6 hours a week; an hour a day (with two on Wednesday); three working days a month. For businesses on the up and busy managers, it probably sounds like quite a lot of time, especially since you probably feel like you could do with three more days a month, not three less. But when you look at what you can achieve in those six little hours, they might not seem so daunting.
The power of six hours
According to the Social Media Examiner's 2014 industry report, nearly two thirds (64 percent) of marketers are using social media for six hours or more a week, and of those marketers:
- More than half find it improves sales
- 95+ percent indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their business
- More than half were able to build new business partnerships
- Two thirds (66 percent) saw lead generation benefits
- 60 percent saw improvements in search engine rankings
- 84 percent saw site traffic increase
- Almost three quarters were more likely to gain marketplace insight
Even those without a big old marketing department are catching up. A recent survey by Vertical Response found 43 percent of small businesses are now spending six hours a week or more on social media. And they're getting strategic about it: over a third (36 percent) pay for publishing and analytics tools and 57.5 percent spend $26 or more per month.
Six secrets of social media success
Of course, to get such great results in so little time, you have to know what you're doing and execute it with lightening speed. Gamers often refer to their APM (actions per minute) to gauge their skill and dexterity in real-time gameplay. In order to achieve social media success in just six hours a week, you need a high APM, knowing what actions to deploy, when and where.
- Target your time. Success doesn't mean spreading yourself across every social media site you can find. Much better to figure out where your ideal customers are likely to hang out and focus your time there. 10,000 followers on Facebook is useless if none of them are likely to buy your product.
- Have an end game in mind for every action. Don't just bleat out noise and hashtag the hell out of your updates. Think about why you're posting a message: who's it aimed at and what do you hope they'll gain from it? What action are you ultimately hoping to prompt? What's the business benefit?
- Have a checklist. Once you know what you're doing and where, create a list that you can follow by rote. There are plenty online you can use as a starting point, from the basic HubSpot daily game plan to The Marketing Tech Blog's sensible social media checklist.
- Build relationships. Social media is about raising your profile and having a conversation. Make sure you do both and interact with influencers, potential customers and anyone who asks you a reasonable question. Look for people asking for help on topics your business is an expert in - go looking for relationships.
- Follow up. Don't keep social media locked away in its own bubble. As you start to make connections, move them into the sales cycle: nurture them with emails and calls. Connect what you're doing in social media to your wider campaigns and don't forget to follow and delight existing customers.
- Create your own content. You have to be adding to the conversation, otherwise, as Matthew likes to say, 'you're just breaking eggs without making an omelette.' Some people include writing blogs in their social media six hours, others place it in content creation. Either have way have some original content, and be sure to share it well.
Six essential tasks
Exactly how you spend your six hours will vary depending on your audience, what you sell and how you sell it, but there are a few things everyone should be squeezing into their six hours:
- Review what's working. What's getting shared and liked? What's not? And more importantly, what are your leads liking most? Are the number of qualified leads from social media increasing?
- Schedule content. Just because you might spread your six hours over five days doesn't mean you have to spend time posting every day. Line up posts in bulk and do one whole job at a time.
- Respond. This is daily. Respond as quickly as possible when people reach out to you. Prove you're paying attention.
- Watch what's trending. Listen for mentions relevant to your industry, competitors and your own brand.
- Reach out. Don't just respond to what people say. Target people and start a conversation. Send an InMail or tweet a question. Be specific.
- Keep your profiles up to date. Keep your logos, photos, links and descriptions up to scratch. No one's impressed by a rundown shop front.
Marketing tools like HubSpot (yes, we use HubSpot) can help you with these tasks by pulling in data and making it easier to manage.
Stick to those six hours
Even if you start your optimised six hours a week today, you won't see social media success straight away. These magic six hours a week have to happen every week, without fail, for the long term. Schedule them in your calendar and set to repeat indefinitely.
The other key finding in the Social Media Examiner's report was that the longer you keep it up, the better the results are:
- More than half of marketers who've been using social media for at least three years report it has helped them improve sales
- More than half of marketers who've invested at least one year in social media report that new partnerships were gained
- More than half of marketers with at least one year of social media experience were generating leads with social platforms
Finally, stay focused
Social media might feel like a flighty task. In your personal life you're probably used to Instagraming during dinner or Facebooking in front of the TV. But in business, you have to dedicate those six hours a week just to social media - it's work, like any other part of your job.
No tweeting while you email or interacting on LinkedIn groups while you're on the phone. You have to concentrate, focus and do it well to get results.
What it turns out is that we think we’re multitasking, but we’re not. The brain is sequential tasking, we flit from one thought to the next very, very rapidly, giving us the illusion that what we’re doing is doing all these things at once. But I’m here to tell you, as a neuroscientist, just because we think we’re doing something doesn’t mean we are. Our brains are very, very good at self-delusion.
Follow these tips in your six hours a week, and your social media success won't need any self-delusion at all.