For small-business owners, there's never enough time in a day. They have limited staff and financial resources. But it's important for all small businesses to be on at least one social network. Facebook has the largest number of users - more than 1 billion active users a month - so it makes sense for businesses to start with this social network.
The question many small business owners are asking themselves is: Should I handle social media myself or hire a digital agency? There are a number of factors to consider before making this important decision:
Time. Do you realistically have enough time to dedicate to social media on a daily basis? Small-business owners should spend at least one hour per day on social media, depending on how many platforms they are on. Remember, quality counts! There are social media dashboards out there, such as HootSuite, Tweetdeck, Sprout Social and Kuhcoon, that provide the tools for businesses to schedule posts ahead of time, so they don't have to be sitting at their computer (or mobile device) when they want to post something. They also include reporting tools to evaluate how social media marketing efforts are going.
Cost. It costs nothing to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc., but if you want to advertise on these platforms -- which will help you reach an extended audience beyond your social followers -- this does cost money. The good news is that these social networks have self-serve advertising, and it doesn't require a marketer to do this. But if you can afford an agency or consultant, it might not be a bad idea, because they are experts in this area, and might be able to help you get the best bang for your buck. The cost of hiring a digital agency or consultant, however, varies greatly.
Expertise. It doesn't take a genius to handle social media, but there are best practices in terms of when and what to post where (I'll address this in a future column). If you aren't aware of these, there are a few options: You can do a Google search, and read articles from a variety of sources; hire an agency or consultant; attend social media marketing courses at a local community college or other brick-and-mortar or online-based educational institution, or a social media-focused event. Remember, visuals (images and video) draw the best engagement on social media
Mario A. Bevilacqua, co-owner of What the Fork Truck in northeast Pennsylvania, said he and his team handle all social media posts themselves, and they funnel all content through Facebook. They use Kuhcoon to schedule posts, and they launched their Facebook page six weeks before the food truck opened for business. According to Bevilacqua, the pro of employees handling social media themselves is they get paid to play on Facebook all day long, but the con is it can be challenging to create new content constantly.
Page 2 of 2 - So what types of Facebook posts has Bevilacqua discovered work best for What the Fork Truck, and when do they get posted?
"By guiding our customers towards our Facebook page, we've leveraged them to like the page, which allows us an extreme advantage. We engage in various content: videos, photos, links and text posts. We watch our analytics very closely and have learned what hours to post are most successful in our community and what types of content to post at different times: links, early morning; menu, mid-morning; menu, noon; tomorrow's location, 3 p.m.; photos, 4 to 7 p.m.; funny, interesting content, 7 to 9 p.m.; menu and location for the following day, 7 to 10 p.m.," he said.
Besides organic social media posts, What the Fork Truck spends $2.25 daily on Facebook promoted posts.
"By always promoting our most recent post, we've been able to convince the Facebook algorithm, as we are always a paying customer, instead of running a free page, to show up in more news feeds and have really shown great increases in likes and engagement," he said.
The food truck also focuses heavily on customer service on social media. According to Bevilacqua, his entire staff is encouraged to respond to posts.
"It's very important to us to personally respond to our customers in a timely fashion and really push to give them great customer service to enhance their experience," he said.
Editor's note: Tim Sohn is a freelance writer/editor and social media consultant from Pike County and is a correspondent for The News Eagle. Contact him at TimothyJSohn@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @editortim. (This column is distributed by More Content Now.)
He will be speaking about social media for small businesses at social media/blogging conference NEPA BlogCon on Oct. 5 at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, Pa., from 11-11:45 a.m.