In an ideal world, every business, from a mom-and-pop to the international grocery powerhouse you hate to need, would have at least one dedicated full-time social media manager. Or, since we’re talking in ideal terms, a multi-person social media and external communications team. But, a quick glance at the room temperature coffee by your keyboard, and the sudden realization that you’ve been sitting in your less-than-ergonomic office chair for the past two hours with the posture of Notre Dame’s guardian will indicate that this is far from an ideal world.

While every business owner may not be able to afford a social media manager, every business does need a web presence. If you’re basically your business’s entire C-Suite, just go for the bare necessities: a website and a Facebook page to provide your company information, including who you are and what you do. (A website may sound daunting, but plenty of sites like WordPress, Weebly and Wix make the web — and alliteration — easy.) You want to provide a resource for your customers and potential customers to access when they need your phone number, address and hours, as well as any other pertinent information, rather than making them rely on a possibly incorrect and probably out-of-date third party website for your information.

(If creating this basic web presence is still too time consuming or overwhelming for you, hire a freelancer. You can hire someone from Fiverr or a similar site, or a local teenager. Chances are, 95% of your patron’s children could set these up in about 10 minutes without breaking a sweat.)

If you can swing just a few more hours per week to maintain a social presence, you’ll be able to engage your current customers, inform your potential customers, and create a brand awareness in your community. It may seem scary, but if my hunt-and-peck typist of a father can maintain a consistent Facebook presence, so can you.

1. Know your audience.
Who are your current customers? What kind of customers do you want to attract? If you’re a business owner, you probably know the answer to that question already. But, your audience on social media could be drastically different, especially across different platforms. For example, you could be very popular among middle-aged women on Facebook and 13-18 year-old males on Twitter, but your main customer base is actually senior citizen veterans. Most sites, Facebook and Twitter included, will provide you the analytics of your platform audience.

The content you post should largely hinge on your audience, both current and desired, and the platform. But, I’ll elaborate on those later. If your customer base actually is senior citizen veterans, patriotic posts may be your thing. But, if you want to attract a younger audience, you’ll likely need to be a little more irreverent, and definitely more casual. Taylor Swift is a fantastic example of knowing her audience.

2. Know your platform
If you don’t understand Snapchat, chances are you shouldn’t be on it right now. Having a strong social presence takes time and, if you don’t have much of that to spare, it’s vital that you don’t spread yourself too thin. A Twitter account with one post every four months can look just as bad, if not worse, than no Twitter account at all. So, before you start creating accounts in every social medium, step back and consider 1) what that particular platform can do for your business, and 2) how much time you’ll be able to devote to it. If you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve broken it down below, but this is also a good place to begin.

Facebook: We’ve all heard that kids and teens aren’t on Facebook anymore because their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles have profiles. But, that means that everyone else is on Facebook. The social giant averages almost 1 billion (yes, “billion” with a B!) unique visitors every month. Get on Facebook. Try to post once every day, but no more than three times each day. No one likes their newsfeed to be saturated with whatever it is you’re trying to sell.

Twitter: Roughly 310,000,000 unique monthly visitors. Twitter is a fantastic venue for releasing news quickly, but if you’re not posting often and regularly, or you’re not posting relevant information, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Twitter may also not be for you. If you sell a product or own a boutique, for instance, Pinterest or Instagram may suit you better than Twitter because of the visual opportunities.

Instagram: If you can tell a visually compelling story, Instagram provides a much less needy audience (est. 100,000,000 unique visitors every month). Like Facebook, you don’t want to post too much, but you can also get away with only posting a few times a week. But, because Instagram only allows picture posts, think long and hard over what you would share.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a wonderful site if you have the time to devote to it. It isn’t demanding in the sense that you should post X times a day. But, you do want to have carefully curated boards. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library doesn’t sell a product (like many companies on the site), but they have several pin boards that provide resources and ideas for anyone who visits their page. The platform has 250,000,000 unique monthly visitors, and they’re mostly women.

Snapchat and Tumblr: If you’re reading this in sincerity, then, no, you probably don’t have time for either of these.

3. Know your voice.
Social media is beautifully casual, and it’s almost expected for most brands to be just as casual. (Unless you’re a bank or something else kind of boring. If that’s the case … break the mold!) But, beyond your cool, casual tone, who are you? What sets you apart? Are you funny? Snarky? Inspirational? Witty? Informative? Thought-provoking? You don’t have to be just one thing all the time, but you do need to be consistent.

It’s also a good idea to have a second set of eyes review all posts to avoid making a list of social media don’ts. If you’re using Hootsuite, there is an option built-in to require posts to be reviewed before it goes live.

4. Know your strategy.
It’s immeasurably helpful to have a social media strategy to reference and to make sure everyone is on the same page. Much of the three previous points tie into this, but a good strategy will outline several key factors:
Who will post?
How often will you post, and to which platforms?
What will your content be?
What are your goals? Growth? Sales? Loyalty? Brand Awareness?
How will you track your progress? (Again, many sites provide analytics.)

Hootsuite University provides many resources to get you started. (As does a Google search.)

5. Know your plan.
Technically, I mean more that you should plan ahead, but I obviously had a theme going and didn’t want to break it.

If you only have a little bit of time every week to dedicate to social, make it easy on yourself. Take a few hours every Monday to plan each post for the week. These posts should be exact, so that you can just copy and paste when you’re ready. Sites like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to schedule your posts, so once you’ve planned everything on Monday, you don’t technically have to do anything the rest of the week.

Pictures and videos tend to perform better across all platforms, but they’re exceptions to the scheduling rule. Facebook has built-in scheduler to make your life easier, but Twitter doesn’t. If you do plan to schedule your posts on Twitter, my preference is to post photos and videos directly from Twitter. But, Hootsuite does allow you schedule photo posts.

If you have any other tips that I failed to mention, or have comments or questions, feel free to let me know in the comments section below or reach out to me directly.

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