For small businesses, social media can be a highly attractive and seductive creature because from the outside looking in, it’s a low-cost activity that can drive their communication, marketing and sales activities.
The harsh truth, however, is social media can be an “expensive” proposition for small businesses because it consumes their scarcest resource: time.
To be successful at social media, companies (big or small) have to devote enough time and resources (aka people) to create content, engage and monitor activity.
It may not cost a lot of money in terms of dollars and cents but the non-monetary costs (time, people, energy) can be expensive, especially when they compete against other things a small business could be doing.
So how can small businesses be successful at social media? Here are few tips:
1. Create a strategic plan with well-defined goals and objectives. Whether it’s a small or large company, it is crucial to know why you want to plunge into social media and what you want to get out of it. Too many companies, particularly small ones, rumble into social media without a plan of attack or a clue of what they want to get out of it, and then wonder why their efforts are ineffective.
2. Align your social media activities with the available resources. If you’re an entrepreneur with an hour to spend on social media each day or you’re able to have an employee or intern spend a couple of hours a day on social media, it is important to make sure these resources are effectively focused to generate the maximum return. It may mean only having a single social media service as opposed to several but I always stress that it’s better to do one thing really well rather than multiple things in a mediocre way.
3. Be realistic about about your goals and objectives. Small businesses don’t have large teams they can throw at social media so wild success – e.g. thousands of followers and “Likes” – may be unrealistic. Instead, small business should focus on quality rather than quantity. Aim to hit a series of well-stroked singles rather than home runs. This will keep your expectations at a reasonable level while providing room to eventually hit doubles and maybe triples and home runs down the road.
4. Remember that social media is not a short-term, quick-return proposition. Instead, it’s an activity that needs to happen on a day in, day out basis with progress measured in inches rather than miles. At the same time, you can’t go through the motions and expect to be successful; you need to be creative, engaged and pro-active.
5. Enjoy your successes, even the small ones. If you get a 100 followers on Twitter, for example, that’s cause for celebration. If a blog comment attracts a lot of traffic or a bunch of comments, put the spotlight on that as well. Social media is hard work so you need to pat yourself on the back when milestones are achieved.