Sookio Masterclass: So. How do you fit it all in?

The focus of our third Sookio Masterclass for 2014 was a question we get asked all the time: How do you find time to run a great social media campaign when you're so busy running your business?

Taking place on 21st October 2014 at the Cambridge Brew House, it was another fun evening full of fascinating insights from a diverse panel: Neema Cox from B&Q, Dan Spicer from Hootsuite, Brays Cottage founder Sarah Pettegree and jewellery designer Alison Morris. While retail was a common theme, their businesses varied hugely in size and resources, with Dan being able to give a different perspective as someone who looks at social media activity across all different sectors. 

In pictures

Picking the right platform

This can be tricky for the small business owner. Facebook and Twitter might seem sensible choices, but when new platforms come out, how do you know whether to take the plunge?

Alison has found particular success with her Veiled Rebel Pinterest boards, taking care to choose eye-catching two-word titles which will draw people in more than generic terms, like Savage Beauty, Code Neon and Orange Zest.

"Twitter is my first love," said Sarah Pettegree. "It suits the fast and furious!"

Neema Cox explained how B&Q is investigating new platform Houzz, which she knows will be a good fit with the DIY retailer's audience.

Dan Spicer said when thinking whether to go for a new platform, the most important thing is to go where your audience is. Sounds obvious, but something people overlook in the rush to try something new.

A common theme throughout the evening however, was that Google+ isn't really working for...anyone!

Fitting social media into the working day

This is the biggest challenge for business owners. When do you actually find time to tweet? As Neema commented, "Social media never shuts down." And she should know, with so much activity happening in her sector on bank holidays, when most working people would expect to have the day off.

The panel largely agreed that scheduling content was a good idea, particularly if you use tools like Hootsuite of course! Alison's top tip for Pinterest was Viralwoot, which helps you schedule visual content more easily.

Dan says that although scheduling for a variety of platforms may save you time, it's always best to writing it in different ways for different networks.

But Sarah disagreed about scheduling content altogether, saying she can always spot an automated tweet.

She gets busy on Twitter first thing in the morning and at the end of the day, saying don't panic if you don't have time to tweet or post!

She recalled @RevRichardColes saying about a blunt comment his mother was fond of making: "Darling, people aren't always thinking about you."

Engaging with your community

It was interesting hear how different members had grown their communities. Neema says, "Define your tone of voice and have fun."

Dan explained that the focus has moved on from Return on Investment (ROI) to Return on Engagement (ROE), or even Return on Relationship (ROR). Just because someone doesn't follow a tweet and click BUY straight away, doesn't mean you haven't positively influenced their opinion of your brand.

When it comes to turning a social media following into sales, if the steady stream of people mentioning Twitter when buying her pies is anything to go by, Sarah has seen proof that her investment in social media is working for her.

She also encourages business owners to engage with other businesses in the area who are into social media, so you can all promote each other and make a welcoming community.  

And if something goes wrong, it's best to be transparent, says Dan. No deleting tweets or ignoring issues!

On the panel

Dan Spicer from social media management system Hootsuite. With extensive experience of tools to make social media a breeze, Dan had a wealth of tips to share. 

Sarah Pettegree from North Norfolk pie makers Bray's Cottage shared her tips on making social media work for a small business, particularly one where you've always got your hands full! 

Neema Cox of DIY chain B&Q has experience from the ground upwards of managing multiple social media channels for a huge brand. 

Alison Morris of London-based jewellers, Veiled Rebel, is no slouch when it comes to balancing a highly visual social media campaign with a hands-on, time-consuming business producing gorgeous jewellery.

With thanks to

As ever we received a warm welcome from our friends at the Cambridge Brew House. And we're grateful as always for the beautiful pictures from Lizzy Doe.