We all know that in today's socially connected world having a visible and active presence across multiple social networks is a must if you want your business to get noticed. But creating engaging, dynamic social media content and then sharing and tracking it can be a challenge for those of us who can't afford to have a dedicated team managing these tasks on a day to day basis. So in this post I'm going to share with you some useful tips and tools that will allow you to organize and automate much of the leg work associated with producing and sharing your social media content and help make the process manageable.
Create an editorial calendar
Having a content or editorial calendar allows you to plan ahead and means that when your next blog post is due you won't be sitting there scratching your head and wondering what to write about. A simple Excel spreadsheet is all you need to get started.
Just set up columns for post date, post title, which social networks you're going to post it to, the format (e.g. blog, video, article, photos), the theme or category and the primary keyword you are targeting.
Once you've done this, begin to populate your spreadsheet with key events and activities over the next 6 months, such as holidays, product launches, exhibitions, trade shows etc. This will provide a structure for planning your content and ensure that you have a balance of evergreen and on-trend or seasonal content that's relevant to what's going on in your business and your customers' lives. Think creatively about how you can use these content hooks to add interest for your audience and relate them back to your products and services.
Decide how frequently you are going to publish and then begin to fill up your calendar, making sure that you have left some space for reactive content. That way, if anything topical and relevant to your niche comes along you'll be able to respond quickly and demonstrate to your audience that you have your finger on the pulse. Google Alerts is a great tool for keeping abreast of all the latest news in your industry. Use it to get instant notifications of content that will be of interest to your audience and earn brownie points for being the first to share it with your online community.
Make light work of sharing your content with these useful tools
If you use WordPress as your website platform then integrating your blog with your social media profiles is a breeze. There are a host of plug-ins that will allow you to automatically update all your various accounts every time you post, which is a great time saver.
Another tool which takes all the hard work out of sharing your content is Buffer. Whenever you find an article you like just click the Buffer icon in your browser to add it to your queue of tweets or posts. As well as being quick and easy to use, Buffer allows you to choose the optimal time to share your content and spread your posts out during the day without being chained to your desk.
My third must-have social media tool is Hootsuite. Among other things, Hootsuite allows you to manage all of your social media accounts from a single dashboard without having to log into each one separately and schedule all your tweets and Facebook and LinkedIn updates in advance. You can also share multiple blog posts across your networks and monitor mentions and keywords in separate streams, so you can see who is talking about you and things you are interested in and respond in real time. One Hootsuite feature which I particularly like is the Hootlet, which allows you to share content you come across with a single click of a browser.
Don't go overboard with social automation
The "always on" nature of social media and pressures of finding time to keep up an active presence may tempt you to completely automate all of your social media activities. However, this would be a big mistake. Tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite are invaluable, allowing you to be present 24 hours a day and share your content with your followers wherever they are in the world. However, over-reliance on them to the point where you are no longer engaging in a two-way conversation with your audience will undoubtedly be detrimental to the success of your social media efforts in the long run. When it comes to being interesting, there is no substitute for timely, hand crafted posts which are tailored to the specific audience and invite interaction and feedback. After all, the whole point of social media is to build relationships and you don't do that by giving your followers the impression that you don't care enough to speak to them on a personal level.
So by all means use the tools, but don't forget about the value of listening and being able to jump into conversations that are taking place in the here and now. If all you do is pump out a constant stream of content without taking the time to engage or interact, your audience will rightly come to view your content as spam and switch off. As Dan Howell, a fellow guest blogger here on Search Engine People puts it, "Invite followers to interact with your brand - feed hungry mouths rather than ramming content down their throats". Wise advice, which you would do well to follow.
No-one signs up to social media to receive automated spam, so keep social media social, be human and your audience will thank you for it.
Jan is a digital marketing coach and founding Director of WOW Consulting, anEssex online marketing and website design company. Jan's speciality is demystifying digital marketing and show small businesses how to integrate web, mobile and social media into their marketing strategies to create sustainable competitive advantage and profitable growth.