We’ve provided a lot of advice about social media on our blog this month, addressing everything from visuals to negative comments. Now that the month’s coming to a close, let’s ask the question on everyone’s mind: “How much time do I need to devote to social media?” I could end this blog post right now and give the safe response: “You should devote whatever amount of time you feel is necessary to achieve your goals.” But that’s not very actionable, so let’s discuss a few popular, time-based plans as well as how to free up and save time.

Pardot’s Rock Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day

According to marketing automation software company Pardot, most marketers—or in the case of small businesses, owners or staff members tasked with social media—don’t know “how to tackle the mountain that is social media and wind up wasting a lot of time haphazardly updating and monitoring their social presence.” That’s why the folks at Pardot developed an infographic that outlines how to complete social media in just 30 minutes per day. I recommend checking out the full infographic, but here’s the jist:

  • Twitter: Devote ten minutes to responding to any direct tweets or messages; use an automation app to schedule tweets (I like Buffer) promoting any recent blog posts or other content, events, or specials; and scroll through your feed to retweet or share any relevant content.
  • Facebook: Spend six minutes responding to any comments, scrolling through your feed to engage with others’ comments, and sharing and promoting your own content.
  • LinkedIn: Take six minutes to share content and engage with your LinkedIn groups and your company page.
  • Pinterest: Devote four minutes to pinning any new content of your own, repinning others’ content that’s relevant to your brand, and engaging with those who’ve liked, commented on, or pinned your content—a quick “thanks” is all it takes.
  • Google+: Spend two minutes sharing content and posing questions in your status update.
  • Instagram: Take two minutes to post an interesting photo of your staff, facility, or presence within the community; also, scroll through your feed and like and comment on any images that are relevant.

Don’t have a profile on one of the above-mentioned social media sites? That’s totally fine. Devote that extra time to your other profiles.

Chris Brogan’s Social Media Time Management

This post is from 2009, but the advice is timeless. Chris Brogan, the CEO of Owner Media Group, recommends breaking your social media efforts into four chunks; then determine the total amount of time you can devote and go from there. While Brogan believes that two hours per day is the minimum for most efforts, that isn’t a hard-fast rule—although Americans spend an average of 3.2 hours per day on social, according to Ipsos, so maybe a couple hours isn’t too far-fetched. Here’s how Brogan divides up the social media time pie:

  • ¼ time = listening: “Start your day by listening and finding what the world is saying about you, your competitor, your marketplace, etc.”
  • ½ time = commenting and communication: Spend time commenting and replying back to people on the various channels where they reach you…I also include sharing [here].”
  • ¼ time = creating: “Your efforts in content creation are every bit as important as your connectivity and communication. This might include blogging, making video or audio, creating email newsletters…”

What About Multi-Clinic Chains or Enterprise Practices?

Some of you reading this blog might have enough staff to devote more time and resources to your business’s social media efforts. If that’s the case, I recommend checking out Buffer’s Social Media Workflow. The team at Buffer examined the 40-hour work week of a social media manager to develop an average schedule. In the same post, they also share an infographic from Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting, which maps out “pretty much every element that could ever come into play for a social media manager” along with each element’s corresponding time.

How to Free Up Time

As this blog post is proving, to do social media in a meaningful way, you have to devote some time to it. But as Viralheat explains, “for small business owners, time is a limited resource.” That’s why they give these six organizational tips to help you free up some time, so “not enough time” isn’t an excuse for not doing social media. While all six are valuable, here are my fave pointers:

  • First thing in the morning or the night before, “plan out what you want to get done each and every day.”
  • Get rid of unnecessary interruptions.
  • Delegate.

How to Save Time

According to Buffer, “Smaller companies, including many entrepreneurs and startups, spend a disproportionately larger amount of time on social media [than larger businesses] due to smaller staffs and lower budgets.” The team at Buffer also found that people waste a lot of time on social media—6 hours, 48 minutes to be exact. (Here is Buffer’s full pie-chart breakdown.)

Common sense says to cut out these time-sucks so you’re far more efficient and effective at social media, but how do you do that? Here’s what Buffer recommends:

  1. Automate your social media posting. Pardot recommended this in its 30-minute-a-day social media plan. And what do you know? Buffer is a social media scheduling and auto-posting tool.
  2. Budget a half hour—max—every day to scour the web for relevant content to share. (The article breaks it down further with specific time durations to devote to each social media platform.)
  3. Assign a customer service team member to address questions and inquires.
  4. Stop trying to gauge ROI by measuring “how many people liked or retweeted a post.” Instead, measure the right kind of metrics.

In the time I’ve taken to research and write this post, here’s what I’ve gleaned. Social media really should only take 30 minutes to two hours per day—unless you’re a multi-clinic chain or enterprise-level practice, in which case you should probably have a marketing person(s) whose responsibilities include social media management. Ultimately, the most time-consuming part of social media is content creation and curation, so I would absolutely encourage your staff to share with you—or whomever is manning your social media efforts:

  • any articles, videos, images, or other content they come across that would be relevant for your business to share.
  • any ideas for blog posts (if you have a blog) or stories you could contribute to relevant news sites or blogs.

How much time do you devote to social media? How do you make it a priority in your practice? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.