I'm lazy. But I'm also a perfectionist and competitive. Bad combination!
I really enjoy the interaction and good SEO that being active on social media provides me and my blog, but my inherent laziness has forced me to find some shortcuts to making it all happen.
Here are the three elements of social media success, as I see it, and the shortcuts I've developed for each.
High Activity On a Limited Number of Networks
I don't try to be everywhere. God knows my days seem fractured enough without spreading out my social media efforts too much.
Focusing on a limited number of social networks is also a great way to make sure that everything I do on social media is tied to my goals. Keeping in mind what I'm ultimately after helps me feel more confident that I'm not wasting my time.
Twitter is my favorite network, probably because it's easy (little bits of writing), and because I've found a great community of nonprofit people there. But I also have a Facebook page that I enjoy keeping up, and I work Google+ because it's growing rapidly and counts a lot toward SEO these days. I also drop in on LinkedIn, but I like being able to focus on just three networks for the most part.
My primary dashboard for my social activity is Hootsuite. I use it as a dashboard for my Tweets and Retweets, but it can also be used to feed Facebook.
I monitor my own activity with Hootsuite, with streams for my mentions and direct messages. Hootsuite also allows me to schedule my tweets, although I use it primarily to schedule tweets for a few days out when I need to, rather than on a daily basis. It's not very good for mass scheduling purposes.
Social media is all about being generous. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I have a good mix of updates on all of my networks between me and others. In fact, I share the work of others far more than I focus on mine.
I generally try to maintain a ratio of one for me to two or three of everyone else. One recent blog post suggested using the rule of quarters: 25% your content, 25% interaction, and 50% others' content.
Of course, there is a reason for that. It's called reciprocity. When I promote someone else's blog posts or articles, that someone is likely to return the favor. When someone else endorses my work, that is much more effective than when I do it.
My system for sharing revolves around my RSS Feed (I use Google Reader). The key to success with RSS is to get into the habit of checking it often. Otherwise it becomes a mess.
I'm a bit of a dinosaur now since so many people have abandoned their RSS feeds. But I hate to waste a good habit. I have dozens of blogs that I monitor through RSS, and I look at it whenever I have a down time during the day.
I find that when I've run out of gas for writing and editing content, or just need a break, I can attend to social media. I grab a cup of coffee and engage in some social media "doodling."
I supplement my RSS reading by scanning my Twitter feed on Hootsuite a couple of times a day, to make sure I pick up interesting items from blogs that are not in my RSS. Setting up lists on Twitter or in Hootsuite is a perfectly good alternative to RSS.
I quickly scan the headlines in my RSS feed and pick out a couple that interest me. I click on those. If I like them, I do two things. I bookmark them in Delicious (there are many bookmarking sites to choose from) so I can retrieve them easily for further use such as in writing a post of my own or to include in my weekly roundup of recommended links. I also share those posts.
I often use Buffer for sharing, and I have a Buffer bookmark set up in my browser bar so I can do it easily. I've set up a schedule at Buffer so that my shares are dripped throughout the day (a free account allows a limited schedule, while a paid account does more). Dripping is a good idea and Dan Zarella's statistics about Twitter suggest that you not drip more than one Tweet per hour.
I've linked my FB page and my Twitter account to Buffer, so I can easily drip my shares to both of those networks. It's easy to individualize RTs and shares with Buffer too. To share on Google+ I go directly to that network or use the G+ share button right on the post that I'm looking at. Even though I "Buffer" several posts in the morning, I often also share posts I come across later in the day by simply using the share buttons on those blogs.
I don't use an automatic feed from my blog to Facebook or Twitter. I share my own posts individually as I publish them because I like to groom them for each network. If I do this as I publish my blog posts (which is almost never more than once a day, if that), it's not an overwhelming task.
If I want to share my own posts several times during the day, I use Buffer to do that, making each share a little different than the others. If you blog several times a day, then you will probably want to set up an automatic feed for them or risk going a bit crazy.
The other part of reciprocity is thanking people for sharing. I spend a few minutes every day thanking folks. It is easy and quick and pays off handsomely. I do that right through Hootsuite, where I can quickly snap off a "reply" to an RT, saying thanks. I say thanks on FB to people who "like" my updates, and frequently welcome new followers by mentioning them in an update.
Analysis is my weak spot. I don't enjoy plowing through statistics of any kind, and spreadsheets make me cross-eyed. So, even though I have access to plenty of stats about these things, I've limited myself to a quick take of just a few items, using my favorite tools.
I've set up a search for my own site URL in Twitter itself and keep that open in my browser bar. That shows me when someone has retweeted my own material or shared it in some way on Twitter. I like to see a brisk stream of incoming RTs there. I also monitor my "mentions" in Hootsuite, where I can even see when someone RTs my RTs. Just by keeping an eye on these streams, I have developed a good idea of what works and what doesn't on Twitter.
For Facebook, I watch my follower numbers and the percentage of "talking about." Mari Smith calls this the engagement ratio (ER), and you get it by dividing the number of "talking about" (PTAT) by the number of fans you have. Apparently, the average ER is about 2% of followers. If my ER looks dismal by comparison, I delve more deeply into Facebook Insights to see why. Once a week, I look at my FB stats to see what updates got leverage and where there are significant dips and peaks.
For an overall snapshot of my social media activity, I use KLOUT. I have no idea whether KLOUT is really measuring anything worthwhile. It's often called a vanity metric, while others think it is very important. I use it to tell me when my social sharing waxes or wanes, plus I can see how my score measures up to many of my peers. I have connected KLOUT to my Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts so I can see where I'm doing the most and least sharing. My Klout score is heaviest on Twitter.
Now, this is a far cry from the dashboards organizations have, or even what someone with better analytical powers might do. For those of you working within a nonprofit organization, do check out Beth Kanter's book on social media measurement.
But, like I said, I'm lazy. Plus my situation is unique to me, just as yours is. Take the time to find tools that work for you and then work within your own time parameters. Some degree of systemization is really the key to social media success.
Note: Never get lazy about your social media passwords. Check out this guide to strong passwords from About's Internet for Beginners.