Let's be honest. It's important for small businesses to get a foothold in social media, but is it the most important marketing outlet for your business? Probably not. Social media does, however, have its place and can drive engagement, traffic and even sales for your business.
The problem is that it can take up hours of your time—if you let it. So how do you win the social media game and still spend most of your time on critical business tasks? Automate it. Here's how.
Figure out which social networks are important to you
There are a lot networks and it's unlikely that your target audience is on all of them. LinkedIn caters to a different crowd than Pinterest does, for example. So choose the best networks for your business and forget the rest. It's better to be strong on one network than irrelevant on many.
Choose the right tools to automate your efforts
There are all sorts of social media tools out there. I bet you can find 50 services that will send updates to Twitter alone. But the best social media tools are simple to use and allow you to automate the core processes without overwhelming you with a lot of unnecessary functionality.
One of the tools I like is Buffer. Buffer allows you to link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can set the times of your updates once, and then just pump new updates into the system. This saves you a lot of time in the long run and keeps the automation process easy.
The downside with Buffer is that you can only schedule 10 updates at a time. If you pay for the service, you can schedule as many as you like.
HootSuite is another great social media tool for scheduling updates. Again, you can schedule updates for Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Buffer, however, HootSuite allows you to schedule as many tweets as you wish. (I've scheduled up to three months in advance before!) The only drawback about HootSuite is that you have to set your time for every update you post. This is just a few more clicks, but it seems tedious once you get used to the ease of Buffer.
Be savvy about when to update
It's important to determine when your automation processes should run. Let's say you have 100 followers on Twitter. Will your message reach more of them if you post at 11 a.m. or 11 p.m.?
Tweriod is an online service that checks for the best periods throughout the day to tweet. It tracks retweets, replies and engagement on previous Twitter posts to determine when your followers are most active. You can run a Tweriod analysis of your account for free and get an immediate overview of your optimal posting times.
The trends for your followers on Twitter and Facebook will probably be the same, but I usually check the Insights analysis on my Facebook page to verify which times are working best on that platform. Once you know the optimal times for posting to Facebook and Twitter, you can begin automating your updates.
Tackle social media in one hour per month
I run multiple social media accounts with thousands of followers and fans. Ninety percent of my updates are scheduled weeks or even months in advance. I schedule them all in a batch so that I get everything done in an hour or two. In fact, I didn't touch one of my accounts for the first two months of the year and it still gained hundreds of followers in that time.
If I have 10 minutes here or there throughout the week, I'll pop on and answer some questions or maybe leave an update. Most of my social media, however, is done long before and with little upkeep.
Do you have your own social media automation system? Share it in comments below and let me know on Twitter!
James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda. He is an award-winning writer on business strategy and entrepreneurship and has delivered speeches in the United States, the UK and Switzerland.
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