Social media is a cost-effective way to market your startup or small business. However, if you don’t properly plan, it can waste valuable time, cost your company money and lead to the kind of burnout that sinks startups. The following details how much time your business should spend on social media and how to know if your strategy is working.

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How much time your small business should spend on social media

A VerticalResponse survey discovered that 43 percent of small business owners spend six hours per week on social media marketing. Over a five-day work week, that amounts to one hour and twelve minutes per day, which seems reasonable for many small businesses.

In addition, many experts recommend a set number of posts per day by platform. The generally-recommend ranges are:

  • Facebook: one to three
  • Twitter: five to 15
  • Instagram: one to two
  • Pinterest: five to 30
  • LinkedIn: one to two

That said, you shouldn’t depend on other businesses to dictate how active your business is on social media. Instead, you should consider the following factors.

Quality over quantity

The number of times your business posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram is irrelevant if your posts do not engage your audience and attract followers.

If you’re torn between meeting a post quota and developing unique content, spend your time on unique content your audience is more likely to click, like and share. You don’t need to spend time on social media efforts every day; in fact, a good social media post scheduler allows you to plan all your posts at one time, so you can spend the rest of your week (or month) focusing on other important tasks.

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Your audience’s preferred platform

If the experts are to be believed, some companies publish as many as 50 posts per day. If each post takes just five minutes, that amounts to more than four hours spent on social media each day — far too long for startups and solo entrepreneurs to get much else done.

Find out which platform or channel your audience prefers the most, then focus on that platform until you’ve built an appreciable following. You’ll learn insights along the way that will help you successfully expand your reach on other social networks when you’re ready.

Your total marketing budget

How much of your overall marketing budget is devoted to social media? The time you spend on social should mirror that investment. Some businesses thrive on social media, while others might be better off spending most of their time on email marketing, for example. You can always share your emails on social platforms to get greater reach without additional time investment.

This isn’t to say social media marketing isn’t valuable — it absolutely is — but when you’re just starting out, you need to prioritize your time and money to get your business off the ground.

Social media results

Is social media marketing achieving the desired effect? If not, you need to evaluate what’s going wrong. Are you targeting the wrong audience? Are your posts lackluster? Have you chosen the wrong channel? Does your audience even spend time on social media?

If you’re not getting the results you want, you may need to spend more time experimenting to see what will work, or you may need to divert your marketing funds elsewhere. On the other hand, if your social media efforts are paying off, it might be time to double down on your time investment. If you hit a plateau — meaning you can achieve predictable success that doesn’t increase when you invest more time — you’ve found your social media marketing sweet spot.

How to know if your social media strategy is working

The best way to know if your social media efforts are paying off is to set measurable goals for your social campaigns and track key performance indicators (KPIs).

VerticalResponse’s post scheduler automatically tracks KPIs such as your number of followers and reach, along with post interactions such as likes, shares, comments and retweets. You can even bundle social messages into folders to track multiple posts as a single campaign.

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For example, you might set a goal to increase your number of followers by ten percent over the next month. If you currently have 1,000 followers, that means you want to add 100 more over the next 30 days. It’s a measurable and worthy goal since the more followers you have, the more people will see your posts and the likelier they are to interact with your brand.

To achieve your goal, you can schedule a series of posts designed to encourage follows. If your campaign is successful, you’ll know your efforts are working. You’ll also know how much time you invested to reach your goal. If your campaign isn’t successful, you can evaluate why it didn’t work and adjust future campaigns accordingly.

Ultimately, you want your social media efforts to yield sales. It can take several months to build a large enough following to have a significant impact on your bottom line, but eventually you should be able to identify correlations between how much time you spend on social media and sales volume or revenue. Once you can do that, it’s easy to know exactly how much time your business should spend on social media marketing.