Ten tabs are open in my browser as I begin to write this post.
My position as Social Media Editor at Skaled involves responsibilities on a plethora of channels, and I have a habit of keeping them all opened at once.
Every tab needs my attention to some capacity. I need to post on Facebook. I need to reply to a Tweet on Twitter. A Gchat is blinking at me in another tab. But I’m really trying to focus on this article, describing the “Top Social Media Trends to Watch for in 2014” as I brainstorm how to apply them to our own social strategy. Just as I get into my reading groove, a window pops open in the middle of the page, asking me to follow this blog on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, G+, Reddit, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Which reminds me… I haven’t pinned today.
There is no avoiding the necessity of a social media presence for your startup.
The startup community leads the way in emerging technology, and we can’t afford to ignore these digital opportunities for reaching and connecting with potential clients.
But how do you harness social media’s potential without letting it take over your workday? If you don’t have a Social Media Manager to take charge of these tasks, (and maybe even if you do), how do you allocate responsibilities and invest in these opportunities without distracting people from their primary roles?
From someone who has been grappling with the balance of regular social media participation and maintaining a schedule of other responsibilities, here is my advice:
Designate specific, small windows of time
Your presence on social media is most effective when it’s spread throughout the day. Sending rapid fire tweets for ten minutes every morning won’t do any good, because you’re leaving the conversation before it’s begun. But you can’t stare at the feed all day, either. Instead, designate fifteen-minute windows of social media time between other tasks.
This will create consistent representation and the opportunity for follow-up on conversations, without allowing the clock to tick away into social media oblivion.
Don’t use every platform
Creating a profile on most platforms is a good idea when your startup is first diving into social media, but as you begin to feel out the tone and purpose of each, you’ll discover which ones are applicable to your industry.
Twitter and Facebook are the Big Guys. You really can’t ignore them. But let’s say your startup involves how-to videos – then Youtube will be much more effective than Facebook. Do photographs play an important role in your company? Then Instagram and Pinterest are where it’s at.
You’re busy enough without social media, so don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to do it all. Figure out what works, and focus on creating content that is applicable to that channel.
Get Everyone Connected
Those first 100 followers are the toughest, so make sure your whole team is on board when it comes to liking, retweeting, pinning, and sharing.
You can do this without overwhelming team members who have too much on their plate already. A quick share can take seconds if presented in an easily executable fashion. Whoever is heading social media can send out an email at the end of the day with a link for each platform that needs attention. Use the time stamp on Facebook and Twitter posts to send them the direct link of what needs a like or share.
Every share counts at this early stage (especially when Facebook seems Hell-bent on making pages pay for visibility) so position social media as a simple task that everyone can contribute a few minutes of their day towards.
What’s even more important than the opportunity to get more visibility through team participation, is the fact that social media is a representation of your company and your brand voice. Everyone should be involved in that voice, so make sure they have that opportunity.
Utilize Hootsuite, Buffer, or a Similar Service
Some of the best times to use social media are outside of business hours. For example, Pinterest in sees most activity on the weekends, and LinkedIn get’s busy first thing in the morning. But that doesn’t mean you need to whip out your phone around dinnertime or fight for service on the subway platform.
There are plenty of programs out there, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, that allow you to target peak hours of visibility and send out content during those times. Social media never sleeps – but you have to. Scheduling social media ahead of time can allow that to happen, while still making use of prime interaction time – even if you’re in a meeting or logged off for the day.
These programs also take care of that pesky tab overload problem, as all of your social media channels can be accessed through one page.
Aggressive Use of Social Media Can Wait
Yes, you must have a presence on social media. It’s flat out embarrassing if a new client discovers your product and then can’t find a Twitter handle to tell the world how much they love it, (people DO that), or hate it (people do that too).
BUT, that doesn’t mean your startup is necessarily in a position that warrants aggressive use of social media to promote the brand just yet.
Is your brand clearly defined? Do you know who your target audience is? Do you have the manpower to devote hours a day to creating a presence on multiple platforms?
These are all important questions to consider, but there is no simple checklist to determine when the time is right.
My advice is to jump in and feel it out. If you’re finding conversations on social media that allow you to reach your target audience, then do that. If you begin to experience traction with followers, then devote the energy and keep the ball rolling. But if your social media feels stagnant and useless – do not fret, and do not kill yourself trying to make it happen.
Regular, light participation can go a long way, and when the time comes to start waving flags and developing campaigns, you’ll have a feel for your audience and a platform to build from.
The important first step is just getting your startup out there on social media, and when the funds and the time become feasible, you’ll know when to run with it.