Multiple accounts… multiple devices… sound familiar? If you handle the social media for your small business, it’s quite possible you’re not managing your time as effectively as you could. Here’s social media pro Sue Llewellyn on what you should be doing.

As a small business owner myself I’m only too aware of the pressures of time, or rather the lack of it, and fully sympathise with those who claim they haven’t got time for anything, let alone social media.

When consulting for clients I frequently explore things their teams could do less of to allow more time for social.  There’s always something, for example meetings are often scheduled to last an hour but is that really necessary? Try holding them standing up and limit them to half an hour, ask the teams to use the spare time to search for something on social that might help inform or generate ideas.

There’s nothing like a looming deadline to focus the mind but obviously I would say that having spent 15 years working at the coalface in the BBC newsroom and frankly, tight deadlines are the only way I function so for this reason I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro method of time-management.

I set the alarm on my phone, shut down email and get on with the task in hand.  When the bell goes off (or in my case the dog barks) I stop, take a short break and move on to the next task. It’s a great way to really focus on the job in hand whether that’s catching up on blogs or writing one yourself.

Read: 3 Brilliant social platforms you probably haven’t used for business – yet

So, how to apply that to social media?  Before you begin anything, it is essential to develop your social media strategy.  It’s obvious that you can’t be everywhere at all times so pick your priority platforms, establish your social presence and spend some time getting properly organised.  Naturally this takes time but it’s time well spent and good groundwork will reap rewards almost immediately.

Starting with monitoring and listening and for this you should learn to love lists. Twitter lists, both public and private, and Facebook Interest lists are vital tools to filter the noise on social and to monitor your competitors or topics of interest. They take time to set up but will save so much time in the long run.  Check them at lunchtime or downtime – standing in a coffee queue, on the train or bus – it’s easy to skim through lists to catch up.

Free desktop tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite are great ways to monitor multiple streams of information quickly. You can also enable sound alerts to hear when someone mentions your business or a relevant keyword.  And if you’re away from your desk, then an app like Tweetlogix is a more efficient way to check Twitter lists than the native app itself. But use the Twitter app to enable mobile notifications if you need to monitor every tweet from a particular account.

A few other really useful apps to find interesting content and to keep across blogs and news are Nuzzel, Flipboard / Zite,  Feedly and Pocket for saving things to read later. Or if that’s too much then simply email any interesting articles to a spare account and catch up when you have a moment.

Read: Stuck for what to post on social media? Try these three Cs

So once you’ve found something you’d like to share, your options are to post immediately – if the time is right – or to schedule your posts/tweets to go live later.  This can be done using Tweetdeck, Facebook or a brilliant publishing tool called Buffer (also available as a mobile app).  This way you line up multiple posts, which then go out across the day.  There’s always a danger however that scheduled posts could go wrong, so you need to be across the news and be prepared to take them down if necessary.

Take time to create interesting and useful content – especially visual content. One frequently neglected source of great content is your own archives – repurpose or reshare something you’ve already done, for example turn a white paper or presentation into an e-book or Slideshare. Keep a content calendar and plan ahead – sharing evergreen (not time-sensitive content) in those downtimes or periods when not much is happening. And don’t forget to create content as you go along – take photos, record everything, share case studies etc.

Most importantly, you will need to spend time building relationships.  Follow people, listen to them, respond and engage in conversation, comment on their posts, be helpful, be friendly, be the go-to source of expertise in your area, but above all be human.

And finally, you’ll need to carve out time to monitor metrics and check your efforts are working. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics are very useful to see who’s engaging and when. And don’t forget, the busiest times on social are the times when people are most likely to be social i.e. evenings and weekends, so tune in from time to time – or at least until the dog barks and it’s time to take a break.

For all Sue’s columns visit the Sue Llewellyn column hub

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