Q: As a small business owner, I’m constantly busy—and now people are telling me I should be spending more time on the Internet, too! I want to connect with my customers online, but I’m concerned that Facebook and Twitter will turn into time-sucks, and I can’t afford to waste any time. How much time should I be spending promoting my business on social media?
A: This is the question I hear more than any other at our monthly social media clinics. There’s obviously no one “correct” answer: every business is unique. Instead of giving you a specific amount of time, let me suggest a different way to think about the question.
Social media are about relationship building. Succeeding online is about talking—but also about listening. The Internet can help you connect with your customers even when they’re not in your store, or otherwise using your services, and it can help you attract the attention of new customers. It can also help you find out what your competitors are up to, and what’s happening in your neighborhood and industry. You’re right, you could sit online all day every day—but you know when you’re needed IRL (in real life), and when enough is enough.
Instead of setting out a block of time—for example, from 8:00 to 9:00 every morning—think of how you can use social media to connect with your current and potential customers throughout the day. Just make a beautiful floral arrangement? Share a photo on Instagram! Just find out about a new store opening next door to yours? Tweet about it! Planning a sale? Make an event on Facebook! Taking a minute here and there to share your news can be more effective, and quicker, than trying to execute a grand plan each day.
Also, don’t forget to listen. If you have a few minutes of down time, see what people are talking about on Twitter or Facebook. That may sound exhausting at first, but soon you’ll find that social media are becoming easier to navigate and that you’re reaping enjoyment—and maybe even cash—from the time you spend online.
Learn more about how to effectively use social media at Jay Gabler’s next social media clinic on July 25. This, and all our other upcoming media skills classes, are featured on our classes page. Have a question for our geeks? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave your question as a comment below.