social media schedule
Old school schedules can save you from social media overload. – Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Social media tools can be used effectively in both business and personal networking. But let’s face it. They can also be a bit of a time drain. Okay…. Maybe more than “a bit.”

Just as I’m not the type of person who believes in trying every social media tool that comes along just because others are using it, I’m also not one to let any single tool (or group of tools) dominate my days. But with the occasionally addictive nature of these tools (mostly Twitter and my blogs in my case), it sometimes becomes difficult to separate “social media time” from “get other stuff done” time.

The answer for me at least has been to create a sort of social media schedule.

What is a Social Media Schedule?

There is no single right or wrong way to create a social media schedule. Basically though it just means that you set aside time for using social media sites and tools, and during other times you focus on other areas of your business, or life.

You might have to be really strict with yourself, actually scheduling in an hour here for site A and 20 minutes there for site B. Or you can try a looser form of social media scheduling like what I do.

Personally I have dedicated “Twitter time” in the morning, usually second only to checking my work email. I log into my main account. If I have time I log into one of my site-specific accounts. And once I’m through with that I log into a client’s account that I manage several days per week. It gets me up to date on the niche chatter, and my main account gives me something to do marketing-wise (networking) while I’m still trying to mentally wake up and face the day. It works well for me.

waste time social media
How much time do you waste each day with social media? – Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Some days I’m on Twitter much more than others. So how does that varying amount of social media time come out of a schedule? Well, my loose-style schedule includes logging in between client projects. So when I finish a blog post for my first client of the morning, I log in, see if anyone responded to me, see what others are sharing, etc. It helps me cleanse my mental palate between projects.

Then there’s the blogging element (my own blogs — client blogs are factored into billable hours given the nature of my business). I allow myself 20 minutes in the morning to deal with my main blog’s comments and responses. Other blogs wait until client work is finished for the day. If I need to publish a quick news post I’ll allow myself 10-15 minutes to do that, but it’s my “in between” time between other projects instead of logging into Twitter again — not both. For my regular, longer posts I either wait until I finish with client work for the day, or I set aside a full day for managing my own sites and projects (usually once every few weeks at this time). To make the schedule even more effective, I have specific blog posting days (twice per week on my main blog, one on another blog, etc.). Other posts are written by contributors I hire to help me manage the sites.

Sticking to Your Social Media Schedule

I don’t expect that my type of social media schedule will work for every reader here. I definitely understand the need for more structure that some people have. I’m like that myself when it comes to other areas of my business. I couldn’t get through a day without a strict to-do list for example. But the key to being able to stick to a social media schedule rather than letting it overrun your life is to find a system that works for you, your style, and your habits.

Here are a few things you could try:

  • Set an alarm to let you know when it’s time to move onto your next project.
  • Use tools like Firefox’s BlockSite add-on to block you from accessing sites that you know you waste too much time on — Facebook, Twitter, or a favorite blog perhaps. You can enable the add-on while working on other things, and disable it during your scheduled social media time. Seeing the site is blocked might give you a quick reminder that your attention is needed on something else.
  • Ask your network to help keep you in line. Sneaking onto Twitter when you know you shouldn’t be? Ask your followers to shoot you a little note if they see you on again in the next “X” hours when you should be working on another project. Let your network help to hold you more accountable.

Do you have a social media schedule? How strict are you about it? Do you not have one yet, but think it could help you knock out some social media time-wasters? Tell us about your social media schedule (or the one you want to set up), and how you stick to it in the comments below.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t necessarily have a calendar for how I manage my time on the interwebz. I do have an editorial calendar that I utilize very closely. It’s a traditional calendar (a daily DayMinder). I schedule my posts in there with post-it notes. You know, the good ol’ fashioned pen to paper.

    One thing I could definitely get better about doing, is time-blocking to fit in and manage tasks (on forums, emails, etc.). Right now, I guide myself a bit loosely. I’m sure I’d find extra time if I disciplined myself a bit better.

    • Hey, I’m with you on pen-to-paper planning. Sticky notes, index cards, and white boards (ok, so not all paper) are my must-haves. There’s a master blogging white board that simply lets me know which blogs need posts on any given day. Big index cards list weekly blogging, comment management, and other work. Little ones break things up daily. Having the reminders physically in front of me all day (as opposed to on-screen behind other things or in a closed file) keeps me on task better than anything else I’ve tried.

      Out of curiosity, how far ahead do you like to plan with your editorial calendar?

  2. Really interesting, useful blog post, thanks.

    Your points about being disciplined are vital in ensuring that social media is an effective communication tool, not the drain on time and massive distraction it can be.

    I read your post with interest when devising this webinar: http://www.innerear.co.uk/social-media-marketing-workshops/social-media-scheduling-for-better-business/

    There’s an interesting distinction here between scheduling social media content updates (the topic of my webinar, above) and scheduling your time and the content you create and post on behalf of clients.

    Most of my experience in this area comes from scheduling content for our internet radio station, Radio Magnetic (www.radiomagnetic.com), which is probably quite similar to posting on behalf of clients.

    Out of interest, do you use, or rate, any particular scheduling tools?

    • When it comes to schedules and general productivity, I’m a big fan of going old school. I find that online tools, PDAs, etc. distract me more than help me get things done and stay on task. I’m surrounded by white boards and have daily note cards that lay out what I should be doing if I want to stay on schedule. And I use print planners for longer-term efforts of any kind. That said, I know that’s probably not for a lot of people. I’ve heard a lot of good things about http://www.TomsPlanner.com which lets you use Gantt Charts for your planning.

  3. Thanks Jennifer. I agree that a traditional approach to planning (with pens and paper to compliment online tools and apps) is helpful, intuitive and can be quicker than some software services. My company makes extensive use of Google Calendar for scheduling work tasks and basic project management. That’s why in our recent webinar we concentrated on the theory of scheduling social media updates, rather than talk people through how to use any particular bespoke service.

    Thanks for the link to http://www.TomsPlanner.com. It looks good. We’ve been trying to find a good online project management tool recently so I’ll check it out.

    • I don’t use Google Calendar, but I played around with it (and it’s another colleagues seem to use a lot). It wasn’t quite what I wanted given that I have to manage things like multiple blogs, multiple social media presences, and even multiple handles on different tools tied to different sites (not to mention client projects). Fortunately I’m dating a programmer though, and we’re actually looking into developing a editorial calendar style program down the road, to help bloggers in particular better schedule and manage their content across blogs and other social media platforms. It’s quite a while away, but that might get me to switch from paper-only for my scheduling. That idea came from the WordPress editorial calendar plugin (which is fantastic but only tracks the blog it’s installed on which doesn’t help when you run several and need to add off-site items).

      It’s nice to hear that you emphasized theory over specific tools and services. Too much in social media we see it the other way around, where fundamentals are neglected in favor of whatever shiny new tools catches people’s attention. Personally I think it’s far more important to know the basics that can be applied to any current or future tool we use. So it’s great that folks like you are out there doing it “right.” 🙂

  4. I love Google Calendar and we use it to manage multiple projects, including those for clients. There are some pretty good plugins that extend the use of it such as Google’s own Google Timesheet (http://code.google.com/p/google-timesheet/), which could be handy for you or GTimeReport (http://www.gtimereport.com/).

    I also really like the sound of your editorial calendar for managing multiple blogs. I can think of a lot of people who would like that service.

    I’m glad you like my preference for theory (and its practical implementation in general) rather than focusing on specific services. I’ve seen to many “social media” presentations by “experts” which simply provide step by step guides to how to use a particular service. That’s all well and good, but that, to me, is a practical workshop or tutorial, and is a very different type of learning.

    When other communications innovations first became popular, did people dedicate lectures on telling people how to use one brand of telephone or FAX, rather than how those tools could be used to benefit your business in general. I think it’s the same with social media.

    • You draw a good parallel, and I think you’re right. It’s just another case of social media being less “new” than we give it credit for sometimes. It’s a very similar start to other areas in communication. And in the end, specific tools rarely last forever, but the underlying theory and how to apply it to your business (using those tools or others to come) is what retains the most value.

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