Last week, I had a lovely time meeting a new network of local business women at a local cafe. Connections were made very quickly, and we were soon discussing the many joys and challenges of running our businesses. One issue in particular came up time and again – how much effort they put into social media, and how big a drain it was on their time and energy.

All of these women ran service-based businesses, relying on hands-on tasks to generate their income. Many of them also had very small children and limited child-free time to complete these core work tasks. ALL of them were relying heavily on social media to market their businesses.

Why?

We all know it’s low cost (at least on the surface), it’s easy and it’s (mostly) fun. Besides it is what everyone who’s anyone is telling us to do.

But is it actually a good investment of your time, energy and marketing dollar? Is social media really worth it?

If you’re finding social media marketing is holding your business back, here are a few ideas to ensure you’re getting the most from your investment.

Choose ONE platform.

I once had a professional artist come to me for Facebook and Twitter training. When I questioned her need for Twitter training, she told me it was because her business coach had told her she needed to be on ALL platforms. As well as blogging several times a week. As well as networking. As well as sending out a weekly newsletter. I asked her when she intended to paint!

While being across all platforms might allow you to reach EVERYONE in your target market, there is a fair chance that the majority of your ideal customers prefer only one or two. I’m guessing you also have a favourite. So choose your platform accordingly. Learn how to get the best results for that platform (there are LOADS of guidebooks and groups and articles out there that will keep you up to date), and do it as well as you can in the time you can afford to spend on it.

Try out new things and mix up your content, measure, and adjust accordingly. And then maybe, once you feel you’ve finally nailed it, you can add another platform… or not.

Consistently deliver what your ideal customers want to see

Many social media platforms (especially Facebook) use algorithms to create your newsfeed, based on people’s interactions, i.e. Likes, Comments, Shares etc. If you drop off a follower’s feed, it is highly unlikely you will show up again for future interaction unless you are paying for the privilege.

While the experts might tell you a certain level of activity will get you the best results – posting on Facebook twice a day, every day, for example – you probably don’t have time for that.

Scheduling 2-3 posts per week ahead of time will help ensure you are regularly showing up in newsfeeds and keeping connected with your followers. It should mean you are actually SEEN when it comes time to “sell your wares”.

A little while ago, I decided to pay a social media manager to do this for me, because I’ve learned the hard way that when I get busy with hands-on work, consistency in social media is the first thing that goes! Having a small number of regular “generic” posts taken care of (e.g. branded memes, promotional posts and shared articles) also allows me to post more personalised content when I do have the time and energy, without bombarding my audience.

Most platforms have analytics tools to help you determine what type of content gets the best response from your particular audience, so use them as a guide to what your followers like, and do more of that!

Own your Tribe

Nothing comes free, especially in big business, and especially with social media companies! Even though you might not choose to pay for social media advertising, it is important to remember who owns access to your customers and followers. This is a lot to lose if something goes wrong. What would happen to your business if they close down your page, are superceded by a new platform (think MySpace) or go out of business? Can you still connect with your tribe?

Creating your own database of customers and followers allows you to connect with them on YOUR terms. Providing an opt-in offer or digital product, running a competition or conducting a survey are just some of the ways to encourage people to not only follow you on social media, but also join your mailing list.

Of course, you need to make it worth their while. Your emails should be interesting and helpful, so that they actually enjoy hearing from you. Because if all you do is bombard them with sales messages and meaningless drivel, they WILL unsubscribe – and then they’re lost forever!

 

Now, I’m not saying NOT to include social media marketing as part of your marketing strategy. However, like any marketing expense, it’s important to measure your return on investment and make decisions accordingly.

If your business model relies on YOU and your valuable time and energy to generate income, it could be costing you a lot more than you think (even without including getting lost in a Social Media Time Vortex)! To find out how much, simply multiply the number of working hours you spend on social media by your hourly rate and see what the numbers say. If it’s working for you – building positive business relationships and generating sufficient sales – fantastic, keep up the good work!

If not, you might need to rethink your social media strategy and possibly find other, more profitable ways to spend your time.

Is social media good or bad for your business? What works best for you? Come join in the discussion on our Facebook page (oh, the irony!)