I'll just say it outright: Maintaining a presence on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other social networks is practically like having children. In either situation, you've got dependents that need to be fed regularly. (At least with social media, there's no need to put money away for college.)
When you're already working virtually around the clock, how do you squeeze social media into your day? Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Do it first thing in the morning. After I wake up, I make my morning espresso, sit down at the table with my iPad, check my email, and read the latest stories of interest in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other sources. Email, as well as news articles are all potential fodder for tweets and status updates. And most online publications make sharing their content on social networks extremely easy. Early morning is also ideal because you haven't gotten ensnared yet in that day's to-do items.
2. Take a mid-morning social media break. At some point during your morning, you'll probably need a break. Or maybe you've finished one project and are ready to begin another. A pause in between chunks of work is another opportunity for getting social. Take a quick look at the news headlines, see which hashtags are trending on Twitter, check Google Trends to see what people are searching for. Do you have something to say on anything you've viewed? If so, type up a quick tweet (with a shortened link and a relevant hashtag) and get back to work.
3. Keep an eye out for photo ops. When you step out for lunch, do you see something unusual, interesting, funny, or just downright wacky? (I live in San Francisco, where I regularly encounter all of the above.) Great; snap a photo on your smartphone and post it to one or more social media networks. (For instance, an iPhone running Apple's iOS 5 makes sharing photos on Twitter extremely easy.)
4. Set a reminder on your calendar. If social media isn't a habit yet, you may need to be reminded to post updates-a job for which digital calendars were made. Create a reminder for a time when you'll probably have a moment to post. Make sure the reminder pops up on whichever device-smartphone, computer, tablet, or all of the above-that you'll be using at that time.
5. Write blog posts on the weekend. Writing a blog post often takes a lot more time than a status update. Rather than get discouraged because you can't find that time during the week, feed your blog during the weekend. With most blog platforms, you can schedule your articles to be posted at a later date and time, to ensure you reach the maximum audience.
Above all, avoid jumping back and forth all day between social media updates, email, meetings, and work projects. The cumulative effect is to leave you feeling scattered and, by day's end, spent. A better strategy is to take a 'social media moment' in between major activities throughout the day.
For more perspective, read Rachel Strella's "How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media?"