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Getting Sucked into the Black Hole of Social Media? Here’s How to Find Balance

It happens to all of us.

You get sucked in by click-baity tweets, read articles vaguely related to work, and ogle over competitors’ profiles.

Yes, social media is a killer part of any good marketing plan. But the same tools that amplify businesses can pull the plug on productivity. As an entrepreneur, managing your social media accounts can easily bleed into the more important work of running a business.

With 89% of businesses using social media, you’re not the only one staring down a world of digital distraction. Here are some ground rules for maximizing your time spent on social media without letting it dominate your work life.

Pick Your Platforms

Social media marketing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Just like every other part of your business, your product and consumers will dictate a different plan for you than for your neighbor.

Some of your social media options include: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google +, FourSquare, Reddit, and Quora. Check out Emma Siemasko’s small business guide to the best platforms for a thorough run-down of each option. And remember that it’s better to commit yourself to one or two platforms rather than flake out on all of them.

When you’re focusing your energy, go for maximum impact. Kate Bowler,entrepreneur and manager of marketing at Ellie Kae, noticed that her followers commented on and liked posts on her Instagram account with the greatest frequency.

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Kate decided to “serve her audience where they were engaging,” spending a larger proportion of her time on her highest yielding platform. Changing gears, Kate played to her strengths, optimizing her time and meeting her community’s needs.

Identify Your Community

The same way that you do not have to be on every platform, you do not need to reach every consumer. By trying to appeal to the masses, you run the risk of diluting your brand. Instead, hone in on your niche market: the people who love your company or will love your company once they read your content.

The Ideal Online Community:

  • Current customers
  • Potential customers
  • Supportive peers
  • Mentors and influencers

These people are the building blocks of your social media networks. Figure out who they are and talk to them. For example, I know that my followers are fellow writers, content marketers and other people who love Star Wars.

If you don’t know where to start, browse your current followers and mull over your client base. Write down some common denominators that you can easily identify from your work as a business owner. Figuring out the key features of your community is the first step in capitalizing on social media marketing.

Get Personal

Human 2 Human (H2H) marketing is the hot term right now. It’s a simple principle with a catchy name: be human. The best way to attract a sustainable web community is to reach out in personal ways. When you meet people out in the world, capitalize on those relationships. Follow-up with a quick, personalized hello through your social network of choice.

These old-fashioned connections can go a long way in peer-to-peer promotions. In a recent experiment, Grasshopper found that personal outreach worked more effectively than paid advertisements.

Social media maven Dovev Goldstein told Inc. magazine that in order for small businesses to develop this kind of loyalty, you should “invest consistently small amounts of time over a longer period.” That’s right. This is going to take time.

Automate It

Here’s the challenge — how do you develop these authentic relationships without getting caught in the sticky swamps of 24/7 online activity? Popular tools likeBuffer and Hootsuite allow you to schedule content in advance. You can plan it out like you would any other part of your business, sharing content on multiple social accounts while tracking engagement. Check ’em out!

Wondering how often to post? Here are some starting points for small businesses with limited time:

Tools like followerwonk are an added bonus. They will help you to identify the best times to share with your community based on their online activity.

Create a Routine

Think of the last time you pulled up Facebook. Were you bored? Turning toward social media as a distraction isn’t a positive move, even if you’re utilizing it as a marketing tool.

Instead of fidgeting with your platforms throughout the day, set aside a time every week to develop your content plan. Build your social media account around product releases, events and holidays. Follain, a small retail business based in Boston is a great example of this kind of consistency. They promote events and develop weekly posts like #MantraMondays that create natural rhythm and organically attract followers.

In addition to scheduling content ahead of time, you also need specific opportunities to listen and respond to your community. Pick productive moments in the day to check into your social media accounts — maybe as rewards for kicking butt at harder tasks.

Things You Should Do Every Day:

  • Tweet in-the-moment posts related to your field
  • Say “thank you” to followers sharing your content
  • Amplify the work of peers to build reciprocal relationships
  • Respond to negative criticism

Clock Out

Being an awesome social media marketer is just like being a great friend. You’re always there (for the good and the bad), but you have boundaries. You definitely need alone time, especially when you’re working.

So, what do you do? Show up and offer kind words every day. Listen and respond. And then drop that social account like a hot potato and get back to work