Do you know what the biggest threats are to successfully integrating social media into your daily marketing strategy? Is it the ever-booming number of competing voices on these platforms? The outdated posting habits? Inefficient engagement practices? An abundance of adorable kitten videos?
All of the above are trick questions because the answer is that they’re all threats. These things are all time-wasters, and they don’t just make your social media marketing less effective–they make all of your marketing less effective.
Some of the best things about using social media when you’re off the clock are also some of the worst things about trying to use it as a marketer–it’s virtually designed to waste your time. This means that when you’re integrating social media into your marketing, you have to unlearn everything you know about how to use it properly. You have to learn to get rid of the time-wasting habits.
So, where do you start?
On networks like Twitter, you can scroll through your feed without interruption until your laptop battery dies. It’s like staring into an open refrigerator–you’re looking for something though you don’t know what, so you just keep staring until you snap out of it. That’s lots of fun as a consumer, but wildly impractical as a marketer with plenty else to do.
The trick to neutralizing the hypnotic distraction power of social media is compartmentalization.
First, divide and conquer your feed. Create Twitter lists so you can pay attention to the right groups of people at the right time, and set time limits for yourself. Unless you make it your full-time job, you will never be able to read every single tweet in your timeline. So decide in advance how much time you can and will dedicate to catching up.
Second, don’t be a passive observer while you’re on social media. The “take nothing, leave nothing” approach may be ideal when you’re snorkeling, but every time you visit a social network, you should leave evidence that you were there.
If you’re spending time on Twitter, Facebook, and other sites but not engaging, it’s as though it never happened. Leave traces behind–like posts, retweets, and favorite status updates, and respond to comments. Each of these interactions takes only a few seconds and actively strengthens your brand’s social media presence.
You know that you need to post to social media X number of times per day. You might even know when the best times to publish those posts are. But if you’re writing and publishing them in real time, you could be wasting hours a week, or even hours a day.
That’s because taking the time out of your day to post on social media is disruptive. You have to stop whatever you’re doing, think of something to post, post it, and then get back to work. Even if you never struggle with what to post, the very act of switching gears back and forth wastes time. On average, it takes more than 23 minutes to get back in the groove of whatever you were doing in the first place. If you’re posting multiple times per day, then those minutes add up fast.
This is why automation tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and my own company Edgar continue attracting new users. They give you the freedom to regularly post social media updates without interrupting your other work. With an automation tool that publishes your posts according to a schedule, you can write and upload social media updates en masse; consolidating your work and eliminating disruptive tasks from your daily schedule.
Automating your social media posts doesn’t eliminate the need for real-time engagement. While you should maintain a regular presence on social media, you don’t need to maintain a constant one.
Leaving an open tab on your Twitter feed or Facebook page is like trying to work while listening to “The Tell-Tale Heart”–its presence is conspicuous and distracts you from whatever else you should be doing. You’re not doing yourself any favors by leaving your finger on the trigger all day.
It’s true that consumers increasingly turn to social media to seek out customer service. But if you find that this is the case with your own business, then it’s time to introduce social media management into your customer-service workflow. Your customer-service team–even if it’s only one person–is more suited to the task of offering this sort of engagement. But if providing customer service via social media isn’t your primary concern, and you just prefer to maintain fast response times for real-time engagement, then it’s time to rethink your priorities.
Is checking your social media four times an hour really more effective than checking it once? Do you find yourself responding to activity around the same times on a regular basis, no matter how often you check?
Use your analytics, as I explain here, to determine when you get and respond to engagement the most, and create a schedule for yourself. Set times throughout the day when you can log onto social media specifically for responding to your followers, and use those times only for that purpose. The rest of the day, banish social media from your browser altogether so it can’t tempt you.
When you eliminate these three major time-wasters from your schedule, social media finally stops being such a burden, and becomes an organic part of your overall marketing strategy. Just the way it should be.
—Laura Roeder is an acclaimed social media marketing expert and founder of Edgar, a social media automation and content management tool. She is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.