No shame — do social media on your terms

Find what works for you

Many, many small businesses owe their current success to social media. Your video, link or image goes viral, and BAM! You’ve sold out of a product, or new clients are maxing out your voicemail inbox, clamoring for your services. The ability to promote yourself and your work to thousands of people without having to pony up for advertising fees has revolutionized entrepreneurship.

But it’s a lot to keep up with.

Social Media ScrabbleNot to sound like an unbearable luddite, but new social media seem to appear about every three weeks these days. And just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of the last big thing, the next big thing barges onto the scene. If you’re a teenager, learning a new system might be second nature. But if you’re a Gen-Xer who’s juggling sales, marketing, R&D and distribution for your small business … it might take a while to catch up. And if you’re attempting to populate multiple media, it gets overwhelming pretty darned fast.

Social media tends to inspire guilt, shame and anxiety in a lot of entrepreneurs for two main reasons: We either feel like we’re failing to keep up with our various existing channels, or worry that we’re not “in the know” as new channels emerge.

 

We think we should be hopping on every app-fueled bandwagon that rolls by, and when we don’t, we worry. Relentlessly.

Entrepreneurs feel social stress

Filmmaker Elizabeth Giorgi is in the business of communication, but still struggles to keep her social media fresh. She explains:

“At Mighteor, we make Internet videos. Making moving images is literally how we make our money — and yet, we constantly find ourselves in the position of not knowing how to make the time to create our own compelling video content for YouTube, Snapchat, Vimeo, Vine, Instagram or one of the many other emerging channels we regularly produce content for. Why? Because we spend all day, every day, producing for our clients.”

Karin Jacobson Facebook Page

Fine jewelry designer Karin Jacobson adds, “I do find social media to be a minor stress point in my business. It always feels like just one more thing that I need to do, and don’t have time for. And because it feels like a chore, I don’t find it very interesting; and because I don’t find it interesting, I feel like I’m never up to speed on the newest ways to use social media; and because I’m not up to speed, I feel guilty for letting another thing slide.”

JoAnna James, COO at brandnewnoise, a company that creates handmade wooden voice recorders, wears many hats at an emerging company. She feels like dealing with social media just adds to her workload.

“It’s easy to feel like — unless you have a team dedicated solely to social media content and research — you aren’t doing enough. It seems that social media is the new due diligence for brand awareness; it’s free — for now anyway — it’s popular, it’s far-reaching and the idea is the more times a person sees you or your product, the more likely they are to allow that familiarity translate to an enthusiasm to purchase. This is a powerful perception that can impact your levels of anxiety as an entrepreneur if you feel you’re not driving as much content as possible.”

Smart social solutions

As some have already realized and others are slowly beginning to admit, doing a small group of social media WELL is better for business than doing all of them shoddily. If your website has a blog that hasn’t been updated in six months, that looks far worse than having no blog at all.

Try to focus on manageable, targeted actions when it comes to managing social channels for your business.

 

“For 2016, one of our big goals is to produce one piece of video content per month,” Elizabeth says. “This may seem like a small goal, but it’s a manageable place for my team to start.”

Identifying which platforms naturally align with your products or services is key to narrowing down the field. A small clothing boutique that lacks an ecommerce component might seem like a natural fit for Pinterest … but if the medium doesn’t drive customers to the shop, it’s a waste of valuable staff time. Think hard about which social media will work for your business model.

“We tend to excel at Instagram and YouTube because our product is so visual and sound-driven, which makes picture and video platforms key for us,” JoAnna explains.

Of course, when new media emerge, it’s always worth your time to give them a test run. Do so experimentally and with an open mind, but always consider how it would benefit your business to generate content for a new app or site. If you hate how a medium functions, you won’t keep up with it. And that’s totally fine, because managing and populating social channels can be an incredible time-suck. And unless you’re seeing a major return on your efforts, building brand awareness on a massive scale, or just enjoying participation, you needn’t waste time on a medium, no matter how shiny and new.

Don’t feel guilty about failing to promote your business on every social media platform available. Feel proud of the smart, robust, targeted social content you DO produce for the select few channels that work for you.

Sally McGraw
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She is the creator the popular daily blog Already Pretty, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Huffington Post contributor, and the author of several books about style and body image. Sally is also a ghostwriter and editor who specializes in non-fiction books and book proposals. She believes that writing is like solving a living, breathing, ever-changing puzzle, and finds the challenge exhilarating. Her favorite word is "crepuscular."