Small businesses spend an average of 5.5 hours per week managing their social media presence, and 85 percent of small-business owners say they’re the ones primarily responsible for their companies’ online efforts, a 2013 study commissioned by Staples shows.
And why not? Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ can be an affordable, effective way to engage customers, increase sales, and build brand awareness. However, if you lack a structured plan for achieving these goal, you may waste precious hours without realizing any return on your investment.
Here are five ways to make sure you’re not wasting your time on social media.
1. Define your goals. What do you aim to achieve by using social media? Perhaps you simply want to get your company’s name “out there” and help potential customers find you. Or maybe you want to interact with your clientele by answering questions, presenting information about your industry or products, or taking polls and surveys.
Narrow down what you want to accomplish and define specific goals. According to Lisa Mason, social media consultant and owner of Social Media Satisfied, your intended market and your goals should determine the platform you choose. Says Mason, “Which social media platforms to use for specific business goals depends in part on your niche and which networks your target market are using the most. For example, you may find more art, design and home improvement users on Pinterest and more tech savvy users on Google+. So knowing your target market is first and most important. I recommend a business presence on all platforms, but put your main focus on the top two or three that your market is using the most.”
2. Set time limits. If you’re spending an hour or so per day on social media, that’s probably enough — you’re an average small-business user. To avoid getting sucked into conversations and posts that are unimportant or unrelated to your business, stay focused on your goals. Plan your social media time and use it wisely; when the allotted period is up, log off and tackle other priorities. Mason recommends, “To effectively use your time, have a social media marketing plan a month in advance, schedule posts when you can but set aside log-in time to reply to those posts and any questions/comments sent to your account. As a general rule, be the most frequent commenter on your own accounts. Determine a schedule for social media postings so it doesn’t overtake your time.”
3. Separate business and personal “surfing.” Many small-business owners maintain personal social media profiles that they use regularly. Resist the temptation to switch over to your personal account while you are handling social media tasks for your business. If you can discipline yourself to stick to business marketing during business hours, you will get far more accomplished without falling into the social media abyss.
4. Track results. To get the most out of your social media marketing efforts, keep detailed notes about the outcome of each initiative. For example, if you tweet links to articles on your website, review your website’s statistics regularly to see how many visitors are following links to your site from Twitter.
By tracking statistics, you can begin to identify patterns that can tell you which social media activities are truly benefiting your business. Tweak your social media activity often — the same way you would any other marketing or promotional initiative — to make the most efficient use of your time.
5. Set up automated posts. To save time posting to various social media sites, use an aggregator like HootSuite to schedule future posts across platforms. Let’s say you want to share five recent blog posts on your company’s Facebook and Google+ pages. You can log in to HootSuite once and set up the posts to appear on both social sites, one per day, Monday through Friday. HootSuite automatically posts each item to each site at your designated dates and hours — and you only have to log on once, which can save you an enormous amount of time.