretty about that? LinkedIn is terrific for networking for professionals, but you do garden landscaping. And what the heck is Twitter for any way, except for finding out the latest tweets our President is hurling.
But, whether you like social media or not, your customers expect to see your small business there. Just as having a website gives you credibility (you do have a website, don’t you?), social media adds to your presence and trustworthiness. It also enables engagement in a way that a website cannot, as users can communicate easily (sometimes too easily) with you.
So, how can you manage your small business social media presence while still spending time running your actual small business?
- Choose your sites carefully. One of the first things you need to figure out is which social media sites your target market uses. Concentrate on those the most. If you’re trying to reach professionals, for example, your best choice might be LinkedIn. For highly targeted consumer products, you can’t beat Facebook. Instagram and Pinterest have avid followers.
- Post images. Pictures and videos capture much more attention on social media than text-only posts. Some platforms—like Instagram and Pinterest—are for posting images only. You can buy inexpensive “stock photos” if you don’t have any pics of your own to use.
- Give people a reason to engage. Users are busy and distracted. So give them a reason to stay engaged with you—discounts, tips, news, even really cute kitty pics. Think of what will make them click or share.
- Follow up. Social media is a starting point. You’ll still have to actually speak with customers, make cold calls, and hit the pavement. Unless you’re selling—and closing—directly on social media, gather your leads there and then do the legwork to actually make the sale.
- Manage your campaigns. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck make it easy to schedule your posts in advance and monitor activity easily. Rather than logging into your accounts and posting throughout the day, be sure to use one of these types of tools.
- Engage with others who might repost your content. Unless you have tens of thousands of followers, when you post a tweet, it almost immediately disappears. Include the handles of other companies, organizations, and influencers in your posts. If they like your content and find it useful for their followers, they may repost it, sending traffic your way.
- Don’t sign up for every site. As a small business, you don’t have the time or resources to manage several social media sites. And you don’t need to. Concentrate on the sites where your customers and prospects are.
- Don’t guess at what you’ll post every day. Come up with an editorial calendar. You don’t need to fill it in down to every single tweet, but at least think about themes, upcoming promotions, holidays, and so on, and jot these down for the next couple of months. When you do write your posts, these guidelines will help speed up the process.
- Don’t spend all day. Schedule in advance what you can and spend only 30 minutes a day on social media, responding to comments and prospects. If you let it, social media can consume an inordinate amount of your time and distract you from core, money-making activities. Budget your hours wisely.
- Don’t respond to every comment. Yes, you were hoping for engagement when you signed up but if your Facebook page takes off, with thousands of followers giving you hundreds of likes, and writing tens of comments on your posts, you won’t have time to respond. Stick to your allotted time for social media and respond to a few followers—but not all.
- Don’t be critical or mean. The tenor on social media right now seems dominated by negativity and bullying. Try to keep your posts positive, even if you’re engaged in current events.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on February 15, 2017