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Resources — especially your time — are precious commodities when you’re a small business owner.

When push comes to shove, you can’t afford to spend time on anything that doesn’t directly benefit your bottom line and grow your business.

This is why many businesses don’t invest much time in their social media strategies.

But the truth is that social media can help you grow your business, and you should be active on social media despite the challenges of quantifying its impact. And I promise you don’t need to dedicate hours each day to make it work for you.

In fact, smart small businesses focus on where their most-profitable audiences live. They also create a social media strategy that turns ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ into dollars and cents.

Let’s look at three ways you can use social media to grow your business:

1. Increase awareness

Social media is one of the best ways to grow your business, getting it in front of new and existing customers online. Just as people turn to Google to find information on the products and services your business provides, customers are searching for you on social media too.

Increasing your awareness on social means being there, consistently, with a wide variety of content.

If you’ve only got 15 minutes a day, what could you do to boost awareness for your business in five of those minutes? Take a look at these examples.

The National Civil Rights Museum turns to Twitter to keep its audience updated about events and news:

Notice how they also link to their newsletter, thereby optimizing one piece of content into two.

Run a clothing store? Or a restaurant? When you’ve got a visual business — like Junk Gypsy does — well, the content comes pretty easy. And Instagram is the place to be.

Instagram Photo

And perhaps most importantly, social media often gets your business in front of audiences who might not be subscribing to your emails or even visiting your website. So think about these platforms as not just another marketing tactic checkbox, but as a way to reach your total audience with don’t miss news and information.

2. Provide service

When you think about customer reviews and, in particular, customer complaints, you probably think about sites such as Yelp, Google and Angie’s List, right? If you’re not watching social media (in particular Twitter), then you’re missing another big one.

Right now, there are potentially people on Twitter talking about your business either directly or indirectly. You should be monitoring this channel and others so you don’t miss any of these mentions.

How can you do that in five minutes a day? Here are a few ways to spend less time searching for mentions and more time responding to them.

  • Set up your Twitter app to email you when someone mentions your business with your @username.
  • Save searches on Twitter for all the variations of your business name.
  • Save searches for your business URL – if people share content from your site but don’t mention you, they are still worth engaging with and knowing about.
  • Add an autoresponder to Facebook and Twitter. If you have messaging open on these platforms, people will expect a response from you. If you know you often can’t respond quickly, set up the business features on these channels to auto-respond with a message that you’ll respond as soon as you can.

Here’s an example of how Constant Contact uses social media for customer service.

3. Drive action

Ultimately, the goal of all your social media should be to drive the customer to do something you want them to do: Click on a link; visit your business; purchase your goods or services.

This is particularly true when you’ve got something urgent or where scarcity is involved. In these cases, social media provides a more immediate alternative.

Like for avid fans of Tree House Brewing, who know that if you’re not following the brewery on Twitter, you’re going to miss out on their best offerings.

Or at Holly Hill Nurseries, where deals and offers (along with great imagery) comprise its social media timeline.

15 minutes is all you need to grow your business

If you’re not currently using social media to reach, engage, serve or sell to your audiences, you’re missing a great (and free) marketing opportunity.

It can feel overwhelming looking at the vast social media landscape today, but if you dedicate 15 minutes a day, and zero in on just one or two key platforms that best suits your organization or business, you can really find success without sacrificing too much of your precious time.