How to make social media less of a time suck

There’s a slew of social networks; their sheer volume can be overwhelming. Here’s some help.

We are bombarded with distractions from one social network or another.

You have to participate and engage consistently, Facebook seems to change something on a weekly basis, Google has all these animal-named announcements, and new social networks pop up all the time. It’s exhausting to keep up with everything.

I recently asked on our Facebook page, “If you had only 20 minutes a day to spend on social media, what would you focus on?”

Some answers I received…

  • Twitter. Duh
  • Dude. Plurk
  • Star Wars fan forums
  • Facebook
  • Email, then Twitter, then select RSS feeds
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook and Google+

OK, so not everyone took the question seriously. In any event, 20 minutes a day isn’t much time when you’re implementing a social media marketing plan. You can easily spend hours, if not days, on social sites.

I’ve been managing online communities for the past few years, and I thought I’d share some best practices for saving time and being more efficient with your social media endeavors.

Time management

  • To avoid wasting time, prioritize your week. Yes, unexpected issues arise, but plan for the best and the worst. Proper planning will improve your productivity and efficiency.
  • Determine your daily/weekly time allocation for social media. Having a set amount of time will help you and your team balance time, effort, and results.
  • Give yourself time throughout the day to check your social networks. For example, maybe you check in around lunchtime and before you leave work, or when you get home. Choose a routine that works for you. Social media is “social,” after all, so make sure you’re checking on your social networks and responding to comments and questions.
  • Compose your updates in advance. I know: The dreaded social media automation. Yes, I schedule tweets, however I’m also online to respond to any comments, questions, and/or concerns throughout the day. I schedule them to be efficient. I do all my reading in the morning, so if I tweeted everything I wanted to at the start of my day, my followers would be inundated with updates.
  • Identify and eliminate your top distractions. Creating a daily schedule can significantly improve your productivity. But keep in mind the best days and times for engaging in social media activity. In May, examined how the day and time something is posted affects the potential “virality” of the content. I won’t go into the details here, but read the linked article for some interesting data.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for social media, so take the time to figure out what works best for you and/or your brand.

Create a plan or editorial calendar

  • I love editorial calendars. Why? Because they bridge content and themes to social media and beyond. Plus, they save time and stress, your content makes more sense, and it’s much easier to remain relevant and consistent for your community.
  • Create a repository. The more content you create, the harder it is to track. In that editorial calendar, make a tab of promotions you are running. Now, when you’re looking for a promotion to tweet, you have a collection at your fingertips. (Don’t forget to include an expiration date.) You don’t want to retweet a contest you already chose a winner for or a webinar that has already occurred.

Use the tools

There are so many free tools to help you avoid the social media time suck. This isn’t a complete list, but the following are free.

Social aggregators and management dashboards enable you to follow and engage with multiple platforms. They pull in tweets, Facebook updates, and LinkedIn updates. Some *ahem* Hootsuite *ahem* pull in Google+ updates. You can create searches around keywords you’re targeting and engage with your network.

Social bookmarking tools enable you to organize and store social bookmarks.

Curation tools enable you to gather and automatically share content.

Monitoring tools help you to keep tabs on your industry. You can choose a targeted keyword, your industry, your competitors’ names, or your own. They tip you off when people are talking about your company or your clients on websites and blogs.

To put it simply: Have a plan, determine how to maximize your efforts, and get it done.

I’d love to hear about other tools you’ve used that help you avoid the social media time suck.

A version of this article first appeared on Spin Sucks.

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