Google Plus, and Facebook, and Twitter – oh my! Social networking certainly has its advantages for website owners, but trying to figure out how to master all of these various sites can be overwhelming.
If you’re a new website owner, you’ve likely read articles talking about how important it is to be active with social media. And it’s true – social networking is booming, and it’s a great way to both improve your website’s search engine optimization and to connect directly with your target audience.
But unfortunately, the advice to be active with social media is often accompanied by panic on the part of website owners, who are already stressed by the day-to-day activities involved in running a successful website. Is it really that important that they take time out of their busy days in order to invest in the social networking site of the moment?
The answer is yes, it is important to get involved in this latest web trend. However, using social media sites effectively doesn’t have to be a burden. Instead, let’s look at how to balance investment across multiple social networking sites and share a strategy for implementing effective social media usage in just 20 minutes a day.
First of all, keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to maintain an active presence on every single social networking site known to man. In fact, it’s pretty likely that your target audiences only uses one or two social networking sites for the bulk of their online interactions, meaning that as long as you’re active on these specific sites, it’s probably enough to simply upload and maintain a profile on the other networks.
To find out what these sites are, enter your niche’s top keywords into the search features of each site. For example, say you run a website about dog training. Type the words “dog training” into the search bars on every social networking site you’re considering getting involved with.
Do you see an active community when you look at the results of your search? On Facebook, do you see active groups dedicated to discussing your chosen topics? Or, on Twitter, are there hashtags or chat groups devoted to your niche? You might even find that your followers aren’t active on social networking sites at all, in which case it might make more sense to invest time in forums or on chat boards related to your website.
But let’s say that the results of your searches do turn up active communities on the major social networking sites. What now? Are you really expected to spend hours a day following conversations and responding to threads?
In a word, no. You’ve got better things to do, so let’s break your social networking investment down to a simple 20 minutes a day. If you find that this small investment pays off, you can always become more active with these sites. But for now, keep your investment small in order to determine whether or not social media investment really works for your business.
In order to maximize your social networking investment, consider the following 20 minute daily schedule:
Log in to each of your social networking accounts and read through any messages or notifications you’ve received. If the action required to respond to these messages will only take a second (for example, “liking” someone’s comment on your Facebook fan page or re-tweeting a link someone shared with you on Twitter), go ahead and do it right away.
If the message requires any kind of follow-up, save it for later, once you’ve had a chance to see what else is being said about your website or your niche on these sites.
Take this time to search the social networking sites on which you maintain an active presence for any mentions of you, your brand or any specific keywords that are relevant to your business. By searching for these mentions, you’ll be able to connect with new people in your niche, while demonstrating your authority as an expert in your field.
There are a few tools you can use to simplify this process:
Google Alerts – Google Alerts are a free tool put out by Google that email you every time a specified phrase is used on blogs, in news articles, in videos or in discussions. By setting up a Google Alert for your business name or any keywords you’re targeting to be triggered whenever the words are mentioned on blogs or in discussion, you can quickly identify opportunities to connect with members of your niche.
Tweetdeck – Tweetdeck is one of a number of different desktop Twitter programs that enables you to better sort information from your Twitter stream. The best way to use this program to identify mentions of your business or your target keywords is to create a new “Search” column that will pull out any tweets that meet your set criteria.
In the example below, Tweetdeck would create a column highlighting any tweet with the words “dog training”, enabling you to identify opportunities to connect more quickly:
Having these tools in place can help you filter through all of the noise on social networking sites so that you can interact with your followers faster and much more effectively.
Use the next five minutes to respond to any messages that require longer follow-up and to seek out new people to engage with through these sites. For example, if a new contact posts a question to your Facebook Wall that will require more extensive follow-up, do the necessary research to compose a response and then do a little follow-up on the person.
Would it be appropriate to friend this person or to connect with him on other networks? For example, if you see though the visitor’s public profiles that he’s very active on Digg or StumbleUpon, taking the time to introduce yourself and make a connection could result in significant traffic for your business through these channels.
Finally, take this time to get updates and posts ready to launch on your social networking profiles. In an ideal world, we’d have all day to sit around and wait for notifications that people are discussing our brand or our target keywords. But since we’ve got other things to do, we need to instead find a way to remain active in the social networking conversation, even when we aren’t physically present.
If you’re crunched for time (and, quite frankly, what business owner isn’t?!), make use of tools like BufferApp or SocialOomph to schedule Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets ahead of time. Although they can’t totally take the place of real-time interaction, scheduling posts ahead of time allows you to share helpful information or links in order to remain visible, without needing an ongoing time investment on social media sites.
So there you have it – a simple, easy-to-follow plan for engaging with the web’s top social networking sites in under 20 minutes each day. If you find that your efforts are paying off, that’s great – go ahead and expand your involvement if you see fit. Just be careful. Social networking can be addictive, so it’s important to set boundaries in order to remain productive in the all-encompassing world of social media.