When you’re starting a website for your small business, consulting service, or anything else, social media probably isn’t on your mind. After all, you already have an account on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, and it seems like a nice hobby, a way to document your business successes as they come. Of course, you plan to tell your followers about your new web site, but you don’t see them as integral to your site’s launch.
Starting a web site without thinking first, second, and third about social media is like opening a restaurant without planning for a kickoff celebration. Not only do you lose the opportunity to capitalize on the goodwill you’ve already earned from your friends and family, you set a precedent of not calling attention to your work by all available means.
Social media can help your web site in two ways. First, social media can serve as a billboard, one posted in many corners of the Internet, that will lead potential customers to your site. Second, social media can serve as a way to engage your site visitors, either by showing them recently updated site content that demonstrates your active engagement in your business, or by encouraging them to stay connected with your business by following you on the social media channels they use most frequently.
While social media seems like the ultimate freebie for a new web site, there are actually a number of ways you can make your social media efforts pay off by spending a little money up front. Here are our tips for your social media strategy regardless of your site budget.
With a tight budget, you probably don’t want to make a big financial investment in social media, so instead you need to focus on how much time you’re planning to devote to your social efforts. We recommend starting out with a plan to spend an hour a week on all things social, and use free analytics software, like Google Analytics or, for Twitter, TweetStats, in order to keep track of which investments are paying off.
If you have a bigger budget for social media, you probably want to focus on making your other spending—particularly on web site design, logos, and photography—social media friendly.
Ask your web designer to use responsive design techniques that will make your site attractive and useable on any device, from a tablet to a smart phone. When you’re creating logos and images, consider the unusual formats required by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites so you don’t have to clumsily resize them later.
While we recommend that you start your social media work by focusing on a single platform, eventually you’ll want to be able to spread content to multiple platforms. HootSuite has free and paid plans that make it easy to update social media.
You’ll also want to include your social media content on your web site. We like Social Media Tabs, which allows you to display multiple social media pages in a single box.
While you can always find people to charge you for social media services, if you’re spending almost five figures on your new web site, you’re probably focused on building an online store that will withstand holiday traffic, or a similarly difficult and expensive project. Social media is demanding, but it requires more time than money.
That said, you’ll still want to take the advice given above, and you might consider upgrading to the professional version of a social media manager just to be able to scale up quickly. You also might consider investing in paid metrics, like SocialBro (https://www.socialbro.com/), which allows you to tailor your tweets to appeal to your most influential followers.
If social media is really critical to your business success, you might even consider employing a writer, or tasking one of your current employees, to cultivate your social media presence. You might not have the time or patience to keep up with Twitter, but there people out there who can help.
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Photo by San Jose Library