5 Tips for Finding Time for Social Media

One of the major objections I hear about social media is about time.

Do any of these sound familiar? “Who has time?” “You expect me to do all this on top of my normal duties?” “How do you fit everything in?” … and so on.

I am not going to lie to you. Social media does take time. In fact, time is going to be one of your major hidden costs of doing business on the Internet.  And for some of us, that time could be wasted if we are not careful.

You need to watch where your time goes to ensure you’re spending it efficiently and with the desired impact.  Here are five tips to help you.

#1: Spend Your Time Intentionally

It’s all too easy to just chit chat, browse and surf, get distracted or feel like we are making progress when really we are avoiding work and using social media “engagement and interaction” as an excuse to procrastinate. There are good conversations and wasteful conversations and you need to decide which is which.

Consider a face-to-face networking event. Do you spend all of your time speaking to one person at that event about the weather, or do you spread yourself around a bit and find new and interesting people to connect with? Are you just hanging out or do you direct your efforts toward a precise tactical aim or specific goal?

You need to know what you are doing and how you are going to measure your success.

How does this help you find time? Well, most businesses and individuals already allocate time for marketing, networking and research. If you know that your social media activities come in under one of those headings, and your efforts in social media are going to achieve equal or better results to other things you could do under those headings, then you are equipped to carve out time to try social media instead.

#2: Carve Out Time Where Social Media Is More Efficient

Because of my social media efforts, I no longer have to pitch, write proposals or go to sales meetings. I have never had to cold-call for my own business, and I do not write competitive bids.

How much time could you save if you didn’t have to do this kind of sales lead generation or closing?

In my previous job, I would have to spend more than six hours in a car just so I could go to one 30-minute sales presentation competing with several other companies with very little differentiation between us. Not only was it soul-destroying and a colossal waste of time, it was actually very ineffective.

I am not saying you will be able to 100% replace your old way of doing things with social media right away, and I would not suggest that is wise even if you could. But you should be able to take an hour or two out of a week to test social media and see how the results look. In fact, combining approaches usually works best, as each technique and medium compounds the results of the others. Reaching prospects through a multi-channel approach is normally much better than the sum of the parts.

The great thing about social media is you can pretty much get involved anywhere and any time.

#3: Use “Dead” Time

How much time do you spend just waiting? I was recently at a conference in Las Vegas and because of the long-haul nature of the travel and the fact that I would be alone much of the time, I did a lot of hanging around and waiting, which I filled with social media. Just think of your average business trip… What do you spend a lot of time doing?

  • Flights
  • Taxis
  • Queues
  • Departure lounges
  • Restaurants
  • Meetings
  • Hotels
  • …?

If, however, you have an Internet-connected laptop or smart phone, you can at least use some of this time to stay connected, engage with people, write some content or otherwise go from “hanging around” to being semi-productive. If nothing else, you will feel like you are not all alone in the world!

How long does it take to check your messages and send out a tweet, status update, check out a link, or answer a question? Seconds? Minutes at most?

How many times during the day do you get the odd 10 minutes where you are simply waiting?

Even at my desk I have to sit and wait, watching progress bars as something calculates, prints, renders or uploads. Those are prime “check what is happening in social media” times!

What if you find you have more than a few minutes to spare?

#4: Escape, Bulk-Produce, Store Up and Schedule

On those occasions when you have a good chunk of time, make the best possible use of that time and get a power hour of content produced.

  • Outline and write a set of blog posts to go out later when you are too busy
  • Brainstorm and create ideas, mind map your thoughts and generate headlines
  • Plan for the future, write up an editorial calendar, “most like to meet” list or line up meetings with people with whom you have lost contact
  • Get organized and make your week more efficient with tasks, to-dos, filing and an empty inbox
  • Write out some interesting tweets to go out over the next week so you only have to check in and reply each day

One of my friends “escapes” to the coffee shop a couple of times a week and does all his content creation and planning for that week in those few concentrated hours. Being out of the office with zero interruptions (other than the constant stream of fresh latte) means he can bang out several quality items and his brain cooperates, rather than fights against his productivity with distractions and… Ooh, shiny!

#5: Just Relax

My last point is that this is not meant to be a chore. Nobody is testing you, tracking your use of time or holding you to any grading system. It should be useful and it should be fun!

Aim to build a reputation for being helpful and providing value, and most of all being a real human being. Then people will be much more forgiving and understanding. You do not need to be perfect.

If you do not post an article this week, so what? Your Twitter followers might be concerned if you do not appear for a few days, but they are not going to start saying bad things about you if you are too busy to tweet!

For me, social media is primarily social. It is my coffee break. Yes, I do find it a very effective set of tools for my business, but I also deeply appreciate the people who are at the other end of those avatars and tools. If you keep relationships foremost in your mind and do not treat social media as something you have to do or else, you will have much greater success at it!

What do you think? Have you struggled to find time? How do you find time for social media? Please share your comments below…

Photo by Leo Reynolds

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About the Author, Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is co-author of the book Problogger, professional blogger, Internet Marketing Consultant, new media industry commentator, writer, coach, speaker, trainer and web geek. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.webuildyourblog.com/ Andrew Rondeau

    Best approach for me is to schedule. Schedule 30 mins at a certain time of day just for socializing online. Works for me. That way I’m not distracted. I know when my 30 mins starts and ends and then I move on and do something else.

    Andrew

  • http://inklingmedia.net Ken Mueller

    I find that for me, and I tell this to my clients, the most important thing is to make it a habit. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes a regular part of your routine that you don’t even really have to think about it. For those who are tied to their desks, keep Facebook and Twitter open all day and just check in from time to time.

    It also helps to make an assessment of your work day and find out if there might be any other times where you are doing things that are less productive.

  • http://www.provabydesign.com/ Sandra

    #1 is absolutely crucial – I don’t thing 2 – 5 will happen without it. It is very important to know what your goals and priorities are.

    For example, I work at home and I’m a single mom so I often find myself feeling a bit isolated. There are Social Media channels I use for business and some I use for fun. While there is sometimes some overlap, for the most part I don’t intentionally mix them.

    So when I am working on Social Media Networking for business I stay focused on those priorities. And measure the results.

    I think it’s important to also take the next step – have your ever gone to a mixer and gotten a handful of business cards from someone and then never done anything with them? I think we tend to do the same thing with Social Media. I’m not saying we have to follow each interaction with a hard core sales pitch but we need to focus on those that are appropriate for a Call to Action.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner

    Sandra – I agree with your comment, especially your part about going to actual mixers. I find that meeting the people I’ve been interacting with via social media is a very fun and instant bonding experience. We feel like we already know each other well.

  • http://facebook.com/socialmediastrategies Angela Albright

    Love the article…great tips – thanks for sharing. I find planning and carving out time to be the most effective for me as well…however, even the best of weeks priorities can leave me with no time and then I put #5 in play…relax…it takes practice and stay at it…it doesn’t have to be mastered overnight.

  • http://www.mybusinesspresence.com/ Karen @MyBizPresence

    Thank you for posting this. Most trainers on social media give them impression that you will need to be on Twitter and Facebook all day long (since they are!) and blogging every single day. It’s really not necessary for most people. The thing about the internet and business is everything accumulates over time and it all goes toward driving people to your business, so even if you aren’t producing something new every hour of every day, the stuff you have done still works for you while you are engaged in the rest of your life!!
    Karen

  • Anonymous

    Great article and excellent reminder that social media is now part of our overall job. Just like we plan for other parts of our day, we need to schedule for this. And, love Andrew’s point about scheduling a set amount of time per day to do this.

  • http://www.VickieSmith.com Vickie Smith-Siculiano, PMP

    Love your easy to digest tips (and any post that is broken down as such!) – I totally agree with you that you should have a strategy for time management – especially finding the right tools that work for you! I love hootsuite for twitter, and scheduling tweets to space them out, and the firefox addon “addthis” which I customized to share news items with my social networks of choice – it’s gotta be a “breeze” – not “long-winded!” Vickie @Vickie_Smith

  • Debbie Ferm

    I am terrible about letting social media be a complete time suck for me. I just start having fun and suddenly half the day is gone. Oops. Good kick in the butt for me.

  • http://www.denisewakeman.com DeniseWakeman

    Tip #4 resonates with me the most. I schedule and advise my clients to schedule their time for social networking. Then, if you do find yourself with “dead” time you can relax and and be social without worrying about whether or not you’re being strategic.

    As always, great post, Chris.

  • http://www.anandaleeke.com/ Ananda Leeke

    Hi Chris. #3 and #4 were helpful for me especially with the launch of my new book. Thanks.

  • http://essenceofnone.wordpress.com/ Cathy

    I just wanted to comment on your web site…its great. And as far as taking time? Well you have to make time to make money. That’s the world we live in.

  • Anonymous

    Very good advice – thanks!

    Social Steve

  • http://twitter.com/jenmorack Jenifer Morack

    Chris, Great tips! #3 & 4 are especially helpful to Social Media newbies!

  • http://blog.yellowdoggdesigns.com/ Mark

    Love the post. Finding time to involve social media, blogging and actually running a business has been a challenge for me. These tips really break it down into simple bites. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post and great comments. I really like the idea of banking posts and Tweets so that they are ready to go when you’re busy.

  • http://NaomiTrower.com Naomi Trower

    I really make use of #3 during dead times. Now I don’t mind sitting in the waiting room for my dentist or doctor appts! I am such a such a planner and time management geek, that I have a social media daily calendar. This helps me to focus the most on my business. I also use social media for the new “water cooler breaks” throughout my day. Love the get away and bang out content idea. That’s my idea for next week. Thanks!

  • http://www.sugarpinerealty.com/ Mike C

    This time management thing has been at the forefront of my mind lately. Thanks for breaking it down so nicely, Chris.

  • Brooke Candelaria

    While I never have idle time (I am one of those people who always has an “evergreen inventory” of things I do while waiting for even 5 minutes), I like how Mike points to the instant bonding experience. I participate in plenty of local events which I find out about on Facebook, and it’s fun to meet these people in person. Funny thing is, people I’ve not met keep coming up to me thinking that we’ve met before in person! Ha. The other thing is that social media does help to elevate the experience by the shared thread, kind of how motorcylists acknowledge each other on the road with that oh-so-cool slight nod.

  • http://twitter.com/gillestheriault Gilles Theriault

    Great post. But here is another side of a wannabe getting revenu from social media. I like the list and it all make sense for normal people. I do email myself articles to be read later, sounds good but when you find about 20 articles a day! Plus all my RSS feed and all the “How to become or have a 6 figure income from social media Gurus like here”. Maybe I need more time! You think! But lately with the trying to read all the found good articles, starting to loose the wannabe feeling! My problem is that I want to learn everything before starting and then the biggest one his what should I write about?
    Enough venting because I need to go and read more articles, emails, RSS, Facebooks… ;)

    PS: but here is my solution, please past this to all the social gurus, coachs, STOP writing such good articles for the next 6 months so that, wannabe like me can have a chance to get updated;)

  • Anonymous

    You need to stop reading and start *doing* :)

  • Anonymous

    I like Hootsuite too, all apart from the URL shortener (I prefer bit.ly)

  • Anonymous

    I routinely schedule breaks and I do social stuff while I have a coffee. It helps me unclench and keep feeling connected. While I probably spend more time than others (I know someone who restricts their social media to 5mins a day!), I think we can all find time in a day to connect with other people

  • Anonymous

    I think a lot of people are held back by perfectionism, it is a lot easier when we realize we can improve as we go along :)

  • Anonymous

    I find if FB and Twitter are open then I check it instead of work, so I have to discipline myself to switch them off and only dip in and out :)

  • Anonymous

    Yeah that’s one of the reasons I am a big advocate of blogging. Emails dissapear from inboxes, Tweets drop off the Twitter stream, but blog posts, YouTube videos, and so on stick around and the impact is compounded over time in search engines and the human contacts we make in social media could be for life.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Denise :)

  • http://www.inkatechnology.co.uk/ Facebook Connect

    These three tips are really working awesome for me as well. Although, I follow these tips naturally before reading this blog. But, after reading this blog I got a clear idea about how to interact with the people and what are the strategies to be implemented to get business from people. Anyway thank you very much Jason.

  • http://www.VickieSmith.com Vickie Smith-Siculiano, PMP

    Hi Chris! Thanks for your response – I love biy.ly, too – I use it when I have that spare moment and can “bitlify” urls on my cell – then I can copy them into ubertwitter, my blackberry app – I also love my hootlet firefox addonn, so I can grab a site and tweet it, and also schedule it to be tweeted later if I want – so, I use bit-ly, too, but it depends on how I’m tweeting or sharing news. :) Do you find you use bit,ly for everything? Thanks for your response, Chris! @Vickie_Smith

  • Anonymous

    Chris,
    I REALLY appreciate these tips as managing time in this job is extremely difficult!

    However, as my job is the Social Media Chief, I AM held accountable and being graded via analytics. Also, social media is still a new term and people are still skeptical, especially the leadership, on how much it really does for them. So, number 5 for me it out! Can’t relax. Tweet from home, blog from home, etc… I know it just takes time, and maybe it’s because I’m just 2 months in the position and still trying to learn everything, but regardless, RELAXATION is not possible. But would sooooo love it!
    I’m sure it will take more time, but boy is it exhausting.

  • http://facebook.com/socialmediastrategies Angela Albright

    So true Chris. Thanks again for the great article and input. Have an awesome Friday!

  • http://www.queensvoice.com/ Jennifer

    Great tips! Been thinking of doing the coffee shop. There’s something about getting away from the office, just you, the java, & your laptop that increases productivity. Planning helpful tweets, status updates & being aware of what you want to accomplish from time spent is wise.

    I’ve always been selective about who I friend & follow because of all the sales pitchy clutter out there. But wasn’t always as strategic as I’ve been in the last few weeks. It makes a huge difference. I have 3 blogs & know the type of people I need and who I can help. To avoid overwhelm you need to concentrate on mutually beneficial relationships & say no to those that do not further whatever your goals are. To me that’s the difference between just collecting and really connecting. It gives you more time to communicate w/ people you want to get to know. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/howdoimarketbiz Joann Whetstine

    Great tips and what a great way to find dedicated time! You really do need to map it out and schedule it where you can to stay on top of it. Social media is such a dynamic environment and so many great connections can be made with targeted effort. But, some busineses really do not have the time, as a Social Media Consultant, that’s where I come in.

  • http://www.twitter.com/dreambizcoach Michelle Sanchez

    I also like to catch up when I’m listening to conference calls. I listen to a lot of calls and they don’t always require that I pay 100% attention 100% of the time (be sure you are muted so they can’t here you clicking away!). Accepting connection requests on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn is especially easy to multi-task.

  • http://www.coolmummy.co.uk/ Dee

    Social media frustrates me because it sucks up time like a vacuum. I only just realised how necessary it is for my new business (Doh!) so learning the ropes is extremely time consuming for me. there is so much to learn about blogging, tweeting, facebook pages, feedburners, friends connect, etc. I never actually know what is classified as social media and what is not, they are all so intertwined!
    So, for someone like me who is just getting started and setting things up (blogs, tweets etc…) the best approach is LISTS. every morning, I make daily lists of the social media sites I need to focus on and allocate bits of time throughout the day to check them..Otherwise, I’ll have no time to actually make things!
    Thanks for the post btw, very useful.

  • http://microreaders.blogspot.com/ Arijit Das

    Nice Tips!! actually, time is the main problem i face in Social Media… :D

  • http://microreaders.blogspot.com/ Arijit Das

    Nice Tips!! actually, time is the main problem i face in Social Media… :D

  • http://librafitnessaustin.com/ Chris Heidel

    When I’m being disciplined, on Sundays I like to set up a few things to autopost or autotweet throughout the rest of the week (articles I want to share, tips, etc.). Then the rest of the week, I just tweet, post, and respond live as I wish without worrying that I have to “do social media.” I know that the content that I want to get out there is out there.

  • http://librafitnessaustin.com/ Chris Heidel

    When I’m being disciplined, on Sundays I like to set up a few things to autopost or autotweet throughout the rest of the week (articles I want to share, tips, etc.). Then the rest of the week, I just tweet, post, and respond live as I wish without worrying that I have to “do social media.” I know that the content that I want to get out there is out there.

  • http://librafitnessaustin.com/ Chris Heidel

    When I’m being disciplined, on Sundays I like to set up a few things to autopost or autotweet throughout the rest of the week (articles I want to share, tips, etc.). Then the rest of the week, I just tweet, post, and respond live as I wish without worrying that I have to “do social media.” I know that the content that I want to get out there is out there.

  • laurademeo

    Great Article Chris! I especially like tips #2 & #4– I like to block time out each week to plan my content. I helps me to stay organized. It is definitely work in progress– I use basic excel spreadsheet to keep track, but I am wondering what you and other people use that really works for you to manage the content creation. Thanks, Laura

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