As a small business owner, you are no doubt aware of the time and effort that goes into a strong social media presence. You see the need for and return on developing engagement with your following, but you have a business to run! Y can spend hours on social media without really being sure of the returns it brings. With some planning and the right tools, you can regain a large chunk of your time by automating your social media, all the while  figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Develop an editorial calendar or content queue

What if you had a long list of brilliant things ready to be dispersed across the internet with one click of your mouse? That’s the goal here. How much of your social media effort is really just you spinning your wheels, trying to think of what to post?

An editorial calendar or content queue solves this issue. Consider it like Netflix for your social media presence. Just like you add a movie to your queue because you now it will be worth watching eventually, you can queue up solid content for later purposes. My process is to sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm dozens of ideas. I then work my way back through the list, selecting only the best ideas to be developed further.

You can store these in a word processing document to copy and paste at a later time, of go ahead and queue them up using a service like Hootsuite or the Facebook “schedule post” option. Be sure to use a link tracker or analytic tool to figure out what content is best received. The next time you brainstorm, add more content about topics that your followers are interested and engaged in, and less of what they’re not.

Take a hint from the internet crazes

Trends like Throwback Thursday and Follow Friday are great to jump onto. They are already established and may lead to connections with new people. In addition to the obvious and popular crazes, create your own. Try things like Out of Office Friday, where you post from your mobile office at a local cafe each Friday. Or, Trivia Tuesday where you have a competition or post interesting facts. If the posts are consistent and of high quality, your followers will start to expect and engage with them.

Set alerts for mentions and posts about you

Using services like Google Alerts, Boxcar, or Facebook’s Page App allows you to monitor engagement without actually having to check the platforms manually. These services will alert you anytime someone mentions or messages you directly, or posts something that includes your name (or whatever else the alert is set for). If you are in a highly competitive field, you may find it beneficial to actually set alerts for your competitors. In his book, Likeable Social Media Dave Kerpen talks about how he tweeted about standing in line for over an hour at one of Vegas’s hotels. The hotel didn’t reply…but their competitor did, and not with the typical “you should have chosen us” retort, but rather a sincere “hope the rest of your trip goes better.” Kerpen stayed at the competitor’s hotel the next time he visited Vegas, and referred many others to do the same. It pays to listen, and it pays to engage.

If your following is currently small enough, you can respond to engagements on the fly. Remember, you want to encourage them, and most social media posts take a relatively small amount of time. If you have a large and active following, or the engagements you receive tend to be more in-depth, you can batch your responses to a few times each day. Remember that engagement is social currency, so you don’t want to ignore it.

You must remain active

Your following will still want to feel as if they are talking to a real person. Automation should make your social media responsibilities more manageable, not completely diminish them. These tactics are a great way to help you stop spinning your wheels and become more efficient.

Anna DiTommaso
Founder of Creative80, Anna DiTommaso built the company from the ground up and believes that the key to her success has been cultivating real, meaningful relationships with clients. Anna has appeared in articles on Lifehack, Mashable, Ragan, CEO blog nation, and Business News Daily.