Three Easy Steps to Building Your Small Business

Love it, loathe it, or simply feel lukewarm about it, you can’t live without social media. According to a recent study conducted and reported by Manta, 90% of the more than 600 small business owners surveyed are currently networking online. Nearly 40% reported spending a quarter of their business networking time online, and about 75% of respondents find networking online just as important, or more important, than networking face-to-face. About the same number of respondents credited social media with attracting anywhere from a quarter to all of their customers and clients.

That’s the good news. The bad news comes from online marketing firm Vertical Response, which conducted a similar poll of roughly 500 small business owners and found that 1/3 of them actually wanted to spend less time on social media. Finding and posting content was the number one “time-suck” cited.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should resign yourself forever to daily meditations on the golden cast of characters to use in a company tweet. Save the incense and try this truly user-friendly method instead. Remember that spending less time doesn’t have to mean cutting back on your social media marketing. You simply have to use the time more wisely.

1) Maximize Your Human Resources.

At risk of stating the obvious, let’s just say that small business owners (and solopreneuers, and executives, and HR managers) have enough to do already. That’s doubly problematic for coming up with an effective social media marketing strategy. Social media is supposed to be, well, social, and for most users that means it’s also supposed to be considered fun. But an activity we don’t have time for can quickly become a chore, whether or not it’s actually tedious.

Are you tired of employees socializing at work? Set them mixing and mingling online instead, and enjoy the added benefit of increased engagement, commitment, and drive from younger workers. If, on the other hand, your concern isn’t employee productivity but producing actual employees, consider factoring a social media/online marketing consultant or, at the very least, a publishing and analytics tool into your budget.

2) “Speak” Clearly.

A large part of social media’s value to businesses of any size lies in its ability to humanize otherwise abstract concepts. Your small business is a brand; online, your brand is quite literally incorporated, or unified into one (implicitly human) body—a powerfully attractive and mutually beneficial consumer/vendor illusion. If your brand’s character sketch is incomplete or inconsistent, however, consumers are less capable of suspending disbelief; and that’s just plain bad for business.

Therefore, it’s critical to establish application and management protocols alongside your company voice. Bring employees in on the process of sketching your character, and set clear and detailed guidelines for your brand’s online content, tone, style, and even grammar. The more you customize your online “voice,” the more effectively you’ll communicate with current and future customers. Likewise, the more input and clarity you offer your workers, the more human your brand will turn out to be.

3) Manage Your Image.

There’s a theme developing here, and it’s the essential ingredient to any recipe for commercial success. Of course, we’re talking about people. As a small business owner, you’re at an advantage when it comes to managing your online presence; not only is your social media team going to be smaller—and therefore naturally more coherent—but it’s also going to be easier to schedule and regulate.

Assign social media content postings and other online activity as far in advance as feasible. Include clear divisions of labor (e.g., Employee X posts new content every other day before doors open, Employee Y responds to consumer inquiries twice daily at noon and five p.m., etc.) in order to obviate redundancy. Keep your brand’s image safe by retaining your team’s focus on exactly what can and can’t be said while networking, and be open to refinement and revision.

Finally, don’t forget to watch the clock. Once you gain even the smallest bit of momentum, you may find yourself spending even more time networking online than ever before, but only because you’re actually starting to enjoy it!