bigstock Timer Vector Illustration 28326758 300x300 Cutting Time Without Cutting Corners Social Media EfficiencyIt’s inevitable. If you’re like most goal-seeking humans (actually, humans are unique goal seeking, it’s how our brains are wired, but I digress) looking to up your game in 2013, you’re likely looking for opportunities to become more efficient in all areas of your life. If you’ve been working in social media for any amount of time, you know that it takes time. In fact, it can take a lot of time. Perhaps much more than you originally anticipated it taking. Naturally, as you set goals for the coming year (or coming week), you inevitably want to get more efficient with your social media. However, the question of how you cut time without cutting corners is a likely hurdle that you’re going to have to jump as there are many ways to cut time, but not all of them are going to give you the same quality results. They may be just cutting corners, so to speak.

So, what are some of the ways that companies have cut time, without cutting corners? Here are a few:

Devise a posting standard

One way to add efficiency is to standardize a series of posts across your social media channels. Using things like the the Social Media Blueprints that created this year to help you set the standard for posts so that when you’re creating content, you have a streamlined approach to creating the ideal, most engaging form of whatever you’re doing on whatever platform you’re working on.

Pre-write your content plan

Using a variety of techniques, but basically relying on the power of batching, you can save considerable time, increase the overall quality of your work, and improve the cycle time for actually writing and posting content throughout the year. Further, you’ll be saving time on account of the focus, without distractions, that batching provides. If you have an enterprise-wide social media strategy, this can save you considerable time and money in your overall social media (and content marketing, and thought leadership) efforts. This is all based on the research by Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, who found that the technology workers she studied would make it, on average, only 11 minutes into a project before being distracted. It then took 25 minutes to return to the task post-distraction. (via/A Day Without Distraction: Lessons Learned from 12 Hrs of Forced Focus by Cal Newport)

Re-imagine content effectively

Ann Handley has written about the value of taken you readers behind the scenes and in fact, based on the staying power of shows like How it’s Made, Modern Marvels, Build it Bigger and just about everything on HGTV or Discovery, the behind the scenes content in nearly any form can really hold the attention of your audience. So, how does this apply to you? Well, it’s simple. Think of the daily activities in your organization that can lead to great content insights that fuel posts, Tweets, videos, photo opportunities and so forth. In fact, your organization and all its daily activities are an “insight generating machine” that you just need to power up in order to create great content with incremental effort.

Build a content habit

In his book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says, “Every habit has three components. There’s a cue — that’s a trigger for automatic behavior. There’s a routine — the behavior itself. And finally, there’s a reward. The reward is how your brain learns to remember this habit for the future.” In order to cut your time spent on social media without cutting corners, you need to form a positive habit around the social media process and reinforce that with a bit of willpower. I know, not always an easy task, and I’ll leave it to Duhigg to explain how to do that with the help of his book, but this is one of the most critical success factors in improving your social media efficiency. One last thing to consider – “Willpower is the single most powerful correlate with success — more so than high IQ or having resources because your parents are wealthy.” When in doubt, focus on simply improving your social media marketing willpower (rewards, chocolate, and other such things work great at motivators!)

Outsource to a trusted partner

Well, this is certainly one way to go. However, we’ve been preaching (at least, it feels like preaching) for years that the best people to execute social media are the Brand Stewards that you employ in your own organization. However, with the right relationship, you can outsource most of your social media work. Find a firm that knows how to create quality social media content and foster engagement and interaction, or you’ll be left with just a robotic content machine that does little but annoy your tribe with irrelevant drivel.

Use checklists

We’re huge fans of checklists. We use them for many things. Coupled with the aforementioned social media blueprints, a checklist can ensure that you’re doing everything you need to – nothing more, and nothing less. In the book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, he goes into great detail about how checklists can do everything from save time to save lives. A checklist for all of your social media activities may not be an extraordinary time saver on day one, but it will ensure that you’re consistent and that you never cut corners.

Use mobile social tools

This probably deserves its own blog post, but thinking quickly – an iPhone with a good camera app, plugged in with social apps like Instagram, Facebook Pages, Hootsuite and others will allow you to capture content and insights from within your organization, while at events, during multi-day trade shows and from your field sales operations. Mobile social tools allow you to cut some of the time of making sure you’re maximizing the real-time social moments from your organization.

Ways that you’re just cutting corners

There are, of course, a few things that we don’t recommend. Things that we’ve seen, over time, as ways companies will try to gain efficiencies and cut time, but ultimately just cut corners and see

Ramping up posting without data & audience consideration

If one post a day is good, then two must be better, and three or more must be great! So you go along and just start cranking out content, but you do so at the expense of the 1) quality of content, 2) understanding of audience behavior and when/how/what they read and 3) promise of any real engagement on well thought out substantive topics that really deepen the human relationship with you tribe.

Scheduling content w/out engagement

Scheduling content is a great way to cut time, but it’s also a bad way to put your social media on autopilot and can have negative overall effects on the real human engagement that you seek. Moreover, doing a lot of scheduling into Facebook with the various social CRM tools can have the effect of lowering your Facebook Edgerank and making your content less visible to your audience.