Did you know that 43% of small businesses spend six or more hours a week on social media? Connecting with customers is a vital task for any small company—but it’s awfully time-consuming, too. And as we learned from our interview with DreamHost’s Director of Product, the number one resource that small businesses value is their time.
Fortunately, social media doesn’t have to be a timesuck. The same technology that makes social media possible can also make business tasks go faster. Here are a few tips for making sure that when it comes to social media, your small business accounts work as hard as you do:
Limit yourself to two or three platforms
From Twitter to Tumblr to Snapchat, there are a lot of social media sites and apps out there that everyone seems to be using—plus another dozen you’ve probably never used or even heard of. However, being active on social media doesn’t have to mean using every social media platform there is. Choose just two or three and learn to use them expertly, rather than floundering your way through them all.
In order to determine which two or three to pick, figure out where your business’s audience already is. In order to find out, you could conduct a survey on your mailing list. Or you could check Google Analytics to see which social media sites most readers use to find your website by looking under Acquisitions → Social. A third way would be to see where your competitors and other influencers in your niche spend their digital free time.
Once you’ve narrowed down your social media targets, it’ll be a lot easier to focus on offering quality content for your audience. (Plus, since you’ve only got a few places in which to learn the ropes, you won’t have to worry as much about making embarrassing social media snafus! Not that you ever would. We believe in you.)
Small business owners run into trouble when they pencil in multiple times a day to check up on social media. In reality, the less time you allot for social media, the fewer times you’ll be tempted to distract yourself on social media. That’s why we recommend picking one day a week to schedule all of your social media posts in advance.
Pick one day, ideally at the beginning or the end of your workweek, and assign a time to check up on all things social media. You’ve got your pick of tools to choose from. Schedulers like Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social all allow you to sync multiple social media accounts and plan your posts in advance. You could also use If This Then That to apply a rule. (For example, “If I add a new item to my Etsy shop, automatically post a photo of it on my Instagram.”)
You may not be able to avoid the siren call of social media for a full week. But even when you sign on during other days, you can focus on interacting with potential clients and rest assured that all your posts and announcements have been automated already.
Scheduling a week’s worth of social media in advance might seem daunting if you’re worrying about where all that content is going to come from. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Chances are you already see a lot of share-worthy content online that is extremely relevant to your business. For example, if you run a grocery for people with food allergies, you probably read a lot of articles about food and health in the news. Perhaps you’ve read relevant blog posts from chefs or health advocates. These types of content may come from other people, but as long as you give credit where it’s due, there’s no reason you can’t share these links.
Sharing other people’s work isn’t just a useful way to provide content to your audience—it’s also just a nice thing to do. When you promote other people’s work (with attribution) on your social media accounts, it’s likely they’ll notice and perhaps even return the favor. Get into the habit of bookmarking helpful missives from other people so you can schedule them into posts.
Get a little help from your fans
In the same way, you can get social media help a little closer to home—by gently encouraging the people who already love your business to make it a point of discussion on social media.
The easiest way to do this is to make your website effortlessly shareable. You can use the Social Bookmarks or Shareaholic plugin for WordPress to add one-click share buttons for a variety of different social media sites to each post and page. Since images improve shares, you can also use a plugin like WP Facebook Open Graph Protocol to ensure that your posts automatically include a featured image when they are posted to Facebook.
Another, less subtle way to get a little help? Just ask. If you have a business making jewelry, invite customers to share photos of how they’ve accessorized their outfits with your baubles. Or if you provide a service that isn’t photographable, ask clients if you can share their short testimonials on your social media accounts. If you’re doing good work, people will be happy to oblige.
Social media doesn’t have to be a chore. By narrowing the amount of time you dedicate to social scheduling, limiting the accounts you choose to use, and widening the network you use to find posting content, you can cut your social media slog down drastically and use that newfound time doing what you do best—creating a business you are passionate about.
With contributions from Lauren Orsini of the Hippo Thinks research network.
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