Warning: Do You Spend Too Much Time On Social Media?

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Social Media ToolsHands up if you love social media?

Not surprising.

After all it’s a great marketing tool and a fantastic way to get customers talking about your micro business. 

However without careful planning and management, there is a risk it can absorb too much of your time.

And because time is money, smart micro business owners increase their productivity and concentrate their efforts with social media tools.

But first a warning.

Social media is about engaging in two-way conversations with your customers.

And despite what people tell you, there are no short cuts to achieving that.

A loyal, engaged following takes time, attention and dedication to cultivate and develop. However, if used wisely, there are a number of tactics and tools that can help you achieve this.

Let me explain…

1.  Be in the right place

To get results, you need to be active where your customers are.

It’s better to have an active profile on one or two networks than five unloved accounts.

Don’t make the mistake of having a profile on each platform. Instead limit yourself to the platforms your clients or customers use. To help you determine this think about:

  • Where does your perfect customer socialise?
  • Which of your existing platforms are you giving you the best results (think sales rather than engagement – although the two often go hand in hand).
  • Which platforms do you feel most at home with?

Once you’ve identified those, concentrate only on those.

2.  Use smart social media tools

Manage

If you aren’t using any social media tools, the first ones to consider are those that consolidate all your accounts into one window. It saves you having to open up each one separately and helps you to organise your updates to each platform.

The two most popular social media management tools are Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

Both of these allow you to add multiple accounts from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare,  and MySpace and to arrange updates from each account into columns. You can then write a message to go out on the platform you want.

Both can be run in a web browser, and TweetDeck also has a desktop application if you prefer that.

Also both allow you to do some basic scheduling of updates too.

Which brings me onto more advanced scheduling tools…

Schedule

One way to improve your productivity is to spend say 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon on social media.

It sounds like an excellent idea.

But the problem with this approach is you’ll send out a little flurry of tweets or updates which will only get seen by a handful of your followers who are online at the same time. Even worse you might annoy those same followers by suddenly filling up their timeline.

Scheduling tools such as Buffer and Timely can help you overcome this problem.

These tools enable you to write your content and then schedule it to go out at another time during the day or week. It’s an effective way to share links, blog posts and reminders at times you’re not there to tweet yourself.

So if at midnight you’re reading a post you want to share, simply add the link and your comment to your Buffer or Timeley queue, and it will go out at the designated time the next day.

Buffer and Timely work a little differently. With Buffer you set the publication schedule. In comparison, with Timely, you state how many updates per day and they work out the optimum time.

Buffer works with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and Timely with Twitter and Facebook.

Whilst scheduling apps can be really useful for certain types of content, do not make the mistake of using them as a replacement to your own time. Whilst it saves time to schedule some content to go out throughout the day, social media is about relationship building and personal engagement. To build a following you still need to share as a real person, respond to comments and mentions and initiate conversations.

Engage

As you know Twitter is fast moving.  That means if someone isn’t online when you tweet, they’re unlikely to see your message  – unless they make a special effort to visit your profile, or you mention them.

So how do you know when is the best time to tweet?

You can use tools such as Social Bro which (amongst many other things) analyses your twitter following and gives you a “best time to tweet”. Even if you only do this once it’s well worth it. The results I got surprised me.

But what if there’s one particular person you want to engage with? So far they haven’t responded to your mentions and it’s not that they’re avoiding you but they get so many mentions they can’t respond to them all.

The best way is to mention them when they’re online. But how do you find this out?

You could lurk on Twitter all day or you can try An App Called Jack. This new App looks at the times of their last 200 tweets and tells you when they tweet the most. You can then schedule a tweet to them at that time, or simply set up a tweet to go out the next time they tweet.

The only downside I see is that An App Called Jack can’t tell the difference between a scheduled tweet and a “live” tweet. Also you must be prepared to jump online to engage if they respond to you.

Countless micro businesses owners are seeing incredible benefits from social media.

And whilst there is no replacement to “live updates”, there are some clever tools out there which if used properly, can help you save time and increase your results.

I’ve covered just a few social media tools. There are loads more out there. I’d love to hear what tools you using and why they are working well for you. Please tell me in the comments below.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Check out one or two of the tools mentioned above and see if they can increase your social media productivity.