save time on social mediaYou know the feeling. You’re sitting there, staring at your hands, at the keyboard, at the screen, at the ceiling. You’re supposed to post something on Twitter, but you have no idea what to post.

I’ve been there before. I think we’ve all been there. Everything that comes to mind seems lame. Slogans, links, articles, quotes, pictures—you have no clue.

So you sit there wasting your time.

We’re all too busy to afford this wasted time. Social media shouldn’t be a time waster. It should be a money maker.

I wrote this article so you can save at least six hours each week on social media.

We spend lots of time on social media—3 hours a day or more

Social media is a huge time vortex. According to Business Insider, “Americans spend more time on social media than any other major Internet activity, including email.”

In one survey, American adults spend an average of 3.2 hours a day using social networks!

This data is shocking enough, but it gets even more interesting:

  • Business owners spend 50% more time on social media than non-business owners.
  • Senior executives and business decision-makers spend 40% more time on social media than those not in such positions.

Of all business professionals, those who spend the most time on social media are marketing professionals. A survey by Social Media Examiner discovered how much time marketers spend weekly on social media.

How Much Time Marketers Spend on Social Media

Smaller companies, including many entrepreneurs and startups, spend a disproportionately larger amount of time on social media due to smaller staffs and lower budgets. This chart shows how much time is spent on social media according to the size of a company.

Time Spent on Social Media By Size of Company

We waste lots of time on social media

Sure, we spend a lot of time on social media. But how much of this is truly time invested vs. time wasted?

A full third of CEOs, businesses owners, and proprietors want to spend less time on social media.

But how?

There are tons of things to do on social media — finding content, posting it, figuring out how to post it, measuring ROI, etc. This infographic from Vertical Response reveals that merely finding stuff to post takes the most amount of time.

Finding Social Media Content Takes the Most Time

For Vertical Response, the data from their survey was so intriguing that they came up with the following big takeaways.

  • Small businesses spend more time on social media, but many struggle with the added workload.
  • Small businesses realize the value of content – but, again, time is an issue.

We waste time on social media, because of the following factors:

  • We don’t know exactly what social media actions to do or what has the highest ROI. Estimated time wasted each week: 1.5 hours.
  • We have trouble finding content to post. Estimated time wasted each week: 1.3 hours.
  • We spend time trying to learn the social media platform, rather than expertly using it. Estimated time wasted each week: .5 hours.
  • We take time trying to figure out what our competitors are doing. Estimated time wasted each week: 1.25 hours.
  • We respond to inquiries and questions rather than using social media for true marketing. Estimated time wasted each week: .75 hours.
  • We spend time monitoring followups/likes/retweets, even though this has little ROI. Estimated time wasted each week: .5 hours.
  • We get distracted and start trolling through meaningless discussions or visiting clickbait junk. Estimated time wasted each week: 1 hour.

Total time wasted: 6 hours, 48 minutes

time wasted on social media

Most of us waste hours on social media each week. The time is wasted not because we’re on social media, but because we’re using social media the wrong way.

4 techniques for saving time on social media

If we have the right system in place, we can save time. There are four big ways to save time on social media—up to several hours each week.

save time on social media

1. Use a social media management system for posting.

The first and most important technique is to automate your social media posting.

Think about it. There are so many different social media platforms. You can and should post the same content on each platform, but it takes a long time! Plus, the content needs to be customized for each platform.

You have to go to each site, one-by-one and post the stuff. Besides this waste of time, you have to unplug from what you may be currently doing — another huge time-wasting distraction — to go post on social media to begin with. Double time wasted!

You can save a lot of time if you automate this entire process. Automated systems will keep you on a regular social media schedule, while also helping streamline your social media efforts across all channels.

Here are a three suggestions for systems that can do this for you:

  • Buffer – The main feature of Buffer is scheduling and automatically posting content. Buffer also provides a very helpful engagement reporting tool.
  • Socialoomph – Socialoomph provides some helpful scheduling tools, and a decent monitoring platform. You can also track keywords.
  • Hootsuite – Probably the largest and most well-known of the social media tools, Hootsuite has a wide array of social services. Though some find the interface clunky, it’s a powerful tool that will save you time.

Don’t waste even more time looking for the perfect tool. Don’t bother with getting more than one. You don’t need more than one. Each one of these will work fine, and will save you time. The most important thing is to get your time-saving tool, and start using it.

Estimated time saved weekly: 3 hours

2. Budget a half hour each day for social media scoping.

Even though social media tools do the posting for you, they don’t find the content to post. This is your job.

There’s a big danger in searching for content to post. Link leads to link, and article to article, and hashtag to hashtag. This is where we lurch into a wasted hour, ending up with nothing productive to show.

The best way to stop the insidious power of time creep is to set limits. If you budget 30 minutes daily to find content to post, here’s what will happen:

  • You will save time.
  • You will work faster.
  • You will find great content.

Simply forcing yourself to do something, then setting a time limit makes you more productive.

What you’ll do in this half hour is look for stuff to post later on. Look for articles, quotes, infographics, news stories, press releases, great tweets, helpful images — anything that is social media worthy.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open up your social media management tool or an empty document (Google Drive, Evernote, whatever you like).
  2. Spend five minutes on Twitter, opening up articles or copying information that corresponds to your niche. Copy links and/or quotes into your document.
  3. Spend five minutes on Facebook, opening up articles or copying information that corresponds to your niche. Copy links and/or quotes into your document.
  4. Spend five minutes on LinkedIn, opening up articles or copying information that corresponds to your niche. Copy links and/or quotes into your document.
  5. Spend five minutes Googling for news (click the “News” tab) in your niche. Copy links and/or quotes into your document.
  6. Spend 10 minutes exploring top niche blogs and websites, copying links and quotes into your document. You should have a go-to list of ten or fifteen websites that consistently have good information. The website you’re reading now and others like it should provide you with fodder for links and information.

By the end of a half hour, you should have a document full of material to post for several days, maybe longer.

Estimated time saved weekly: 2 hours

3. Assign a customer service team member to respond to questions and inquiries.

If your business has a help desk department or customer service team, assign them to respond to inquiries that come through social media.

For many businesses, social media sites are the de facto customer service lines. If a customer has a question, problem, or issue, they will find the social media site to ask their question.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but it can take away from the time you spend on other social media tasks, not to mention your typical workload.

Assign this role to someone whose primary responsibility is responding to customer questions. If this is your responsibility, then budget time to do it each day so it doesn’t end up swallowing up chunks of time here and there.

Estimated time saved weekly: 1 hour

4. Use a social media reporting system for analyzing metrics and measuring ROI.

You will absolutely waste time if you “measure social media ROI” by seeing how many people liked or retweeted a post. That’s not measuring ROI. That’s wasting your time.

Social media reporting platforms provide a far more effective way to gauge the success of your social media efforts.

If you use a social media management platform, these reporting features are probably built in. If not, you can purchase a reporting service elsewhere.

Reporting in and of itself can take time, even if you’re not individually analyzing every single retweet and +1. Limit yourself to weekly or every other day reporting analysis. Reports are intended to advise you on future action. The bigger the picture, the better the action points.

Use reports to really find out what’s giving you the best ROI. This alone could be the most time saving technique of all. Once you find out what’s getting you the most money and what’s netting you the least, you know exactly how to configure your social media strategy to best achieve your goals.

Estimated time saved weekly: half hour

Conclusion

It’s not necessarily about saving time. It’s about maximizing ROI.

You want to know how to best spend your time to grow your business. Social media is obviously part of where you must be spending your time as a digital marketer.

Time wasted gives you a negative ROI. But if you spend more time on social media, and get a bigger ROI, then that’s a great thing. Keep it up.

Keep aware of your time, your money, and your ROI, and you’ll be better able to maximize the revenue of your business.

What other techniques do you have for saving time on social media?

Images via Social Media Examiner, Vertical Response, Death to the Stock Photo

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Written by Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. He blogs at Quick Sprout.

  • https://twitter.com/bldchris Christin Kardos

    #2 is really important! I’m managing multiple Twitter accounts and I came by this rule on my own – but only after trial and error. Also, Buffer’s “Feeds” feature has become a real time saver for me. I load feeds for blogs that are personal favorites and/or have smaller followings. This enables me to always see and grab great posts, and I still don’t miss updates from the “big guys” like you, Neil (and Buffer) because I get your emails. Add in just a few minutes on LinkedIn and Medium and I’ve got my scheduled tweets knocked out.

    I also love that you mentioned this: “We spend time monitoring followups/likes/retweets, even though this has little ROI. Estimated time wasted each week: .5 hours.” That time is better spent on discussion or planning.

  • Fawad

    I am a web content writer and use Social Networks to write on several topics, but it is also disturbing for my work. However, I think tips shared by you will surely show good results, try to implement in future.

  • Alexandria Lane

    This is exactly what I needed this week! I recently took over social media duties for a few nonprofits that I volunteer for. I have spent way too much time trying to find content to post and then obsessively checking how many likes, favorites, comments, and retweets my posts receive. Thank you for laying out the exact steps I should be taking to create a manageable social media schedule!

  • http://www.thesocialmediahandyman.com Paul Chaney

    Neil, you are everywhere! Great tips that I am putting/will put into practice. Regarding social media posting, typically I use Hootsuite for scheduled posts, and Buffer for content I come across during my discovery and research time.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Cool workflow, Paul! Love it! 🙂

  • http://jaskeller.com Jason Keller

    Nice stuff Neil! For finding content, Twitter lists and a Feedly account for your Blog RSS feeds are great as well.

    • http://www.christiankonline.com Christian Karasiewicz

      @jaskeller:disqus, I agree! I like using Feedly for that too.

      You can also add Instagram as well to make it easy to scan a users feed.
      Don’t waste time searching for the content – bring it to you!

  • Ken J Wickes

    Try Sendible.. A full social media platform, you can post and monitor several programs.

  • http://spotty-octopus.com/digital-marketing/blog/ Lucy – Spotty Octopus

    Really helpful post, thanks Neil. I love a bit of social media but do find it easy to lose hours without achieving anything. I find bloglovin really useful for keeping track of my favourite blogs and providing content for my twitter feed (as well as Buffer’s awesome content suggestions).

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great to hear, Lucy! Thanks for the tip on bloglovin. 🙂

  • Katya Pavlopoulos

    I think it is also important to periodically check your home feed on social media sites and look for opportunities to interact with people. Maybe it’s less important for a large corporation than for small businesses or individual artists… I don’t know. It’s not the same as responding to questions and complaints. I try to make sure that I actually nurture my social media connections, so that people know it’s a real person behind the account and not a robot. I myself follow only a handful of accounts where almost all communication (tweets, posts, etc) is obviously automated. It’s kind of a turn off.

    Sometimes you need to trade in some “efficiency” for “social interaction,” and I think that’s healthy 🙂

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great perspective, Katya! I tend to agree – engagement can be time well spent, even if it’s not ultra-efficient. 🙂

  • http://www.5starvas.com 5 STAR VAs

    Good read, and some really useful tips there Neil to save what is very valuable to us all, time!

  • vivalapa

    Great advice related to scoping Neil. However, I found this blog rather depressing. What happened to “social”? Surely interaction – monitoring and responding with thanks to follows and RTs isn’t a waste of time – it’s being ‘social’ and it has it’s own ROI – particularly if your organisation is trying to raise its profile.

    I agree with @katyapavlopoulos:disqus when she says that sometimes nurturing your followers and making new connections from Favs and likes is a healthy and balanced way to run your social media. I use Buffer for myself and for all my clients, but I also use good old-fashioned interaction to soften the edges.

    • http://www.realworldretouching.com/ Krunoslav Stifter

      Couldn’t agree more. Human interaction is the hardest to maintain but its one of the most valuable assets. People can out compete better product or lower price, but great customer services wins hearts and minds, that is hard to out compete. Not o mention its the right thing to do. We are humans after all.

  • Myhriah Young

    Thank you for the reminder to NOT get sidetracked on social media. I love buffer, and will be using your other ideas as well. Thanks so much!!

  • http://firstread.me/ Melinda Crow

    I find that setting a timer on my phone every time I open a social media platform helps stop the time waste. Get in; get it done; get out! Love your scoping routine!

  • http://asyarahim.com/ Asya Rahim

    Great advice, the big one is really giving yourself a time limit; when you’re done be done.

  • http://www.NoMoNausea.com No Mo Nausea Band

    I just “broke up” with my iphone and switched to the Samsung S5, and none of the automated systems for twitter let me schedule the same post every day at the same time. For example my product that I invented is the No Mo Nausea Band (drug free aromatherapy of natural peppermint oil infused in an acupressure band to decrease nausea and vomiting), and when I want to run coupon codes for my website http://www.NoMoNausea.com it will only let me schedule the post once. If anyone else is experiencing the same problem or has found a solution. Please let me know! info@nomonausea.com Thank you all! Happy posting!

  • https://jobmob.co.il/ Jacob Share

    My system is based on ‘batched automation’:
    1) Yes, pick one of the tools Neil recommends and use it. I’ve been using SocialOomph for years, and I’m currently experimenting with CoSchedule and Buffer
    2) Spend a few hours just *one* day a week – usually Friday – checking my rss reader (Feedly) for great finds.
    3) Schedule them across my profiles for the coming week
    4) Daily, check in at the beginning and end of the day for messages/mentions to react to, and do them asap
    5) Daily, take a look around just to interact. If I happen to discover a great share at any time, share and/or schedule it immediately
    6) Since my blog JobMob has hundreds of articles, many of which are still current, I use a WordPress plugin called Evergreen Post Tweeter to auto-tweet a few of them per day (use Followerwonk to see when your followers are online)

    Another tip I see people using, especially if they don’t have enough of their own content to share:

    7) Create recipes using IFTTT.com or Zapier.com to automatically retweet/share content from relevant people/brands you love

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great tips, Jacob!

      • https://jobmob.co.il/ Jacob Share

        Thanks Kevan

  • prabhat

    Hi Neil……….i am using facebook for my buisness purposes..there is already scheduling & automatically posting option in facebook & for analytics i am using google analytics………..Then why should i use these social media tools ??

  • prabhat

    Hi neil………waiting for your reply

  • Ariel

    There are many more free social management platforms. A good short comparison table can be found here http://www.websiteplanet.com/reviews/social-media-tools/

  • massivemoba

    Great article! What is a ROI?

    • Amy Protonentis

      Return on Investment, whether time (for this article), manpower or finances.

  • http://shawnhartwell.me/ Shawn Michael Hartwell

    Well written, Niel!

    I found that where you broke down things into 5-minute periods while copying to a blank document the most inspiring. I tend not to find content right in social channels themselves but outside apps like Zite and Flipboard – the latter of which I’m beginning to create curated magazines for my followers.

    What do you think is the most important social media metric for time invested ROI taking into account a budding personal brand, Niel?

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  • http://blondebrunettetravel.com The Blonde

    It’s a timesaver to schedule things you come across that you know you want to tweet. But to get engagement you need to spend real time on the various channels so you can respond to others. When it’s all automated it’s more efficient but it takes the “social” out of social media. I do a combination of scheduled and real time posts, especially in Twitter, and have built some meaningful relationships. I know the author is trying to tell us how to save time and not how to build engagement and for some people that’s the tradeoff that they have to make. So thanks for the tips that certainly can make us more efficient when that’s our primary goal.

  • Gonzalo

    This is a really helpful post. I´ll try to aply to my daily job. Thanks!

    Picn’Post | Marketing y comunicación en Vigo

  • http://www.sharelocalbusiness.com/ Share Local Business

    Thanks Neil, you have a great article. I have created recipes using IFTTT.com for my business directory http://www.sharelocalbusiness.com, this is a great tool for automated process and save time.

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