Many stats show that small businesses are embracing social media and plan to devote even more focus in 2011, but what these studies don't dive into is how businesses are going to staff these efforts. Right now I've seen two basic methods - do it yourself in-house, or use agency support. Here are four things to think about as you contemplate expanding your presence.
1. Do you have the skills to manage a community on your staff? The technical stuff can be learned, but the communication and creative stuff will most likely need to come naturally. Some folks are good at math, others are good at talking. At the end of the day social media is about interacting with people online. If writing, responding and listening aren't your strong points you may want to think about outside help.
2. Do you have the time? When you print an ad you can walk away and be done with it, same with direct mail. Social media is different, it requires you to respond, to monitor and to listen. Sure it is more work, but when you are building loyalty and working with your customers to make your business the best it can be, the payoff can be pretty sweet.
3. Do you have the desire? Social media is not for everyone. If you are one of those people who have said, "Why would I ever join Twitter? I don't care what someone ate for breakfast." You may want to hand social over to someone else. It's one thing to not "get it," it's another thing to "not want to get it." Somewhat similar to how I feel about football or baseball...er and hockey.
4. Do you have the funds? Sure setting a page up is free, but then what? To make social work hard for you, you need to keep the content fresh and the conversation engaging (that means spending time listening as well as talking). If you don't have the time, skills or desire to handle in-house, then ask yourself if you have the funds to use an agency. Also think about supporting social with ad buys on Facebook or special promotions.
If you believe social media is a powerful marketing tool and want to increase your presence, go for it. Just make sure you have the right resources in place before you take the plunge, and don't kid yourself that it won't take time and energy. As any business owner knows, anything worth doing takes a little effort.