Social Media is the new television. A recent study by Ispos found that the average social network user spends at least 3.6 hours on social media every day. This is huge!

Small business owners can’t afford to ignore social media as it is where many of their ideal customers are spending a great deal of their time.

Customers are using social media more than ever before – for entertainment when they have a quiet moment, as well as to keep themselves informed with updates from their friends and families, and the people and organisations they have chosen to like/follow on their preferred social media platforms.

However many small business owners have a love-hate relationship with social media.

This is because whilst you might appreciate the seemingly endless opportunities that social media offers for reaching new audiences and engaging with them in new and creative ways (for little or no cost) – you will also know it can be an enormous drain on your most precious resource – time.

But with a little planning up-front you can get great results from your time investment in social media marketing. Here’s how…

#1 Planning your approach – separate preparation session

Before you delve into your 30 minutes-a-day social media regime, it pays to spend some time planning your approach.

Firstly you need to decide what you want to achieve from your social media activity, so you are clear on what a great result would be. Examples of some useful social media objectives are:

  • Raise awareness of your brand (increase likes/follows)
  • Build relationships and ‘engage’ with your customers (have conversations, be helpful, or entertaining)
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Generate more email subscribers
  • Increase sales!

Next it’s useful to talk to your existing customers to find out which social media platforms they use, and then pick the 2 or 3 most popular platforms to focus your efforts on.

Often this will be Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to start with (if your customers are to be found on those platforms), adding Google+, Pinterest and Instagram once you have established a good system.

Then you need to do a little bit of housekeeping to make sure your social media business pages and profiles look professional:

  • Use eye-catching profile pictures, and cover/header images
  • Write engaging bios designed to attract your target customer, whilst also featuring your ‘keywords’ to make them SEO friendly
  • Follow key influencers within your sector/community from your business social media accounts
  • Feature your social media accounts prominently on your website, stationery, and email signatures so customers and prospects can easily find you on their preferred social media platform

The final step of the planning stage is to draft an editorial calendar highlighting the key themes you want to feature in your own content each month, so you aren’t scratching around for ideas every day. Learn more about this in ‘How to attract new customers to your business with awesome content’.

#2 Sharing Other People’s Content – 5 minutes per day

A good rule of thumb is to aim for 80% of your social media posts to comprise of sharing other people’s content.

It is widely recognised that social media users are turned off by companies that are too pushy and promotional about their own products and services.

Instead, it pays to build trust and credibility by pointing your customers towards other posts (relevant to your customers, or your sector) that will be helpful to them, or that will simply brighten up their day.

So how do you quickly find other people’s content that is worth sharing with your fans/followers?

  • Check social media updates from key influencers in your sector/community to see if there is something you’d like to share – you can use a site such as feedly to organise your preferred sources in one place to speed this process up
  • Search for content relevant to your sector on Twitter using one of your preferred #hashtags or Twitter Lists
  • Use a content search site such as Topsy to quickly find relevant articles featuring your keywords
  • Use LinkedIn Pulse for the latest news and trends in the B2B world

Once you have found a couple of interesting pieces you’d like to share, either post immediately, or save/schedule for later, to spread out your posts throughout the day/week.

The most important thing to remember about sharing other people’s content is to give credit to the original source (e.g. by tagging them in your Facebook post, or using their @ Twitter name).

Not only is this polite, but it may result in you raising your profile with the author, and they may reciprocate in future by sharing your content with their audience.

#3 Scheduling your own Content – 15 minutes per day

Only 20% of your social media posts will feature your own content, but these will be your most important 20%, and you will need to devote a little more time to these posts in order to reflect your business in the best possible light.

Again, just because it is your own content, it doesn’t need to be overly promotional. Of course, you ultimately want to sell your product or service, but it’s far more effective to use your posts to build relationships with your social media followers, which is more likely to convert them into future loyal customers, rather than scaring them off with a hard sell!

Examples of your own content to post on social media:

  • Latest website blog
  • Funny pictures (although not appropriate for LinkedIn)
  • Stories from ‘behind the scenes’ of your business
  • Helpful tips and advice on common issues your customers face
  • Market research questions to get customer feedback
  • Product spotlight, new lines, new services, etc
  • Special offers, competitions, etc…

Visual posts tend to work much better than text only posts. Canva is an excellent, free tool for creating professional-looking images, that are sized correctly for purpose, for your social media posts. I used Canva to create the image for this post.

Scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, are essential in order to organise your time effectively, so that you don’t spend all day on social media.

Use your 15 minute block of time to create a couple of posts and schedule them to go out at key times of the day when your followers will be online, or later in the week.

It’s important to allow a few minutes at the end of your session to check for any mentions of your company on social media, or direct messages (you can set these up as separate ‘streams’ in Hootsuite so you can easily see them) – so you are able to respond.

#4 Listening, Engaging, Helping – 10 minutes per day

An excellent way to build promising relationships with new prospective customers, or collaborative partners, is within social media groups, such as LinkedIn or Facebook Groups, Google+ Circles, or interacting directly with contacts on Twitter.

First you need to identify where your ideal customer is spending their time, and join the relevant groups. It’s best to focus on one or two groups well rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Start by eavesdropping, to understand the dynamics of the conversations, and where there may be opportunities for you to add value. Then gradually dip your toe in, 10 minutes a day, and join the conversation! Be friendly, be helpful, be yourself, and see where it leads…

#5 Measuring – separate session once a month

The final step in getting great results with your social media is to make sure you measure the impact your time investment in social media is having on your business.

  • Track your number of fans/followers
  • Analyse which of your posts get most likes/comments/shares
  • Monitor other business metrics such as email subscribers, website visitors and sales alongside your social activity to discover any opportunities to make improvements

30 minutes a day might not seem like long to spend on social media marketing, but if you focus on these areas to raise awareness amongst your ideal customers, and build relationships, they could be the most wisely spent 30 minutes of your day.

If you’re a small business owner looking for help with managing your social media, please get in touch.

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