In the continuously changing landscape of social media, you must maintain a presence to stay visible amongst the flux of people and information. To do so you’ll need to build good habits that will make your actions feel less like an interruption and more like a routine. 99U, an online resource for creative professionals, shared this article that outlines some great tips on developing sticky habits. Here are a few techniques using those principles that can help you optimize your social media strategies:

  1. Understand how your Social Media Activities will help you meet your Professional Objectives. Social Media is a great tool for making new connections, building relationships and driving leads. When those leads become customers, you may even use it as a customer service and feedback tool and help build customer loyalty. Wherever you are in your plan, understand your business objectives and connect each social milestone to help you meet those objectives, making each milestone a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based) social media goal that can serve as the backbone of your Social Media plan. Understanding how your social media activity relates to your overall objectives will give you insights to refine your plan as you go.
  2. Process Plan your Social Media Interactions. Maintaining your social media presence will require that some activities become part of your routine: making new connections, sharing content, creating new content. Break down each of these activities into actions that you can manage as a process. For example, creating new connections on LinkedIn may require developing some message templates that describe who you are and what kinds of connections you are interested in making. When using the template, for each individual you connect with, instead of writing a complete email over and over again, you can focus on just adding the personalized portions of that message that customizes your message for that person. If you made 5 new connections at last night’s networking event, without an email template it may take you about 3 minutes to write a message for each person; with a template, it may take 1 minute to pull up the template and include your personalized message. You’ll have saved 10 minutes making these 5 connections and if this happens once a week, you’d be saving 40 minutes per month on this one process! Creating a process will help you define the building blocks for achieving your goals.
  3. Create Behavior Chains for your Engagements. After reading about that process plan you may be asking, “What about for things that happen at random times of the day/week/month?” Behavior Chains are processes that you don’t necessarily follow by routine, but follow when specific events happen. For example, when someone accepts your LinkedIn connection request, you may want to send a follow-up email to provide them with more information about you and your business, offer some valuable resource or send them a request to take the next step by meeting on the phone or in person. Having each of those messages prepped and ready to go allows you to focus on your individual relationship without the added burden of remembering all the facts you want to mention. Having a process ready allows you to keep your routines simple when the triggers occur.
  4. Reduce Your Options (i.e. Master One Network at a Time). It is possible that you will find connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the temptation is to go for all of it all at once. The challenge is figuring out what to do first, when to do it, which one to do more of and when you’ll find the time to do it all! Overwhelmed yet? You’ll still need to add to that a clear understanding of how each network works and you may end up not trying anything at all! Reducing your options suggests that you try one network at a time and build proficiency in that network. Continuing our example, once your processes and behavior chains for LinkedIn has been established, only then may you want to consider expanding your efforts either by increasing your activity or finding out how to use the same techniques on Facebook or Twitter. Increase your likelihood of success for each new activity – take your time developing routines around complex ideas before trying to tackle something new.
  5. Failure is Part of the Process; NOT a Destination. Remember that you are also connecting with people on the other end of your digital devices. This means techniques that have been successful for others may not be successful for you and they may not be successful for you today. Conversely, they may be successful this week, but not next month. Your social media activity must be a continuous cycle of experimentation that evolves with the relationships you develop. If, for example, your Linkedin connection requests are not being accepted, here are some questions to consider: am I going to the right events? am I trying to connect with people who have active LinkedIn profiles? are they generally people who connect with others they’ve just met? have I provided enough of the right information in my connection request? Have I given them enough time to respond? Not all techniques will be as effective as others and for those that fall short of your expectations, understand what you could have done differently that might have affected the outcome of that experiment. Take note of it for your next endeavor and, by all means, don’t let it stop you from trying something new and trying again.

Just as with other business activities, you’ll want to optimize your time on social media. Habits that enable you to understand the mechanics of your tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) and create strategies around them will leave you more time to focus on the relationships you’re building. Ultimately, it is those relationships that will help your business grow.