Monday, April 11, 2011

Make Time for Social Media Engagement- Even If You Don't Have Time

Recently, I was giving a presentation on social media engagement to a business association in Albuquerque, New Mexico when, during the question and answer portion of the session, someone asked the question:

"I'm a small store with just two or three employees, including myself.  We have a lot to do.  How do I find the time to make a social media strategy work for my store?"

I first gave her the short, simple answer:  "You make time."

Then came the more detailed explanation of how to make something that sounds so simple, yet in reality appears so difficult, work for any business, regardless of size and demands on time.

Regardless of whether your business is comprised of one person or one thousand, finding additional time, money, and people to carry out new plans and initiatives is difficult.  But, what if adding a social media engagement component to your business plan could yield new customers and increased sales to established fans?  You would make the time!  But how?

First, social media should be seen as a component of, not a substitute for, a replacement of, or an addition to your marketing and business plans.  Whenever you, your marketing director or group sits down to consider the marketing plans for the next quarter, six months or year, you should be asking yourself, "What should we be doing to incorporate our social media strategy into this sale, event, or promotion."  If you are leaving social media out of these discussions, you are creating more work for yourself or your team later on.  Even worse, your social media engagement strategy looks to be an afterthought to those who follow you.  That haphazard approach will cause you to lose followers and fans.

Second, once you have incorporated social media into your marketing plan, create a schedule to track how and where you are going to engage your followers and fans.  How many times a day are you going to post or tweet?  What are you going to say?  How often are you going to repeat important information?  Does this promotion require a blog post to be written?  When will you post it?  Create a calendar that schedules each tweet and post and follow it religiously.  If you plan in advance, you will save time that would otherwise be spent trying to come up with something on the fly.  Plus, being consistent will keep your followers and fans engaged.

Remember, social media engagement encourages a conversation with followers and fans, not just advertisements and sales pitches.  These conversation starters should be a part of this schedule, with the idea that you need to be sharing information and knowledge as well as asking your customers for feedback on how your product or services can improve.

Third, keep on top of questions, comments and complaints that come via your social media sites.  This can be relatively easy, without having to sit in front of your computer, monitoring each site 24 hours a day.  Facebook and blogs can be set up to notify you via an email when someone posts on your wall responds to a post you made.  You can receive a text message when when someone "mentions" you on Twitter.  Use the notification tools that are provided by social media sites to save yourself time.

Fourth, don't feel obligated to engage in every conversation, answer every question, or respond to every comment.  Often, the same question may be asked by several different people- you only need answer once.  Schedule 5 minutes or so a few times during the day to respond to comments and group your response to several comments into one post.  These can be the same times of the day you have scheduled to make posts based on your social media engagement schedule.

Fifth, always respond to complaints as quickly as you possibly can.  Don't let complaints hang out there prompting ongoing conversations and more complaints.  When a complaint comes through, act on it just like you would with a customer who is there in front of you- immediately.

By considering social media a part of your normal operating and marketing procedures and inserting engagement into your plans and daily routine, scheduling ahead of time, you'll find that you will have time to both engage with followers and fans and carry out daily tasks while appearing to your online audience as being consistently and constantly engaged.

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