Showing up on social media is no longer optional; an active presence on the channels where your customers hang out is crucial to finding new prospects, establishing yourself as an authority, and deepening relationships with existing clients.
But finding the time to do it all is really hard.
A recent study from EMarketer shows that 73% of people find creating content is their biggest marketing challenge. Other issues arise around scheduling content, responding to inquiries, and basic account maintenance. Assuming that outsourcing your social media isn’t an option, here are 5 apps and strategies that can help you get organized and stay on top of your social media flow.
Scheduling posts in advance
Recommended app: Buffer
Strategy: Set up your posts and status updates to post automatically, in advance.
Changing your relationship with time and social media is one of the best ways to get traction without having to panic about having access to Twitter and Facebook three times a day to post content. Before we dive into the specific tools that can help you, let’s look at what this really means. Scheduling your posts isn’t just about adding a post to WordPress the day before it’s set to go live.
Really changing the time – social media relationship is about anticipating, planning, preparing, and deploying content before there’s a content crunch or before there’s a noticeable gap. Do you have a content strategy (link to other post once it’s live)? One of the best ways to handle scheduling your content is to develop an editorial calendar. This can focus on a single channel such as your blog or the themes you’ll focus on via Twitter. Or it can be a vast document that encompasses everything from your blog posts to your email outreach to external publishing efforts. The goal is to find a system that keeps you on target without overcomplicating the process.
Once you’ve sketched out a plan, the other key to success is scheduling the time to generate the content. It’s important to figure out how to effectively manage your time around content creation. There are many options: outsource; create blocks of time where you focus exclusively on content generation for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch; or dedicate 30 minutes a day to the process. Whatever works for you, figure out and stick to it.
There are a whole host of programs out there that will allow you to do this with ease. Hootsuite, Buffer, and Tweetdeck are great examples. Here is how they work. You input your account details, preload the content, and tell the program when to post it. Then your account has a heartbeat – content – without you needing to take another step (until it’s time to upload the next tranche of content).
Getting Started With Buffer
For purposes of this article, I’m going to recommend that you consider going with Buffer. It’s one of the most natural tools, in that it doesn’t schedule in bursts and user feedback suggests that a broad range of people from social media experts to regular small business users love the program.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use it.
- Visit www.bufferapp.com.
- Create a new account by entering an email address and password of your choice, and selecting “Create New Account.” A window will then open that allows you to install an extension to your browser.
- Click the orange “Install in Seconds” button. Go through the brief, intuitive install process.
- Connect each of your accounts to Buffer. You then are able to post in real time by typing something in the box and clicking “Post Now.” To schedule something for later, click the “Add to Buffer.” You’ll receive the confirmation screen advising you of when Buffer elected to schedule it for. This random timing (in my case, 8:51am EST tomorrow morning) is meant to feel organic and avoid bursts of content that tend to occur with awkward scheduling.
So install Buffer (or one of the other recommended apps if you prefer) and experiment. See how much more active you are with tools like Buffer working on your behalf 24/7.
Blocking time in your day for social media – then leaving it
Recommended tool: Your calendar
Strategy: Stop wasting time on social media by specifically scheduling time.
Another factor that contributes to the idea of social media as a time suck is that we can be on it – literally all day. We go about our days with Facebook open in our browser. We check our Twitter feed on our phone while waiting in line. That’s fine when you’re following vacation pictures from your best friend’s trip or watching everyone’s reactions to the latest game.
But when your social media use transitions to a marketing strategy or part of your business, schedule it the way you’d schedule any other activity. Hopefully you’re already using an app discussed above to preschedule your content, so block out a maximum of 30 minutes a day to add any breaking news content, respond to comments, etc.
There are a few ways to do this. Use your social media time as a way to ease into your day. Or check in at the end of the day, and catch up on all the day’s news. If you are a bit more of a junkie, preschedule 3 10 minute sessions throughout your day (morning, afternoon, end of day) where you get to interact.
Use the rapid fire approach. The goal here is not to aim for 30 minutes and then be happy when it’s 60. The goal is to transform your understanding of what it means to be productive on social media by taking massive action and getting massive results within the allotted time. In order to do this, you need to triage priority messages. Consider having lists within specific sites that highlight your Most Important People (MIPs). Your MIPs can be personal, such as family and friends, or they can be high value professional contacts such as business partners, clients, or thought leaders in your field. Start with your MIPs and then allocate whatever time is left over to your general stream.
To keep yourself honest, schedule your 30 minutes between hard appointments that will force you to stop. If your schedule is more fluid, use a timer that will shriek and remind you that you should be done. If technology or calendaring won’t work, consider using an accountability partner that will pry the laptop/mobile phone/iPad from your fingers until you learn to be honest about the time you’re spending on social media.
Save content ideas easily
Recommended App: Evernote
Strategy: Reduce the amount of time it takes to write content by organizing your systems for tracking ideas and inspiration
If you haven’t used Evernote, your life is about to change.
Evernote is a program that allows you to add notes, take photographs and tag them by keyword, and more. This means that from a simple handheld device, you can create an evolving database of your best ideas, inspiration you encounter, real time whiteboard brainstorms, and more. You can then share these ideas via various social media channels, or call them up when you are drafting your next tranche of content.
Evernote and its place in our strategy are important for a couple of reasons. Feeding the content beast is one of the biggest issues with maintaining an active social media presence. It can be a huge time sink, even if it’s carefully planned out. One of the major aspects in the process is to ensure that as you encounter ideas when you’re reading, working or in conversation that you can efficiently recall those when you sit down to write content or generate lists for your freelance writers to work on.
Here’s how Evernote works. You begin by downloading the app to your phone. You’re then able to snap photos with your built in camera. When the photograph is taken, you’re able to add titles and keywords which can later be searched as well as the possibility to add to folder, etc. For a complete tutorial on Evernote, check out this video tutorial.
If this, then that with ifttt
Recommended App: Ifttt
Strategy: Automate routine tasks related to archiving, notifications, and more
Ifttt is a fascinating program that allows you to set triggers (if this happens) that set off actions (then do this). So for example, you might say “if someone tags me in a photograph on Facebook, then send me a text message.” Or “If I add a new file to Evernote, then email it to my assistant.” Ifttt essentially creates the ability for you to automate non-linear streams of your social media work process, similar to a macro in Excel. If there are steps you take every time something happens, with Ifttt, you might be able to let the program do that work for you.
Personally, I use Ifttt to help me with some of the cross-platform activities. So for example, as you browse your Twitter feed you might find motivational quotes that you like and later want to use in a different context. One way to keep track of them is to Favorite them; but using Ifttt, you can set up a trigger where anytime you favorite a quote on Twitter, you can have it added to a file on your Dropbox or a list in Evernote.
Another way to use Ifttt is to help you track priority information or discussions happening in social media. For example, if anyone on a selected list of people tags you in a post, tags you in a picture, or tweets at you, you can have Ifttt configured to send you a text message. This can help you respond quickly to priority conversations with valued contacts and customers.
So whether your challenge is staying organized, responding quickly, effectively archiving materials, or just automating routine processes, Ifttt can get you headed in the right direction.
Find your tribe online
Recommended App: Rapportive
Strategy: Maximize your productivity by spending your time cultivating the right relationships
Sometimes the hardest part of social media is reaching your audience, especially when they are active beyond the standard channels of Facebook and Twitter. Two of the biggest myths I hear related to social media focus on the fact that it’s difficult to reach the right people, or that you need to pursue numbers just for the sake of getting your followers up. While it certainly helps to have a robust following, it’s more relevant to focus on the quality and engagement of followers.
With Rapportive, there is now an app you can add on to Gmail that will show you where your contacts are active online. This information can help you make important decisions about which channels are worth investing your time on in terms of social media, and ensure that you are maximizing the return on your investment. Simply install the app and it integrates seamlessly with the Gmail interface.
Here are three more ideas to connect with the right people online:
- Centralize your contacts on your computer in one place, like an outlook file. Then ensure that you’ve connected with all your contacts on priority networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Each of these sites also allows you to check for contacts on other social networks. It can be time consuming to build these linkages, but they can give your social connections a tremendous bump.
- Spend time expanding your reach by participating in groups on LinkedIn, joining Fan Pages on Facebook, and answering questions on Quora on subjects related to your area of interest. By proactively reaching out, you’ll make new connections and quickly gauge the individuals that are interesting and influencers that are worth your time to follow.
- Develop a short list of individuals whose work you admire, and set out to build a relationship with them. Let me be clear; I don’t mean stalking. Read their blog posts and comment. Interact with them on social media. Share resources that might be useful on topics that are of interest. Consider pitching a guest post or creating value for them in some other way. The goal is not to barrage them, but rather to make an investment in insightful and interesting interactions that can help you become a valued colleague and friend.
The time you spend on social media can help you reap great rewards in terms of your bottom line. The key is to be strategic about how you invest your time, and use planning and tools to maximize the returns you get for the time you invest.