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Social media in less than an hour a day

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So you own a small business and you've been told by many friends and colleagues that you need to use social media to promote your products and services.

While most accounts are free, they still take time to maintain on a regular basis. And you're too busy running your business every day to bother with Facebook, Twitter and the rest of them.

But having an active presence on social media doesn't have to mean spending hours in front of the computer each day.

Here are tips and ideas for how you can get started and incorporate at least a little social media into your daily work routine.

• Which social media outlets should I be on?

Facebook and Twitter have the largest number of users and are still the best chance for you to connect with existing customers as well as potential customers. But that's not to say that other social media outlets aren't viable options as well.

If the nature of your business lends itself to visuals (such as a bakery making delicious desserts) consider using Pinterest or Instagram to post pictures of your products.

If your business lends itself to footage of events, attractions, etc., consider establishing a YouTube account and posting short videos there that you can then promote via Facebook and Twitter.

• How do I get started?

Get to know Facebook and Twitter by opening and setting up accounts.

Businesses should set up a Facebook fan page and not a profile, which is what individuals use. Be sure to fill out the about section with a description of your business as well as hours, location, phone number and website address.

On Twitter, add a bio about your business to the profile and select a thumbnail image to be used as your avatar, ideally your company logo if you have one.

Spend time at the outset familiarizing yourself with how each social media outlet works. Have your fan page like the fan pages of other businesses that you know. Follow their Twitter accounts, too, if they have them.

• How much time does it take?

Set aside about 15 minutes at the beginning of your workday and again at the end of your workday (and/or around lunchtime if you can manage it) to check your social media accounts and post updates to them.

Some social media tools such as Tweetdeck and HootSuite allow you to schedule posts and tweets. While not the most ideal way to handle your social media efforts, which should be done in real time, scheduling does allow you to maintain a regular online presence on days when you might be too busy to be as active online as you'd like to be.

• How many posts/tweets should I do each day?

Try to update your Facebook fan page once every day that your business is open.

So if you are a Monday-Friday kind of place, focus on those days. It's OK to be silent on the weekends. But if your business is busiest on weekends, such as a bar, restaurant or other attraction, be sure to post then.

The time of day you post and tweet will largely be based on your ability to do so, but try to target key times of day that are most advantageous for your type of business.

A café should post its lunch specials by no later than midmorning. A store should post sales or promotions first thing each day and repeat them later in the day as a reminder. If your business is B-2-B and isn't time sensitive, then post periodically throughout the workday.

Tweets should be more plentiful since Twitter activity refreshes more quickly than Facebook. Aim for three to five tweets a day at the minimum.

With time and practice, social media won't feel so foreign to you and hopefully will become part of your daily work routine in no time.

Tracey Werner is owner of Blabbermouth Communications in Easton, an agency offering marketing, public relations, social media marketing and corporate event planning services. Its website is www.blabbermouthcommunications.com.

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