Client: “I sell heavy machinery in Nampa, Idaho. Why do I only have 15 Facebook likes?”
Consultant: “Well, what’s your social media budget?”
Client: “I don’t have one.”
Consultant: “Hmmm… How big is your social media team?”
Client: “It’s just me.”
Consultant: “That’s why you only have 15 likes.”
Part of me would like to tell people like this to just give it up already. But the reality is that many individuals are facing the same problem: they are responsible for social media, but they have no resources for it. Yet these one-person, no-budget, “social media teams” keep at it.
Why are some working against the odds in the first place? Because management often thinks that social should be free or really cheap, so they don’t invest in it. These captains of industry haven’t figured out that in order to get the kind of results they are looking for, they need to support social with some resources (just like they do for all their other channels). Ironically, they tend to forget about their lack of investment, and wonder why their social efforts are a dismal failure.
That’s not to say you need big bucks to create social media success – you don’t. I’ve seen some impressive results achieved with modest budgets. There are always things you can do to stretch your social media budget further. But expectations should be adjusted to correlate with the level of investment in both budget as well as staffing.
If you are a one-person, social media team struggling with little to no budget, or just looking to get social done on the cheap, the tips below are for you!
#1. Before you do anything else, determine your strategy
Strategy is always important in any marketing endeavor, and I’ve talked before about how it’s often overlooked when it comes to social media. If you’ve got a lot of money to waste, then maybe it’s not such a big deal. Clearly, the brands below didn’t bother to develop a social media strategy. But if you only have a couple nickels and a pile of pocket lint to your name, then strategy is a must-do first step.
For starters, it’s important to know what you want to accomplish from social media. It will allow you to focus what little resources you have on setting your goals and achieving them. For instance, if you are interested in getting likes, think about what kind of likes you hope to receive, why those likes have a business value for you, and what you’ll do with them after you get them. Otherwise, social media will be a waste of time.
And chances are you probably don’t have a lot of time for social media to begin with. In fact, if you represent the total social media team, just keeping up with several different social networks can often seem like an impossible task. Knowing what you want out of the channel will help you prioritize your efforts and save time. It can even help you decide which social networks to sacrifice if needed. For example, let’s say you have no time for Tumblr this week. If Pinterest is better suited to deliver on your goals, why bother with Tumblr in the first place? Put what little time you have into Pinterest!
If you create a strategy with clear goals, then you can rely on one or two networks to get the job done, and not spread yourself so thin. But it’s important to choose your social networks wisely. Knowing which social networks are best aligned with your target audience is half the battle. The infographic below provides a good general summary of social media demographics.
Of course, it would be great to have some resources, right? Well, if you can show ROI for your social media efforts, then maybe you can convince the boss to give you some. But to do that, you’ll need to have goals and a strategy built around achieving them.
#2. Put some efficiency into your process
Maybe you don’t have a process. That’s understandable – you probably don’t have time for one. You just tweet when you have the chance. Well, it’s time to fix that. Establish a process ASAP. Simply schedule a time each day that is dedicated to routine social media maintenance.
The great thing about doing something regularly is that you tend to get better at it. You’ll find natural efficiencies, and come to develop certain instincts about what works and what doesn’t. You’re effectively training yourself through familiarization. For example, the more you use Google+, the more you’ll understand the crazy interface and then it won’t take you as long to check out a few Communities and make some meaningful posts. Let social media become second nature to you – call it social media muscle memory.
Tools will help boost the efficiency of your social media efforts. There are many free or inexpensive tools on the Web that can streamline your process, especially in regard to using the channel for listening. Google Alerts, Hootsuite and IFTTT are great tools for monitoring key terms and alerting you to take action. There are also tools like Twuffer that allow you to schedule updates. They let you make posts around the clock without having to work around the clock!
But be careful about automating posts. Be sure to proofread them and never automate responses to users. Learn from the Dominos mistake below.
The smartphone is the greatest tool today to aid your social media process. Mobile social media apps allow you to easily post to any platform from anywhere, and receive important notifications right on your phone. Thanks to smartphone technology, you can get a social media alert and respond to it immediately. Spend some time setting it up to work well for your purposes. Add the appropriate apps, place shortcuts where you can easily find them, and customize your notifications so you’re not bombarded with meaningless updates.
#3. Develop quality content efficiently
Tweeting can be hard work. If you tweet multiple times a day, every day, you could be writing the equivalent of a short novel each year. And that’s just the text. But sometimes your audience might demand additional content, like images and video. While such content is highly engaging, it can be difficult and expensive to produce, especially when you have little to no budget or staff.
If you can get your hands on a few dollars, you might want to consider crowdsourcing content creation. It can help you efficiently put many people to work creating your material. With even a small budget, you can use a service like 99designs to make fun graphics to share with your followers. Or use Text-Broker to generate enough tweets so you don’t waste hours of your own time trying to come up with something pithy.
But if you have zero budget dollars, you still have options! Try Animoto for easy video creation, and find free images on Flickr or Wikimedia Commons. And be sure to leverage the free video and photo editing apps available today, like Snapseed.
But if none of these options work for you, don’t fret. With any luck you’re already sitting on tons of content that is just waiting to be repurposed. Take inventory of the material you have to work with, but keep in mind that it may not all be digital. Be sure to include content in the form of brochures, product descriptions, product images, company memos, customer thank you notes, etc.
#4. Get the word out
Spending millions of dollars on Facebook can easily get you a handful of likes. But if you don’t have the funds, you’ll need another means. Your employee base is the first place you should turn. Employees are an untapped resource you can use to greatly expand your social efforts. Turn them into brand evangelists! Encouraging them to amplify your social media presence is a great start to an inexpensive promotion.
Your customers can also help you get the word out. Since these people do business with you, chances are they like the company, and they would be willing to engage with it in the social sphere. Considering that, be sure to remind them about your social presence. For instance, let them know about your Google+ page when you send out your next email blast.
A burgeoning online community would be the best way to get the word out, but building one without an advertising budget can be difficult. Fortunately, plenty of communities already exist. Consider joining a few instead of focusing on building your own. But keep in mind that these communities don’t want you to spam them. You’ll have to put in some time to learn their ways and how you can best provide value to the community. I highly suggest you give Reddit a shot.
Build upon your successes, no matter how small
It would be great if you had the budget and staff you needed to make social media a big hit at your company. But don’t get disheartened by the lack of either or both. Remember to build upon your successes, no matter how small. If you can create social media success without a budget, then you should easily be able to knock it out of the park when you finally get one!
Are you doing social media with little to no budget? How have you done social on the cheap? Share your success tips here.