When used strategically and consistently, social media can maximize your chances of business success more effectively than just about anything else. The out-of-pocket costs are next to nothing for what you get out of it, and the tools needed are equally available to most small and independent business owners. For many reasons, I believe that we are living in a time when Indies can make the best use of social media because we can use it quickly and without having to sort through multiple levels of beurocracy as large companies must.
But if you're not careful, social media can eat you up and spit you out before you can say “Tweet Me.” I've been sucked in many times, but over the years, have made certain activities a part of my social media routine. It's a constant challenge, I must admit, but there are some specific things I do to keep from being thrown to the social media lions.
- Establish a routine. Like many things in business, social media time can be scheduled in advance. Using a basic framework for daily productivity flow, I devote specific blocks of time each week to different outlets. I do vary the routine. After all, social media is “social,” and you cannot always predict which direction a conversation will take you. Even so, I generally move in and out of social places during certain times of day, keeping the rest of my day free for projects, meetings and responding to phone calls and email.
- Automate a small number of Tweets, and schedule FaceBook updates. I once automated Tweets frequently in the name of efficiency, but I stopped because I think authenticity and real-time presence serves me and my friends and customers best. The one category of scheduled Tweets I think is helpful is the re-sharing of relevant blog posts. For example, a few times a week, I use HootSuite or Tweetdeck to automate re-posts of articles I think will be useful to you, but which you might have missed when they were originally published. Examples are here and here.
I also automatically feed blog posts to my FaceBook Profile Page and Business Page. (I do not automatically feed my blog to Twitter. I manually Tweet my posts so they are conversational in and of themselves.) After the posts appear on FaceBook, I sometimes quickly leave a comment that lets people know why I think the article will be useful to them. This often starts useful converations and sharing.
While FaceBook updates cannot be automated in advance, they can be planned for in advance. Schedule an appropriate number of visits to your FaceBook Page each week for specific purposes, such as commenting on a blog post you fed there, asking your fans a question or hosting a regularly scheduled “event,” along the lines of WorkOut Wednesday or Small Business Roll Call. Create events that appeal to your fans and schedule them regularly.
- Hire help. By paying close attention to how you use social media, you will discover patterns that other people can duplicate so you can focus on leading your business. For example, my assistant checks to make sure that my feeds are accurately posted to FaceBook. She also duplicates podcast announcements at my FaceBook events tab and my social network's events calendar. These activities are important, but they do not require my hands on attention. Having someone else perform them frees me to focus on projects that only I can handle.
- Use a reader. I love Google Reader, and I highly recommend it to aggregate all of the feeds you like to read every day. It is unnecessary to visit all of the blogs you love one at a time. Push them to Google Reader where you can see all of them at once. If you see something you want to comment on, it's easy to click the post to leave your comment, then return to the reader to skim for more posts.
About Hiring Help
Many small business owners tell me that they cannot afford to hire people to help them perform routine tasks. I don't think that's true. How much more successful could your business be if you paid someone $20 or $30 an hour to perform tasks you don't have to perform, so you would have more time to proactively market your business, talk with customers or respond to media leads? Even if you only break even on the amount you pay out each week, you are incrementally adding more value to your business by focusing on tasks that need your exclusive attention instead of on things you can train someone else to do.
To see more about how hiring someone can help your business, read this short interview with my friend and IBN member Joan Morais, and find out why Joan says paying her assistant is “the best money she spends!”
Question: Are these tips helpful? How do you tame the social media beast?