Finding Time To Tweet

When I talk to people about their greatest challenges with social media (once they get over the “What is this all about?” and “Why should I get involved?” stages), they say the greatest challenge is fnding time to stay engaged. I can definitely relate.

Currently I’m attempting to maintain two Twitter accounts (business), two LinkedIn accounts (business) and one Facebook account (personal) for myself, along with a growing number of accounts for clients. And, I need to find ways to fit all of this in between the other projects I may be working on–keeping web sites up to date, writing blogs and eletters, managing media requests for client PR coverage and a myriad of other things that seem to just “pop up” out of the blue. I’m not alone, I know. Seems like whenever I connect with anyone else who’s involved online they’re experiencing the same challenges.

The answer? It may seen somewhat counter-intuitive, but I think the answer is organizing (e.g. scheduling) and compartmentalizing these activities. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite “right” to schedule “tweet time.” After all, shouldn’t online engagement be about spontaneity and organic communication? Well, I’m coming to believe that online engagement should perhaps only appear to be spontaneous and organic.

Recently, I literally created a schedule for myself to ensure that the time I was spending online kept me focused on the right activities so that I was maintaining my own connections and also paying enough attention to keeping client activities up-to-date and meaningful. In addition, I think, it’s important to establish a good balance between professional and personal activities (and, definitely, these accounts should be separate).  So for two hours on Tuesday afternoon, for instance, I focus on Client A, for two hours on Wednesday, on Client B, etc. — and during this time I create a specific number of potential tweets and other social media posts for the subsequent week. On Friday afternoons I create as many blog postings as I can and then schedule them across upcoming days or weeks (if I’m being especially productive). These can then easily be scheduled online through blog tools like WordPress or  sites like HootSuite. And, there’s still the opportunity for spontaneity, because if an opportunity to tie in to some media event or issue emerges, I can simply adjust the schedule.

To assist with idea generation I’ve set up both online and hard copy files for myself and each of my clients. As I read items in the newspaper, magazines or journals that relate I rip them out and pop them into a hard copy file. If I come across something interesting online, I’ll save it in an online folder. Then when it’s time to consider the upcoming tweets for a particular account I have plenty of source material to turn to if I’m not readily coming up with ideas.

I’ve found that the best time for me to check accounts for any comments or conversations I need to engage in is at the end of my work day as I’m “winding down.” I can respond automatically to some items and schedule others to appear more spontaneous and not make it obvious that I’m doing all of this between the hours of 5-7:00 p.m.

I also set aside a specific day/amount of time to review analytics for myself and my clients. This one is tough for me to do, because I’m finding that I’m pretty addicted to response and I have a tendency to check results incessantly. But, I’ve found that this only diverts me from focusing on other work so I’m forcing myself to, again, compartmentalize.

Finally, I’m finding opportunities to delegate. After years of experience in the corporate world I felt that I was a very effective delegator, but being in business for myself I don’t have as many obvious resources to turn to. But there are still resources to turn to. So, I’m learning to partner with other consultants, contract with freelancers, work with interns and even call upon family members to help out with certain activities that they can help me out with including research, helping to build followers for my accounts, and basic but important activities like proofreading.

For now, at least, this seems to be providing me with the sense of order I need to stay focused and be productive. I know it can be done because in an online forum I recently read a post from a woman who says that she is able to manage 150 social media accounts for clients–with just one person assisting her! Wow.

What tools and techniques  have you used to make you more productive online?

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