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We've asked a coterie of marketing experts to join Entrepreneur's Team Digital to provide answers to your common questions about building an online presence. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #TeamDigital. Each week, we'll spotlight a different topic, and twice a month we'll host Google Hangouts (our next is July 10) where Team Digital will chat about best strategies for managing an online reputation, marketing through social media and using mobile techniques to attract customers.
In this week's column, viewer Kerri Smith from our June 12 Google Hangout asks Team Digital: I need to be active on social media, but I'm completely overwhelmed. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest...every time I start, there is too long of a lapse between posts. How can I be consistent?
Don't leave your social-media time management to chance. Use time blocking to get yourself on a regular schedule. For example, go through your calendar for the next month and block off segments of time (10-15 minutes) where you are dedicated to working on social-media postings. By some accounts you are 75% more likely to get something done if you write it down, so put pen to paper, or hands to screen, and plan posting time. Also, by creating at least a rough sketch of an editorial calendar for yourself over the next 3-6 months, you won't have to search out topics to post about, but will have a list at the ready.
Use scheduling tools. Scheduling tools such as Buffer (they have a free version) allow me to read through blog posts relevant to my audience and schedule them to relevant social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I can then set times that I want to post and review my analytics to see best post times and continue to refine from there. One key thing: Remember to first research which social networks your audience is hanging out at. There's no need to invest time into every single social network if the right people aren't there.
....You could also use Tweetdeck or Sproutsocial, or hire a social media marketing manager. Personally, I use Tweetdeck to read and schedule tweets, but Sproutsocial is another excellent tool that offers more features, along with integration with Facebook and Google+ (which Tweetdeck doesn't offer, though it is free). However you slice it, social-media management is time-consuming; as a business owner, you probably have other priorities, in which case it's probably best to source it to a freelance specialist, college intern or virtual assistant.
You may need to come to terms with the fact that A) You can't and don't have to be everywhere and B) If you aren't naturally able to engage, converse and create content, someone else might need to handle your social efforts. The good news is that neither of these realizations are bad. First, fish where the fish are, or better said here: Fish where the most fish are. Blogging is powerful because it gives you searchable content that the Googles can find. That traffic is pre-qualified and ready to act on the answer or promise the page they found presents. Then you at least have content to share on your networks than benefits you directly. If your conclusion is that you're not the right person for the social activity, content and community managers are a growing segment of the available workforce. Find someone you can trust to act on your behalf and give them direction. That way you can get back to all the other parts of your business that you are more suited for.
Have a strategy. Find out what kind of content is going to best serve your audience and the one to two platforms that align best and focus deeply on those. Going deeper on fewer channels will help prevent feeling overwhelmed. Set aside some time at the beginning of the month and create a simple editorial calendar around your content for the month. This takes the guess-work out and keeps you organized and consistent.
Pick one social outlet that best serves your brand. Think hard about how and what you want to showcase. If you want to be a family/friend brand then pick Facebook and be as active as possible. Photography? Instagram. All business? LinkedIn. Pick the one that best fits your brand and engage!
Post the same "tweet" more than once. I see people wracking their brains to keep coming up with original material and not making the most of material they have. There's no reason you can only post once each tweet or Facebook post. If you have enough material and it's relatively evergreen, you can schedule today's post, for example, to be posted also next Monday at 4 p.m., next Friday at 10 a.m., the following Wednesday at 3 p.m., etc.
Post/blog/tweet/pin/update when the mood strikes you. Look, you don't want to be the guy who schedules his tweets or updates "on the hour" like a news radio station. When you have something of value to say to your audience, say it. But the key is that it has to be of value to your audience. If you're offering value, your audience will always want more. But if all you're sending is "there's a sale on thingamabobs today" every 90 minutes, you're going to lose them. Focus on creating valuable content your audience wants, where they want it. They'll let you know how you're doing on the "when."
Be human. I'm very wary of "social-media experts" using robots to publish to their social channel. When something happens like a Hurricane Sandy, you run the very real risk of being the jerk tweeting some stupid article about "how to get more followers on Twitter" while the rest of the world is talking about things that matter. Kerri, you should be overwhelmed, as you're trying to do too much. Instead, pick one or two channels you can comfortably handle as a regular human being and focus on that. Think about who you want to engage, and make a habit of checking what those people are saying and looking for opportunities to interact. Personally, while I "follow" thousands on Twitter, I never look at my main feed. I keep a private list on Twitter of reporters, clients, prospects and other influencers in my industry and check in on them twice a day for five minutes. If I see a tweet that I can comment on, I'll engage that person and mention them in my response. You're far better being human and making impact on other humans than you are acting like a robot and making noise that no one hears.
Keep it simple. Create one meaningful post per week on your blog and be more of a resource that shares valuable and interesting content for a specific audience. Use HootSuite.com to share this AND schedule things a week in advanced so you have content going out a few times per day. Then, when you feel you want to update because you see something new, you can either share it right then or schedule it for later.
Don't force it. When it comes to blogging and social media, you have to be comfortable doing it. You have to love it (or at least like it). If not, you'll just be resentful. If you believe it's something that's important to your business, start small. Try blogging once a week. Tweet a few times a day. Post to Facebook every so often. Then, as you get more confortable -- and start LOVING it -- you'll find yourself naturally doing it more. It will become part of your routine -- just like brushing your teeth.
Curate other great content, and offer up your personality. I am a big fan of finding the one or two platforms that you really enjoy. Then, find great content that others have shared or written, and offer it up with a personal touch. Add some of your comments or expressions to the tweets, posts or updates, and see where that can get you. Social management doesn't always have to be profound or even novel. You can offer value just by showcasing other great content in a personal way to people who need it. Definitely don't spend time on a platform just because you think you should be there. Be there because you enjoy it, and you are having a good time with your potential and current customers.