Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Social media marketing can be a big time suck for many authors. Making it manageable, though, is about learning how to take inventory of your time, resources and skill and then planning accordingly.
None of us can control how much time is in a day, but we can certainly control how we use it. In this ever-increasing space, there are plenty of tools, apps and systems available to help you organize your time better, but sometimes it’s difficult to decide which fits your needs best. So here are five filters that can help you figure out what you need:
- 1. Free. Don’t be opposed to paying for a tool if you need it. But definitely try free first.
- 2. Accomplishes more than one task. Evernote is a good example. It can be used for a number of note-based tasks on multiple devices, and it is free. Good dashboard tools multitask social media interactions, including listening, posting and analytics. Some are free (Hootsuite and TweetDeck, for example), and some have a monthly cost and more in-depth services, like Sprout Social or Buffer.
- 3. Saves time. I use one tool that posts and comments on my social media accounts in one location. I estimate that using a social media dashboard tool saves me at least an hour a day of visiting each platform individually and reading through all the posts. And despite popular opinion to the contrary, the tool keeps me involved in conversations because they are all monitored in one location.
- 4. Simple to use. I use simple Excel spreadsheets for many tasks—reviewer databases, publishing schedules, contact information, writing schedules, promotional calendars. So why use a fancy tool when a spreadsheet will do the trick? I use Kanban Flow (free version) to keep my days on track and Focus At Will to time my writing and strengthen my concentration. These are all standalone tools that are extremely user-friendly and increase my efficiency.
- 5. Shareable. When you need to collaborate on a project or share a file, a good cloud service is your best bet. I use Dropbox and Google Drive (both free), but there are many out there.
In addition to finding the right tools, there are five types of social media marketing tasks that require managing. The time allotments I suggest are only a guideline to demonstrate their importance. But regardless of how much time you spend on each, your plan should include all five.
- 1. Research. Before you make a decision to start using a new social media platform, redesign a website, start an email newsletter or learn a new piece of software, you need to do research on whether the product is a good fit for your goals. With practice you will learn when you reach the information tipping point to make a good decision and move on to the next task. Research should not take more than 10 percent of your marketing time.
- 2. Learning Curves. Whenever you learn a new task, such as adding a new social media channel, you need to allocate time for the learning curve. Divide larger curves over days or weeks. Learning should only take about 10-15 percent of your total time.
- 3. Editorial tasks. Editorial tasks include writing posts, scheduling, creating images, writing blog pieces, finding images, putting together video, taking photos, pinning, etc. This is the bulk of your time—probably 40 percent or more.
- 4. Monitoring and connecting. You can’t be successful by just posting on social media and forgetting about it, as using these platforms purely for broadcasting can be a huge turnoff to fans. Connecting includes interacting. This could involve “liking” fan comments, answering questions, thanking people for reviews or sharing other people’s content. Start with 25 percent of your marketing time here.
- 5. Evaluation. Periodically revisit your marketing goals, look at your objectives and see if your invested time is getting a proportional return. Spend 10 percent of your marketing time every week doing this. I allocate a chuck of time to this every weekend.
These time percentages are a starting point so that you can get an idea of how much time each task should take up in your marketing plan. Think weekly allotments here because you won’t do every task every day.
Along with organizing your time, you might consider learning how to piggyback everyday tasks to include social media marketing. Sandra Beckwith’s 7 Ways to Promote Your Book While Watching TV can start your wheels turning. Waiting rooms are great places to do research, as is the car when waiting to pick up your kids after school.
Keeping social media marketing manageable is an author’s biggest challenge. Peer pressure, fear of missing out, and just plain ignorance push many an author into a situation where social media marketing becomes a garden full of weeds. Start right. Do it on your terms, but do it with the best information you can find from the best sources. And always count the cost before you dive in.
This is part two in a five-part series on SMART social media marketing by Chris Syme.
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