Social Media – Musings

Social media is the new form of communication out there.  From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook and Google+, it’s all the rage.  It’s interesting to see how things are slowly shifting too, Google’s starting to look at forms of instant communication (Twitter, Facebook public statuses, etc.) and indexing it for specific on-trend topics.  More information, more relevant information – faster.

For an online business though, Starlit Citadel’s been pretty lax about taking part in this revolution.  Sure, we have a Twitter and FB account.  Heck, we even have a Google+ and Pinterest accounts.  We just don’t use them as much as we probably could….

Time Sinks

That is one of the problems with social media in that they are time sinks.  Assuming you want to do them well, that means actually doing that rather important ‘social’ bit.  In terms of Twitter or Facebook or Google+ which are full-on networks, it means finding and following interesting people and commenting on posts / getting involved in conversations.

Spread across 3 networks, figure 5 minutes each and say you check in twice a day – well, now you’ve lost at least 30 minutes.  If you actually get into conversations, you’ll have to check in more…

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing mind you, and it’s fun; but with everything else that you need to be doing as a business, it’s no wonder that bigger companies have dedicated social media staff.

Doing What You Can

So, what can you do? Well, for one – make good use of your time.  There are a number of automation tools out there that allow you to cross-post various pieces of information.  For example, our blog has an RSS feed.  We use Hootsuite to pick up the feed and push it to both Facebook, Twitter and Google+ every time we write a post.  This saves us the time of posting individually.

In addition, there’s IFTT  which allows you to create simple automated scripts.  I haven’t really used it much yet, but with a bit of exploration I’m sure I’ll be able to automate a few more of these tasks.  There’s a nice one for Instagram, but since we don’t use Instagram it’s a non-issue.

That’s the other tip – pick the one’s that you think will work for you best and use that, ignore the rest.  For us, it’s mostly Facebook and Twitter.  Pinterest we have set-up on the site and occasionally add our own pins and Google+ I bimble over to once in a while, but our best return is Facebook and Twitter.  So that’s where we focus.


Automation & Costs

As a small business, one of the most important things we need to do is drive our costs down.  One of the best ways to do that is to automate as much of our business as possible; figuring out the best ways to do the same amount of work in less time.  That often means we then just add more tasks to the pile in an attempt to increase our value add for our customers.

A great example of automation would be our homepage.  We used to edit the Bestsellers list and New Games list manually; pulling the data from our reports to code the HTML directly.  Now, we’ve managed to automate the entire process.  It doesn’t save us a huge amount of time – probably 2 – 3 hours a month; but that’s time we can now use for other projects.

Another example is the tracking number we send out for our Shipment Information.  Again, it doesn’t take too long but a few hours a week saved here and there is worth a lot for a business like ours.

Of course, there’s a cost to all this; and that’s the cost in development time.  Since I’m not a programmer myself, that means we have to hire a developer to work on these projects for us.  If you’ve never hired a programmer / developer yourself, let’s just say that it’s not exactly cheap.  At least not the good one’s.

So it then becomes a matter of balancing costs – would paying $1000 to upgrade X feature be worth the time savings we will see? If we pay $10 an hour (for example’s sake); that means it needs to save us 100 hours of processing time to be worth it (not including the testing and development time we have to dedicate to get the project up and running).  So the question is, how fast should this return happen? 1 month, 1 year, 3 years?

I generally use a rule of thumb of 1 year myself.  With upgrades on the site and server, it’s quite possible that within a year we’d have to junk the change (or have it upgraded as well); so the returns have to happen fast.