“Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live” ~ Albert Einstein

In Search Of Lost Timephoto © 2007 Alexander Boden | more info (via: Wylio)

Time – or the lack thereof – is a constant challenge for those who run a small business. As the owner, operator, marketing, admin, Finance, HR and technology departments all rolled into one you find yourself choosing from an endless list of tasks that only seems to get longer as you tick them off one by one. It’s enough to make you question why you ever started a business in the first place!

One of the biggest struggles I see small business owners dealing with when it comes to how to spend their time is that they are always torn between running the operations and marketing their services. How do you find a balance between looking for new work and getting your current work done? If you stop looking for new work, then by the time the current work is completed you no longer have anything to do. But if you spend all your time looking for new work then you are not spending that time completing tasks that pay your bills. The vicious cycle goes on and on.

And anymore it’s not just a matter of advertising in a handful of papers, local magazines and websites. Now is the additional, daunting complexity added with the deluge of social media tools that have hit the market. Think back to the ’90s when the internet started gaining popularity but only some businesses actually adopted a website. Now you can’t survive as a business without a website. It’s the same with social media tools – some companies are getting by without using them but that won’t last long.

So business owners are really starting feel a need to tap into these tools – whether they know how to use them or not. So a Facebook page is set up, a twitter account registered, and a few days/weeks/months later it’s forgotten and collecting digital dust.

Which leads to the question: do you pay money to someone else to manage those accounts for you? If you’re like most small business owners you don’t have the monetary resources to do this.

Where is the happy medium?

There is, unfortunately, no simple answer. But you can take a few steps to ensure you are making the most of the tools available to you (for free) without completely overwhelming yourself with addition items on your to-do list.

1. Define your social media approach. What do you hope to accomplish by adopting social media tools and integrating them into your business? Really think about the outcome you are hoping to achieve and how you might go about doing so.

2. Chose your tools carefully. Not every social media tool is going to fit your business model and you don’t have to sign up for everything just because it’s free. Make a list of possible tools, come up with a plan for how you will use each one, then decide if it’s worth using or not.

3. Plan your time wisely. Decide how much time you are willing to commit to the maintenance and upkeep of your social media presence. Then plot it out on a calendar and stick to it.

4. Measure, measure, measure. You have to understand whether your social media presence is having an impact on your business. If you don’t take initial measurements and monitor them over time you won’t know whether you are being successful or not. ]

5. Be willing to learn new things and outsource what you can’t learn. There are some things that are relatively simple to learn along the way. You may have to do some reading and some experimentation, but consider it continuing education. Other things are either not part of your skill set or things you just don’t want to learn (JAVA and HTML coding for example). Know the difference and be willing to look for help on the things you decide you can’t or won’t take on.

These steps should help keep you from piling an unmanageable list of items onto your already burgeoning to-do list while allowing you to take advantage of the exciting tools available to you.

– Christy