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Social Media for Small Businesses with “No Time”

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I completely understand why small business owners are worried about the time factor when it comes to social media. If you aren’t careful, networks like Facebook and Twitter can suck away several hours from your day, and few small businesses have the resources to allow that to happen. But don’t feel so overwhelmed with the demands of social media that you don’t give it any time at all. Even if you only have a few hours a week for you or your employees to spend on social media, you can get your company online and reap the benefits of these new platforms. Here are a few tips to help you get started with social media, even if you aren’t ready to devote you entire day to it:

  • Pick one to three sites and do them well.

New social networks and bookmarking sites are popping up every day, so it’s easy to get frustrated with the time it takes to be active on all of them. Instead of joining ten of them and doing a bad job at staying up-to-date on all of them, pick one to three sites to join and do them well. I think all small businesses should have a page on Facebook, so that should be a top priority for you, and beyond that, you can also join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Foursquare…the list goes on and on. Pick the networks that make sense for you – go where your customers are.

  • Make checking your social media sites part of your daily routine.

Every morning when you check your email, check your social media profiles as well. Respond to any complaints, thank people for compliments, and make announcements. Do this again mid-afternoon. You don’t have to live on social media; you just have to check it once or twice a day. If you make it part of your routine, it won’t seem like such a big hassle.

  • Share something new once per day.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media, don’t sweat it. Simply share something new once per day, whether that is an announcement about your company (“Hey guys, we started dipping our new chocolate-covered strawberries today!”), an interesting article you read relating to your industry (“Men’s Health has an awesome article about the health benefits of chocolate on their site right now.”), or a poll/question for your readers to answer (“Out of all the candies we make, what’s your all-time favorite?”). Stuck on what to share? Post a picture (“Here’s a snapshot of our test kitchen.”) or share “insider” information (“Today at the office, we’re testing out new lollipops. Yum!”). People love behind-the-scenes looks at their favorite companies.

  • Streamline your response to complaints.

Customer complaints are one of the biggest challenges in any business, and social media makes it extremely easy for people to take their complaints public. Instead of responding to all of them in such a public setting, streamline the process and take it private. People want to know that you’re listening, but a lengthy back-and-forth on Twitter probably isn’t how you want to spend your afternoon. Instead, make your response, “I’m sorry for *insert issue here*. Can you email *insert email address here* so I can help you?” or something similar. That way, any of your employees with access to social media can respond to the complaint while allowing you to handle the individual responses privately.

  • Hire employees you trust – and give them all access to social media.

Many of your employees probably already use social media. Give them access to your profiles or allow them to speak on behalf of the company so that you have more of a presence online. Of course, you’ll need to set some policies in place (what to talk about or not talk about, how to distinguish who is updating if multiple people have access to one account, etc.), and you definitely need to trust your employees if they’re going to be using social media on your behalf. But if you don’t have a lot of time, getting the entire company involved is a great way to make sure your company is represented online as much as possible.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Blogging is Hard (@griner)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This Week’s Theme: Blogs versus Facebook Pages for Businesses

I love the fact that this week’s #blogchat wasn’t purely for established bloggers – it was for small business owners as well. The topic, in my opinion, lent itself well to some awesome debate, since you could make a case for blogging or for using just Facebook – or for the need to do both as a small business. This week, @griner (David Griner) was the co-host, so I wanted to highlight something interesting her said:

griner: Bloggers need a reality check: What they do is hard. And doing it in corp. bureaucracy is far harder.

Most of the people participating in #blogchat are bloggers, so a lot of the advice being thrown out there was stuff about how you need both Facebook and a blog to succeed, how you can leverage one to increase the popularity of another, and so forth. But let’s not forget that the vast majority of pages on Facebook aren’t for blogs are all. They’re for brands.

And, at least in my opinion, not every brand needs a blog. What David says makes a lot of sense – blogging is super hard. It takes a lot of time, and for a business, that time might be better spent on another promotional tool. I love blogging. I really do. But your business might not need one.

Here’s the thing – if you own a small business, what would your goals be with a blog? There are some corporate blogs that are awesome. They give updates on the company, they teach their consumers something relating to the niche, or they otherwise give the business a unique way to interact. There are some really bad corporate blogs, too. They are updating infrequently because there is little to announce, they serve mainly as a promotional tool without giving away any value, and they are otherwise uninteresting. Sometimes, blogs can hurt your brand.

Facebook, on the other hand, gives you a way to make quick announcements and interact with your fanbase without having to commit to writing blog posts regularly and do all the promotional work that comes along with building blog traffic. For example, let’s say you run a small photography studio. Sure, you could start a blog that gives photography tips or makes camera recommendations, but is that kind of thing really going to bring you more business? Probably not, especially since you have a local customer pool. On the other hand, if you have a Facebook page, you could use that page to post pictures, announce upcoming specials, highlight special services you might have, and more. As fans like your stuff and interact with you on Facebook, their friends will see that activity and could decide to check you out, and there’s a higher chance that these new people coming to your page will be local. That could very easily spiral outward to bring in new business.

Of course, if you want to start a photography blog because you have interesting ideas you want to share with the world or want to run an online business through your blog, go for it! I’m not trying to suggest that small businesses shouldn’t have blogs. It can definitely work in some cases.

Just don’t feel forced into it. Sometimes, social media is really the best route to help promote your products or services.

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