Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WotW: Simplify Your Blogging/Social Media World

Social media is great, but do you ever feel like it takes up more and more of your time, leaving you with less time to live actual real life? If you run a blog, a business or are hip on all the latest social media sites, chances are you know exactly what I'm talking about.

It can easily become exhausting to compose a blog post, a Facebook page post, a bunch of Twitter posts, an Instagram post and a slew of pins on Pinterest. Not to mention Google+, YouTube and a slew of other sites. You want to be active on all these channels, but there's just a limited amount of time available, and this doesn't even take into account the primary posting times for each social network.

Before you despair, continue reading, because I have some guidelines that can save you some time, sanity and make your social media experience positive, and more tightly focused on what you really want to say.

The secret is scheduling. Really, it is. In my professional career, I manage multiple social media accounts for multiple organizations. And this is in addition to the numerous other web and design responsibilities I have. Without scheduling, I wouldn't have time to do anything.

Step 1: Setup Recurring Tasks
Checklists can really help you stay on task and remember what you need to do. I've talked about a number of checklists on this site before, like Any.Do, TeuxDeux and Daily ToDo, but when it comes to managing social media, my app/site of choice is Wunderlist. While Wunderlist is similar to other to-do apps, what sets it apart is the ability to setup recurring tasks.

Here's how:
  1. Create a free account with Wunderlist (either online or through their apps for iOS or Android)
  2. Add a list and Title it Social Media.
  3. In the "Add an item in..." field, type your recurring task.
  4. Click on the calendar icon to the right to add a due date (pick the first time you want this to happen, if it is a recurring task)
  5. Beneath the calendar, click the drop-down menu that says Never Repeat and select Repeat Every Day.
  6. Add a Reminder on the reminder tab, if you want to be reminded at a specific time each day.
  7. Repeat Steps 3-6 for each recurring task for each social network you are on.
While I recommend posting daily, I understand it's just not feasible sometimes. If you have a more customized posting schedule (like every three days), you will need to set these up on the mobile app, which has more features than the site.

Once your tasks are setup, go to the Today option on Wunderlist. Bookmark this for daily reference. Now, each day, a fresh list will appear with all your tasks. Check them as you complete them. The next day, they will all return again. Slick.

Step 2: Stick to the Posting Plan
I have found recurring tasks really help me stay on task and be accountable. Another item of importance here is the order in which your tasks should be done. Yes, there is a method to the madness here. 
  1. Start by writing a blog post. 
  2. Immediately after you finish writing your blog post, compose five tweets related to that post. Yes, five. This will provide you with enough tweets to use throughout the day.
  3. Select your best message and tailor it for Facebook. Yes, write a unique Facebook post. Do NOT autopost your blog post on Facebook. It's super boring, gets delivered to an incredibly small fraction of your fans and most likely won't be read or interacted with. I highly recommend writing a post and adding a picture related to the post.
  4. Modify your Facebook post for inclusion on Google+. Remember, Google+ posts with pictures and more detailed posts do better than the sometimes flimsy nature of Facebook posts. If you use Blogger, and linked your Google+ account, your posts are auto-posted to Google+. Still, I think there's value in the human touch of a post.
  5. Post an Instagram photo. This could be a picture of you creating whatever it is you blogged about, or could be a picture you take that somehow relates to your blog post. Then again, it could be a picture about anything. Instagram is a bit unique in that posts don't always have to tie back to your blog or site. Instagram is valuable because it acts like a window to you as a person.
  6. Get on Pinterest and pin 5 things. They don't have to be related to your blog post even, but pin 5 things so you keep active. A good tip for pinning though is to consider your blog post topic and find five pins related to that.
With a bit of practice, you will be able to quickly hammer out all these items (with the exception of writing the actual blog post) in less than an hour. This frees up the rest of your day for, well, whatever else you enjoy doing. 

But wait! You don't want to just post all at once on all your accounts. There are prime posting times for each social network and you want to maximize your blog post's reach and exposure throughout the day. This is where the magic of scheduling posts comes in handy. You still follow the posting plan, but instead of instantly posting, you schedule the posts.

Step 3: Scheduling for Twitter
Many bloggers already utilize the scheduling features for blog posts. If you don't, check it out. This allows you to write posts when the writing bug hits, rather than last minute. You can also schedule posts for Twitter. There are a number of posts out there that can help you do this, but I recommend TweetDeck and HootSuite.

TweetDeck is my favorite because of its slick interface. You can either download the software or use the web-based version (which I prefer).
  1. Click on the blue pen and paper icon in the top-left corner.
  2. In the compose box that appears, write your tweet. A character countdown will guide you.
  3. Instead of instantly posting (I know, resist that temptation), click on the Schedule Tweet option and select both a date and time for your tweet.
  4. Repeat for each of your five tweets. Be sure to space them out. Every 2-3 hours is a good time, but also remember peak times: first thing in the morning, around lunch break and at night, before bed. Be sure to hit those key times.
The one disadvantage to TweetDeck is you cannot schedule posts with pictures uploaded. If you want to do that, you will need to use HootSuite. 

I've covered HootSuite before, so I won't go into much detail here, but they have a similar scheduling feature to TweetDeck.

A feature they recently added though is called Autoscheduling. If you hate trying to figure out when to tweet, let HootSuite do the work for you. They claim to schedule your tweets for the optimal viewing times. In my experience they've done a pretty good job.

Next week, I will cover an easy way to plan your five tweets, along with a tool to do it. I will also explore scheduling Facebook and Google+ posts. Stay tuned.
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