How to budget time for social media

Hour glass

You have limited time - use it wisely when it comes to social media. (Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1068015)

One of the challenges of social media is how to manage the amount of time that you could put into these activities. How much time, and how exactly you spend that time, will end up being a little different for everyone depending on your goals and strategy.

Here’s a framework to help you budget your time. This is especially helpful for personal branding and networking activities, where it’s harder (or seems harder) to just carve hours out of your workday for these activities.

Content creation

Do you blog? Do you write articles or white papers or create presentations that you share on Slideshare? What about podcasting? Creating original content can help you establish a brand and demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. It’s a very powerful strategy, and if you choose to use it you’ll want to set aside some time to focus on it.

  1. How much content do you want to produce each week or month?
  2. How much time do you need to devote to produce that content? How many hours is that each week and each day, on average?
  3. When will you put in that time? During your lunch hour? In the early mornings or late at night? On the weekends? Decide when and put it on your calendar.

In my case I’m probably averaging about 10 hours a week on blogging right now. You don’t have to spend that much time, but consistency is important.

Listening and reading

It’s important to keep up with what’s going on in your industry — reading blogs, articles and books, listening to podcasts, and generally keeping up with new ideas and conversation. How much time you spend on this will vary depending on your industry and goals.

Accountants need to keep up with the latest tax law changes. Doctors have to try to plough through stacks of medical journals. I try to keep up with the flood of books on social media that are being published and the many, many blogs on the subject. Since it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information available, it’s a good idea to decide how much time you want to spend on this.

  1. What do you need to keep up with? Books, blogs, professional journals, other sources?
  2. How many hours per week will you devote to this?
  3. When will you keep up with these? At night before you go to sleep? Can you listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your iPod on the way to work?
  4. Do you have a system to bring the most relevant content to your attention? Google alerts? RSS feeds? Some of the tips in this post on finding and sharing great content can help.

Conversation

Of course, social media isn’t very social if you’re not talking. That could include sharing content you find, responding to others in a variety of social media channels (including commenting on blogs), and even reaching out to people via email to connect offline. It also is the tool that allows you to turn mere online connections into actual relationships (whether they’re weak or strong).

1. What social media channels are most important for you? Twitter, Facebook, a specialized social media network on Ning or a forum devoted to your industry?

2. How much time will you spend on these channels? An hour a day? Three hours a week?

3. When will you spend that time? In short 15-minute bursts throughout the day? In a longer, more concentrated period a few times each week?

More tips

All of us have a limited time and energy, but the vast world of social media can suck up an enormous amount of that if we’re not careful. So here are some tips to manage that.

Focus. You probably have limited time, at best a few hours a days, to devote to this. So concentrated on the 20 percent of tools/sites/strategies that are going to yield 80 percent of your results. For me, these days, that means Twitter, writing blog posts and reading blog posts and books get most of my attention.

Be realistic. Don’t sketch out a plan that calls for 30 hours a week (almost a full-time job) of work on this, and then find out a month into it that’s it’s just too much. It’s better to start out with very modest ambitions. As you become more fluent with the tools, you’ll be able to increase your productivity by becoming more efficient and integrating these tools into your life.

Consider the rest of your life. If you’re going through a really busy period at work, going on vacation or caring for a sick family member, some of these actvities may temporarily take a back seat. That’s OK. Don’t burn yourself out or disregard other priorities just for the sake of keeping up with some ideal social media time budget.

Got ideas or questions on how to budget your time for social media? Please share them in the comments below.

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