Small business owners know that time is a precious commodity. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the thought of managing social media campaigns alongside everything else. Social media automation can help.
The return on investment from social media activity also can be hard to identify. Yet don’t write it off too quickly. Some of the benefits of a strong social media presence are less obvious, but can still give your business a boost.
Social Media’s Hidden Advantages
In the first place, social media can help get the all-important search engines to notice you exist. These all pay close attention to social signals in their quest to deliver search results that best meet searchers’ needs. Anyone can self-promote, but genuine enthusiasm from web users is hard to fake. If something is receiving social recommendations such as shares, likes or +1 votes, this is a good indication that they’re producing quality content.
However, people can’t promote what they don’t know about. An online presence on a variety of social media sites helps both humans and search engines to associate your brand with a particular service or product. For the search engines, the benefit comes from being seen to be relevant, which boosts your chances of ranking well in your niche. For consumers, it’s all part of building a reputation as someone who can fill a specific need.
Never underestimate the power of a customer’s voice. Today’s web users research products and companies online before deciding who to trust with their business. What others say about you online can carry a lot of weight, particularly with younger consumers. BazaarVoice research found that 51% of them put more faith in the opinions of other web users than they do in those of people they know.
Satisfied clients or helpful members of your network can even end up actively promoting you. 53% of Twitter users, for example, will at some point recommend a product or business provider. Word-of-mouth referrals not only boost your reputation, but can result in potential customers visiting your website or getting in touch. Since higher traffic sites rank better, even visitors who are just looking can be valuable.
Getting More for Less
While social media does need you to be ‘social’, there are ways to make routine tasks easier. A lot of time can be taken up with creating content that will interest your readers, for instance, but you can also add value by sharing other interesting or useful content from others in your field.
Being active across different sites doesn’t have to be time-consuming. With a single WordPress plug-in you can automatically post to a host of different social media accounts. The world’s most popular social networks are covered by the Publicize feature of Jetpack. NextScripts: Social Newtork Auto-Poster adds a variety of social sites to these, including Pinterest, LinkedIn and Reddit.
Make use of post scheduling on WordPress or Blogger and you can create your content when you want, even if that’s a month’s worth of posts in one go. The scheduler will take care of publishing it at whatever intervals you choose, giving you the advantage of regular posts. Apps such as Twuffer or FutureTweets work in a similar way for Twitter, while dashboards such as Sprout Social and HootSuite include scheduling for multiple social media accounts.
When Not to Automate
Nobody wants to network with a bot. Giving your social media presence a personal touch keeps it real. Get off to the right start by paying attention to your target audience. Make sure your content will appeal to your followers or serve them in some way. While this means keeping on top of trends in your niche or industry, add your own unique perspective. Approach it with the aim of building a brand, not being a clone of your competitors, and you won’t go far wrong.
Handpick the accounts you follow. It might seem simpler just to add everyone who follows or subscribes to your account, but this won’t benefit you. In many cases bots are being used in an attempt to manipulate real users into following back. Similarly, using tools to indiscriminately retweet or build your network can look spammy. Not only is that off-putting for your followers but sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn will put their own restrictions on your activity too.
Last but not least, take time to interact with your social network. Questions, problems and even compliments all offer opportunities to connect. The way in which you respond can say a lot about your company – and remember, on social media there are rarely just two pairs of eyes reading a conversation.
Letting tools and plug-ins do the routine work gives you more freedom to actively engage with customers. It’s an effective approach that can save time. More than that, you’ll come across as a business that cares, without becoming a slave to social media.
This is a guest post contributed by Christian Arno, the founder of Lingo24, Inc., a provider of high quality website localization.