Social media on a shoestring
For many small businesses, implementing social media as part of your marketing mix can seem to be either very expensive, or incredibly time consuming. We look towards some of the brands that are very active on social media, the likes of Oreo, Asda, O2 and others that have sizable social media teams and realise there’s no way we can compete with the quantity of content they produce.
Big brands have large marketing and content teams, with dedicated social media managers and executives to help deliver killer campaigns, with sizable budgets.
What we need as a small business, is a way to communicate with customers that we have and the ones we’d like to have, that doesn’t require a small fortune in budget, or dedicated staff members to strategize, plan and implement.
The good news is that there are plenty of tools that are useful to help curate, plan and implement your social media strategy without the need for any big budgets. Let’s take a look at some very effective free tools.
Curation – Pocket
One of the first things most small business owners are likely to ask themselves is “what do I write about?”, as social media isn’t just about sharing hard sell promotional messages. Finding content that is interesting to your audience from other sources can be almost as effective as producing your own original pieces.
Pocket will let you save articles, videos or pretty much anything you see online into your Pocket repository ready for publication to your social media accounts. It works seamlessly with apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and of course all of recent desktop and most mobile browsers.
Tip: Use interesting content from other authors as a way of aligning your brand with others.
Price: Free for the basic features – which are enough for most smaller businesses.
Planning – Trello
Trello is a piece of task management software that helps separate tasks down into manageable lists. Using the app, you can add tasks on your phone and organise your day, social media messages and campaigns.
You can also use this as an idea bank for you and other members of the business. Granting access to a shared board can circumvent ideas being lost in the mire of emails.
Price: Free for the basic features
Images – Google Image search
With so much noise on social media platforms, and the internet in general, cutting through it is tough. Images, both static and moving, are great ways to help attract attention to your posts. Very few small businesses have the resources to take photos regularly, and commissioning these externally usually turns out to be rather expensive.
There are a lot of sites that can sell you engaging and interesting stock images, but Google reigns as king of free stock images. You must ensure you only use images that are labelled for reuse, if you’re using them for commercial purposes.
Tip: It’s a good idea (and occasionally a requirement) to credit the source of a photo. This can sometimes be a good way to attract positive attention from a photographer, as some may track the use of their images.
Link tracking and shortening – bit.ly
As part of your social media posts, you’ll naturally want to link out to other parts of the web. The destinations could be your own site, or somewhere else with interesting content. Bit.ly offers a great service to help you turn messy and long links into something a little easier on the eye.
For instance https://bdaily.co.uk/advice/07-08-2015/top-6-productivity-apps-for-your-business/ transforms into http://bit.ly/1NAOxhD
Not only does bit.ly give you a prettier and shorter link do deal with, which is perfect for platforms with character limitations such as Twitter, but it also does a great job of tracking clicks on those links, which can help you find out if your social media posts have been effective.
Tip: Create a free account on bit.ly to gather your bitlinks into themes called bundles.
Price: Free for basic features.
Scheduling – Hootsuite
Notice how companies seem to be posting social media posts through the day? You’ll usually find that they use some form of scheduling software to help them achieve this. Facebook and some other social media platforms have built in functionality to schedule posts, but Hootsuite goes one step further.
With just a few clicks, you can schedule posts to be sent out across various social networks and in contrast to scheduling each post through the network itself, you’ll be able to get a great overview of when your content is going out, along with some nifty analysis tools
Tip: If you’re producing your own content, be sure to tailor them to the platform you’re publishing them to. Though perfectly legitimate, seeing hashtags on Facebook is a bit of an #awkward moment.
Price: Free for basic features
These tools should help you cut down the time you spend on your social media activities, but continued learning and self confidence in your abilities are your two most important tools. There are a variety of tutorials and social media resources online that you can use as casual reading, but don’t treat a backlog of articles as essential reading. Keeping up to date with an article or two a day is usually enough to keep up with changes and best practice within the world of social media.
By Adam Turnbull, Head of Content for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Adam manages content across all titles in the Dynamis stable, as well as being a regular contributor to industry publications.