Get Social: Time-Saving Tips for Social Media
By Mary Alice Franklin
ART TIMES Summer 2015
Who has time to play around on social media when there is artwork to be created? If you’re interested in staying visible in today’s fast-paced world, then the answer should be you. Dismissing social media has become something of a bygone era. Social media is not only helpful, but is necessary and vital to almost any business, no matter the size. It’s true that it can take up a tremendous amount of your time – but there are ways to streamline the process and make more efficient use of your time. When done correctly, managing social media is a full-time job. This is why more and more companies and corporations are hiring full-time employees exclusively to handle these accounts. Chances are that you, dear reader, aren’t a giant corporation and may not have the budget to hire someone who can do this work for you; however, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t get done. It simply means that you need to become even more strategic with your time and efforts.
It is easy to get distracted or side-tracked when using social media, and it can be tricky to find your way around unfamiliar territories, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; however, there are benefits that should not be overlooked. According to a study shared on business2community.com (in “How Social Media Drove Ecommerce in 2014”), 71% of Americans are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media – so if you think you can skip this vital part of your marketing, think again. It won’t automatically raise sales, and it likely won’t make you millions overnight, but staying on top of your social media can get your work noticed, make your brand more recognizable and expose your work to tons of people who likely wouldn’t have seen it otherwise – including non-locals, reporters, blogs and potential customers.
As with any business task, you must organize yourself in order to efficiently accomplish your goals. You should use a calendar to keep track of posts, set aside time for social media use, brainstorm ideas, schedule posts and utilize available tools to make the most of your time – all while assessing the habits of your audience. These are all important steps in your social marketing process.
FOLLOW A CALENDAR
Take note of important dates and events that could relate to art and to your work. Look up national and federal holidays as well as “adopted” holidays (such as National Cupcake Day) online and mark down the ones that correspond with the style and the subject of your work. For example, if you paint nature scenes and National Butterfly Day is approaching, that could present an opportunity to post one of your butterfly paintings (with a link for purchasing). You don’t have to only post your own work: you may also consider sharing a fellow artist’s piece or one of your favorite famous works. Mark these opportunities onto your calendar, along with posts you have scheduled or plan to schedule (which will be discussed below) and events that you intend to follow on your social platforms.
SET ASIDE THE TIME
First, understand that social media will, and should, take time. It isn’t a miracle tool. You need to work at it. If you have the budget, you can consider hiring someone to do it for you, but this article is aimed at art professionals who are currently managing their businesses on their own. Setting aside specific time to work on social media, the same as you would with any other aspect of your business, is key. Dedicating this time will make you feel accomplished, limit time spent online and help you to value social media as a necessary part of your routine.
Ideally, you should check your social platforms every day. It doesn’t have to take up your entire day, but if someone responds or comments to your posts, you want to be able to respond back in a timely manner. You won’t be able to do that by only checking your accounts once a week. Set aside up to one hour each day – when you check email in the morning or need a break before lunchtime – to check in on your accounts and respond to comments. Then, set a chunk of time aside every few days to schedule posts, join in on conversations and consider non-scheduled items. The more time you can put aside, the better.
Pay attention to what is going on in the media and look for opportunities to post. If you see a story about a street artist working with local students to help them express their creativity, you may consider sharing it, along with your (brief) thoughts on why you chose to share it. I urge you not to get political or religious unless it directly relates to your work. Even then, be cautious. Saying things that others can find offensive will splinter your audience and potentially leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Keep a list of interesting art-related articles, photos, tidbits and news items that are not time sensitive. When you are short on time or find that you are stumped on what to post, refer to this list for ideas. Before you know it, armed with your list of ideas and your calendar of important details, sitting down to post won’t take as much time as it used to because you’ll have a bank of ideas ready. Once you have your ideas, schedule them.
In an ideal world, you would be on social media 24 hours a day, but you simply don’t have the time for that. Scheduling posts is a viable time-saver. While this is not recommended as a foolproof or catchall plan, it is certainly a useful tool to help keep your accounts active.
FACEBOOK has a built-in scheduling tool. Simply create your post as you normally would, but instead of clicking the “Post” button, click on the arrow just to the right of it. Choose “Schedule” and assign a time and date to the post. Click on “Schedule” again, activating the post to update your wall at the designated time.
To schedule on other platforms, you’ll need a tool or app to help you along. A “social aggregator” is a handy tool, as it allows you to manage multiple social accounts from one place, schedule posts and analyze its effectiveness. Scheduling TWITTER on an aggregator works in much the same way as scheduling on Facebook. HootSuite, TweetDeck are great free aggregator options, while SproutSocial is a more complex, but costly, tool.
Truthfully, there aren’t any great options for scheduling posts to INSTAGRAM. Several apps such as Instagramme, ScheduGram and Instapult can help but most don’t allow for in-app editing of your photos or auto-posting. Try exploring these apps to find what the right fit is for you.
ASSESS AUDIENCE HABITS & STAY ACTIVE
You need to observe your industry through the lens of social media by discerning the general habits of those you’re aiming to reach. You can do this by playing with the timing of your posts. Once you’ve scheduled some posts, assess and analyze what has been successful. What days of the week do people interact with your posts the most? What time of the day (lunchtime, perhaps?) do you see the most activity? Some aggregator tools, such as Sprout Social, will help you to analyze these trends and statistics, as do built-in tools like the Insights section of Facebook Page accounts. Note these trends when scheduling updates in order to get the most leverage out of the items you post.
While scheduling is a great way to stay afloat, it is not a substitute for actively participating on social media. These timesaving tips should never fully replace your real-time posting. The most important aspect of social media use is being “social.” You can’t put yourself out there and expect anything to happen if you aren’t reciprocating what you’re hoping to get from others. Saving time is important, but you still need to interact with others, participate in ongoing conversations and build relationships. So don’t forget to post while you’re out and about, follow the goings-on at major art events and, most importantly, respond to anyone who interacts with your posts. These things will allow you to be a part of the conversation as it is happening – a vital aspect of being “social” that requires due time – instead of being a passive bystander. In the meantime, the tips and tricks above will help keep you on track.
Mary Alice Franklin is a Writer and Social Media Manager with an arts and culture focus. She currently works at ArtsWestchester and as a freelance writer and social media contractor. For more information, visit: www.maryalicefranklin.com.