July 15, 2024

You’re the Boss: A Tool to Help Business Owners Struggling With Social Media

Carolynn Betts: Courtesy of Betts RecruitingCarolyn Betts: “More people are talking about us.”

Tech Support

What small-business owners need to know about technology.

Carolyn Betts is more knowledgeable about social networking than the average small-business owner. Back in 2004, when she had just started working for an executive recruiting firm, she saw how her sister in college was spending a lot of time on this student-focused site called Facebook and immediately started using it to reach out to sharp graduates to fill junior-level positions. She soon became a relatively early user of LinkedIn and Twitter, using them to expand her online presence. So when Ms. Betts started her own recruiting company in San Francisco in 2009 to find sales executives for start-ups, no one had to tell her to make social networks part of her operation.

Yet Ms. Betts became concerned she was dropping the ball with social networks at Betts Recruiting. “To really take advantage of them you have to engage people on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “But doing our status updates or posts about interesting articles, or tweets, kept getting pushed into the background. We’d plan an event around a star client, but then no one was talking it up online to get people interested.” So Ms. Betts started hunting for a tool that would help — and ended up with a relatively new one called Roost.

There are dozens of tools for managing social networks, and new ones seem to spring up weekly. A few have caught my eye because they can manage many connections over many accounts scattered across several different social networks. I’ve mostly relied on a tool called HootSuite, which, like many of these tools, provides an integrated look at all the various sorts of conversations and postings happening in your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks, and also offers easy posting to any of them along with various ways to analyze the engagement of your followers. I’ve also checked out Sprout Social and SpotOn, which do the same sorts of things with some additional features, like reminders, contact managers and ways to set up customer loyalty programs.

But I can see why Ms. Betts went with Roost, and I’ve started using it, too. Roost, which is free, focuses on what are probably the two biggest challenges small-business owners confront in using social networks. The first is not really knowing what to say, when to say it, where to say it, and who, exactly, you’re supposed to say it to. The second is not having enough time to do all of that even if you  know what you’re supposed to do. In other words, Roost specializes in helping business owners who are clueless about social media or severely time-challenged or both.

In Ms. Betts’s case, the problem was time. She doesn’t have enough of it herself anymore to work the networks — she now has 11 employees and 75 or so clients, and the company has been growing so fast that she’s about to quadruple her space. One of her employees nominally has the social networking responsibility, but she’s swamped, too, and so is everyone else there, so posting had been helter-skelter.

Roost tackles that problem in two ways. First, it prompts you to do an entire week of social media planning and posting in just a few minutes. It walks you through the process, suggesting that you set up certain types of posts to certain social networks on certain days. The second thing Roost does is to suggest what you should say. Its suggestions are specific to your industry, so that restaurant owners might be prompted to post about a new dish and accountants to give out tax advice. And Roost keeps a continuously updating library of online articles relevant to different lines of business, and suggests posting a link to one with a comment. All of these different posts are automatically scheduled and posted by Roost.

The point isn’t to allow owners to turn over responsibility for posting content to Roost, said Alex Chang, who is founder of Roost, which is also based in San Francisco. Rather, it’s to help users get a sense of what sorts of posts work and what’s a good rhythm for posting and also to provide a shortcut when they just don’t have time to keep the conversation going throughout the week. “We’re not trying to robotize the process,” Mr. Chang said. “There needs to be a level of authenticity in your online conversation, or you’re going to fail.”

Roost makes suggestions but pushes business owners to put a bit of thought and personality into it, too. And it also encourages them to put others to work on their behalf. Roost’s “circles” feature allows you to invite other business owners you know to pass along some of your posts and tweets to their networks, in exchange for your doing the same for them. That’s a great idea and potentially a real shortcut to getting the word out to a lot more people.

Ms. Betts said Roost has made a difference, pushing her and her employees to engage in more conversations, to post more articles and questions that get attention and to put up plenty of reminders about events. “Our fan base has been increasing at a faster rate, and I get the sense more people are talking about us,” she said. She figures that the improved networking is likely to pay off in a couple of extra searches a year, adding between $5,000 and $15,000 to her bottom line. Combine that with a Roost-enabled savings in time for her and her employees that she figures is worth about $5,000 a year, and the full bottom-line impact of the tool comes to between $10,000 and $20,000 annually. Not bad for a tool that’s free.

And here’s a bonus: Betts Recruiting was recently among 49 companies nominated for a popular San Francisco Web site’s best-small-business award, with the winners determined by a reader vote, and Ms. Betts credits a Roost-driven, get-out-the-vote campaign with helping them become one of seven finalists.

You can follow David H. Freedman on Twitter and on Facebook.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=03fd86f4d56ce8f2e86fe7a5d5ff4434

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