Managing Social Media


Managing Social Media

About ten years ago, Facebook introduced business pages, providing companies of all sizes a cost-effective platform for promoting themselves, attracting new clients and delivering customer care.

Entrepreneurs flocked to set up Facebook pages, a communications channel opening them to previously unimaginable potential customers. Experts championed new platforms like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as leveling the marketing playing field for entrepreneurs.

But if you asked an entrepreneur today their opinions about social media, you might find their responses decidedly mixed.

“Ten years ago, entrepreneurs treated social media as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Ten years later, business owners understand the risk of over indulging, and know they need to dine selectively,“ said Lorraine Ball, owner and marketing strategist at her own firm, RoundPeg, Indianapolis, IN.

“From the time I get up, to the time I go to sleep, between liking statuses, posting and reposting content, I probably spend two hours a day minimum managing my social media,” said sole proprietor Christin O’Brien, Haverhill, MA. O’Brien owns a SpiritBox franchise, selling monthly subscriptions for custom-packaged gift boxes for cheerleaders, dancers and gymnasts ages 6-22.

“My kids and my husband would probably say that’s higher,” O’Brien said.

Ball at RoundPeg says this is one of the greatest jeopardies small business owners face jumping into social media. Entrepreneurs must be careful about how much time it takes them away from managing their business offline.

Entrepreneurs should be looking at their business strategically, and understanding which platform will give them the best opportunity to have a dialogue with their customers, without overwhelming the owner.

“If you’re a B-to-C company, it’s likely many of your customers are on Facebook—the network is just that huge,” said Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in small businesses and entrepreneurship. Previously, Lesonsky was Editorial Director at Entrepreneur Magazine. “Most B-to-B customers hang out on LinkedIn. That said, the best way to find out what platform is best for you is to ask your customers where they spend their time. Your primary social outlet should be the one most of your customers use—for business.”

Lila Ermel Fox, a home-based travel agent based in New Orleans, is most active on Facebook because it helps her remain “front of mind in my social circles when my friends and clients think of travel. I get a lot of referrals from friends and friends of friends on Facebook resulting in anything from one hotel night to four- and five-figure trips. Those smaller bookings add up.”

Fox also finds that most of her clients on Facebook use the instant messenger function to communicate with her about travel bookings.

Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales at Avoya Travel, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that helps mainly solo entrepreneurs start and manage their own travel agencies, advises agents who join his network to follow Fox’s approach.

“You need to ask yourself, why are you on social media in the first place?” Koepf said. “The number one reason should be communicating to customers already in your network, to get them messaging to their friends and contacts, and endorsing your brand. By focusing on building a stronger community, you will generate new customers. Other people will reach out and say, ‘hey, my travel agent posted about Tahiti.’”

Koepf recommends Instagram and Facebook for Avoya agents because the platforms allow for lush photography, a major vacation motivator. For food retailers and coffee shops, Ball recommends Instagram for its ability to make followers salivate – with good photos of course. She recommends consultants and business service industries use LinkedIn principally.

Fox uses an Instagram handle to express her love for photography.

“I’m not seeing that I get many clients from Instagram. I love photography – whether posting photos from when I’m traveling or when I’m cooking in my kitchen at home – that’s the space that I share more creative imagery. I also find that these two platforms have different audiences so I ‘speak’ to each accordingly.”

Koepf also sees some travel agents on Pinterest.

For her SpiritBox franchise, O’Brien uses Facebook to target moms, and Instagram to reach cheerleaders, gymnasts and dancers.

“Instagram has a wonderful community of dancers and athletes, and they like to be ambassadors of brands they use,” she said. O’Brien looks for active Instagram “cheerlebrities,” posters with upwards of 800-900 followers. She will offer them a free box and do a photo shoot with them to get them to post about her company. “I can grab 400-500 followers on my Instagram account by finding the right ambassador,” she said. Currently, her SpiritBox franchise generates about 20 inbound sales queries a day from Instagram.

“I fulfill more than 500 boxes a month. It’s very exciting, because I am doing this mostly from my phone, while I am at a cheer competition,” O’Brien said.

While social media can drive sales, small business owners need to be careful not to overwhelm themselves with the seemingly 24/7, “respond in 60-minutes” nature of the communities they create, owners and experts say.

“You do not need to be everywhere,” Ball at RoundPeg said. “To manage your time and your resources, it is fine to step back from platforms that don’t work for you. A great example of this was when Copyblogger, a prominent blogging and social media consulting firm, deleted their Facebook page. They did this even though they had 30,000 followers because they were having significantly better results elsewhere. You will be more successful if you do a great job in one place rather than a mediocre job everywhere.”

“I used to have a Twitter account and a blog in addition to Facebook and Instagram,” Fox said. “It got to be time-consuming to manage all four myself, in addition to operating a demanding travel agency. So I took a step back and evaluated which social media platforms had the most traction and which I enjoyed the most.”

Only 23% of the respondents to the RoundPeg survey spend more than an hour a day managing social media, most likely, Ball said, because 63% of business owners create their own social media content and simply don’t have the time to do more. In fact, 44% of entrepreneurs now use staff to create content, the RoundePeg survey reports, versus 33% when Ball first launched her survey.

Dawn Pease, President, Dawn’s Sign Tech, North Andover, MA, has three employees, other than herself. When a staff member completes a job at a site, they capture digital photos and e-mail them to Pease, who forwards them to an agency that works for her on a monthly retainer. The agency posts the pictures on her Facebook and Twitter account.

Like most small business owners, Pease has to be careful about her online reputation because 75% of her business comes from repeat customers, and they follow her online. She monitors her reputation via a Yelp page, which costs her $200 a month, though she finds she has increasingly less use for the expense. 
Maureen Campaiola, Nottingham, MA, offers debt and personal finance consulting through her website,, and manages both a blog, as well as Pinterest and Facebook pages.

She said she has seen an uptick in people making negative contents on Pinterest. “You post something, and some people will start slamming you,” Campaiola said. “You thought they liked your page because they like you, but eventually you start to see some followers’ true colors.

Campaiola now manages a private Facebook group for followers, to better control the online dialogue.

“You can’t be on Facebook all day waiting to see negative comments. In the private Facebook group, members will message me privately, that something is going on at my public page. I’ve had to ban people, blocking them.”

If you do find a customer complaining on your social media platform, acknowledge them as soon as you see their post, Ball said. “Tell them, ‘Let's talk.’ You don't have to admit you were wrong, simply invite the customer for a more detailed conversation off line. And when the issue is resolved, ask the customer to post a new comment about how you solved the issue.”

“I had a customer being unreasonable on my Facebook page, and they posted that I had “terrible customer service,” O’Brien said. “They posted a complaint in the morning, and I didn’t notice it and respond until two in the afternoon. I gave them a refund instead of having them impact me on social media. She still posted I had the worst customer service. Even though I have ten other really positive reviews, that one, one-star review bothers me.”

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