“Is it better to do nothing if you can’t afford to go big?”
“Can you use social media effectively with a limited amount of time or money?”
These are typical questions that small businesses ask as they learn how to develop and deploy their own digital marketing programs. I love that people are at least thinking about these questions and are willing to show vulnerability in seeking the answers.
It used to be that marketing required big dollars – ads in newspapers, direct mail, billboards, and radio. But the presence of social media has made marketing accessible to everyone!
Below are a few of my top tips for building a social media strategy on a shoestring budget - with time or money:
- Start slow - you don’t have to be on all platforms at the same time. Pick the platform(s) where your target audience is most engaged. Trying to reach young adults? Instagram and YouTube. People over 40? Facebook. Are you targeting professionals or B2B companies? LinkedIn.
- Planning saves time. Create a content calendar - a plan for what and how often you’ll post each month - about a month ahead of time. A scheduling tool will also help you save time.
- Creating good content takes time. If you don’t adequately “budget” to do social media, it won’t be effective. A good rule of thumb is to plan on about 8 hours/month to start. This includes planning, writing, creating graphics, finding 3rd party articles to share, posting, and engagement. As you add more platforms, it takes more time. You can not strategically use social media by popping onto a platform now and then.
- Don’t try to save money by having an untrained intern handle your social media. Just because someone is young and “born with social” doesn’t mean they know your business, brand, and audience. It is more costly to have your brand misrepresented than hiring someone who understands the importance of doing it well.
- Be realistic. Lower budget social media endeavors mean it will take time to build a following, and you should not expect that social media will drive an increase in sales tomorrow. Social media is a long-term brand-building endeavor, and it can and will pay off if you stay the course.
- If you are investing your time (or you are paying someone) in developing a social media strategy, and you aren’t willing to add some direct spend to the campaign, you are leaving real results on the table. As your budget grows, you can spend more on social media and see results faster.
Like your website, social media is another window into your brand. It represents your voice, your values, and your image. It is the place where you get to express your authentic brand self and even deliver outstanding customer service. Social media is constantly evolving, so continue trying new things and see what works for your business.