Managing the Social Media Time Suck

I know that everyone struggles with the issue of time management at their jobs, but those of us in the social media world know that balancing our responsibilities is a uniquely daunting task. Managing social media channels has been described as a time suck, but if you’re not careful it can quickly turn into a time vortex.

If you handle a social media channel, you know about the constant, never-ending need for fresh content. One of my colleagues calls it “feeding the monster.” And the monster doesn’t like just any content, it likes quality content presented in a unique and interesting way.

To find the best content, you have to be plugged into a variety of channels on a regular basis, from media outlets to bloggers to prominent tweeters, and you need to read them, Follow them, Friend them, Connect with them and possibly even Pin something from them.

Once you’ve posted your content, if you’ve done your job, you need to monitor it. This involves constantly keeping up with the conversation generated by your posts and tweets. You have to handle people with problems, answer questions and encourage feedback, and you’ve got to do it as fast as possible. Of course, this is better than the alternative of not having any feedback at all. That’s when you know you need better content.

Added to all this is the fact that you are working on the Internet, a fun and almost magical place with a myriad of distractions, from hysterical Facebook posts to intriguing website articles to snarky tweets just begging for your attention.

If you don’t have a plan for handling this monster, it’s not uncommon to go looking for something to tweet and coming up for air an hour later, your Internet browsing history a hazy fog of shortened links, @ symbols and hashtags.

Here are a few useful tips that can do wonders for increasing your social media management efficiency:

  • Set a schedule around your most productive times - Setting up certain parts of your day to plan, curate and write content for your social media channels is crucial. Find the times in your day when you are most productive on social media and block them out. I’ve found that writing and scheduling multiple tweets and posts first thing in the morning allows me to focus undisturbed on my other tasks, rather than constantly having to interrupt them for a social media update.
  • Learn the tools of the trade – Using the right tools is essential to surviving this business. First you need a social media management platform like HootSuite, Tweetdeck or some of the more advanced ones. These let you schedule posts, switch between brands and manage feedback all in one place. Google alerts, RSS and Twitter feeds are also key to navigating the overload of information out there. Instead of visiting a bunch of websites and blogs searching for content, use a program like Google Reader and get the stories you’re interested in to come to you.
  • Focus – The key with social media is to never let yourself get too distracted, but focus on exactly what needs to get done. Save personal interaction for certain parts of the day (like lunch or the middle of the afternoon doldrums). One of my favorite tools is Instapaper, which allows me to quickly save interesting articles that I don’t want to miss but can’t read in the middle of the work day, like this story about J.K. Rowling’s new non-Harry Potter book for adults. Hey, don’t read it now! Focus.

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