3 Free Tools To Help Your Small Business Become Social (And Make It A Habit)

3 Free Tools To Help Your Small Business Become Social (And Make It A Habit)

Social media is a cost-effective advertising medium for businesses of all sizes. When done right, social media can not only helps add sales – it can drive engagement. Small businesses can greatly benefit from the use of social media, but the problem most small business owners face is finding the time, and of course, sticking to the plan.

The Plan

You are interested in social media because you want to grow your business. That is something that most of us can agree on. First, it takes a plan. While there are a number of tools that can help you tame social media, without a plan, you’ll likely not walk away a believer. Social media is not simply a matter of posting content. You need to be building towards something, like a story.

First up on your ‘to-do’ list is to formulate a plot.

You need an incentive. Whether it be a freebie, discount, contest – or something else, creating an incentive is always a good idea. Here are some pointers to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • Offer a free ebook or report targeted towards your niche
  • Free training or consultations
  • Free graphics, tools, or software
  • A giveaway or contest

At this stage it’s important to pick something and run with it. Don’t get too caught up with perfecting everything. You can always save improvements for future campaigns. The key is action. If anything, offer your time, a discount, or a giveaway (a $25 Amazon or Starbucks gift card is perfect for your first giveaway). Once you have that in place, we’ll move on to the next step.

The Tools

There are a wide variety of social media tools, some better than others. You’ll find both free and paid versions, some expensive, some not. We’ll be sticking with the free versions, so you can get a feel for being a social media manager without having to spend any money.

Get these tools for your toolbox:

  • Hootsuite: This tool allows you to manage Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn (and more). For simplicity sake, we’ll stick to the first three. Sign up for Hootsuite and add your accounts.
  • Task Timer: This is a Google Chrome app that works within your browser. It’s exactly what it says, a timer. This will allow you to keep track of your time. Productivity is important!
  • 21Habit: You know how they say it takes at least 3 weeks to make something a habit? Well, that’s what this tool helps you with. Create your goal (“Conquer Social Media”) and get daily reminders sent to your email. Now you’ll feel obligated to put in some work!

The Strategy

Now that you are wielding your social media toolbox, it’s time to get to work. If you haven’t done it already, go to 21Habit.com and create your first habit. (i.e. “I will rock social media for one hour per day.”)

21habit

Next, I want you to open up Task Timer and add the following tasks:

  • Content Creation: 15 min.
  • Facebook: 15 min.
  • Twitter: 15 min.
  • Google+: 15 min.

Task Timer

My screen grab looks a little different, but it’s because I have quite a few more tasks. Ignore the fact that mine only says 10 min. ;P

Once we are ready to start, you’ll be timing yourself on each task. This will help you out in two ways: 1) spending a designated amount on each task will keep you laser focused; 2) you’ll keep track of your time (and not waste any).

The final stop off will be Hootsuite. Simply sign up and add you social media accounts. You can also install the browser extension as well. This will save you even more time in the long run, so I recommend it.

The Execution

Here is where the action starts. So, at this point you have signed up for all of the services above. You should be on Day One of your 21-day commitment. Let’s get started!

Task 1: Content Creation (15 min.)

Let’s rock’n’roll! What you will want to do first is open up Task Timer and hit the play icon. The first 15 minutes you spend should be on finding some relevant news and/or information that you can talk about. You want to uncover interesting stories that will connect with your audience. No one knows your niche better than you, so this part is on you. Here are a few pointers:

  • Subscribe to popular blogs and industry news. You can get the RSS feeds from your favorite blogs and add them into Hootsuite. This will make it easier than having to sort through emails, and you’ll have the added benefit of being able to simply share the stories from inside Hootsuite.
  • Use keywords related to your niche to search within Google. Filter search results by images, blogs, videos, and news to get a wider range of content.
  • Spy on your competitors. Seriously. If you are just starting out, seeing social media in action for your niche will help a great deal. Unleash your inner sleuth and visit your competitors fan pages, Twitter accounts, and Google+ pages. You can also simply use search terms like “most popular brands on [Facebook/Twitter/Google+] to uncover how the top dogs are doing it.

Task 2: Facebook (15 min.)

Once the ding! goes off your time is up. You should have a great deal of information at your fingertips. Start the next timer, which in this case would be Facebook. Create a post and publish it. A lot can be said on how to create the perfect post. I’d go into detail, but Mari Smith knows her stuff. I’ll let her do it.

Once you publish your post, get ready to spend the rest of your time networking on other pages. It’s not as hard as you think – just be yourself. Personality is more important than trying to be perfect. For example, if you are a local business, you should find other local businesses around you and stop by their page. Leave a ‘like’ and a comment, then move on. If you service customers on a grander scale, stick to finding pages that tie closely into your niche. Are you a web designer? Network with web hosting companies, print firms, and social media experts. Do you deal in travel? Focus on hotels, resorts, and travel pages.

The key here is to not simply focus on engaging with the page itself. Look at the comments. You want to target your efforts towards pages that have a lot of interaction already. Visit the pages of other businesses that are commenting and ‘like’ their page. More often than not, they’ll return the favor.

Task 3: Twitter (15 min.)

Ding! You what that means – time’s up. Move right into your next task. Hit the start button on Task Timer for Twitter (say that 3 times as fast as you can) and let’s get going!

This is where you will have to find what works best for you. I like to spend this time to do some engagement, but the thing with Twitter is that conversations occur quickly. What I have found works best is that as I am researching about things to write or looking up interesting news, if I find it interesting, I schedule it as a tweet. Let’s face it, if you stumble upon an article that is helpful to you, it will help someone out as well. As Chris Brogan says, in his Zen-like Business Buddha state: “Be helpful”. Another good time-saver is scheduling your tweets in bulk.

Now you just need to start jumping in conversations, retweeting, and sharing information. Want more tips? Here. Don’t ever say I never did anything for you. =P

Task 4: Google+ (15 min.)

The Google+ technique is much like Facebook. If you go this far, I’m sure you can do the rest. If you want some in-depth info though, read this post, and sign up for our free social media training series with Kim Beasley. Look up… a little bit to the right.. there you have it. You can also visit us on Facebook and sign up there as well. Hope to see you there!

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