Another day, another social-media task to tend to. Or so it seems.

Does it ever feel like you spend the majority of your working life thinking about social media? Whether you’re composing a post, uploading a photo, researching a new platform, responding to customer comments, or something else entirely the to-do list goes on.
    And unfortunately, there’s no getting around the reality that social media is a crucial component of your job these days.
    “Today, it’s ‘publish or perish’ and embracing it, making it part of the daily work load, and following other trend-setting pages is all part of having a business,” says Jacqui Wadsworth, owner of The Gilded Gown in Knoxville, Tenn.
    That’s a reality every bridal salon owner can relate to. And the social-media phenomenon will only continue to accelerate in importance as new platforms and trends continuously emerge. But rather than allow managing Facebook et al. to take over your working life, the good news is there are five concrete steps you can take to streamline the process and improve productivity.
    Sit back, relax and let the stress melt away!

1. Remember, quality always trumps quantity. Although it can be tempting to jump on the “look there’s a new, hot social-media site to join!” bandwagon the reality is there’s only so much time in a day. It’s far better to manage a couple of social-media sites well than to simply maintain a mediocre presence across dozens of platforms.
    If time is an issue, limit your footprint to the top two or three sites your customers are actually using. Although these platforms can vary based on your salon’s niche and geographic location, in general that means Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for bridal businesses. If you have time and want to expand beyond that, consider adding Twitter, Google+, YouTube and possibly Snapchat (see pg. 50 to determine if this burgeoning platform is right for you).
    How do you know if you’re managing a site “well?” Ask yourself: Are you posting daily updates? Do customer comments get responded to promptly? Do you have a thorough understanding of the site’s unique features? Do you participate in regular “events” (i.e. #Wedding Wednesday or #TBT)? Do you have time to look for cool posts to share or proactively comment on? Have you researched or are you currently participating in advertising on that site?
    If the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, and especially if you still have time left over, you’re in the clear and can consider expanding your reach.

VOWS TIP: If you don’t have time to maintain a presence on a site but want to prevent someone else from snapping up your unique username, go ahead and grab it. You can always tuck it away for future use. Another option is to create a basic homepage on that site displaying your store logo and contact info, along with a link directing customers to your active social-media accounts.

2. Hire someone. Many bridal salon owners attempt to tackle social media on their own, typically as a means of either saving money or maintaining control over how their salons are portrayed.
    And for some, this is a great solution. However, if you find that keeping up with your salon’s social-media pages is more work than you can realistically handle, it’s time to consider bringing in help.
    Basically, you have two options: Assign the tasks to a current staffer(s) or hire a dedicated social-media manager.
    For many, the immediate concern is money, which is why the former is a popular option. The benefit of assigning social-media tasks to current staffers is two-fold: first, you don’t have to pay them extra (their current wages cover the tasks). Second, they’re already in-touch with what’s going on at your salon, making the job easier.
    The downside is that every minute a consultant spends on social media is a minute taken away from helping brides. So, while you might not be hiring anyone new you are, essentially, losing a consultant, at least some of the time. Also the more responsibility an employee is given, the greater likelihood that person might feel overwhelmed, which can lead to sloppy performance and/or burnout.
    For that reason, some storeowners choose to hire outside help for their social-media accounts, either in the form of a consultant who manages from afar or a dedicated social-media manager who works in-store either full or part time (part time is more common).
    Assigning one person to manage your social-media accounts is often easier, and in many owners’ eyes, an ideal solution. After all, that person has more time to focus on social media and is essentially a subject matter expert. He or she can serve as a teacher, helping you keep on top of social-media trends. However, creating a new position also means an extra expense. As well it can leave you vulnerable if you have one person managing all of your accounts, and they suddenly get sick or quit.
    For that and other reasons, including personal enjoyment, still other storeowners employ a hybrid model, managing the social-media site they know or like best (often Facebook), and dolling out the other complementary sites to staffers. This allows them to remain in the social-media loop while at the same time capitalize on their staff’s unique skills and interests. Some consultants are great at tweeting, for example, while others practically live on Instagram.  

VOWS TIP: Don’t allow multiple people access to the same social-media site. It creates confusion, possible redundancy, and can also alter the “voice” being portrayed to customers. Instead, if more than one person is involved with your social-media accounts, assign each a specialty: Facebook manager, Instagram manager, Twitter manager, etc. Hold weekly meetings to ensure everyone remains on the same page.

3. Carve out a specific time. Part of the reason it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by social media is the tendency to approach it haphazardly. You might, for example, be in the middle of an important business-related task when you receive a smartphone notification that a customer has commented on a Facebook post. Naturally, you check out that comment immediately (it’s important to be responsive!). It turns out to be a question that requires some research, which you begin doing immediately. Only while you’re in the middle of this research, you get derailed by another pertinent question, this time from a consultant. Then a customer walks in who needs to speak to the owner and before you know it, several hours have passed and nothing has been completed. The end result is that everyone – and most notably the Facebook fan who knows you saw her original message but hasn’t yet received a reply – is frustrated.
    To avoid this issue, pinpoint a specific time of day that you will spend working on all social-media sites. When that is doesn’t really matter – some people are better focused in the morning, others prefer mid-afternoon or evenings. But dedicating a specific time frame – between 30 minutes to an hour daily – can help streamline the process, especially if you force yourself to tune out all other tasks until this time period is over.
    But what if you have nothing social-media related to do that day? This is when you get a jump-start on future postings! Research fun facts, search for new pages to follow, comment on customer posts. You can also use this time to research a platform you have interest in but aren’t ready to commit to. Then, when your daily time is up, go ahead and step away from the computer. You’d be amazed at how a little bit of structure goes a long way toward productivity.

VOWS TIP: Live events are different. If you’re at market, or hosting a trunk show, or have a special guest in the store, go ahead and post or tweet afterhours. But recognize this for what it is: a special event! The next day, get right back to your structure.

4. Take advantage of tools. There are many options out there designed to make your business social-media life easier.
    Hootsuite, for example, is one of the most popular social-media management platforms. It allows you to manage multiple sites from a single dashboard while also providing business applications and analytics. Buffer, another popular app, allows you to post to various social-media accounts on a schedule and also automatically shortens any included links (crucial considering Twitter’s 140-character limit). Latergramme, also popular, allows you to plan and schedule Instagram posts. The downside is that many of these tools cost money – typically starting at about $10 monthly and going up from there – although most offer a free trial.
    As well, some social-media sites offer helpful individual features that do not cost a thing. Facebook, for example, allows you to preschedule posts to appear at a specific date and time in the future. This means you can sit down and preschedule several months’ worth of posts if need be. If #TBT always catches you off guard, for example, spend one day putting together a handful of throwback posts and schedule them to appear every Thursday morning for the next month.
    Twitter’s TweetDeck is also free to all users. It allows you to manage and view multiple Twitter accounts simultaneously, schedule tweets for future postings, build tweet collections and even delegate site access to various staff members without sharing your password.

VOWS TIP: Each social-media site has its own intricacies and is constantly looking to upgrade features to improve the user experience. For that reason, it’s helpful to read the “About” and “FAQs” section of each platform you join. Not only can you learn about features you didn’t know existed, but the information presented can help clear up any existing confusion you might have. This is a great “to-do” task for those slow social-media days.

5. Cut back on the non-essentials. If a particular marketing method or social-media site is no longer working well for you, don’t be afraid to scale back. This doesn’t mean you should drop it completely but instead reconsider where you’re spending the bulk of your time and resources.
    Many business owners feel overwhelmed by social media in part because they view it as simply another task to add to an already mile-long to-do list. They forget the dynamic nature of business: as one aspect grows and flourishes, another might be fading into the background. Simply viewing social media from this lens can be helpful. It’s not necessarily an additional task but rather a different way of approaching the same task – reaching out to customers and building relationships, as well as spreading the word about the wonderful products and services you offer.
    Remember: the most effective marketing approach is multi-faceted, and social-media should complement, never replace, other forms of advertising. That said, it’s a good idea to survey your customers and make a list of the top five ways they are finding you. If there is a social-media site or marketing method you’re spending a lot of time on that doesn’t even make the list consider reshuffling the deck.

VOWS TIP: Include your social-media contact information on every “handout” you share with brides: business cards, packaging, e-mails, thank-you cards, gifts. Make finding you easy and remember that a link to your social-media site is only helpful if it can be clicked on. On paper products or other take-home items, it’s better to share the social-media handle (i.e. Follow us on Twitter: @VOWSeditor)

    The above tips are designed to help streamline your social-media management process and make you feel less overwhelmed. The reality, however, is that it’s an imperfect process. There will always be something else you can do to improve your social-media footprint no matter how dedicated you are. Simply accepting this reality can also go a long way toward cutting down on stress. Do not strive to be perfect, rather do the best you can with the time and resources you have. Not only will this help you feel more accomplished and relaxed, but it can also be fun!
    “We are blessed that bridal and prom to women is what catnip is to cats,” Wadsworth says. “Doing social media and telling our store’s story made me fall in love with my business all over again.”