The other day I had a conversation with a new business owner whose goal is to build a global business with the help of social media. Her main concerns were how much time she would have to spend online to ‘meet’ the right business partners, how to find the necessary time and how to use this effectively.
The time you should spend on social media will largely depend on your objectives. For example, when it comes to networking in the real world, have you any idea how often you should network, if your objective is to raise your profile and build a local network? A lot of it depends also on your business, what you offer, and your ideal customer!
As a service provider, my own initial objectives were to understand my target audience better and to build a network online. All well and good, but managing the ever-increasing influx of information in addition to dealing with email, reading and writing articles, newsletters and blogs, was not always easy!
Social media can so easily sabotage your productivity, particularly when it pulls you away from your priorities. Indeed, 49% of employees in a pan-European survey* mentioned that distractions posed by social networks are a real challenge. But luckily it seems that social networking, when used efficiently, can also increase our effectiveness! In the same survey 74% of European employees also recognised other benefits like increasing an individual’s knowledge and gaining access to solutions to problems (both 38%).
Making time for social media gets much easier with clear objectives and a regular schedule. With designated time slots that you are happy to commit to you will achieve consistency and consistency is absolutely vital if you want to be both visible and effective online!
At first, my time slots used to be at the beginning and the end of my work day but now that I network less offline, I have increased my ‘social time’ to at least 3 times a day. I find that mobile tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck via my smart phone and iPad make the task easier, enabling me to stay tuned in, even when away from my office.
Once you are clear about your objectives I would recommend you start with a really easy goal – one or two updates per day is a good start on Twitter for example – coupled with an additional 10 minutes of reading time to learn more about the people you follow and to understand their needs. You’ll find that with regular practice you will quickly get faster at both updating and reading and you can then increase your goals accordingly.
I also use my ‘social time’ to catch up on blogs I subscribe to and the Google alerts I’ve set up, that help me to share interesting news. After about 30 minutes in total, I close all the browser windows to start my other work projects.
Since getting side-tracked on the internet is so easy, it is better to keep social media activities separate from other business tasks. That way you can work on one project at a time, rather than multitask and jump from one activity to the next and back, which wastes valuable time. Using a timer can be useful or setting a reminder on a mobile phone can help you to stay on track.
I hope that my tips will enable you to use your ‘social time’ much more effectively… it is always good to feel in control rather than it controlling you!
About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King helps busy female entrepreneurs to be visible, effective and profitable in business.
Read her daily business tips on Facebook (Success Network Recipes) or visit the Success Network website and sign up for a free ebook with lots of business tips for solopreneurs!
PS. This post is an updated version of the original which was first published in August 2009.