twitter birdieThink you’re too busy for social media? Think again. The fact is, if you don’t use social media, you may find yourself struggling to stay connected to customers, which in turn can lead to declining sales. And then you may find yourself not so busy any more.

You don’t have to spend hours on Twitter or Facebook to get results. What many small business owners fail to understand is that it’s not the time you put into social media that matters. It’s how smart your strategy is. Here are some proven social media strategies that will help boost your business without sucking up all your time.

1. Go for Quality Over Quantity

Maybe your competitor has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter while you have only a few thousand. It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t do something silly like paying for followers just to keep up. What matters is that the followers you have are engaged. You will reap far more rewards from 20 active followers who retweet your information than 2,000 bot-followers who never interact with you.

2. Let People Get to Know You

sm friends

Consumers follow companies on social media sites not to get the latest deal, though that’s a nice benefit, or hear a load of sales talk. No, their real purpose is to get to know the company and decide if they want to give them their business. Allow them to get a glimpse of who you are. Highlight your employees on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Show them your personality. Demonstrate what’s important to you. This can be more effective than a big sales push.

3. Outsource If You Need to

Many people look at “outsourcing” as a dirty word. But that’s an outdated belief. In truth, outsourcing can save you valuable time and even money on social media, when you know exactly what you want. If you struggle with posting and take 45 minutes to craft a tweet, it’s more cost-effective to pay a freelance writer to take care of the task, freeing you up for other important work.

Just make sure you choose someone experienced and trustworthy; this is your brand’s reputation on the line, after all.

4. Follow Other People & Follow Up

Sometimes businesses get so wrapped up in producing their own social media content that they forget they also need to follow others in order to gain notice. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest you should be following your competitors as well as people you want to sell to, for two main reasons. One, social media networks suggest people for others to follow, and aligning yourself with a common interest increases the chance you’ll come up as one of those suggestions. And two, you can keep abreast of what your competitor is doing and whether you should be considering similar strategies.

When fan/follower building is natural, small businesses can target nearly every individual for personal and public convos. For example:

maxwell tweet convo

This example from Maxwell Systems shows how a business can follow-up with unique voice. It’s a relaxed comment because it’s a relaxed platform. Don’t make Twitter out to be strict corporate chatter – it’s a friendly and laid back environment. They’re even hitting their target customers with fun content, simply by hitting that share button. I think a lot of people make social media out to be some complex, tactical battleground when small businesses really just need to focus on being themselves. Share content that your target customers like, or even content that your friends like. Start up convos, take pictures, and just prove that your business is active on social media (not just a one-way message board).

5. Offer Incentives for Following

People love to win things, and you don’t have to shell out a ton of money on prizes to reap the rewards from this strategy. Even giving away a branded pencil will draw people in. Experiment with different contests on all your social media sites. Have fun with it; people can tell when you’re just doing something to benefit your company and when you’re really enjoying yourself.

6. Join More Social Networks

social networks

You most likely already have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram. But it’s worth expanding beyond these sites to newer, more experimental social networks that may be niche to your company. For instance, if you have a fashion business, try a fashion-focused social media site. You’d be surprised how many of these places exist, and they’re a great place to connect with people who may eschew the traditional social networks as too broad.

7. Reassess Your Goals

Social media is a means to an end. You should be holding monthly goal reassessment sessions, even if they’re only five minutes long, to make sure you know what that end is. Perhaps you want to grow sales of a particular product or you’re looking to increase your Twitter followers to spread the word about an upcoming trade show. Whatever your aim, make sure that you are furthering your goals through your social media strategies instead of simply tweeting or Facebooking without a purpose.