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As you may have seen, Denise Wakeman and I are running a social media usage survey to help define what people most want to know about social media. We’ve gotten over 200 responses so far (and please feel free to add yours, if you wish!)

The results are interesting so far, with one of the biggest complaints being how much time social media takes. Even more than that, people are wondering how to monetize their social media efforts. And this combination of factors got me thinking.

What appears to be happening is that people are investing lots of time on the social networks, but not enough time using social media as a content sharing and distribution mechanism. Most of all, people want a process and system for using social media more efficiently, and for seeing more returns from it.

In the interest of saving you some time, and increasing your social media efficiency, I have 5 tips to help:

1) Schedule regular time for social media. I’m fond of saying that social media is a time suck. This means that, without boundaries on your time, chatting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter can take up your entire day. This will have negative impact on your business. So, instead, schedule time to attend to social media each day, and resist the urge to network all day long, especially if you don’t have a clear and definite business outcome in mind. I tend to schedule an hour in the morning to connect with my social networks, and I have one of my assistants handle all the daily friending back, following back, processes, reducing my time commitment and letting me focus on conversations and connections.

2) Let technology do the heavy lifting. You can be more social media efficient if you use technology to help you. One example would be to set up content distribution and syndication processes. (Denise & I will be sharing tips and ideas for this in the near future.) Another way is to use software programs to help streamline your efforts. I like and use Tweetdeck, for example, which lets me monitor Twitter, Facebook, and now, recently, LinkedIn. No matter what you need, there is probably a piece of software that can help you do it faster or better.

3) Reduce the noise. There are just three main things you need to focus on in social media. The first is gaining attention. The second is making connections. And the third is being consistent. You can do this without any technology at all. It’s fine to be interested in new gadgets and new advances in technology (and I confess, I’m a girl geek at times)- but don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed and forget the basics of marketing. You must be noticed, make connections, and show up regularly.

4) Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. The better you are at repurposing your content, the easier your social media marketing will be. Aim to get at least 10 uses out of every blog post, every interview, every video you make. Stay in touch with what your target audience needs, and provide it for them faster, and easier, and quicker than anyone else. Seek to create dialogues and conversations around your content. You’ll learn what people most want to know, and you’ll always have good ideas for new content to create.

5) Tie your social media efforts to your business goals and optimize for them. What this means is that you need to have an idea of what you want social media to DO for you. Do you want to become the household name in XYZ industry? Do you want to get 10000 people on your email database? Do you want to be picked up by major media as an authority or expert? Like any other business arena, you have to know what you want to achieve and lay out a strategy to achieve it. And then you need to do the work. If you’re spending a lot of time in social media, but not feeling like you’re getting enough return, I would suggest that maybe you want to step back and reassess your goals. Don’t take part in social media waiting to see what will happen. Have an idea of what you want to create, and use the social media tools to create it. The clearer your objectives, the faster you’ll reach them, helping balance out your time and return on investment.

Social networking is not the only facet of social media you should be paying attention to. Use the social media sites to build your platform, drive your brand, and send visitors to your website. These kinds of results are trackable and monetizable.