Article by Guest Poster
This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.
A social media presence is one of the most important marketing tools you can have for your business. Not only does social media enable you to expose your business to thousands, possibly millions, of potential customers around the world, but it can help you save time on marketing and promotion.
When business owners start using social media, the practice can seem like a waste of time. Unless you compartmentalize the time you spend on your social media presence, it can quickly seep into time you had set aside for other more important activities, with seemingly little reward or extra profit.
The secret to running a successful social media presence doesn’t lie in being around on social networks all day, every day. Responding to comments and questions from followers and fans is important, but it can also be very time consuming.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how you can run an effective social media campaign in 30 minutes per week – or even less. Although you can take specific practical steps to help you do this, the main principle is to be conscious about how you’re spending your time. Refreshing your Facebook fan page every five minutes might satisfy your curiosity around your new follower numbers, but it will distract you from other money-making activities.
Developing a 30-minute social media routine might take time – initially you will have to spend longer as you tweak your practices and develop your own social media routine. Soon, however, you can have a strong presence up and running, providing you with effective marketing, while leaving you with more time to run your business.
Before you take any further steps towards your social media presence, you need to decide which sites you’re going to use. A key mistake that business-owners make when starting out in social media is trying to maintain a presence on all major sites. Not only is this incredibly time-consuming, but it won’t pay off in the long run. A more effective way of marketing your business through social media is to choose two, maximum three, sites at a time. If you’re just starting out, begin with one and only branch out once that’s up and running.
The kind of sites you choose will depend on your business. Facebook fan pages are a useful asset for most types of business as they are customizable, and the Facebook audience is larger than any other social website. Twitter is also popular, although some people can find the constant stream of chatter irritating. Visual-based businesses, that deal in areas like fashion, art, crafts, food and so on, might consider Pinterest, a picture-based social network. Among the rest, popular sites include Google+, as well as Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Delicious, which all provide user-generated news links.
In the screenshot below, from Freelanceswitch.com, the company demonstrates where they have focused their social media efforts: Facebook, Twitter and Google+. With their social media links, they also give readers the chance to join email updates, or follow the website’s RSS feed.
New social networks are emerging all the time, and you don’t have to stick to the two or three sites you initially choose forever. The most important thing is to do what’s right for your business. Just remember that if your newly-created presence on an alternative social network takes you over the magic number three, one of your other accounts has to go.
Social media tools are designed for people like you, who are using social media for business and marketing purposes. Countless programs and companies have started offering social media services specifically for businesses, and popular software packages include HootSuite, Seesmic, and Sprout Social.
Some software and services come with a monthly fee, while others allow you to use basic features for free. HootSuite, for example, has a free option, which enables you to update a limited number of accounts and use some features, and a subscription option, which offers the full range of services available.
Different social media tools work in different ways, but, as a minimum, they all allow you to schedule posts, analyze engagement, and manage different accounts from one place. The main benefit of using these services is that they save you huge amounts of time, and it will be difficult to limit how long you spend on social media to 30 minutes per week if you’re not using one.
Once you’ve chosen and set up your social media tool, you can sit down and schedule a series of posts for the next week in one sitting. In the same session, you can analyze post statistics from the previous week, looking at which posts created the most engagement, how many links resulted in clicks, and so on. Once you’ve scheduled these posts, you don’t need to worry about posting again for another week. By organizing your social media in this way, you won’t have to spend time every day creating status updates, leaving you free to get on with other tasks.
Social media tools also give you easy access to fan and follower comments, for example HootSuite displays follower activity and mentions in separate columns. This frees you from constantly watching over your Twitter feed, and allows you to check on and respond to any interactions once a day, or even less frequently.
To look at what social media tools others are using, simply log on to Twitter or Facebook and look at an individual’s posting data.
Another way to save time is to develop a content strategy for your social media posts.
To maintain an effective presence, you’ll want to post a mixture of content that’s relevant to your audience. This can include old blog posts, promotional information, reposting others’ updates, and competition details. To make this simpler, try designating a certain number of posts per week to certain topics. For example, you might decide to post one promotional Tweet per day, containing a direct link to one of your products or services, and to post links to two blog posts per week.
Lisa Buyer from Search Engine Watch recommends setting up a spreadsheet or designated calendar to create a social media content plan for the weeks and months ahead.
The technical name for this is a “call to action” and it can be one of the hardest aspects of your social media presence. A call to action involves asking or telling your customers to buy your product, sign up to your mailing list, or take some other action associated with your business. Some people struggle with calls to action, as they feel they could be pressuring people, and rationalize that if people want to take these actions, they’ll do so anyway without being asked.
In reality, some people don’t think to act without being explicitly asked or told. Even if they’ve just read 500 words on the benefits of signing up to your new mailing list, they might not think to sign up themselves until you tell them to at the end. Rather than waiting for the few readers who will take the initiative and sign up of their own accord, you’ll increase your retention rate by including a call to action. This also applies to your social media posts, as demonstrated by Sarah Marie Lacy, a Canadian artist who markets her work online: