First, let me say that I think social media marketing is great. I’m using it more and more for my own business. And it’s obviously producing results for many others.
But I can’t help but wonder … how do people find the time to tweet all day, every day? Because I sure can’t find time for that.
Well, until recently that is, when I discovered HootSuite. If you’re not familiar with HootSuite, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Here at last is a simple, free, online tool that brings together all your social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and makes basic social media marketing a breeze. There are other tools like this out there, but I have tried and been disappointed by most of them.
I instantly fell in love with HootSuite.
Now instead of futzing with widgets or logging in and out of social media sites all day, you can open one simple tool that manages all your major accounts on one, tabbed screen. You can send, receive, and schedule messages on one or multiple social streams.
And it’s that scheduling part that is the point of this post. Because while I don’t have time to do social marketing all day every day, I do have time to schedule tweets and other updates once a week. Generally, I spend no more than 20 minutes.
Here’s how it works.
I use the Bloglines newsreader to follow 126 RSS feeds for a variety of blogs on copywriting, design, marketing, direct mail, freelancing, creativity, and other subjects.
Once a week, I open the reader and scan the various feeds. When I run across something interesting, or want to promote something on my own blogs, I use the HootSuite Firefox plugin to schedule a message on one of my social networks. The plugin is much faster than cutting and pasting into the full HootSuite application.
You just click the toolbar button and it automatically captures the title and creates a shortened link. Then you choose a day and time for the message to post and select the networks where you want it to appear. And you’re done. As the TV commercials would say, set it and forget it.
I’ve found that in about 20 minutes, I can fill up the week with a few dozen messages. For the rest of the week, all I have to do is keep the HootSuite application open in a browser tab and respond to direct messages or, in the rare spare moment, tweet a random thought or discovery.
Here’s a screenshot of the HootSuite screen. As you can see, I have 5 social media streams, each in a separate tab. The tab open here is for one of two Twitter accounts, showing various columns where you can see feeds, mentions, direct messages, and if you scroll to the right, pending and sent tweets. Tabs for other streams show their own unique set of columns.
None of this is innovative. Many others do roughly the same thing. Though with those I follow on Twitter, a disproportionately high percentage of people appear to do all their tweets personally, either from the Twitter site or from various mobile applications. How? Again, I don’t know how they find the time.
The one innovation I’ve made, and it’s not all that innovative, is that I created a form with a grid, with days across the top and hours down the side. You can create your own grid and download it as a pdf.
I don’t want to bludgeon people with an incessant series of messages like some others do (hint, hint), so I generally don’t do more than one per hour. And most are scheduled during peak business hours.
As I’m reading and scheduling, I put a check in the appropriate time slot. This helps me spread out the updates evenly throughout the week. It’s easier than scrolling through the pending updates column in the HootSuite application.
So in summary, I use the HootSuite Firefox plugin to rapidly capture or create social media messages and schedule them. Then I use the primary HootSuite application to monitor and manage activity throughout the week.
I’ve said little about all the other features HootSuite provides, such as tracking statistics, managing followers, integrating with WordPress, feeding RSS to your networks, and so on. But you can explore that on your own. HootSuite is so intuitive and easy to use, you really don’t need step-by-step instructions for most functions.
I don’t know how other people do it, but that’s how I do social marketing. And I invest no more than 20 minutes a week. Am I taking full advantage of social marketing? No. Not even close. But given my schedule, I’m getting what I can out of it.
Here’s a video tour of HootSuite to give you an overview of the features and how to get started.