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Hands of man and woman using pda (Jupiterimages/JUPITER IMAGES)

MIA PEARSON

How to stay on top of your social media Add to ...

A lot has been made of the benefits of social media for small business.

It can be a cost-effective way to reach large audiences, and it gives customers or investors a new way to interact with your brand. While most small businesses worry about the initial steps of deciding which social networks to join and how to get started, one of the most difficult hurdles comes further down the line.

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After your presence is established, many organizations realize they are having trouble sustaining momentum. With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs all competing for resources, many organizations struggle to stay on top of it all.

The prospect of hiring a full-time community manager and keeping fresh content rolling out the door is daunting, with the limited budgets and resources available in a small business, but there are ways to cope.

Here are a few ideas.

Plan ahead

It’s amazing how many companies rush in to social media without a plan.

Businesses that never do anything without a thorough analysis may, with social media, break with tradition and just jump on the bandwagon. They think it’s better to be there first than to be there in a meaningful way, and this hurts them in the long run.

Having a clearly defined plan that’s aligned with other marketing efforts and fits well with the overall business strategy will greatly increase your chances of success.

Approach social media as you would any other business decision. Make sure it makes sense; create goals, define the scope, and allocate resources. Be very clear about what you want your brand to be known for, and don’t deviate.

Once defined, share the findings with all internal stakeholders to ensure consistency and focus.

Look at what you already have

For organizations struggling to create content, the most surprising revelation is often how much they already have.

Not everything has to be new, or created specifically for social media. Start by digging. Go through old projects or your website and catalogue everything that might be interesting.

It’s amazing how much content already exists, and with some minor tweaking it can become highly sharable.

Older videos and reports can tell a great story about a company’s history or opportunities that helped get the business where it is today.

Sharing where the company came from and why it was first started is often as important as where it is going. Video is highly sharable, and if done well, it provides a great way to build your company’s reputation and to highlight past successes.

Similarly, content that wasn’t created for social media can easily be modified to be made more sharable, easier to digest and more interesting to your followers.

Consider making an infographic, for example, that’s based on statistics from an annual report or choosing interesting points from a presentation and creating a blog post around them.

Create a conversation calendar

In addition to ensuring consistency in the tone and cadence of your social media presence, a conversation calendar will help you plan what’s coming up in terms of content so you can get things ready in advance.

It’s also a great way to assign work to people from across the organization and ensure that social media is becoming an integral part of every marketing and communications initiative.

The calendar should be a living document, housed where everyone can access it and contribute to it, but with one person assigned to ensure that competition for share of the feed is sorted out in a way that best suits the business.

Curate

One of the most compelling changes social media has made is how it has empowered individuals and corporations to take a meaningful role in news or content curation.

Curation is one of the easiest and most resource-effective ways to provide valuable content to your audience.

Sharing timely and on-topic articles from trusted sources with your followers helps build authority and demonstrate thought leadership without breaking the bank on internal content creation.

Third-party content also provides a valuable opportunity to spice up your conversation calendar and provide a break from owned content. There is no tried-and-true rule for what type of content mix will work well with your community.

Test it out, and when you get to that sweet spot, where engagement is high, complaints are minimal and you’re not losing followers, stick with it.

Who’s going to do all this?

Social media can be a lot of work, but you may have people on your team who would love to take ownership of a particular component.

An in-house graphic designer would probably enjoy working on the odd infographic. You may have an office manager who is a passionate blogger and a detail-oriented copywriter who would be the perfect person to edit your online content.

By involving a few people from your team and sharing the role of content creation, you are giving employees an opportunity to work on something different and a chance to learn new skills.

Training will be involved up front, but chances are you already have people who would like to get their feet wet and will make the time.

At the end of the day, social media is “social.” With the right strategy, training and team, it can be surprisingly easy to share the workload and ensure your company is authentically engaging on a continuous basis with audiences that matter.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Follow on Twitter: @miapearson

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