over the last couple of decades technology has provided business owners with tools to make running a business more efficient; however, adopting too much technology and too many channels can lead to overlap and can result in technology overload. If you’re running your own business and find yourself spending countless hours responding to late-night emails, texting back and forth with colleagues during all hours of the night, or obsessively monitoring your social media all day, you could be experiencing technology overload.
How Much is Too Much?
It seems like every time we get settled in with a working process or system; a new communication channel or social networking site is born that draws our interest. This makes determining which channels to use seem next to impossible. The number of communication channels needed to sustain business operations and build meaningful customer relationships will vary depending on the business and the amount of resources available. While this number will vary, there are some communication channels and social networking sites that are essential for any small business.
There are a few basic communication channels that every small business should utilize, sometimes cutting electronic communication to a minimum, and relying more on in-person communication can be more productive. However, some of the essential electronic channels include:
- Email: Email is an essential component of any business. You will need this to communicate with employees and customers; however, it’s important to set a schedule so it doesn’t take over your entire day.
- Business cellphone: You should have a separate cell phone for business. This will help you unplug at the end of a work day.
- An In-Office System: There are many free platforms to help you communicate with your employees and share important documents and files. Some options include Slack, Skype, and Google Hangouts.
One of the more common questions that we get is “What social channels should I be on?”. Short answer: the ones that your customers are on. While you want to be where your audience is, you also want to consider the time that it takes to manage these channels. Managing business social channels is far more time consuming than one might think. If you don’t have the resources to actively manage a channel, then don’t create it, a dormant social channel isn’t favorable. So, before you jump on a social platform, it’s important to understand where your customers are.
Social media networks that you should adopt right now include:
- Facebook: According to Statista, there are currently 214 million active Facebook users in the U.S. That means there’s a good chance your customers are on it. Facebook is a must for any small business right now.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great social networking site to help you connect with others in your industry, as well as potential employees and customers. Consider making a LinkedIn page for your business, as well as a personal profile for yourself.
- Google My Business: This is essential in today’s review-driven world. It’s important to build many positive reviews to attract new customers.
Others to Consider
- Twitter: According to Statista, there are currently 68 million active Twitter users in the United States. Twitter’s users have been on the decline, so it’s important to make sure your customers use it before committing.
- Instagram: Instagram is a fantastic way to connect to the younger generations. If you own a small business that is highly visual, Instagram is a must. Instagram is great for those in the food industry, contractors, real estate agents, landscapers, furniture stores, etc.
- YouTube/Vimeo: If you own a business that could provide customers with helpful “How-To” videos YouTube or Vimeo can be very beneficial.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is a great option for those who own a business that relies on visuals to sell products and services.
- Snapchat: If you run a small business that is highly visual, or takes part in many tradeshows or events, Snapchat could be a way to help you connect and engage your customers.
Text Messaging Insanity
Text messaging may seem like a convenient way to communicate with your coworkers or employees. However, doing so at all hours of the night, without time-oriented guidelines can make you too accessible. Which can disrupt a healthy work/life balance. In addition, constant text messaging among employees could lead to lower productivity, annoyance, and even the potential for employees to try and offload responsibilities to one another. What some characterize as “collaboration”, is sometimes just laziness; this happens all the time on teams that span across different areas of responsibility. So how do you avoid text messaging insanity? Below are a few ideas, but unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all solution, assess your needs and put guidelines in place accordingly.
- Set corporate guidelines for text messaging etiquette. An extreme example of this is in 2017 Deutsche Bank banned text messaging from all work mobile devices.
- Purchase a separate phone for your small business. Turn off your business cell phone after 7 PM.
- Do not put your personal cell phone number on your website or social networking sites.
- Avoid text messaging with employees unless necessary. If necessary, keep these communications short. If it takes more than three replies, call them.
- Utilize a service such as Slack to eliminate the number of daily text messages and emails.
- Leave your business cellphone at home when you go out at night to avoid temptation.
- Turn off notifications for social networking sites outside of business hours.
- Set a daily schedule for when you will read and reply to emails, texts, and social media posts.
- Understand that you need to have a healthy work/life balance.
Easier Said Than Done
It’s understandable that unplugging from technology is easier said than done; however, doing so may be necessary for your sanity, health, and success. Start by taking a look at the communication channels and social networking sites you currently use. Are there any channels you could eliminate to become more efficient in your operations? Are there limitations you could put on yourself to avoid working after hours? Technology could be your best friend, or your worst enemy. Making minor changes in how you use it will provide you with huge benefits down the road.