Using your limited social media time wisely is all about going beyond the obvious activities. If you're doing the same things everyone else is doing, I guarantee you will not have an advantage. But, if you do some things differently, you may find activities where the reward is disproportionate to the effort. These nine efficiencies are what you need to embrace right now.
1. Listen to podcasts
Sure, they've been overcome by newer and sexier social flavors du jour but podcasts are still the best way to spend time when you're not in front of a screen. Driving to work? Listen to Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation or MarketingProfs' Marketing Smarts with Matthew Grant. Working out? Put on the ear buds and embrace John Jantsch's Duct Tape Marketing or Chris Penn's Marketing Over Coffee. I'd love to have your ears on my weekly Social Pros Podcast where we focus on real people doing real work in social media. (You can put your eyes on it too, because we run full text transcripts here.)
2. Take and curate photographs
I'm not certain if a picture is worth a thousand words, but it's definitely worth 140 characters. This is the year that photos challenge writing as the lingua franca of the social Web: Instagram, Pinterest, Path, and Google+ use large thumbnails in the news feed. All trend lines point toward photography. If you're not taking and posting pictures to dedicated photo networks and cross-posting (when appropriate) to Twitter and Facebook, you're missing a huge opportunity to grow your network and see the world through the eyes (or cell phone cameras) of thousands of new friends.
3. Read LinkedIn Today
It's pretty safe to say that most people keep their LinkedIn shrubbery more closely pruned than their Facebook or Twitter trees. When content is shared in LinkedIn, it often has a better chance to have been shared by people you trust, or at least people with a modicum of business sense. That's why I turn to Linkedin Today when I'm looking for a summarized source of what's happening in industries I care about.
4. Buffer your links
One of the most insidious time sucks in all of social media—especially for content curators—is the "Oh, I found something cool. I should share this on a social network or four!" This kills your focus and productivity. The better approach is to set aside a chunk of time first thing each morning to find truly interesting content that's worth sharing, and use Buffer to automatically share them across your chosen social networks at pre-determined, optimized times. (Disclosure: I'm an investor in Buffer.)
5. Use "if this, then that" recipes
If This, Then That is the best social tool nobody ever mentions. It's like a virtual assistant social media robot, where you can create an infinite array of conditionally-defined, time-saving tasks. Create an account and hook up all of your social profiles, blogs, cell phone numbers, etc. Then sift through the mountain of existing recipes to find processes that will save you effort.
For example, want your Twitter profile photo to change automatically when you update your Facebook profile photo? Done. Want to have your favorite tweets automatically emailed to you? Done. Want to automatically store your Instagram photos in a Dropbox account? Done. Want to automatically post to your Pinterest board any link you add to Facebook? Done. The opportunities are nearly endless.
6. Create a stalker list
Grab a piece of paper, or open a new document and write down a list of the 20 people you most want to interact with in social media—people you don't know, but want to know. Then, create a list for these people on Twitter and Facebook, and a circle for them on Google+. Where applicable, visit their blogs and bookmark them. Also subscribe to their feeds (via email, not RSS because you'll check your email every day, but not your RSS.) Find them on Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and connect in those places, too.
Starting tomorrow, spend 15 minutes a day interacting with some of these 20 people. Not in a pandering way. If you have something interesting and relevant to add via Twitter, a blog, or elsewhere, do it. If you don't, keep your hands to your sides. But pay attention to your list of 20, and find ways to interact with and help them. In short order, they will recognize you and you'll have grown your network of social contacts. Make a new list every three to six months.
7. Interact on Google+
If you're reading this, you should be on Google+. Not for the SEO benefit—although that's not insignificant. Not for the entertainment value—although the large number of videos and GIFs there can be a hoot. Do it for the opportunity to interact and engage with industry professionals in a comparatively quiet and efficient location. You want to get on Chris Brogan's radar? Or Mari Smith's? Or Brian Solis'? Google+ is the place to do it. It may not last, but for now Google+ is the place to interact with people who no longer answer every tweet.
8. Blend personal and professional
Quit worrying about showing your real self in social media. If your social media bios talk only about who you are at work, you're leaving attention on the table. The reality is that unless you're a sword swallower or an astronaut, your personal life is more interesting than your professional life.
You're a marketing director for a B2B software company? Yawn. You're a marketing director for a B2B software company, and you happen to grow prize-winning roses? That, I'll remember. What you love makes you memorable in ways that what you do cannot. There's a reason most of my bios say I'm a tequila lover.
9. Quit obsessing over case studies
How much time do you spend reading case studies, trying to find evidence that social media will work for your company? Case studies should be used for ideation, not ratification. Beyond the fact that case studies are often strategically irrelevant because the company profiled is in a different industry, with different goals, competitors, and customer expectations (among other variances), perhaps the biggest problem with most social media success stories is that the measures of that success are largely without real merit.
Even in the best possible scenario, where the case study in question is extraordinarily applicable to your business goals, social media situation, budget, timeline and more (which is a rare alignment indeed), you are placing significant influential value on one outcome. Worry less about what some other company is doing, and worry more about doing your own work.
Social media is too complicated for you to be spinning your wheels on activities and behaviors that won't make much difference. I know these nine tips will save you time and propel you forward. I use them all consistently.
I'm sure I've missed many terrific ideas. What are you doing to save time and boost your social media efficiency?
Jay Baer is a social media strategy consultant, speaker, and co-author of "The NOW Revolution." He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a social media strategy firm, and he blogs at the Convince & Convert social media strategy blog, where a version of this article first appeared.