We have a different philosophy on social media for small businesses than many.
In our opinion, (we stressed that on purpose) there are two different ways to use social media; as a producer or as a listener. You can be one or you can be both. But boy does it take some time (something most small business owners just don't have).
The Social Producer
This is the easy one - and if you listen to most 'social media experts', this is what they'll tell you to do (if you don't want to pay them). A social producer pushes content out to all the social platforms, or channels. One update is blasted out to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and more. Typically they tell you to use something like HootSuite to do this.
It sounds great - your social media is done once and it goes everywhere. Wow, are you social!
Unfortunately, in most cases, all you're doing is adding to the noise. And if you're not at least following the 4-1-1 rule, everyone gets mad because they're tired of seeing it on all your personal accounts. They unfollow you - or worse - unfriend you.
Being a producer is also the easiest for a business owner to farm out. In most cases, paying a company to simply push out content once or twice a week isn't going to get you anywhere. There's no way in hell that it will help you 'because someone told you you had to be on social'.
(In our opinion) You're wasting your time and money.
The Social Listener
Now this is where social media gets kinda cool (and advantageous) for business. The social listener actively listens for brand mentions, tweets or posts about problems (of which you have the solution to), complaints, and customer service issues.
Having a social listener is great; they can let you know of problems as they happen, help you quell unhappy customers, answer questions of potential customers, and even sell some stuff every once in a while. A social listener can easily boost your online reputation as a company that's hip and quick to help.
Unfortunately, because it's a bit time-intensive, a social listener also wants to get paid.
So in most cases, the social listener is the owner (or some close young relative that likes to play on the Twitters and Facebooks of today). Either way you're out some money, or at least some pizza. And (from my experience) most business owners are a little too busy working, hustling or selling to sit around and wait for someone to tweet about their unfortunate product issue.
So How Do You Solve This Problem Without Spending a Fortune?
Isn't that the ultimate question for business owners?
How can you be on social media (because everyone says you need to) and not go broke while doing it?
In reality, the best situation is one of two things: you get a few tools that will help you do the work, or you hire someone. That's the truth. As a business owner, you can't really put forth the effort required and run a business at the same time. It's just not possible.
Does that mean you just don't do anything? We don't think so. Assuming you're not in the position to hire someone, you need to block out some time and put some effort into it. And we've created a great social media starter guide - which we consider to be a pretty good middle of the road solution.