No matter how small your business is, a good, strong social media strategy should be a vital part of your marketing efforts. An October 2015 study by Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of American adults surveyed use social networking sites, which means that if your business doesn't have a presence there, you're missing out on two-thirds of the U.S. population.
With dozens of social avenues to choose from, though, social media management may seem overwhelming, especially for a small business. Below are some tools and tips to effectively manage social media for your business, no matter how lean your team is.
1. Devise a manageable strategy.
Before diving in and signing up for every channel with a social aspect, get organized and be realistic about your capabilities, looking at the following categories:
- Hours per week available for social media management: This will set expectations about what you should prioritize and how many channels you should manage. Critical tasks that should be taken into account for effective social media management include:
- Design: This includes not only signing up for and populating your page with the essential elements, but working with a designer to optimize graphics for aspects such as profile banners, profile pictures and images for shared content.
- Content creation: This includes strategizing and writing posts, as well as working across multiple departments to publicize promotions.
- Content-engagement monitoring and interaction with followers: If your brand experiences negative sentiment online, or you anticipate customer service needs through these channels, allot time accordingly. To keep customers engaged, your social media manager should also be responding to comments and answering questions.
- Analytics: Monitoring of analytics, which includes sales, followers, engagement and sentiment, is imperative to refine content strategy and adjust social media management tactics for your business.
- Determining your target audience: If your product is built for businesses, look at professional sites such as LinkedIn to focus on. If you’re a storefront, establishing a presence on Google+ is essential to ensure you are search-engine-friendly. Facebook is the behemoth social media mainstay, so it should be on your list of must-have social channels.
- Determining your message: Besides increased sales, what do you want to achieve with your social media presence? Do you want your channels to act as an additional form of customer support? Do you want to distribute engaging content in hopes of its getting shared? Do you want to make new connections with leaders in your industry? Deciding on your goals will shape the messages of your channels, which should be unique to each outlet’s specific audience. As a fellow Entrepreneur writer mentioned, posting the same content repeatedly leaves followers less engaged.
2. Use tools to save you time.
Now that you have a strategy in place and know what social media channels you’ll use, what type of messaging you want to disseminate and how you’re going to monitor your successes and areas for improvement, you'll next need to put your approach into action. Thankfully, social media monitoring tools save you time as you’re managing channels and evolving strategy.
3. Use free analytics provided by each channel.
Often, social media in-house analytics tools provided by social media channels, such as those outlined by Social Media Examiner, are some of the most effective ways to keep track of data. Facebook Analytics, for example, shows page managers everything from number of visitors at varying times of the day to data on how many people carried out a negative action -- such as un-liking a page -- when interacting with a specific post.
Pinterest analytics show you the type of content your users love the most, while Twitter shows you not only yours and customers' top Tweets, but impressions and engagement. Google Analytics will show you what channels are driving traffic to your website and resulting in sales. Explore the free analytics of whatever sites you’re using, and use those insights to craft better content and optimize frequency of distribution.
4. Use free tools to manage multiple channels.
While you can use software such as Excel to keep track of messaging and ensure you’re creating unique content for each channel, a multi-channel management application can display multiple feeds at once, saving you the pain of logging into myriad sites and clicking multiple windows.
Free social media multi-channel management services, such as those endorsed by the experts here, include Hootsuite and Buffer; and pull networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, which can go into one easy-to-read window. Some, like Hootsuite, will even display additional data besides your channel content, such as interactions with your business from other brands.
5. Make social media progress easily shareable with your team.
Since social media is, well, social, you’ll want to make your strategy transparent to your team. This will not only garner you insight and suggestions from the social media users who make up your company but will incentivize them to get involved and boost your engagement by participating on your social channels.
Free project management tools such as Trello and Slack, mentioned by Social Media Today, allow you to display tasks to your team, while also allowing for global discussion.
Social media may be free, but your time is highly valuable. Continue to refine and optimize your social media strategy to maximize results, while saving your business money by taking advantage of free applications.