Managing Your Time on Social Media

hourglass Every small business owner I talk to asks the same question.  “Where do you find the time for all this?”  My answer:  if you schedule the time, you’ll find the time.  Easy for me to say, right? I do this for a living.  Well, actually, I do several things for a living.   Not only do I have my consulting practice, but I work part-time for a large network of Hospitals as their Ecommerce Coordinator and I am a food writer and editor on my blog Jersey Bites. Oh, and I also own a network of Nanny related websites.  And, most important job of all, I’m a Mom.  So, I do know a thing or two about time issues and there are days when my own presence on Twitter and Facebook is barely a “Hi Everyone.”   But, social media is now part of my daily life, so it isn’t long before I am back at it.  Give your social media campaign the time it needs to grow in the beginning and you will find that your social media engagement will also become a part of your every day life and will actually demand less time down the road.

Before we get started with Time Management tips, I want to discuss strategy.  You do have a social media strategy right?  You have your goals outlined and the appropriate platforms chosen based on where your customers or clients collect, correct?  And, you have determined the value you and your company can provide through knowledge and content?  (are those crickets chirping?)  If a strategy is something your business has yet to consider, please check out Jason Falls great article on Social Media Explorer. Strategy is important.  The days of dabbling are over.

So, assuming your strategy is in place, its time to start making the time.  It’s not finding the time, it’s making the time.  There’s a difference.  The beauty about Social Media is you don’t have to be sitting at your desk or in your office to do it.  Forgo the latest American Idol episode or book before bed and dedicate an hour to building your contacts on whatever platform you are using.  If you’re not a night person, attack your social media “To Do” list with your morning coffee or at lunch hour. Kyle Lacy, author of Twitter Marketing for Dummies,  recommends setting up Social Media meetings by using whatever calendar tool you prefer and actually blocking out time each day for Social Media interaction.   I think this is great advice.  It takes discipline and you might feel a little silly at first calendaring Twitter time.  But, if it will get you focused, do it.

There are tools to help you manage your time while still keeping it real.  For Twitter my favorite tool is Hootsuite.  There are others.  Many enjoy Tweetdeck.  With these tools, you can schedule your tweets over the course of the day.  I like this because you won’t be clogging up your followers’ timelines with one message after the other.  You can also import your Facebook updates from your Facebook page.   Another way to streamline the time you spend on Twitter is to organize your followers into categories using the List feature.  This way you can be sure to place important people into a “don’t miss” category and be sure to check the updates there on a daily basis.  This will help keep you engaged with those prospects, clients, advocates that make your efforts on Twitter valuable.

There are tools to aggregate all of your social media messages like FriendFeed.  I personally just bookmark all of my accounts into the toolbar at the top of my browser and visit each periodically throughout the day.  An RSS reader can be a very handy tool for aggregating all of the industry related news, blogs, podcasts etc. you should be following.  RSS Readers are a great way to collect valuable content in one easy to manage location.

I like Mike Haydon’s tip on using an external timer to stay focused and increase productivity.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it might be an experiment worth exploring.  Here is a link to the full article.

In the end, the busy business owner may decide that their time is better spent elsewhere.  There are marketing companies setting up social media departments and then there are a lot of recent grads out there looking for work.   Business owners do have other options.  The problem comes when the busy business owner knows so little about social media and how it is done effectively, that they have no idea whether the marketing company or the recent grad is doing a good or bad job.  (I think I’ve just stumbled on a another article to write.)  Bottom line, the business owner who is looking to hire an outside or inside social media professional, should get themselves educated enough in social media to be able to spot quality and quacks.  There are also trainers and coaches out there like me, who can help get your employees up to speed or assess a company you are looking to hire.

I’m sure there are some handy time saving tips you’ve come across that I’ve missed.  Have you found one tool that really keeps you organized?  We’d all love to hear about it.

For more tips on social media time management check out Kyle Lacy’s article : 5 Tips to Being Productive in Social Media.