4 ways to beat the social media clock

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One concern I continue to hear from folks across the board: How do I manage my social media time and resources?

“I’m already strapped for time. How do I fit this in?”

“How do I manage my accounts over the evening hours and on the weekends?”

“My senior management staff doesn’t have time for this stuff. But, they want us to be involved.”

Time management is a potential huge barrier for organizations looking to dive into social media and digital PR. In fact, with so many companies now adopting the tools, I tend to think it might be one of the top concerns right now.

How do we work around this? What ideas can help us better manage our social media time?

1–Check in just a few times a day. Number one mistake many people make (including me) is keeping Tweetdeck or Facebook on in the background all day long. Why is that a problem? Because you’ll continually feel compelled to check it. It’s human nature. But, it’s certainly not productive. And, not mission critical (despite what many “experts” might tell you). Yes, social media demands more urgent responses, but what matter or issue can’t be responded to or dealt with in four hours. That’s the time frame I’m suggesting. Check your accounts in the morning as you start your day. Over the lunch hour. And in the evening. You’ll be surprised how effective that approach can be–and yet, you’ll feel just as plugged in as if you were online most of the day.

2–Why write when you can use video? One concern I hear from a lot of people: My CEO just doesn’t have time to blog/tweet/post/etc. Fine, I say. Does he have five minutes? Does he have a few spare moments in the day so you can sit down with him/her and capture her thoughts for a post? Or, maybe he/she has 10 minutes on the commute home? Could they call in their post? Think creatively about how you can best use their time in your online efforts. Also, remember events and trade shows are content treasure troves. Take your Flip and interview customers, potential customers, researchers and bloggers about your products or services. An hour of planning and an hour or two of interviews and you’ll have a couple weeks worth of video content.

3–Make an editorial schedule and stick to it. Do you manage a newsletter for your organization? How about the Web site? Intranet? Chances are, if you do, you have an editorial schedule for these media. Why wouldn’t you do the same for Facebook or your blog? A editorial calendar is key to your long-term success. Develop it and stick to it and you’ll find yourself creating a content strategy that will help educate, inform and engage your customers. If you don’t believe me, head over to Kristina Halvorson’s place–she and her team are the real content experts.

4–Develop a rotating staffing schedule. Need to stay on top of your social networks during non-business hours? Develop a rotating staff schedule for monitoring. Many companies do the very same thing on the PR front–isn’t social media just an extension of that work? Why would you treat it any differently? Really, your team will just be monitoring for the most part anyway. If a crisis does break or a post/tweet/etc. needs an immediate response during the evening/weekend hours, you’re most likely going to be called in to work anyway. By rotating the responsibilities, no one person is on the hook every night and weekend. And, it gets the whole team involved with your social media work–instead of isolating the work with one person (good for continuity planning, too).

What tips do you have for managing your social media time?

Note: Photo courtesy of JackDrawsGood via FlickR Creative Commons

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  • http://twitter.com/HK23 Hilary Kaye

    Concerned about the time suck of social media? Read this. http://bit.ly/cZIw3y

  • jeffespo

    One thing I would suggest for the scheduling question is to parse it out to people throughout the week, but to also set expectations as to the number of hours that the account will be manned. This way the folks reaching out to you will know when your fingers are by the keyboard and watching. You can check over the course of the weekend but only put out replies when you say you'll be monitoring the account.

    Video is a great tool. The only obstacle is getting people over their fear of the camera. Once there it should be as easy as five minutes here or there.

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    Yes x1000 to #1. I was guilty of keeping TweetDeck and Hootsuite open all day, but then I realized I only need to check accounts every hour or so. Not every minute. Twitter especially, but to some extent all social media, is not a telephone. You don't have to answer as soon as it rings. It's not rude to walk away from it for a short time.

  • http://www.arikhanson.com Arik Hanson

    Great point about scheduling and manning accounts, Jeff. In my mind, it's all about setting expectations with your followers/fans/community. The rest is really just logistics, right?

    Most people are averse to video, yes. I just try to find the folks within client organizations who are at ease in front of the camera. And, to put people at ease, I usually try to use an interview format with the videos I produce. Makes it much easier on the interviewee. I try to tell them, “pretend like we're just having a conversation–just you and me.” Seems to help.

    @arikhanson

  • jeffespo

    Setting expectations are where its at. If you don't folks get mad when they have to wait 2-3 days for a response over weekends. I speak from experience on that one.

  • keithtrivitt

    Regarding setting expectations with customers, brand advocates, etc., what if we took the college professor approach and set up “Office Hours” for our brand's social media work? We tell our social media followers, “We will be online and checking this site frequently from XX-XX EDT each weekday, and throughout the weekend.”

    That way, the expectations are set up-front, no one can accuse a brand of not being there to actively listen to their customers, and if something does go wrong, people at least know they are not being ignored, it just may be outside of the “Office Hours” window.

    Of course, this idea works a lot better for SMBs and the like because they won't inherently have the expectation from customers to have a near-constant SM presence. For larger brands … yeah, it's pretty much a 24/7 effort, and most likely should be.

  • http://www.arikhanson.com Arik Hanson

    Right on. Stay strong, TJ!

  • jeffespo

    Keith, I think that it doesn't need to be 24/7 for any business. At the end of the day it is a person on the other end of the keyboard and it is pretty much non-existent to find 24-hour customer support outside of the service industry.

    Granted you can check over the weekend, but only fires that need to be addressed should be required responses over the weekends.

    In setting hours, we offer the time that the Twitter feed is up as well as a good morning and good evening note on the account. The good evening one and the company profile offer the CRS number for anyone needing immediate help.

  • keithtrivitt

    That response and strategy, Jeff, is why you and the Vista Print team run a kick-ass PR and social media effort. Very well thought out, detailed and pragmatic. All keys to successful SM efforts. Well done, sir!

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  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    I also agree that a time of expected hours the account will be manned. Sure some days will have more activity than others but on a whole X hours a week will be dedicated to the SM efforts. The efforts also need to be away from the hub and communicating on other blogs, SM platforms, etc. And let's not forget the monitoring to keep on top of what is being shared, said, etc on about you or your company. Yeah, it takes a lot of time but as you said, designate certain times to check and it will be easier than it seems to check in and also communicate.

    Great article on how to manage it all and still feel connected.

    @SuzanneVara

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  • http://twitter.com/LauraScholz Laura Scholz

    Great points, Arik! Totally agree–I have to limit my Twitter or Facebook time, or it's a continual distraction. I check them at certain points during the day, then turn off for a few hours to do work. And HUGE ditto to number three. We keep our clients on very strict editorial schedules to manage their social media time; now, I'm working on doing the same for myself! Do as I say, not as I do…

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  • Katie

    Thanks for this check-list. It's so refreshing to hear that other practitioners are in the same position. I often feel that if I'm not immediately available to Tweet, that I am not being effective in the social media realm. Having Twitter and Facebook open all day is definitely not the most conducive work environment for productivity. I will definitely try logging in only a couple of times per day. Developing a rotating schedule is something that I had never considered, partially due to the fact that the social media portion of my responsibilities is often the most entertaining. However, having a group of people to help monitor will definitely help improve productivity in the office and will hopefully eliminate the amount of time I spend checking my social media accounts when I'm at home.

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