I’ve been speaking at a lot of events lately about social media, entrepreneurship and marketing. The one key message that I keep hearing from business owners is their feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the numerous social-media platforms and the lack of time they have to participate in even one of them. They already have to deal with all the other aspects of running their business, so how can they possibly find any more time?
Some business owners have resorted to outsourcing their social-media activities. Others are throwing their hands up and screaming for help.
Here are some ways you can start feeling less overwhelmed and more empowered by the tools available to you:
- Social media is a tool, not a burden: The first step is a shift in attitude. Don’t fear social media. Most people have conquered how to use a telephone or email over the years. Social media is simply another tool to help you communicate with clients, potential clients and an expanded audience. The tools are there to empower you and make you more efficient, not the other way around.
- Have a plan: Understand what you’re trying to achieve. At the very least, you should be managing your brand and reputation. Set your objectives and targets so you can measure whether you’re effective.
- Determine where your audience is: Before you choose the specific social-media communication tool, figure out who you’re communicating with and where they spend their time. Facebook continues to be the most used social-media site, but other popular ones in Canada include Tumblr, Twitter and LinkedIn. You should also understand the demographics for your industry. Pinterest, another popular and fast-growing site, is dominated by women at an 8:2 ratio. So if, for example, you’re in the spa or retail business catering to a female clientele, you should probably be on Pinterest.
- Choose the social-media tools that work best for you: If you’re a great writer with good content to share, then writing blog posts makes sense for you. If you’re grammatically challenged but are great on camera, try posting video clips on YouTube instead to share your ideas.
- Stay focused: Master one platform before you move on. If a new social-media tool comes along, don’t be distracted by the “new shiny object.” Determine how much time you have weekly or monthly to allocate to investigating the new tools.
- Reserve your name: Even if you aren’t actively using each social-media site, it’s important to be proactive and at least reserve your name and your company’s name so your competition doesn’t snap it up first. It takes only a few minutes to set up your profile. The website NameChk allows you to check your name across a variety of different sites.
- Budget your time: There’s no question that social media can suck up time—and time, of course, is money. Determine how much time you will allocate to social media and prioritize this activity against the other things you need to accomplish each day. And stick to your schedule.
- Use automated tools where appropriate: There are people who are completely against scheduling posts. I take a more practical approach. I engage in direct conversations in real time when I can. However, I am often up late at night when everyone else is sleeping, so it makes little sense to post messages then. I use HootSuite to schedule messages during times that I know my audience will be listening. And this tool allows me to choose which messages I post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ at the same time.
- Measure your effectiveness: The ROI from social media is complex and difficult to measure because it’s part of a “multi-touch” approach to lead generation. Survey your customers periodically to find out how they found you and whether social media was part of that touch point.
- Share good content: Try to give value to your audience by sharing good content. Develop a trusted community of people who you interact with who will reciprocate by sharing your content.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes: “Social media is word of mouth powered by technology.”
This column is reposted with the permission of Business in Vancouver, which posted it originally on www.biv.com.
Cybele Negris is president and co-founder of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca Inc., Canada’s original .ca registrar and one of the country’s leading providers of web hosting and other internet solutions. She has been on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs for the past nine years.
More columns by Cybele Negris
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