Many of us view social media for our business as a necessary evil: it’s time consuming, we wonder if it works, but we know we must participate to stay relevant and connected to an important segment of our customer base.

This conundrum leaves us scratching our heads and saying, “OK, so how can I be effective and efficient with social media”? I call this E2 marketing and here are a few tips:

Quality over Quantity. Choose two outlets you can put your energy behind on a daily basis. You want to make sure the end result is quality and trying to do too many can lead to mediocre posts.  It’s important to recognize the uniqueness of each outlet and ideally each should be used differently.

  • Instagram is great for showing your staff at work (having fun, of course), new and unique products, and using pictures to highlight a community project or initiative you’re a part of.
  • Facebook is fantastic for sharing links to your website to highlight blog posts, programs or events or post links to news articles and press about your business.
  • Twitter is nice for time sensitive information and sharing quick thoughts or ideas.
  • Pinterest is a genius tool for niche industries. Pin recipes, workout tips, cooking videos or any piece of information a reader might want to save for later. This content is best if it’s pinned from your blog or your website to drive online traffic there.

Involve your staff. Sharing photos of your staff is a fun way to tell your business’ story and to make them feel like they’re playing an important role. Photograph a staff member with their favorite product and you’ll likely see customers come in asking for “the yogurt that John likes”. Your loyal customers have a sense of trust and attachment to your staff that they see so regularly, so highlighting their favorite products is a great promotion.

Also, give them the camera! Find a staff member that is passionate about social media and let them lead the way. This is also very important for businesses with multiple locations. Have a designated “social media ambassador” at each location to promote what’s going on there. Posts can easily be made with a smart phone, which many people have these days. Does your staff have babies? Use them! Everyone loves a cute baby eating yummy food or wearing your store’s t-shirt.

Embrace the #Hashtag. Using a hashtag categorizes your post into various interests that others can easily search and like. Use generic ones like #vegan or #buylocal, but also create ones specific to your business such as #TheRainbowWay or #BeardsOfRainbow. Encourage users to also use your hashtags by rewarding them at random with prizes and gifts when they do.

Timing is Everything. Using the schedule feature on Facebook is really helpful. Schedule posts to go live in the evening when many people are browsing social media or on weekends when you might be busy with customers or out of the office. Scheduling posts is also helpful to do several at a time so you can focus on other things yet still be present on social media.

It’s called Social Media for a Reason. Don’t forget to like, follow and share other businesses and organizations! It’s not all about you. Think of the social media world like being at a cocktail party. It’s important to know what others are up to, give encouragement, and tell other people. If you do that, they’ll very likely return the favor.

Have Fun! This “necessary evil” should be one of the most fun things you do all day at work. It’s an opportunity for you to share your story with a large group of people. Don’t focus so much on “selling” a product or service, but more on the “telling” of your story. Let your customers know who you are and carolynwhat’s important to you. Their loyalty will follow.

Carolyn Hannan has been working in food, marketing, non-profits, retail, and design for nearly 20 years. In 2013, her interests and skills merged as she became the Marketing and Events Manager at Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets in Louisville, KY. Carolyn has formal training in natural foods, culinary arts and business and non-profit management.