I hear this question all the time: With so many social media sites and so much information swirling around about what you are “supposed” to do online, does it mean I need a presence everywhere? How do I know what to say on all these sites and understand them all? Can I just post the same thing on all of them? Oh, and how am I supposed to get anything else done?! And is this really going to help increase my sales, revenue, donations, number of members, or fill in the blank?
It’s enough to give anyone a panic attack, especially given how busy we all are. Whether you’re a small business, nonprofit, practitioner, association, or entrepreneur, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done as it is. But what people share all the time is their nervousness and growing recognition that social media can be a powerful tool and not having at least a modest presence and level of knowledge could leave them at a huge disadvantage. In fact, harnessing social media strategically can and has given many small organizations or practices a big jump on their competition, even those that are much bigger.
So what is the answer? Start with what you are trying to accomplish, who your audience is, and what your business goals are. Then prioritize which social media platforms and approaches will be most worth your time and effort. Step back and think about what is the right answer for you and your organization. Check out my article on developing a quick and straightforward social media plan, but in the meanwhile, here are some tips:
Prioritize Your Time. Be realistic about what you can accomplish with the resources you have. Do you have staff who can spend time on this or should you be seeking some outside help? It’s better to really engage well in one or two social media sites that hold the most promise for success then spread yourself too thin and not do a good job on any of them. Or to accidentally ignore comments your receive online because you didn’t have time to notice them.
You can have some modest presence on a site like Google Plus for the sake of enhancing your SEO (search engine optimization) so that your content is easier to find when people do keyword searches on Google. However, it’s hard to do Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter well if you’re only going to pay attention to it a couple of times every month or two. You can casually use them, but will you be accomplishing your goals?
Use the Right Language and Don’t Say the Same Exact Thing on Multiple Sites. Think about who your most important audience is, what their needs, interests, and problems are. Use words and expressions that resonate with your audience. Customize what and how you say things to the culture and environment of the site you’re posting on. Tools like Hootsuite allow you to post to different social media sites in one convenient place and listen to and engage in online conversations. But using Hootsuite to broadcast the same message in multiple places without sensitivity to the unique environment of each place can make your postings seem out of place or at the least not as effective.
Spend time “listening” and learning the culture of each site you want to engage in and the typical practices and style of each. For example Twitter has a very different feel than Facebook or LinkedIn. Small touches can really increase your success.
Think creatively about imagery you can use to engage people and express your story and message. If you spend time on social media you’ll see the increasing usage and impact of images in all formats, including photos, graphics, and videos.
Compare What Other Organizations are Doing. You can get great ideas looking at how different organizations are using the same social media sites you are. Especially watch what similar kinds of organizations are doing, though you can also learn from organizations in different fields and apply it to your industry, especially if they seem to have similar goals.
Please Share Your Experiences. Which social media sites are you focusing on for which purposes? Has that helped you use your time and effort wisely? I would love to hear about what is working for you.