If ever there were two words that struck fear into the hearts of business people everywhere they’re plan and manage.
Doesn’t it feel so much easier to be “doing” than “figuring out how to do”?
If only we could wake up one day and be in the middle of a process, we’d just keep going! But getting started is another story. So rather than pull your hair out, tackle your marketing with only half a brain cell or leave its success up to fate, try following this guide and then watch your social marketing practically run itself.
Focus On Your Target Audience
If you read almost anything else on this site that discusses planning or strategy you’ll know that this point makes it into each and every one.
That’s because the importance of knowing who you’re marketing to can’t be overstated.
And while I won’t repeat often-written advice to know and find your target audience, I will tell you that knowing this detail can save you a whole lot of time and energy.
I’ll tell you exactly the trick I use to focus our social marketing efforts: I think of the one specific person that I’m posting something for.
Facebook status update? Twitter post? Pinterest photo? I don’t have to wonder whether it’s a good idea because I only think of the single person who would find value in it.
Most times that’s a real person – someone I do, in fact, know. Someone from my audience who I’ve either met, or spoken with, or engaged with so that social updates aren’t about “marketing” as much as about having a conversation with someone I know.
Sometimes it’s a figurative person. A profile of someone who fits my target market. It’s a bit more abstract but it helps focus content on what someone may actually need, want and be interested in.
By the way, this is a great trick to pull out for your next email campaign, too. I never write a single email without picturing a very specific and very real person in my mind – and talking only to that person. Since that person fits my target audience, I know others in my audience will appreciate it, too.
Specify Daily, Weekly, Monthly And “Sometimes” Tasks
There are certain things you’ll need to do every day and some that you’ll only need to do once in a while. Unless you know what these things are and how often you need to do them, you won’t be able to plan them.
Start by making a list of everything that goes into your social marketing efforts. That can include creating or curating content, engaging with people, changing bits of your account profile like your cover photo, audience-building tactics and a host of other things.
Detail out what needs to go into your efforts – everything from “take photos” to “touch up photos” to “find new Twitter followers”.
Then decide how often those things need to be done.
You probably want to follow up on comments and questions daily, but leave “find followers” to weekly.
For me, I like to spend a few minutes every day sifting through my RSS feeds and curating cool blog posts and interesting news. I drop it all into a folder then once every week I schedule it to go out to my followers.
The better you can define what you need to do, and put it on the calendar so it becomes a regular part of your routine, the easier it will become to manage your social profiles – and the faster you’ll get it done.
Use An Editorial Calendar
This is a must for blogging and can also be beneficial if you’re regularly creating other types of content, such as white papers, eBooks or email series.
The last thing you want to do is haphazardly start pumping out content, one bit today, two tomorrow, none for six weeks… and not focusing your efforts on providing a good variety.
When we weren’t using an editorial calendar on this blog, we wrote whatever, whenever. Sometimes we had day after day on the same topic and that got boring to people. Sometimes we missed gaps in content that people wanted from us but we weren’t paying enough attention to provide it. And always we were at the whim of sick days, power outages, computer crashes and the biggest devil of all – inspiration.
With a calendar we map out the topics we’ll cover, who will cover them and when they’ll be published. That way we can monitor and evaluate our approach, avoid conflicts, deal with gaps and other issues and make some educated assessments about how well we’re doing.
A calendar frees you up to stop worrying about your content and actually produce it. A schedule will ensure you have timely topics, spaced appropriately and delivered effectively.
If you want to give one a try, you can download ours here.
Use A Social Content Calendar
There are about a million billion social channels (at last count) so how can you possibly know what content you’ll be posting on each one, let alone when?
I’ll tell you how: with a social content calendar.
This functions just like an editorial calendar except that instead of telling you when you’ll blog or release other types of content you create, it will define what and when you’ll be posting to each social network.
Without this, you’ll be guessing at best. You won’t be able to post consistently or on any regular schedule. And you won’t be able to test and measure your efforts.
A good social content calendar tells you a few things: what type of content you’ll be posting (curated links, videos, photos, graphics, promotional links, etc), when you’ll be posting it (down to the day and hour) and where you’ll be posting it (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr…).
Then it’s just a matter of plug-and-go. No stress, no worrying what you missed or whether you posted enough (or too much) and a lot more time to do other things instead of agonize about what you should be doing on social media.
If you want to try ours, you can download it here.
Set Time Limits
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a time suck Facebook can be. Or all those beautiful Pinterest boards. Or those thousands of unread tweets.
There is simply no way a human being (who still wants time for dinner) can possibly keep up with everyone and everything. There’s no point in trying.
What you can do instead is give yourself a reasonable time limit for checking in on your communities, responding, engaging and then moving on.
Only you can define “reasonable” and that’s going to be based on some combination of your actual availability, the activity in your communities and the current tasks on your list.
Instead of worrying about what that limit is, pick something, say one hour daily. Stick to it for a week or two and then adjust as necessary.
If you have a time limit and stick to it, you can stop worrying that you forgot to check in on your accounts today. You can stop beating yourself over the head for letting it suck up your whole morning. And you can deal with it as another marketing task.
You may discover that you simply can’t individually thank each and every person who retweets something you said. You may also find that you were spending way too much time chatting with people on Facebook and neglecting other tasks.
Being aware of the time you spend – and capping it – will go a long way to keeping you focused and being more productive.
Have A Curating Plan
I don’t know anyone who can churn out original content constantly, but that doesn’t mean our social streams need to be silent otherwise. There’s plenty of content to be curated, from photos and graphics to blog posts and news stories.
But you also can’t do this haphazardly. If you set out this morning with your one-hour of social media time blocked off and start randomly browsing the internet for interesting things to share, I promise you will miss dinner tonight, and maybe even tomorrow night, too.
You need to organize your curating plan the same way you organize your content creation, and that’s by knowing what type of content you’re looking for and where it will be coming from.
As I said earlier, I have an RSS feed that I use. It’s a collection of thousands of sources that have proven good for finding good stuff to share. I can’t read them all on any given day, but they’re available. At no point do I simply open up Google and wonder what I should be looking for.
I have a series of Google alerts set up with keywords that are relevant to my audience, and I glean from those.
I also use an app called Instapaper so I can bookmark anything I do randomly stumble across, which syncs from my phone to my desktop browser and saves it all for later.
Whether you use an app, a Twitter list, a bookmark folder or some other method, you should have a collection of sources that you can rely on. Add as you find more.
I saved this for last because it can be one of your biggest time-savers. Instead of coming up with unique original content each and every time, try working with a theme.
For instance, a pet supply store may want to share photos with its audience. But that’s a pretty broad topic and can leave you wracking your brain for good ideas. But this can be simplified by creating a theme around “dogs with Frisbees” or “guilty dogs” appended with funny captions.
A car wash may want to settle on a theme for sharing fun bumper sticker quotes.
A landscaper may want to snap photos of uniquely shaped rocks (and maybe challenge his audience to tell him what they “see” in the shapes – Facebook contest anyone?)
Those are quick ideas that I literally shot off the top of my head in ten seconds. With a bit of thought, you can create themes around your business that would be fun, meaningful and relevant for your audience so that next time you go into “create content” mode, you can choose a theme and have a piece of the hard work already done for you.
Oh, and still have time for dinner, at an actual table!
I bet if you combined a few or maybe even all of these ideas and incorporated them into your social strategy, you’d find yourself with a whole lot less guesswork and whole lot more time.
Do any of these strike you as something you can try immediately? Do you have any questions about how to make them work for your business? Let me know!
Join the discussion 6 Comments
Another great post! You’ve really given me some great ideas. I’m trying to build the social media stuff up, but as you mentioned — it can take up a massive amount of time. I think you’ve given me a direction to go in. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks George, I can always count on you for a glowing review 🙂 I hope you do get to use some of these ideas!
It is good to be back after a summer of moving! Talk about having time for dinner? I had to have time to just do the minor things to keep me ‘alive’
These suggestions are great! I do try to keep myself disciplined by taking 10 to 15 minutes a day on each social site. Some times twice a day. All the other components of running a business has to be written down like a production schedule.
Most of all, my clients take precedence over everything. When they call for an appointment, I do drop everything and give them time first.
It an get confusing at times because I’m not so diligent when it comes to scheduling. But you have given me some great ideas to apply and I thank you.
Great to see you back, Donna! You must have been super busy to be gone this long. I hope you’re doing well.
I agree that you have to pay attention to your clients before your “to do list”. Your social community won’t go away if you look in on them five minutes later. It’s great that you have the discipline to limit your time. It’s hard, especially since there is a big crossover between personal and business for a lot of people, so it’s easy to get sidetracked. I hope some of these ideas can help you. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by!
Sorry for being so late on this post. Phew… it’s been a crazy week.
I am actually working on a social marketing plan right now, and I was thinking about blogging twice about it. In my post tomorrow I am going to tell about what I’m doing now and in a few weeks/months from now I going to blog about the results.
Yes, Facebook and other social media can be such time suckers. There’s always that video or picture that is so attention grabbing and that you can resist. but I’m trying hard, especially when I’m so busy like now.
I have to say that I’m not the best planner in the world, and for some reason I am more of a “pen and paper” kind of planner than using one of those fancy software tools. I don’t know why. I do the same with eBooks, I always have to print them rather then read them on the computer screen.
I will actually “print” this post and keep it as a reference to go later 🙂
Thanks for the tips.
Funny, I like the pen-and-paper thing too. Must be something about writers 🙂
It’s tough to plan everything, especially when you want to jump in and just get stuff done. But it definitely will save you time and effort in the long run! I really try to stay away from social stuff unless it’s on my schedule, otherwise I get drawn right in and get lost there.
I can’t wait to read your posts about it, too!