Social Media Tips for the Time Poor
We live in an age where social media can sweep people to the presidency and destroy businesses by a mistaken post going viral. To stay on people’s ‘radar’ you have to pop up in their feeds and inboxes on a very regular basis. The question is how can you compete with the pop stars and big corporations which have teams of people whose job is to keep those media feeds full of posts, when you are spending your time running your business. Read on to find out how to do it without taking too much time out of your busy work day.
The truth of the matter is, contrary to what the pundits say (most of whom sell social media consulting services), social media won’t have a huge effect on your business unless you’re really good or really bad at it. As a smaller business you should treat things like facebook, instagram, twitter, youtube as a secondary tool to support promotion of your business.
But why should you even bother with it if you don’t have the time. Current marketing research shows that these days most people find business by searching the internet first. Another reason to think about it is that a lot of people use social media posts as a way to gage how good a business’s customer service and quality of work is. So you don’t have to put a large amount of time into keeping an active social media presence, you just have to be smart about how you use the time you do have.
- Tell stories and show off
There’s a golden rule with internet content: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be interesting. Social media is a great example of this. If you are proud of something you’ve done or you’ve found something interesting while on the job, then post it. It will be of far more interest to your followers than all the carefully stage managed photo shoots and professionally written ad content.
- Short is better than long for the feeds
The experts say the most effective posts come in under a hundred characters or less, depending on the service. Honestly I disagree with that, but I can understand why they do. People can get hundreds of posts a day in their feeds, and they quickly read the first few lines and move on if it’s not of interest. So have a good short title hook people in. Keep sentences short and easy to read, with no more than seven of them in a paragraph. If it’s going to be multiple paragraphs, then make that first one hook people in like they do in a newspaper article then link it to either a full blog post on a different site or have it ‘below the scroll.’ This blog post is the prime example where we have that short first paragraph hook.
- Pictures are better than text
People process visual information far easier than text so you’ll have more impact with an interesting photo than a page full of text. No need to be fancy, even simple photos grabbed with your cell phone will do the trick as long as they are interesting. Don’t forget you can upload groups of photos to tell a story and use the first one to get people interested.
- Videos are better than photos, if you have the time
Videos will always go viral far faster than photos which get more responses than text. If there is something you would send as a video to your friends then it might also make a good item for your social media. The golden rule is to keep it short. For Facebook / Instagram about 15-30 seconds gets the most responses. Twitter up to a minute while Youtube up to two minutes are the most ‘viral’. Remember you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be interesting when taking a video too. People won’t care if there are some camera shakes, it’s a bit blurry in spots, or there’s background noise, just respect their time in watching it. Oh and if you can, hold your phone landscape (wide) as that is how most people watch things and portrait shots can look odd.
- Show what you’re doing and what you’ve done
What better place to show your business off than with examples of your work than your feed. It takes little effort to upload videos, images and text. You don’t have to be fancy. You can even have a running story as each post shows the progress of a bigger project you’re working on.
- It doesn’t always have to be about your business
As the vast majority of New Zealand businesses are sole traders, you are your business. It doesn’t hurt to have the occasional post that are other peoples posts you like, or things you are doing outside of your days to day business.
- Keep it frequent
The most successful social media feeds have posts on them every day. As a small business, you don’t have time for that. As long as you have something popping up every couple of weeks, you’re more likely to remain followed. If you have followed the other tips in this list then it shouldn’t take much time at all to throw something up every couple of weeks.
- Encourage customers to link post to feeds or comments on yours
What better way to add content and get instant testimonials by encouraging your clients to make comments and links to your feed. All small businesses live and die on their word of mouth reputation, so having your happy clients commenting on your work is the best advertising you can get. Now some might worry that will encourage people to complain about you too. Instead look at it as a way to answer those complaints and put things right, which will help your reputation even more.
- Respond to others
While social media isn’t a conversation, it is a two way form of communication. It’s more than just polite to respond to peoples comments, likes, or links to your posts, it’s good business sense. This is especially true if people take to your social media to complain about your service. This is where you can sort out the problem, get direct feedback and in the end turn a bad experience for them into a good one.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to social media. There are some easy mistakes you can make that can hurt your reputation long after the post has fallen off the feed or been deleted.
- Not having a business social media accounts
The biggest first mistake that a lot of businesses do is that they start using their personal social media account to promote their business. Not only is it contrary to the terms of most social media platforms, you must register your account as a business if you talk about your business on it, but it makes it very hard to keep your personal and business lives apart. It helps keep you in the right mindset to talk about business on the business account and be personal on the personal account. It’s not hard to set up an account under a business name and it then allows you access to commercial features that you can use to help promote your business in new ways too.
- Never post right away
Most people think of social media like it’s a conversation, you can say something to a few people then it’s gone for good. If you make a mistake or say/do something ill advised, it will only be known by a few people and be forgotten eventually. It’s not a conversation, it’s the internet. Once you have posted something it’s there forever even if you delete it as someone will save it and bring it back up in the future. Also once you have put it out there you no longer control it so it can spread out in ways you can never expect. Best way to avoid making these mistakes is to always ‘sleep on it.’ On the following day if it still feels like a good post then it is.
- Stick to what your business is about
While we noted above that linking others posts or what you are doing outside your business is a great way to help build up your feed, remember your social media posts are a tool for promoting your business first and foremost. Make the majority of what you post about the business in some form because that is why people have you on their feed, not because of the things you do outside the business.
- Being topical is dangerous
What do we mean by that? While it might seem easy to comment on some item in the news or the latest post others feed, there’s a high risk of making a horrible mistake that the internet will never let you forget. Do you know what you’re commenting about is accurate? Will it come across in a negative light? Are you choosing to stake your post on the unpopular side of the issue? Even the professional social media people can make poor judgement calls when they try to be topical. Best to avoid the problem and stick to posts directly related to what your business is doing.
- Don’t try and be a brand or character, just be you
You might have noticed over the last few years that every big company has suddenly got a lot more ‘character driven’ in the social media space. Take the fast food chains, each brand has a style of posts or responses, Wendy’s is sassy, KFC is homespun, etc. While this is more a thing you see in larger countries, even here in NZ businesses will often try to evoke response in those who read the posts. Again this is the domain of the full time social media teams who have market researched the life out of their customers and know exactly what gets the best response from them. You don’t have the time or budget for that. As the vast majority of businesses in New Zealand are 1-5 people, you are the people that customers are going to meet when they use your services, so you might as well be the same person online too.
- Choosing quantity over quality
Given the instant nature of social media, it’s all too easy to start making posts about anything that catches your attention. This is a dangerous thing to do, as it can lead to the habit of posting every little thing you see or do. We all have those people in our feeds who have the compulsion to document their lives and in the process spam our accounts. People are willing to put up with that from friends and family, they won’t from businesses. Fill up people’s feeds with too many posts and they will stop following you and be less positive to you in the future for being a spammer.
- Trying to be funny
Unless your job is humour related, it can be risky to tell jokes or post ‘funny memes’ on your feeds. You don’t know who is going to be looking at it and a joke that is fine among your friends could leave a bad taste in someone else’s mouth. While a bit of good nature fun is alright, don’t go out of your way to be funny, your account is to promote your business and it’s better to be a little boring but professional than to be funny and be thought of as a joke.
So let us review what you should remember to keep in mind when doing social media.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect, just interesting
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Video is more effective than photos, photos are more effective than text.
- Be regular in your posts but don’t spam their feeds.
- Talk about your business and what is interesting about it or is useful for people to know.
- Quality over quantity
- Be you, but you the professional not you the person after working hours.
And that is it, a few tricks to help make it easier to keep up with an active social media marketing. Stick to those principles and you shouldn’t have too much trouble in keeping the feed ticking over in the background and promoting what you do.