The most common reason I hear for bloggers or online marketers not using social media to promote their work is that it takes too much time. With hundreds or thousands of social media sites out there it can seem impossible to have any sort of impact without spending several hours each day.
The truth is, social media can be a huge consumer of your time, or it can require just a small amount on a consistent basis. It’s very possible to use social media sites only in small doses and still reap the benefits, you just need to have a plan for the time that you are spending and you need some discipline to stay away from distractions that seem to be everywhere.
Personally, I only spend about 30 minutes per day on social media, but it’s consistently been the number one source of traffic for my blogs. When I started with social media about a year ago I really had idea how it worked or how I could use it to my advantage to gain exposure for my blog. But if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time learning about how to optimize your blog for social media and learning about the types of content that will do well, you’ll see powerful results that can’t be duplicated by most other methods of marketing or promotion.
If you avoid using social media sites because you think they will have no impact without requiring hours each day, I’d like to share some tips that can help to make your time with social media more efficient and productive.
1. Focus on a few specific sites
There are so many social media sites (and more launching almost every day) that it can be overwhelming. You’ll certainly never have success with all of them, especially not on limited time, but that really doesn’t matter. All you need is success with one or two and you’re time will be well spent. Anything more than that will be nice, but it’s not necessary in order to justify spending just a small amount of time with social media.
One of the common mistakes new bloggers or marketers is that they hear a lot about Digg, so all of their effort with social media goes towards building a large list of friends at Digg and getting to the front page. This wouldn’t be a bad idea if it worked, but the problem is that only a very small percentage of blogs will have success with Digg, and they tend to be the large, popular blogs that don’t need the traffic as much as the smaller blogs do.
Instead of focusing on Digg because everyone else talks about it, find a few sites that are a good fit for your audience and give you a reasonable chance for success. Digg is not a good option if you want to spend a small amount of time with social media. If you must have success with Digg you have the options of spending more time there, getting some help from friends who are willing to submit and/or vote for you, or you can hire a professional.
Niche social media sites are often overlooked, but I can say from experience that many of them are extremely powerful. Find sites that give you the opportunity to get your content in front of a decent-sized and hopefully targeted audience. Once you have chosen two or three sites to target, focus on getting to know more about those sites, their users, and the content that winds up getting the most attention.
2. Set a small amount of time each day
Try starting with 30 minutes to spend on social media each day. This isn’t a huge time investment, but it is enough to have a noticeable impact. Spend your time reading stories at your targeted sites, voting for those that you like, submitting high quality items, and networking with other users.
Additionally, you need to be consistent with your time. Don’t go for weeks at a time without visiting your targeted sites or your impact there will be minimal. We’re dedicating only a small amount of time, so it should be feasible to do this every day, or at least most days.
One of the most helpful things I can do to minimize the time I spent with social media is to use my feed reader more effectively. Whenever I come across a post that I want to vote for at social media I star it in Google Reader and then I go back at the end of the day to all of my starred items and vote for them. It saves me from going to those sites over and over again.
3. Take advantage of toolbars
Several social media sites will offer tools that will make more efficient use of your time. For example, Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon both have toolbars that you can install into your browser that will make it much faster and easier for you to be active with these sites. Additionally, many social media sites will have official or unofficial add-ons, such as the ones listed in 20 Firefox Extensions for Social Media Addicts, that can streamline the process of working with those sites. If the tools are available, take advantage of them.
4. Subscribe to relevant feeds
Almost all social media sites will offer RSS feeds for their popular items or for items that become popular in specific categories. If you’re interested in seeing the content that is being submitted and learning more about what is drawing attention, these feeds could be a convenient option for you. Maybe you would prefer to get these items directly in your feed reader rather than remembering to visit the site each day.
5. Focus on StumbleUpon
For new bloggers or those just getting started with social media, StumbleUpon is by far the best of the major social media sites. While it doesn’t send as much traffic as Digg in a quick burst, SU is more than capable of sending a higher amount of traffic over a longer period of time (which your server will appreciate) and, more importantly, it’s not the all-or-nothing option like Digg.
With just a few thumbs up or reviews you can easily get a few hundred, or even a few thousand, visitors. Compare that to Digg where you have to get about 150 – 200 diggs in order to get any kind of substantial traffic. Also, StumbleUpon has so many categories that just about anything you can imagine will have a place at SU.
6. Build your network
If you have a strong network, it’s very possible to get powerful results with social media without spending a lot of time there. Maybe you have friends with strong Digg profiles, or maybe you have a large network that is eager to vote for you. Networking takes some time, but I think you’ll see that it is one of the best uses of a blogger’s time.
For more on the subject of networking, see the recent posts Forming Your Inner Circle and The Guide to Networking for Social Media Marketers.
7. Don’t waste your time promoting anything less than your best work
Another common mistake that bloggers make with social media is trying to get votes for every one of their posts. Not everything you publish will be of interest to social media. Coming to this realization and only promoting your best work will help you to achieve the results that you’re after. By promoting everything you’re not only wasting your time, but you’re also hurting the chances of your best content getting the attention that it deserves.
8. Stay Focused
When you’re visiting social media sites remember your purpose. Stick to sites and categories that are relevant to you, and avoid distractions that will suck up your time.
9. Focus on building your readership
If you’re frustrated with the fact that the biggest blogs also get the most attention with social media, try to make the most of the situation by growing your own blog. Larger blogs often spend less time with social media and they get better results. Do what you can to improve your blog and grow its readership. With time, as your blog grows your impact with social media is also likely to grow at the same time.