September 7, 2011

Social Productivity: Don’t Just Twitter Your Time Away

You and your business have made the commitment to the social web. You’ve created Twitter accounts, you’ve got a LinkedIn profile, you’re blogging and commenting on other relevant blogs, you’ve created a Facebook Page for your business, you're testing the geo-location waters with Foursquare and Gowalla.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? You’re not the only one. Between keeping up with social media sites and running an actual business, many people feel there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Either you never find time to get to your social media accounts (and your last Tweet was three months ago) or you get lured in and spend way too much time online (“Google drifting” from one cool site to another.)

So, how do you strike a balance, giving your online presence the time it needs and deserves, but not getting so “addicted” that it becomes more important than the work you’re using it to promote? The most important step in creating a working – and workable – plan is knowing what’s important to you and to your business. Here are some ideas to help keep you on track:

Know who you are, what your unique offering is, and what value you bring to the market.
Clearly defining who you are is the first step in focusing in on what social media platforms are important to you, what you should be bringing to the table when you participate, and how frequently you should be posting. If you’re positioned as a top source of breaking hedge fund trend news, for instance, you will want to be updating while the market is open and much more frequently than if you are positioned as a retirement management resource. If your business is positioned as a premier local entertainment venue, you might discover that evening is the best time for your posts to reach the audience you want to connect with.

Identify your goals and the strategies you’ve chosen to help you achieve them. If your goal is to connect with potential customers by providing content that positions you as a trusted resource about vineyards, you may not need to spend a lot of time participating in a Twitter thread about the New York Jets (unless, of course, you’re a Long Island vineyard, in which case you might!)

Know which social media platforms are the most tactically important for your business and prioritize participation. If you’ve positioned yourself as a luxury brand, niche communities and sites like A Small World, Generation Benz or ArtSlant, may be more valuable uses of your time than MySpace, for instance. If YouTube content is driving more people to your video production website than Facebook, prioritizing frequent YouTube updates is a smart move. If FourSquare isn’t adding much value to your local business (and you are consistently your own Mayor) sit geo-location out for a while and concentrate on the platforms that are creating a local community for you. You can’t be everywhere at once, so don’t waste time with platforms that aren’t working for you.

Make time in your calendar for social media updates and treat it like a meeting: arrive on time, give it your full attention, and wrap it up before it drags on too long. Creating a routine can go a long way to keeping you focused. If your business benefits from updating LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups twice a week, put it on your calendar. Combine checking in with Facebook, Twitter, and key blogs with checking your email first thing in the morning (more time for that bagel!) Once you find a schedule that works for you, stick with it. That way you are less likely to feel the pressure to check your social media accounts when you should be doing other work.

Rely on Tools:
Take some time to experiment with social media tools and find the ones that work for you., which calls itself a “social business software hub,” is a great site for discovering new tools and shortcuts.

  • Create a “listening suite,” with tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Blogpulse, schedule a time to monitor mentions, and stick to that schedule.
  • Use browser “favorites” and “bookmark” functions to create an easy-to access list of the blogs and Twitter accounts you are monitoring.
  • Use a posting tool, like Tweetdeck or HootSuite, that makes it possible to update and monitor Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn from one location.
  • Create a “measuring suite,” with tools like Google Analytics,, TweetStats, Technorati, PostRank, and Facebook Ad analytics, to let you know how you’re doing.

Once you’ve clearly defined your positioning, goals, and strategy, you can prioritize your social media tools, create a schedule, and stick to it. When you’ve clearly identified what you are trying to achieve, you can trim what’s not working and spend quality time on what’s truly important for you and your business.

This post was commissioned by British Airways. The opinions are my

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