No time to tweet? How to squeeze social media into your schedule

Feb 04, 2013
No time to tweet? How to squeeze social media into your schedule

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn, you’ve got to market your business on social media sites, experts say.

But who has the time? Most small business owners have their hands full serving customers, supervising employees and ordering inventory. Half of them say they don’t bother with social media because there are so many sites to manage, according to “The State of Social Media in Small Business,” a 2011 survey by Social Strategy1.

But there are ways to keep things fresh without spending all your time at the keyboard. We’ve compiled some tips on effective – and efficient – use of social media to promote your products or services.

Create a content calendar. Plan ahead so you don’t waste time coming up with stuff to post. Make an event-based social media schedule for the year, says VerticalResponse, a San Francisco firm that provides marketing solutions for small businesses. A restaurant might tweet in early February about its Valentine’s Day dinner menu. In the fall, retailers could announce back-to-school sales on their Facebook walls. Some sites, such as Facebook, actually allow users to backdate or schedule future posts.

There’s an app for that. Take advantage of software programs designed to manage social media. HootSuite, Buffer and Sprout Social are especially good tools for small businesses, according to Francisco Meza, founder of Planet Marketing, an Internet marketing firm. The three programs are free or under $39 a month. They can streamline your social media efforts by assembling everything “under one roof.”

Engage your customers. Ask them which social media site is their favorite. Focus most of your attention there, be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest. And remember to encourage interaction, since social media involves a dialogue, not a monologue, says Britt Michaelian, founder of Work Smart Lifestyle. Pose a question. Post a survey. Invite feedback. Let them do the talking.

Analyze this. Use the various analytics tools to gauge what’s working – and what’s not – on your page, advises Anna Cashman of Deskwanted, a site for mobile workers and telecommuters. Most social media sites have their own version of these tools, which reveal who’s visiting your site and where they’re spending most of their time. They include Facebook’s Insights and Pinterest’s PinReach. HootSuite also has a one-stop-shop tool that measures traffic and users for all of your social media efforts.

Got 90 minutes to spare? Register for “Let’s Get Social: How to Use the Power of Social Media to Grow Your Business,” a free workshop from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in Norfolk. Led by Virginia Beach social media consultant Ed Sykes, the workshop is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, the Norfolk Department of Development and The Sykes Group.