As a small business owner, there’s no denying that social media provides you with a direct line to your target audience, allowing you to engage and interact in real-time at a relatively low cost. However, when you’re already busy wearing several hats in order to manage your company, devoting the time and resources necessary for social media success can be difficult – but not impossible.

With the right plan and tools, being active on social media doesn’t have to be a time-suck. Arm yourself with helpful information that allows you to use your time more wisely and become more active on social media today.

  • Maximize your efforts by making a plan.

Before you jump onto any social media platform, create a plan that will help you direct your efforts and stay focused on your overall goals. First, consider which networks will be most relevant to your target audience. Then, prioritize your efforts for progressively setting up these accounts.

Instead of joining every community at once, start with one or two of your most important platforms and get in the habit of posting consistent content. You’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed by gradually familiarizing yourself with each platform while also preventing mismanagement of existing accounts by spreading yourself too thin.

Once you’ve determined your ideal platforms, decide what you want to accomplish with each of them and how you will measure your success. With this in mind, you can strategize which type of content to share and how you will engage across all channels.

Remember, you do not – and most often should not – join every social media network. Instead, prioritize quality over quantity. Not every network will be right for your business. Focus on cultivating a few manageable accounts on which you can remain active and engaging.

  • Use scheduling tools to save time and reduce stress.

Carve out enough time per week for content discovery and scheduling. You may consider using a Content Calendar to help organize your content. This will save you time, both daily and long-term, and eliminate the “What do I post today?” panic of day-to-day operations. Automating your social media ahead of time also means that you can handle other business priorities while remaining active on social media.

To schedule content, use native scheduling tools or social media management systems. On Facebook, schedule your posts (and paid advertising) using its native scheduling tool for Business Pages. This tool eliminates third-party tags in your post (for example, “via Hootsuite”) and appears more organic to your audience.

For other platforms, consider Hootsuite or Buffer, both of which offer free accounts as well as paid business options. A major perk of these social media management systems is centralized control; you can easily manage all of your streams directly from the tool’s dashboard. These tools are very important for creating an optimal and consistent posting schedule with the least amount of time investment.

While scheduling is essential for maximizing your time, remember to maintain your accounts regularly. Take 10-15 minutes per day to monitor engagements and respond accordingly. Also, always be sure that your engagements are in real-time and never scheduled. Doing so is inauthentic and will cause more harm to your brand among your followers.

  • Understand that you don’t have to produce all of your own content – Curate from others!

A common misconception regarding social media is that all shared content must be original. Creating original content can very quickly drain time and resources. Small business owners should know that, while it is vital to share their own business information, not all social media content needs to be original. Increase the amount of content shared through content curation, or sharing content written by someone else.

Choose what content to reshare based on the interests of your target audience. What content are they sharing or retweeting? You may also use sites, like BuzzSumo, to learn the best performing content for a given topic or competitor.

When resharing other users’ content, give credit by linking to their Facebook Page or including their brand handle. Doing so also increases the likelihood your content gets reshared among their communities. And always remember to give credit for images to avoid copyright infringement issues.

Content discovery also doesn’t have to require a large time investment. Use your scheduling tools for suggestions using appropriate stream options and install browser plugins, available both for Hootsuite and Buffer, to share and schedule content during your usual online surfing. To vet material before sharing, use the third-party app, Pocket, to bookmark articles during regular browsing and easily refer back later, on or offline.

  • Repurpose existing content to increase quantity without increasing time investment.

Just as content curation can save time, so too can repurposing existing content multiple times across several channels.

Work smarter, not harder by repurposing posts across multiple channels. For example, even though Facebook has a much greater character limit than Twitter, you can trim content to share across both platforms. You can also save time by linking accounts and pushing content from one platform to another. For example, if you have a great photo to share, post it to Instagram along with your caption and enable sharing to your Facebook Business Page to post once across both networks.

Save even more time by creating a bank of reusable, evergreen content and creating several shareable versions of one piece of content. Reusable, evergreen content can be shared in a pinch, but can also consist of your most effective CTAs for driving traffic to your other owned channels, like your website. Creating several shareable versions of the same content, allows you to distribute this content over a greater time period and drive more traffic to a specific location, like a blog post.

  • Be selective with your notifications.

While it’s imperative to remain up-to-date on your real-time engagements, social media management notifications can be disruptive and time-consuming, especially if you’re succeeding. Choose which notifications are important to you and disable all others.

For example, you may not need to be notified every time you gain a new Twitter follower, but you do want to know as soon as someone mentions you so you can respond appropriately. Or you may prefer to monitor Facebook likes during routine maintenance, but want to know immediately if there’s an issue with your paid advertising. Enable and disable these notifications according in platform settings.

  • Identify your KPI and optimize for success.

Whether you aim to grow your email list, increase conversions or sales, or nurture your online following to impress potential investors, determine your most important KPIs and optimize for their success. Success of these KPIs proves the success of your social media efforts.

Once you’ve set your key business metrics, monitor and analyze your efforts. If you’re successful, keep track of the content contributing to this success, either by a third-party app or by personally monitoring your channels and Google Analytics. If there is room for improvement, consider what is and isn’t working and use A/B tests to discover better solutions.

Even if your social media is working hard to achieve these KPIs, this success is reliant on the landing page to which you send traffic. Whether its your desktop website, mobile website or mobile app, be sure this owned channel is updated and functional across all channels, including mobile.

Social media can be an effective tool for driving sales and creating repeat customers. It can also help a small business manage its brand reputation, create a community of online advocates and embrace “word of mouth” marketing. Don’t let the fear of limited time and resources prevent your business from accessing these benefits. Maximize your time the right social media plan and tools.

If you’ve implemented these tips, but still find that you’d like to increase or improve your social media presence, delegate or hire help. There are likely several of your employees who are personally active on social and, with some industry knowledge and brand guidelines, could translate these skills to business management. If you’re a solo-preneur or prefer to outsource, find a small social media agency, boutique or fellow solo-preneur to manage your channels for you.

What tips do you have for fellow small business owners for saving time on social media?