smb-tech-trendsTime spent on social media activities is paying off for many small business owners, a new survey reveals.  The Manta Q1 2013 SMB Wellness Index of over 1200 small to mid-size business owners indicates 39 percent of respondents report a return on their social media investment, with 30 percent realizing returns greater than $2000.

Over one third of respondents – 36 percent – report their primary goal for using social media is to acquire and engage with new customers; and they are spending more time online to do so. Nearly half – 49 percent – say that they have increased the time they spend on social media compared to a year ago while 32 percent are spending the same amount of time.  More than one in three small business owners dedicate between one and three hours each week to manage their social media channels; 10 percent spend more than 10 hours.

The survey also indicates that among small business owners, most are figuring out how to leverage social media platforms on their own. Only 18 percent rely on help from third-party experts and twice as many – 36 percent- use online resources. It turns out that Facebook is the most difficult platform for small businesses to maintain, say 18 percent of respondents. LinkedIn and Twitter follow.

Get the most out of social media in four hours

You can find lots of suggestions online for getting the most out of your social media efforts. If you’re not sure how to get started or how to improve results, marketing consultant Lisa McTigue rescommends a four-hours-a-week social media strategy on the American Express Open Forum for small business:Social Media Poster

Hour 1 Cultivate and schedule content: Spend one hour a week looking for content that relates to your business and is worth sharing among your followers.  Once you have determined what you want to share, set up a weekly schedule for posting.

Hour 2 Generate and schedule content: Plan to spend another hour each week creating original content – at least three posts per week – that conveys information about your brand and its personality. As you are thinking of content, do not overlook video, McTigue advises. People would rather watch a three-minute video than read a five paragraph essay.

Hour 3 Communicate: Spend at least one hour a week on your social media platforms communicating with your followers, including starting a conversation, answering messages and sharing other content.

Hour 4 Management: Take time to find other people and companies to follow. Following is good way to get content to share and also to gain visibility in front of other followers when you comment. (I’d also recommend that you find blogs where you can comment.)

Considering how many other small business owners are finding success with social media, four hours seems like time well spent.