Let me start by saying the main factor preventing hard-working pizzeria operators like you from taking the social media plunge is: You overthink it! Oh, sure, as you barrel through your hectic days, you know, in the back of your mind, that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are modern versions of the old marketing standbys—postcards, direct mail and broadcast advertising. But you worry that getting started in social media will take too much time in your day. For the social media novice, the options, the jargon and the unfamiliar technology can seem overwhelming.  As someone who regularly writes about all aspects of social media marketing, my advice to you is: Relax, it’s much easier and less time-consuming than you think.

Here are five simple steps to jump into the social media pool and start using its power to make money:

1. Pick a platform. And if you’re truly starting from ground zero, I recommend the most popular and highly utilized social media tool, Facebook. Master Facebook before you move on to trending platforms like Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.  This incredibly powerful networking phenomenon is probably the easiest to begin with and touches billions of members worldwide, including the vast majority of your customers, potential patrons, suppliers and business associates.  Joining is as simple as possessing an email account, going online to Facebook.com and creating a profile for your pizzeria. If all else fails, ask your kids for help. After mastering Facebook and gaining the confidence that comes with daily social media engagement, an exciting spectrum of digital communication possibilities opens up.

2. Create a schedule. Once you’re part of the online universe, come up with a schedule for your posts. Thanks to Facebook’s built-in scheduling capability, you can save time and pre-plan an entire series of posts when you get to the shop in the morning. Target your posts for the times when the most people are checking out your page, which tends to be in the evening. You can post yourself or delegate that responsibility, but the point is, you have the ability to make your Facebook posting schedule meet your personal time priorities.

3. Activate your analytical mind. Learn how to analyze what’s working and what’s not. Once you’re comfortable with Facebook, you can go into the Facebook Insights section and instantly see the reach of your posts, comments, likes and clicks. These metrics tell you which posts are performing well and which aren’t. The lesson you want to apply here is: Create more posts that are performing well. For example, a post that reaches 100 people and generates 10 to 15 likes can easily be compared to another post that reaches the same number of people and earns 0 likes. One post, whether it’s an ad, picture, graphic or plain text, creates interaction, which leads to regular viewership, more interest in your pizzeria and, ultimately, more orders.  A dud post does zip for your bottom line, takes up space on your page and wastes staff time. The numbers don’t lie.

4. Boost your posts. Facebook offers a feature that allows you to pay a modest amount to boost the reach of certain posts. Don’t be afraid to spend money on posts that are already performing well. Posting on your business page should be aimed at increasing your brand awareness. Once you’ve posted an item for which you’re looking for positive feedback, wait 24 hours to see how it works. After waiting a day to measure engagement, boost the post if you’re getting the response you wanted. If you’re hearing crickets, you probably don’t want to spend the extra money. Why is Facebook a good place to spend your advertising money instead of newspapers, TV or radio stations? Because that’s where the attention is today. For the relatively small number of dollars that Facebook charges to boost an ad, you’re getting great value.

5. Finally, have patience. It’s a process. If you start Facebook, or any social media platform, on Monday and you see no results by Thursday, don’t quit. It may take three to six months to build your audience. Schedule posts to appear five times a week. Boost the ones that are performing and ditch the ones that aren’t. If you stick with it, you’ll begin to get traction after a few months. As you begin to build rapport with the people who “like” your page, it only makes sense that they’ll be more likely to see the occasional ad or promotion you post. It’s called the “jab, jab, jab, right hook strategy.” Schedule three or four posts designed simply to build awareness, followed by a post to sell. Mix in fun, interactive attractions like contests. Try posting a contest where football fans get to pick the final score of their favorite team’s next game. The winner gets a free pizza, but the good will you create can lead to market-leading sales gains. Now blend in an engaging video portraying your typical day. Your customers and your Facebook fans are eager to know more about your vision for success and your mad pizza skills.

Feeling more confident with this online stuff? Well, let’s quit talking and just go do it!

Bruce Irving is the marketing visionary behind SmartPizzaMarketing.com and host of the weekly Smart Pizza Marketing podcast. On his podcasts, he interviews the leading minds of the pizza restaurant industry. Irving, a top marketing consultant and former pizzeria owner, also hosts PizzaTV's Marketing Insights livestream program, which streams at 8 p.m. (ET) every Tuesday on Facebook. You can listen to his Smart Pizza Marketing podcast at www.smartpizzamarketing.com. In addition, Irving speaks at conferences about how to better use social media in your restaurant or small business.

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