There’s no doubt about it. Social media has transformed the way small businesses market to their target audiences and interact with customers.
But the elephant in the room has always been the amount of time you must invest to do social media right.
Fortunately, you can save time on social media, provided you plan well and work smart. Here are 26 techniques for saving time on social media:
The biggest waste of time in social media happens when you operate without any real plan or focus.
1. Tie Closely to Your Strategy
There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to use social media for business. Not every strategy will fit your business goals. Step back, look at your marketing plan, and pick two or three ways that social media can fit into that plan.
For example, let’s say one of your marketing goals this year is to grow your email list . If so, then you might want to implement Twitter lead-generation cards to capture email subscriptions. Or use the Facebook “call to action” button of your Facebook Page’s cover image to get people over to your email signup page.
2. Limit to Two or Three Platforms
Target and master a couple of platforms, rather than dabbling in many. Social media has become complex. Each social platform has more features and the learning curve is steeper.
Focus on the platforms your customers spend the most time on or that fit your industry. The 80/20 rule applies here. By focusing on just two or three, you use your time efficiently and you’ll have a bigger impact on the platforms because you can learn more about how to use them.
3. Measure — but Only What Counts
Social sites like Facebook and Twitter keep adding increasing amounts of social analytics .
But you can waste hours obsessing over pretty graphs showing your follower growth. Will that metric really matter to your business? Not necessarily. You can have 100,000 followers, but if none buy, it may not matter.
Instead, pick a few metrics that directly impact your business. For example, track which types of posts get the most click-throughs to your product pages or lead capture form. When deciding which metrics to track, ask yourself: how does this benefit my business?
4. Experiment and Revise, Ruthlessly
Sometimes we continue with activities that don’t work out of habit or because we heard that a technique worked for someone else. Here’s the thing — every business is different. And social media is continually evolving. So it pays to experiment and try new approaches. For example, try out several styles of posts. Create some with videos, some with pictures, some with just links in them. Or you could test the use of hashtags in tweets or which types of images work best in Facebook ads.
Change one thing at a time so you have a controlled test and can tell what works. Give each change enough time to measure the effect. Double down on what works. Ruthlessly drop anything that doesn’t. Eliminating low-value work will help you by saving time on social media in the future.
You can save considerable time just by making sure you are doing the right things at the right times.
5. Put it on a Calendar
Make time for social media and organize activities into a social media calendar . Once you put your plan on paper (or in a digital document) you will be able to more quickly execute because it’s all laid out. You don’t have to stop to think about it or clutter up your mind by trying to remember what needs to be done when. Download our social media calendar template  for your own customizable version.
6. Batch It!
Jumping in and out of social media sites all day eats up more time than you realize. Science tells us it can take up to 30 minutes to return your attention  to whatever you were doing before an interruption.
Organize your work in batches to minimize interruptions. For example, schedule tweets and LinkedIn updates at the beginning of the day. Then later in the day check all your social channels in one 15-minute block of time, to see what your followers are posting and respond to any comments and messages.
7. Schedule Updates in Advance
One of the beauties of automation is that you can schedule updates days or weeks in advance. This helps you preserve your attention span and get into an efficient rhythm. You can bang out several days’ worth of tweets and updates at a single sitting. Then just plug them into a scheduling app. Hootsuite and SocialOomph.com  are two popular applications that make it easy to schedule tweets, Facebook updates and other updates in advance.
8. Be Consistent and Persistent
As a general rule, it’s better to post more to social media than less. That’s because the more times people hear from you, the more you stay top of mind. So stick with it. And do it regularly, without long silences in between updates.
But strike a balance. Your efforts will backfire if you overdo it. Remember, the more you post, the less engagement you may get on each update. Also, you want to avoid being branded a spammer by followers tired of getting self-promoting posts from you every 20 minutes.
9. Post at the Right Time
Post when the maximum numbers of your followers are looking at social media. For many businesses that will likely be mornings, Monday through Friday. (Your mileage may vary, depending on your industry and audience.) Social analytics and Google Analytics can help you narrow down when your business gets the most engagement and traffic from social media.
10. Perform Regular Maintenance
Don’t forget to schedule maintenance time. Social media sites change their buttons, features and APIs. Add a quarterly calendar reminder to test all buttons, plugins and other social features on your site. Also, check the official blog or developer center for your social platforms of choice to stay up to date on new features and changes.
Here at Small Business Trends, we learned just recently that our Twitter shares showed a small image instead of the more-enticing large images, because a setting had changed. All we needed to do was use the Twitter card validator  and adjust the setting once in our code. The large size image began being automatically posted when hitting the tweet button on the page. It saved us the extra step of manually uploading a large image to Twitter.
Delegate and Automate
Most social media activities can be delegated by the business owner or manager. Delegating incorrectly, however, can actually waste time, not save it.
Automation also is a huge time saver. Automation has gotten a bit of a black eye due to people abusing it. The trick is to use automation to be more efficient, not turn into a spam bot.
11. Delegate with Clear Boundaries
There’s a difference between delegating and abdicating . Before you delegate, make sure you’ve assured yourself the person is up to the task and has the right training.
Establish a few clear objectives. Communicate guidelines for what’s acceptable and what’s not when representing the business on social media.
Also, make sure your help knows there are scenarios where you need to be brought personally into the mix right away. Let’s say you have an exceedingly angry customer venting on your social channels. Being informed early will help you with saving time on social media. Taking steps to avoid a public relations crisis is less time consuming than having to clean up a mess later.
12. Pick a Social Media Enthusiast
Try to delegate to a staffer who just loves social media (other qualifications being equal). Does he or she have an active Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account? Do you sense excitement?
Someone enthusiastic about social media won’t need a long learning curve.
13. Outsource — but Don’t Forget Even that Takes Time
Outsourcing to an outside agency or contractor may save you time. But as some business owners have discovered, it can be a costly boondoggle. Why? Business owners sometimes underestimate how much time it takes to successfully deploy an outsourced resource. If you don’t put enough time into it to do it right, you’ll waste money and get poor results.
Remember, you still must interview outsourcing candidates, set up a contract, help the new resource learn about your business, outline guidelines and expectations, provide access to accounts, communicate on a regular basis, monitor results, and pay invoices. Remember, too, the more inexperienced the contractor is, the more hand-holding you will have to do.
14. Auto-Update All Blog Posts to Social Media
Ensure that all your blog content is shared by automatically posting a link to your latest blog post on your Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account.
This doesn’t mean you should completely automate everything. Someone in your business still needs to engage personally. But by automating the updating process, you’ll have more time for engagement.
15. Follow Hashtags
For those who use social media to keep tabs on developments in your industry or field of interest, set up a list of popular hashtags to search on in your platforms of choice. Hashtags started on Twitter, but other platforms now use them. Start typing a phrase in the search box, and many platforms will also autosuggest related hashtags. At Google Plus , if you type a phrase such as “entrepreneur” into the search box (you don’t even have to use the # symbol there), you will get not only results for that hashtag but will see a list of related hashtags to follow.
16. Set Up Brand Alerts
If you want to keep very close tabs on when, where and how your brand is mentioned, set up alerts so you’re notified via email. Many people use the free Google Alerts service, although it has a reputation of spotty service. Mention.com  is a paid service that tracks social media and Web mentions. Hootsuite and other tools also track some social mentions and will email you.
17. Set up Weekly Reports from Google Analytics
Set up Google Analytics to send you and others on your team a report showing which social platforms are sending traffic to your website. Then you don’t have to remember to visit Google Analytics and manually run a report periodically.
The first step is to set up social analytics . Then set up the report you want to receive on a regular basis. Click the “Email” button at the top of the report page  to set a weekly schedule for the report to arrive in your inbox.
18. Halt Minor Email Notifications
As valuable as email notifications can be, getting too many will bury you. For example, do you really need an email each time someone new is following you on Twitter? Social media platforms often default to sending notifications for every little thing because it is in their financial interests to get you to visit multiple times a day. Go into your settings on each social media platform. Uncheck the boxes for most email notifications. You can better monitor most activity through periodic reports instead.
19. Use Lists and Don’t Try to Consume Everything
Social media has become a fire hose of information. Pick a few followers whose updates you ALWAYS want to see (such as friends, family or important clients). Make use of lists such as Twitter lists, or lists in monitoring tools such as Hootsuite  to track these must-reads.
Also check all comments, mentions and other direct interactions from followers. As for everything else, just scan your stream periodically for interesting items.
Use Force Multipliers
Advanced tools and techniques can extend your reach while saving time on social media. Call them “force multipliers.” The technical level on a few of the following techniques is advanced, and you may need help to implement some of them. But all will help you do more with social media, efficiently.
20. Consolidate Under One Dashboard
Use a tool that consolidates as much of your social media activity and monitoring as possible under a single dashboard. You save time by not needing to visit each social platform individually. A tool like Hootsuite can help you efficiently manage activities on over 30 social media platforms from a single login location.
21. Share Third-Party Content Using a Curation Service
Social media is time consuming enough, without having to create all the content you share from scratch. Instead, “curate” and share relevant news and tips of other parties. You give the third party credit, of course, but you are adding value because you are the one who shared it. To double your time savings, use a service like $99 Social  to curate content on your behalf, so you don’t have to scour the Internet.
22. Use Knowem to Reserve Social Profiles and Handles
Protect your company from brandjacking, by reserving your brand name on popular social sites. With Knowem.com  you can easily search for and reserve your name as a vanity URL on social media platforms. Knowem saves times by doing the search in one place, and completing your initial registration for you, on up to 300 social sites.
23. Create a Tweet Bank
A Tweet Bank is simply a collection of standard tweet verbiage that you can pull out and adapt when you are composing tweets or other social media posts. Despite the name, it may contain more than sample tweets — it may contain sample Facebook updates, Google+ updates and more.
Compile standard language for various situations, such as a sample Facebook post about your latest special offer, or a tweet announcing you will be holding a webinar, and so on. Keep these templates in a Word document, an Evernote or One Note app, or other digital file. You will save time on social media by not having to reinvent the wheel when composing future updates.
24. Get Your Own URL Shortener
Large companies create their own vanity shortened URLs. Think “pep.si” for Pepsi or “movi.es” for Netflix. You too can have your own branded URL shortener. Start by registering a shortened domain name at a domain registrar. Then install the free Yourls.org  software on your server. This way you never have to worry about a shortened URL service that goes kaput – because you will be hosting your own.
Yourls has built-in analytics and an API that will allow you to create short links automatically. For instance, your site could be set up to autotweet each blog post using your own branded short URL.
25. Keep Track of Your Most Shared Content for Decision Making
26. Optimize Your Site for Social Media with a Plugin
Use the Yoast SEO plugin  if your blog or website is built on WordPress.org software, to optimize your site for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. By filling in your social profiles all in one convenient place, the plugin will integrate with each social site. That way, if someone shares content from your blog with Facebook, for instance, the plugin tells Facebook the correct picture and other information to pull from your page. You don’t have to add code from each social site separately to your website, or struggle to keep up with changes.
If you don’t use WordPress but instead use another website builder tool, check there for apps or plugins. For example, Wix offers  a marketplace of social media apps to add social media features to Wix websites.
Remember, smart technology moves can help your business become a social media powerhouse, while saving time on social media.
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