I attended a great seminar Wednesday presented by Gina Watkins of Constant Contact and hosted by the Greater Warrenton Chamber. (Sigma College co-sponsored with CC) The topic was social media and Gina mentioned that a business owner could be effective at social media spending about 15 minutes a day! There are a lot of us spending more time than that, so I thought I would walk through where the time goes when you make social a part of your marketing mix.
The first slide of my social media classes is this picture of a calendar as a way of telling my students that, although social media is cash cheap, it can be time expensive. One of the first decisions in determining the role social media plays in your marketing plan is how much time should be spent building your network.
Once you are all set up with your accounts and have a goal of 5 or 10 posts per week on a couple of social media sites, then 15 minutes a day is likely enough time. But don’t get your expectations up! You will likely get fans and followers from your current network, but it will be slow going building that network over months. Mixing in some time to monitor and comment on some blogs, share some posts with your network and start some discussions will be time well spent.
Set-up and Design
Setting up and designing social media pages can seem like an unending task. Every time I turn around there is a new tool, or a new app that I just have to try. And even though they are all “one-click” installation, they typically take me a bit more time. Most of the sample sites we see have had some work done. An extra tab here, a customized page there – it all adds up to extra time or paying someone. Make sure you schedule some time to keep up with the latest apps and keep your sites up to date. It’s part of being relevant and it will take a couple hours a month.
I recommend to most of my students and clients to do some blogging. It’s a great way to show your expertise in the industry and adds great content. When you decide that blogging is a part of your social media mix, make sure you plan the required time. Depending on how often, your writing skills, the amount of research required and the pictures and links you add, you may need to schedule a couple hours per post as you get started and 30 minutes to an hour if you really get efficient. But the payoff, if you are good, is that you are putting up good content that will draw readers that will subscribe, share, etc… and build a better network, quicker.
I have yet to read a book, article or blog on social media that didn’t stress how critical it is that to be successful in social media you need to read and comment on other people’s posts. In fact, here’s one from Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg that I read yesterday. It’s part of establishing your online presence and building credibility – really it’s being part of the community, part of the network. Plan to spend at least an hour a week just interacting with the online community. Read, comment and share the content of others.
Now, to be more efficient and add the most value with the time you have will require a plan. I give my students and clients a media calendar to pre-plan their posts. We work through a plan for their posts over the next month or so, determine the topics they should post on and even write out the posts ahead of time if possible. Spending a couple hours planning every month will make you more efficient and improve the quality of your posts.
So the answer to the question of how much time do I need for social media is a pretty wide range. Someone who uses social media for a high percentage of their marketing mix may spend a couple hours a day, whereas, a beginner may only spend about 15 minutes a day. The important thing is that you pull out that calendar and schedule the time it will take to meet your social marketing objectives so you aren’t suprised.
Recently, I had the opportunity to present a Career Building event at Strayer University in Manassas, VA. My friend Amelia Stansell, a VP with BB&T, joined me in presenting a topic on professional networking and using social media to leverage your network. My next few posts will work through that presentation, highlighting Amelia’s principles for networking and then relating those principles to techniques for social media marketing.
The Enigma We Call “Networking”
Amelia begins her presentation by defining the enigma we call networking as “person to person relationship marketing. She emphasizes that it is taking the time with each individual to know them as a person and build a relationship. It’s these relationships that can help lead to either closing a sale with that person or getting a referral from them.
Social Media is a new technology that leverages proven networking techniques. The resulting value is that you can grow and manage a much larger network. Use tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to follow the lives and careers of your network, interact with them through posts and comments, and refer them through sharing and recommendations. These methods make it easier to interact with each person in your network between the meetings and phone calls. Try it and notice how your face-to-face conversations change from “how have you been” to “did your son get off to college ok?”. It’s a much deeper start to what will be a more productive conversation.
It’s About Getting More Referrals
Professional networkers will tell you that it’s all about the referral because it is more likely that you will get new business from a referral by your network than directly with someone in your network. Therefore, it’s important that your network trusts you, sees you as an expert and understands your business enough to recognize situations where they can make the referral. In traditional networking the process begins with the “elevator pitch” and initial meeting, then continues with follow-up meetings, networking groups, phone calls and promotional materials.
Social Media leverages these techniques by enabling you to post your basic information in online “profiles” and “info” pages. These provide the base background information about you and your business. Build trust and credibility online is a continual process of listening to your network by reading their posts, interacting with comments and questions, and consistently posting valuable and informative content for your audience.
Relationship Selling, Not Broadcast Advertising
Many business people approach their social media marketing as a broadcast advertising channel, a free way to reach more people with their message. For some businesses that have a huge fan base, it can certainly be used in that way. However, for most of us who count on sales through personal relationships and word-of-mouth, the approach needs to mirror solid networking techniques more than basic advertising principles.
Sigma College of Small Business Social Media Services help customers use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging to promote their business and themselves.
What are some tips and recommendations that you have for how to leverage social media to build your professional network?