The question I get asked quite a bit by clients (especially the ‘very new to social media’ clients) is “How much time should I spend doing this?” Realistically, you could spend all day in front of Twitter, Facebook, etc. looking for conversations to engage in, friends/connections to make and cultivating business referrals. But who really has the time to do that?
Definitely not the ‘lone wolf’ business owners like myself who wear many different hats within your organization. Unless you have the capital to hire someone to be your social media manager, you are left to your own devices to send out messages to your network, engage in conversations with your followers and look for opportunities outside of your network.
So what’s the answer? There isn’t an exact science. It truly depends on how much you want to get out of it. Just as with anything else, there is a learning curve. You’ll want to spend a lot of time in the beginning watching how social media ‘works.’ See how your competition uses it, see how your colleagues use it, see what your customers/clients value in a conversation. What kind of things do they want to hear.
Next step is to develop a plan. Whether it’s with someone like me who helps guide your way in an ever-changing social media battlefield or you do it on your own – you need to have a plan. Am I going to have a blog for long form messages? Am I going to try to send at least 3 messages per day? Am I going to send special offers to new followers?
Whatever your plan is, you also have to have a way to gauge if it’s working. Set your bar low, social media isn’t an exact science – anyone who tells you that is just trying to get your money. You might have the best social media guru in the land, but if no one cares about your coin operated washing machine parts on Twitter, you won’t get any followers. You might get followers, but you won’t get any business from those followers, which is the point for any business to be a part of social media (to retain or grow business).
Then you want to see how your plan and goal factor into your weekly schedule. You could use a tool like mine that allows you to schedule posts ahead of time, monitor conversations throughout the web and see what people are saying to & about you on your different social networks. You could use a free service like Hootsuite and combine that with Google Alerts & Constant Contact for a similar product package. You might have someone in your circle or already in your business that has a ‘knack’ for social media that might be willing to offer a helping hand.
I give 4-6 hours a week as a good number for someone who wants to get results using social media. I suggest that my clients spend several hours on the weekend typing blog entries or cultivating relevant links to post to their social media streams. Schedule those to go out during the week during hours that best suit their client’s needs. If you deal with a lot of clients on the other side of the country, or the world, take that into consideration on the days and times you schedule your posts to go out. That should realistically take you 2-3 hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon to knock out scheduled posts, etc. for the entire week.
The other 2-3 hours should be scattered throughout the week, maybe 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon paying attention to your followers, getting involved in their conversations with you. Look for people talking about your brand outside of your scope (on blogs, web sites, etc). Be ready to jump into any conversation about your brand with both feet. Take even a complaint as an opportunity to improve your brand’s image.
I would also suggest including whatever Twitter/Facebook apps you enjoy using on your smartphones, iPads, etc. and being able to respond (somewhat) quickly if someone writes to you using one of your networks. Showing that you truly are paying attention to what your clients needs, questions and comments are – will get attention.
So if you can afford 4-6 hours a week, (which I know you can) let’s jump into this social media thing together. Let me help guide you on what is an exciting and worthwhile adventure.