As a busy entrepreneur, your company’s social media presence may be low on the priority list.

Founders fill many roles during the early days of a startup – from leading business and product development to managing sales teams and securing investment, they have a lot to consider on a daily basis.

Sure, it’s true that not all startups need to put the same amount of effort into maintaining social media. But in today’s digital-driven world, being present on social media can offer some great benefits to new companies looking to stand out from the crowd.

There are a number of benefits for startups to be on social media. Aside from generating leads and building relationships with customers, having social media when it comes time for your startup to generate media attention can help maximize the opportunity of getting news coverage. Journalists and news organizations often share news stories on social media, and having accounts for them to tag can help expand your exposure.

While you may see a social media strategy as important, it’s likely you don’t have the time to execute one, and hiring someone to do it for you may not be feasible at first.

Here are three steps for improving your startup’s social media presences while balancing a packed schedule.  

Step One: Be Realistic

Even if you don’t plan to be on social media right now, you may one day change your mind. If you don’t have time to manage your company’s social media today, at least secure the handles so no one takes them when you are ready for social media. Simply signing up for the accounts can save you a major inconvenience later when your company’s name isn’t available.

If you don’t have anyone on your team who is dedicated to marketing, it’s unrealistic to expect your company to be on every social media platform all the time. Instead, focus on one or two channels that best suit your target market (yes, that will take a bit of research).

Social media success doesn’t happen overnight. So if you plan to use social media to create awareness or generate leads, setting up a few accounts, posting a couple times, and then forgetting about it won’t work. You need to have realistic expectations for your social media ROI – you will only get back what you put in.

One tip to help you remain realistic with your social media efforts is setting goals. Goals can help you focus your efforts and gives you a target to work towards. Goals can include increasing brand awareness, driving traffic to your website, or generating leads. If you’re looking for more examples of social media goals, check out this blog post from Buffer.

Step Two: Create a Routine

When it comes to social media management, one hour can go along way. If you’re just getting started, set aside an hour a week to experiment with social media. A big part of a successful social media strategy is sharing content. Posting your own content is great, but consider sharing content from other people or organizations in the same industry (and tag them) to help expand your reach and increase engagement. If you’re focusing on Twitter, here’s a blog post by Josh Gallant for Crate on fixing your Twitter presence in 60 minutes or less.

Once you’ve created and collected content to share, here’s where you’ll save the most time – you’re ready to start scheduling. You can use a social media management tool to schedule posts each week. Popular tools include Hootsuite, Buffer, Coschedule.

One thing to keep in mind about scheduling content is it can lead to missing opportunities to connect with your audience. If you’re not checking your timeline and engaging with others regularly, your startup’s brand may come off as impersonal. Remember, your customers want to feel like they’re interacting with real a person, not a robot.

Once you’re comfortable using social media, make sure you develop a habit of dedicating at least one hour a week to scheduling content and engaging with others online.

Step Three: Engage with Others

Speaking of engaging with others, one of the best things you can do to grow your following on social media is engage.

For businesses, engaging with customers on social media can improve brand loyalty and decrease churn rates. According to Sprout Social, social media users expect brand interactions and if a company doesn’t respond on social, it’s easy to lose customers.

It’s important to be aware of how consumers interact with brands online so you can adjust your social media strategy accordingly. Here are some statistics on social media engagement for brands from Sprout Social:

  • 32% of Gen Xers interact with brands at least once a month, which is higher than millennials (30%) and baby boomers (14%).
  • 89% of social media messages to brands go ignored.
  • The average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours, while the average user will only wait 4 hours.

So, what exactly counts as engagement? Put simply, engagement is anytime you interact with a social media post (like, retweet/share, comment, etc.). For example, if you notice someone in your industry posted an informative blog, give them a like or retweet and fire off a quick reply to tell them how much you enjoyed the post. They’ll appreciate the love and you’ll begin to build a relationship with them (they might even share your content to return the favour).

Social media can be an effective tool for entrepreneurs to create awareness, generate leads, and build relationships. By having realistic expectations, developing a routine and engaging with others, busy entrepreneurs can improve their startup’s social media presence without sacrificing too much time from other areas of your business.

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