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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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