How to spend the least amount of time and get the best possible results. What is the so-called minimum effective dose for social media marketing?
Social Media can be a total drain on resources if you don't use it correctly.
You can put in hours per day crafting the perfect Tweet, pinning things on Pinterest for your customers, or publicizing your latest viral video on Facebook.
But if no one ends up buying anything from you, then it's all been a waste of time.
So how do you know when enough's enough?
It's about what you post, not how often
I had a boss once who was insistent that we put out three blog posts a week, every single week.
He didn't care what they were, as long as we had three blog posts going up, he believed that was it – we'd get more traffic.
He later reacted by getting rid of our blogger as he found no ROI (surprise, surprise), despite our ideas that perhaps if we had time to create something really cool; it would be worth more than all the other blog posts put together.
The lesson here can be applied to social media too: If you just post trash ten times a day, people won't care what you're saying, and they'll switch off. If you take the time to make something good, it'll be worth it.
Think who your customers are
As well as being about quality over quantity, there's also something to be said for blindly posting, say, pictures of cats. Albeit really cool pictures of cats – the best pictures of cats, the internet has ever seen, when your company makes and sells hinges for drain covers. (That was the most boring industry I could think of – apologies if that's what your company does, I'm sure your conferences are wild).
If that is your industry, your social media posts can be just as cool (show us a video demonstrating why your drain cover hinges are so good; by MAKING A CATAPULT FROM THEM!), but know what your customers are about before putting it out there. There's always the chance you can look unprofessional, damage the brands that you're selling, or worse, come across as trying too hard (and therefore painfully uncool).
But wait, lots of social media posts means lots of eyes on my brand…
Ah yes, but this post is about how much time you should spend on social media, not how many social media posts you should put out per day – that's for another lesson. Remember the bit about quality over quantity?
Think about your goal – what is it you want to get from social media? It's not just a case of “More sales, more money.” Do you want to use it to build a brand? Are you just looking to promote your products/services more directly? Are you trying to become the authority in your industry? Or simply be more interactive with your customers, as a means of customer service? Used correctly, time spent on social media offers an excellent return on your investment. You can use it to create an image of your brand; coming across as relatable, empathetic and maybe even cool; rather than corporate and stuffy.
So how much time should I set aside?
Yes, I've probably skirted around the issue here a bit: exactly how much time should you be spending on social media each week? It depends on your business. If you sell used records, surfboards or you run a blog about watches; then devoting days (rather than hours) per week to social media is probably a good thing (as long as you use time in the right way). You have an audience that is passionate about the thing you're providing, so go out and feed that passion. You guys should have it easy – there's loads of cool stuff you can do, lots of industry news you can share (some of which is interesting to those outside your evangelist fans) and it should be much easier to engage an audience.
Here's a list of some typical weekly tasks in social that you should carry out on a regular basis. I've sometimes added to them, but these are very much dependent on your business, audience and how much you can afford to devote to social marketing. You should base your week around the time you're able to spend on these tasks.
If your business sells packaging solutions or vacuum cleaners, then you should spend less time, but focus your efforts. Much of your industry news is only going to interest a small group of people (we'll leave that to your trade magazine), and you'll have much less if any, evangelist fans. The chance of your content being shared is lower (“We've just got the latest model of vacuum cleaner in, and it gets rid of 90% of pet hair – we're excited, are you?”) so you should do big (big in effort, not word count) but less regular posts.
That doesn't mean you can't still have fun with it – remember your customers are still human, whatever you're selling. You could probably look at spending half a day to a day per month on creating something pretty cool to engage customers outside your usual circle (remember the goal is for this to be shared, so aim it at everybody). Add this to a couple of hours over a week talking to your current customers, answering their queries and providing customer service over social media; and that's probably the right strategy for that type of business.
The thing not to do is to spend time on social media posts that are going to turn people off: Endless offers (even your most loyal fans are going to get annoyed at these – you're basically saying “Buy stuff! Buy Stuff! Buy Stuff!”). You should also avoid trying to engage people on meaningless questions, just for the sake of engagement – the ones like “What's your favorite type of packaging? Vote now! a) Boxes b) Bags c) Cardboard Sleeves” Ask yourself if you find a post interesting first, if you don't, others probably won't either.
Guard your time!
Hopefully, you've found this post useful. There is no right answer to exactly how much time you should spend promoting your business via social media – it depends on the type of business you run, the quality of posts you're putting out and what other marketing channels you're using. However, I've tried to point you in the right direction, given you the types of things to avoid (the ones that waste your valuable time), as well as get you thinking in the right way about social media marketing.
Now over to you, let us know in the comments where do you spend most of your time and what gets you most results with least effort.
Image credit: Wikimedia (CC License), Pen Waggener