We live in times where customers expect brands to be on social media platforms. Last year’s study by Hubspot revealed that today’s consumers anticipate most brands to be active on at least three to four social media platforms. The study showed that 95% of Milennials and 87% of Gen X’ers (30-44 year-olds) expect brands to have a Facebook presence. Expectations were slightly reduced when it came to Twitter, with 80% of Milennials and 77% of Gen X’ers anticipating brands to have a presence there. The expectations dropped even further in terms of Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+, with only about 50% of those polled expecting brands to be on these social media platforms.

But what does this demanding approach mean for your business if it isn’t the size of L’Oreal or Cadbury, and can’t dedicate a whole marketing department to look after your social media marketing? What if you are a small business owner who doesn’t have the luxury of passing duties off to department managers and instead spends his day constantly juggling multiple hats?

Luckily, there are some effective ways of planning ahead and making your time spent on social media more efficient. You can organize your social networks activity and save time (and money!) with these seven tips:

1. One platform at time. Many small business owners try to create presence on as many social media platforms as possible. However, it is much better to be effective using one social media platform than to use several of them poorly.  Choose the channel based on where most of your customers and prospects are, otherwise you will be wasting your precious time and resources.

2. Time is money! Set a dedicated time a day for your social media updates, even as little as 10mins a day will make a difference. Use that time to share your posts, engage, monitor conversations and respond to enquiries and feedback. Twitter users, in particular, can be rather demanding when it comes to the time of response. According to a recent study by Search Engine Watch more than 70% of Twitter users expect to hear from the brand they contacted. While 53% of Twitter users expect a response within an hour.

3. Get ahead with scheduling. Make friends with automation tools like Buffer or Hootsuite and schedule new content posts. But don’t consider it a done deal! Over-automating your social media presence will limit your chances for engagement as Social Media users look for human interaction. Pre-scheduled content is a great idea, as long as it is mixed with authentic, live engagement and conversations.

4. Take advantage of other tools. Using additional automation tools will help you to spend your time more efficiently. Some of my favorites:

SumAll- it will track your day-to-day social media growth and send you all stats via daily email

Sway – a content recommendation tool that will prepare content suggestions for you, based on posts you’ve shared in the past, interests of your followers and the genre of your brand.

Feedly – helps you to find useful and interesting content to share with your connections.

5. Create Social Media objectives. Setting goals and monitoring your results is the key to your social media success. What would you like to achieve from this? Raise brand awareness? Boost traffic to your site? Without clear aims for your activity on social channels you will remain directionless and reactive, staying always a step behind your competition. Align your social media plan with specific actions that will help you to achieve (and hopefully exceed) your objectives.

6. Think content calendar. Creating and generating a quality content for your social media posts can take a lot of your time. Your social media content calendar will help you to develop a focused editorial strategy and share relevant and engaging updates. Example: if your goal is to post 3 times a day, plan the ‘theme’ of each post, i.e. one may be sharing your new blog entry, one promoting unique selling points of your brand and one sharing a piece of news from relevant source.

7. Set up Topic Alerts. Instead of spending your valuable time on researching relevant industry news, set up a Google Alert for specified topics of your interest. Relevant content will be delivered straight to your inbox and you can select what info to share with your followers. Another great content monitoring tool, Social Mention, will allow you to filter through relevant user generated content on social media, blogs and news.

It can be very easy to get caught in the social media time trap. This is why your activity on social media channels requires discipline and focus, as well as carefully planned strategy, composed of a series of consistent and relevant steps.

One should also remember that social media is a patience game, which may be a bitter pill to swallow for many small business owners. The main aim of social media marketing is to establish trust and loyalty, deliver outstanding customer service and build a social media tribe (community) that loves and promotes your brand. But such ‘return on relationships’ takes time.

Need help with managing your social media presence? Get in touch.

Joanna Michaels

Joanna is a digital marketer, specialising in Social Media Marketing for forward thinking businesses and professional firms looking for differentiation and engagement in today's competitive marketplace. She is a founder of Beyond Social Buzz, a leading digital marketing consultancy that assists small businesses and professional firms in their social media marketing journeys.

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