Social Media Tips for Small Businesses4 SEP
I’m not going to explain why businesses need to use social media; it is a given by now. Everyone knows they need to do it. The problem is - for smaller businesses - a lack of time, budget or know-how can stand in the way of cultivating and maintaining a fruitful and engaging social media presence.
Here’s where we come in. This blog will give you a few tips and resources to make managing your business’ social media accounts easier. Even if you don’t have much time, or the resource to hire a dedicated social manager, here’s how to work with what you’ve got to ensure your activity has a positive impact.
How to manage social media accounts
1. Be realistic
Yes, you need to take social media seriously. However, you also need to be wary of biting off more than you can chew.
Start by realistically appraising your potential social media capacity, in terms of both time and budget. If you can't hire a dedicated social media manager or outsource the management of your accounts, you need to plan your investment very carefully.
Look at the platforms most suited to your product and audience and focus on building a strong presence there. Put your energy into a select few social networks. Post regular, quality content, and attempt to engage with and respond to your fans. Don’t take a scatter approach and spread yourself too thin across numerous sites. It is likely you will end up posting only infrequently, losing track of your fans and potentially wasting your efforts on platforms that your customers don’t even use.
Even if you know you can’t commit to hiring in talent, this is the point at which some investment would come in handy, working with an agency (like, oh, I don’t know...us) to help get things started. A digital agency can identify who your audience is and how best to reach them. They can take this information to develop a realistic strategy tailored for you, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to better manage your own accounts.
2. Put aside regular time
Even when you’re busy, try to dedicate time regularly to keep up with your social accounts. Scheduling a few short check-ins a day will do. Once you’ve invited your customers to talk to you on social media, you need to make sure you’re there to talk back.
3. Set your ‘opening hours’
If you’re a retailer, arguably the most important aspect your social activity is customer service. Most customers will turn to Twitter or Facebook in the first instance if they have a question, concern or complaint.
The internet never closes. Customers will fire off messages as and when they feel like it and - in our culture of instant gratification- can quickly get frustrated if they don’t get a speedy response.
Very few companies, even big, global brands, are able to offer 24/7 customer support. However, you can help manage your customers’ expectations by clearly stating your customer support ‘open hours’ on your social channels.
You can also set up an autoresponder on Facebook to let customers who inquire out of hours know when they can expect a response, like this one I recently received when I contacted beauty brand Deciem.
3. Make use of downtime
You want to release a steady stream of valuable content to your fans and followers. Understandably, this can be very challenging when you’re already pressed for time. Use your slower days to build up a bank of useful content: write blog posts, find articles worth sharing, note down any questions you’d like to pose. You can get really organised by creating a content calendar.
Hubspot, an ever-useful resource for all things social, have created this free template to help you organise your posts. With this resource, your social streams will remain consistently engaging, even when you’re too busy to create new content.
4. Use Twitter Lists
Twitter’s Lists function is very useful for keeping track of the accounts you follow. You can choose to make Lists public or private ( because you may - for example - like to keep tabs on your competition, but you may not want them to be aware of this, nudge, nudge, wink, wink). For brightfive, I have created a list of many of our key clients; a list of suppliers, colleagues and freelancers we work with; a list of local businesses and news outlets; and a list of brightfive employees’ personal accounts. This way, if I want news or updates from our key people, I can filter out all other distracting content and quickly scan my feed for what’s relevant.
5. Social media management tools
There are a baffling number of social media management tools available - some free, some by subscription. There are many articles dedicated to weighing up the pros and cons of all the different tools out there. I won't fill valuable page space here going over it all again.
I will, however, speak briefly about Hootsuite which is the tool we use. Hootsuite can be run from your desktop or mobile and allows you to have 5 social media stream free. Alternatively, you can upgrade to one of their paid plans which offer a greater number of streams and other bonuses such as the ability to add multiple users.
My favourite Hootsuite features include:
- The Twitter Search feature - from each account you can set different Search streams. Hootsuite will constantly search Twitter for your chosen term and update your stream accordingly. This means you’ll never miss someone mentioning say, brightfive, again, even if they don’t directly mention the @brightfive handle.
- Scheduled updates - you can set your updates to post automatically at a chosen time and date. Perfect if you’ve got a particularly busy few days ahead, if you’re going to be out of the office for a while, or if you want your tweet to coincide with a particular event. There is also the option to auto-schedule your message. This means that Hootsuite will calculate the best time to send your message for optimal impact.
- Analytics - the Analytics tab gives you an easy-to-understand overview of your key Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram metrics. You can quickly and simply create custom, automatically generated regular reports. All this helps you to understand the impact your social activity is having to help you identify what you’re doing right and what isn’t working.
So, there are a few basic pointers for maintaining your social media presence. If you're interested in learning more about increasing your brand's effectiveness on social media, just drop us a line, we'd love a chat with you.
This blog was originally posted in 2015 and has been revised with updated content.