This post is the third in a multi-part series on Social Media Time Management, intended to supplement the content of the presentation I gave at BlogWorld Expo 2009. Click here to see the collection of posts in the series.
When you’ve planned and are ready to actually start engaging in social media, selecting the right tools can go a long way to helping you manage your time.
Remember, the tools you select should reflect what you’ve learned through your listening efforts, and help you accomplish the goals you’ve set.
When it comes to social networks or types of social media, select two or three. Don’t try to be everywhere or do it all. That’s an inevitable time sink, and you’ll do nothing well.
When it comes to the tools themselves, avoid shiny object syndrome and pick the ones that get you to your goals, and no more. Low tech is okay. Some suggestions for the varying areas of focus are below.
Listening and Monitoring
If you’re bootstrapping and on the DIY track, look into tools like Yahoo Pipes to build yourself a nice little aggregation environment. Or, try putting together a dashboard using NetVibes, and pull in the RSS feeds for your searches from sites like:
- Twitter Search
- Google Blog Search
- BoardTracker and BoardReader
Disclosure: I work for Radian6, a social media monitoring company. I am, without question, biased in favor of our tool in terms of paid monitoring solutions. So if you have some budget for a listening solution, I’d recommend learning more about Radian6.
There’s a huge case to be made for investing in a monitoring tool. Once you’re spending more than a couple of hours in a day aggregating posts and information, and more than a couple of hours a week doing analysis on the data, it’s time to look at graduating to a solution that can help automate some of the work and free you up to actually discover the insights that can move your business forward.
Responding, Initiating and Creating
The number of social tools and sites available to you as a business are seemingly endless, right? The thing is, the only ones you need care about are the ones that are hosting conversations you want to be part of. That’s where the listening bit comes in. That’s how you know where to be. It’s never about what cool new toys and sites “they” are talking about. Dig?
I’ve covered a few of the most popular (and useful, in my book) social sites and tools in an ebook called the Social Media Starter Kit. It’s free, and it goes into detail about Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and LinkedIn and a few tidbits about some of the productivity and content creation tools that I’ve found useful. That should give you a start. (And by all means, if your industry is still chatting it up on forums and such, be there.)
Also, please don’t forget about “legacy” tools like email. Coupled with solid social media outreach and engagement, well crafted email newsletters and communications can be an essential part of what you’re doing, and help you cross pollinate your communities.
If you’re blogging, please do yourself the favor of using a platform like WordPress. The plugin resources and development community alone make it well worth the investment (you can get a snifty blog, built on WordPress, customized and prettied up for as little as a few hundred dollars. This beats the pants off of a lousy website). And get yourself a Google Reader account to stay connected with the blogs that matter most to you. Spending time commenting and contributing on other blogs is most likely an important piece of your engagement commitment.
First things first. Have a spreadsheet program? Good. Calculator? Good. When it comes to measurement at a basic level, you really can get by with these things (though it’s going to take time, yes). The key is knowing WHAT to measure (which is a whole different post series, but for a start, here’s a presentation I did recently on social media measurement that might offer a few suggestions).
Deciding what to measure is super straightforward if you have clear goals in place. For instance, if your goal is to increase your overall awareness in social media across the next 12 months, you might track metrics like Share of Conversation, overall on-topic post volume (posts that are about you or mention you), and your specific share of posts in your selected social media types over that period (watching how your volume increases or decreases over time on, say Twitter, forum posts, and blogs.).
Benchmarking is crucial. You can’t track progress against something you aren’t measuring in the first place. If you want to increase customer loyalty, you need to know what indicators you’re tracking that point to that goal (repeat activity or purchases on an account, number of referrals from that source over a set period of time, increase in average purchase size, etc.).
For each objective, pick no more than three metrics to track. More than that, and you’re in the rabbit hole of measurement. The win isn’t that you measured. It’s that you measured something that provided an insight into your progress toward business goals. Choose wisely, and stay focused.
Some tools you might consider:
- Social media measurement and analytics: Radian6 (Again, I work for them, and I think it’s a superior paid solution)
- Twitter Analytics: HootSuite, Twitter Analyzer, TweetStats
- Web Analytics and Tracking: Hubspot, Google Analytics, Compete.com
- Blog Analytics: PostRank, Google Analytics (try the Social Media Metrics plugin, but it’s not perfect by any means)
- URL Shorteners like Bit.ly
- Facebook Ad analytics and Facebook Lexicon
When it comes to time management, selection of tools and resources is important, but it needs to be done with an editing eye and with a systematic approach. Random and haphazard tool selection leads to similar results. Do your homework, and the tools you need will often make themselves clear. Ignore the rest.
To close out the Social Media Time Management series, we’ll talk about some tips, tricks, and helpful hints to stay focused and on track when you’re navigating social media. Has this series been helpful to you? Please leave your feedback in the comments.