Three Secrets to Social Media Success
Managing your small business’ social media can be time intensive. Writing and managing content is a full-time job; and for many small businesses with a small staff it can be an overwhelming prospect. The good news is there are some simple ways to approach your social media communications so that your campaigns are consistent, cohesive, engaging for your followers and at the same time, frees you up to focus on other day-to-day business activities.
The First Secret of Social Media: Planning. Planning is THE essential step to building and maintaining a productive social media presence. First, you need to think about what your main communication objective will be. Are you educating your readers about your product? Building brand awareness? Establishing your credibility? Or starting a conversation? Knowing your communication objective will impact your posts and go a long way toward building strong communication channels.
Plan out what you would like to post. Make sure that your posts all relate directly to your main communication objective. This will help to give you a focus and reduces the amount of frustration you get from figuring out your post on the fly. Executing your ideas faster will save vast amounts of time for other critical business functions. Do you still need help coming up with creative blog post ideas? Maybe you have a case of Blank Blog Page Syndrome?
These days, there are so many ways to keep track of your social media content. Planning can be much easier with some help from content calendars. Editorial calendars help to keep all of your posts, ideas and content in one place for easy viewing and management. While a quick google search for content calendars yields a variety of options, here are a few of my favorites.
Google Docs – Sometimes simple is best. A Google Docs spreadsheet can give you and your team a sharable document that can be built quickly and updated easily. Google Docs is a free application but does require someone to build it and maintain the spreadsheet on a regular basis.
WordPress Editorial Calendar – If you happen to be a WordPress user with a blog, you may like the Editorial Calendar plug-in. This free plug-in can be easily added to your site and will help you manage multiple blogs. You can schedule, edit and manage your blog posts directly from the calendar. While this is a great tool for WordPress bloggers, it does not cover any other social media platforms your business may be using.
Trello – The Trello app offers companies a workflow system featuring boards with task lists, checklists and the ability to add comments and documents from other applications. This is a great tool for teams as each person can work from their own color-coded checklist. Viewers can easily see completed tasks which helps to keep the content workflow moving among team members. Trello offers a free version and you can upgrade to a more robust version starting at $9.99 per month for one user.
CoSchedule – The most comprehensive marketing calendar on this list, CoSchedule, is also the most expensive. Starting at $15 for one user, but scalable for team needs, this application integrates well with WordPress, Google Docs, Evernote, and more. Users are able to see all of the scheduled posts across multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, etc) in a calendar view. Publishing and managing posts can be done directly in the app too. This calendar is best for more complex content but offers some great integration perks that users love.
Once you choose a tool that works best for your business, planning your social media posts and writing them will become much easier and more routine.
The Second Secret to Social Media: Choose Carefully. There are so many ways to reach your target market, it can be confusing to figure out which platforms to use. Twitter or Instagram? Facebook or Snapchat? While it may be tempting to have a presence on all platforms, I would advise against it. Most businesses don’t have endless marketing resources to manage every platform and I would venture to guess that your customers don’t use every platform either. Stretching your company resources too thin will lead to a diluted message and ineffective content, not to mention frustration for everyone.
Instead, know who your customer is. Know how to reach them. Use the platforms that the majority of your customers use. Stick to a few that make the most sense. You can always expand your social media presence to other platforms as your routines improve and you learn from your customers where they like to spend their time. Once a year take time to evaluate your current platforms and customer needs to make sure you are using the platforms that best suit you as your business evolves.
The Third Secret to Social Media: Automation (sort of). Now that you have your posts planned and social media platforms chosen, the next step is to automate some of your activities. We can rely on some great tools to keep things running smoothly. Each social media platform; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have scheduling tools built into them. These can help you plan posts ahead of time; scheduling them on the days and times that work best for your business. Make a weekly appointment with yourself to schedule posts for the week or month ahead. Keep this appointment for the same day and time so that it becomes part of your weekly routine. If you use the scheduling function, you have more flexibility to make this appointment with yourself during off-hours where you aren’t consumed with other business functions.
If you want to take it a step further, you can look for a tool that allows you to schedule and publish your posts all from one dashboard. Tools like Buffer, HooteSuite, SproutSocial,and HubSpot are just a few available. Most have a free trial period and offer apps for your mobile phone so you can follow your activity from anywhere. These tools can save you even more time by allowing you to set up posts and schedules from just one screen.
Automating some of the routine things you do will further free you up to manage your daily business. But beware of over-automation. While all of these tools give us the ability to set up posts and move on with your task list, it is easy to fall into the trap of “set it and forget it”. Use some of the time you have saved from scheduling and writing your posts for follow-up and personal engagement with your customers. Make sure that your posts don’t appear too robotic. Allow your business personality to shine through your posts. Engage, add spontaneity and occasionally, have a bit of fun with it. Our personal relationships are not set on autopilot and neither should our business relationships. Automate where you can but don’t forget to keep the “social” in social media.
Let’s face it. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of planning, managing and executing your social media communications. But don’t forget the reason you are doing this in the first place: to build a relationship with your customers and future customers. The best business (and personal) relationships are built on honesty, authenticity and personal interaction. Keep these tenants at the heart of all your communications and you will have stronger and better engagement with all of your customers and prospects.
Managing your content and social media can be a big challenge for a small business, but armed with a few secrets and a few great tools, it IS possible to have a great social media presence AND spend more time growing your business.