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Right now, we’re in the middle of a huge community management and content publishing project for a rather large and rather splendid client. We’re working across Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram and Pinterest. A lot of platforms, but in this case, each one is fully relevant, which is of course, key. I’ve been doing this kind of work for years now, and we are now at a place where social media has never been more time-consuming and resource heavy.

What’s changed?

Well, first and foremost, there are many more platforms to choose from – sure there have always been options outside of the original key players (Facebook and Twitter), but I feel we’re now at a stage where a number of platforms offer truly valuable outcomes for marketing and communications activity. The thing is, that you can’t just do the same things across all platforms – you need to create different content and have different ideas for each. The social web has never been more visual, and that creates a headache in itself! Let me take a look at a number of platforms and illustrate the time-drag issues…

Pinterest

This may well be the mother of all time-sucks! Setting up a Pinterest board and populating it with decent images takes a long-time! You not only need the images in the first place, but you have to write a board description, and one for each image too. You then have to tag each image, as without those, you’re drastically reducing the potential for eyeballs on your images. One of they key premises of Pinterest is that you pin images from other sources (either within Pinterest or externally) to boards you’ve created, which is a great form of content curation,  however it’s also a time consuming practice! Using a ‘pin it’ browser extension can speed this up.

You really need to think about the validity of Pinterest for your business, as you could waste some serious time pinning away with no return. Read this handy checklist over on Social Media Examiner and think if it suits your brand, product service etc. There’s no doubt that Pinterest is an excellent driver of traffic and revenue – read this post on econsultancy that states Pinterest now drives more revenue than Facebook in the UK. And right on queue, the awesome Belle Beth Cooper has just published a great article full of excellent tips for using Pinterest.

Google Plus

It’s a waste of time. Said the short-sighted social media guru. The fool.

G+ isn’t a waste of time, but it can take a lot of time to do it properly! I’m going to give a specific example of sharing long-form content from your site/blog on there. The simple thing to do is write a few intro lines and then whack the link to your post in the appropriate field. There’s noting really wrong with this approach and I used to do it (until very recently), but was never really happy with the response I was getting to my G+ posts. I then read this post from Dustin Stout that summarises a number of G+ experiments that Dustin undertook, looking at social signals from G+, but also different ways of posting blogs etc to G+. I’ve now changed my G+ ways…

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Let me explain the pointers on the image:

1 – This helps your post stand-out, when typing the headline, add * at the beginning and end of your text, like – *This Text Will Be Bold*

2 – Why have I put the full text from the post here? Well, I want people to be able to read it within G+. It was an experiment versus just putting a few of the initial sentences and then asking people to click the link read the full post. Did it work? Well, I placed this the G+ Social Media Strategy community (worth joining!) and it has gathered more +1s than I’ve ever had and also more comments and the link still gathered a decent amount of clicks. Using the intro and link technique used to return very little.

3 – Instead of copying the link into the ‘link’ field, I’ve added it within the body copy (Dustin’s experiment showed that this still allocated any +1s from within G+ to the original source, as long as you don’t have other links present in the G+ post copy) instead, and then added an image to the post, this helps the post to stand out.

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Now I’m not saying you should add all of the copy all of the time, but I do believe this approach is the best way of getting people’s attention and engagement on G+. Try it out! But guess what, it takes longer than the ‘just chuck the link in’ method.

I urge you to invest time in G+, it is a valid platform, and can be a great place for more in-depth engagement. Even if you just get on there on a personal basis and get to know its workings.

Instagram

Why does Instagram take so long to update and manage? Well, the fact that you can only post to it and communicate with people on it via a mobile is a pain in the posterior. One of the issues here is the fact that I use Instagram on a personal basis, so I need to log-out of my account and then into a client’s account. That takes time. Instagram lives on tags, lots of them! You need to add a serious amount of tags to images in order to grab attention. That takes ages. You also need to have great images either stored up to use (and sized to 612×612), or be in a position to take snaps in real-time and post them. Time, time time. Please remember to log back into your account before posting a selfie…

Facebook

Facebook, I don’t like it. It has regular bugs which slow things down and make life hard. It needs numerous custom images sizes in order to display properly, and it’s scheduling tool is slower than a week in jail with Bieber as a cell mate. Zzzzzzzzz.

Twitter

Twitter, I love it. There’s a high chance you clicked a link in Twitter and ended up here. Thanks for that. But doing Twitter well takes serious time. You need to publish content (your own content and potentially some curated stuff), communicate with people, grow your following, find and use appropriate hashtags (no more than two) and analyse your activity to make sure you’re tweeting effectively. Tick tock.

Analysis and Ideas

And then of course, you have to carry out all manner of analysis to make sure that each platform you’re using is actually worthwhile. Essential time, but more time none-the-less. What about ideas? The ability to come up with the creative sparks that will allow you to make best use of social? More time! Oh, and you need a plan. And to integrate social with every else. Have fun!

But it’s worth every minute…

Spend the time it takes to do social media properly, or don’t even bother being there. It’s a truly valuable marketing channel that deserves your time and brain-power. You need to be disciplined and make time to plan everything from content generation right through to time for communication – which is still the most important thing of course! Always, always make sure you have a valid case for being present on a platform, time is precious, and many a business has lost it in social media.

Is social media marketing taking up an increasing amount of your time and resource? How do you approach cutting back on time spent without quality and results suffering?

Feel free to contact Mike McGrail if you’d like to discuss improving the efficiency of your social media marketing activity.

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Image credits – Tortoise  is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby and used under creative commons.

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