How to engage on social media without spending all your time on social media

Anyone who has ever followed a Twitter or Instagram hashtag knows that social media can become a major time suck. For freelancers and other self-employed folks, time is the most valuable asset we have and we can’t afford to waste it. Yet, we do. A lot of it. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to maintain your own social media presence but you feel like you’re wasting too much time on it, this post is for you. After years of managing social media for clients in various industries, I’ve put together this guide for anyone who suffers from Twitter Time Suck Syndrome and wants to cure it once and for all. 

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to speak primarily in Twitterese for these tips, but this strategy is not only applicable to Twitter. Tweak the terminology, and you can apply it to whatever social media platforms you’re using to promote yourself and your freelance business on social media

Here are the basic steps for reducing your time spent on social media without giving up your presence:

  1. Find the right accounts to follow. Building your Twitter following begins with becoming a follower yourself. Make sure you’re following your current and past clients’ Twitter accounts, as well as other freelancers you’ve worked or interacted with. Follow your prospective clients, influencers in your industry, and other people who are targeting the same audience you are. (Yes, that’s right. I just told you to follow your competitors.) When you’re just starting out, this may take longer to do, but you should block off time each week to focus on this specific activity. 
  2. Plan strategic check-ins a few times a week, or once per work day if you’re concerned about timeliness. This is a block of time you’ll devote to looking at other users’ content. To avoid wasting time,  focus on these three actions: 
    1. Create and refer to a list of evergreen hashtags in your industry/niche
    2. Check Twitter’s trending hashtags for anything relevant to your industry/niche
    3. Use lists to categorize your followers, so you can check in quickly on groups by type (e.g., brands, other freelancers, industry pubs). 
  3. Engage with other users. Like and retweet quality content that would also interest your audience. If you reply to someone’s tweet, make sure your reply is insightful or adds value whenever possible. Other great ways to engage through replies and retweets are agreement/affirmations, compliments/congratulations, and questions. 
  4. Use a social media scheduling tool to write your tweets in batches. Writing short content like a 280-character tweet really requires a specific mindset, and it’s difficult even for me to shift gears quickly into it. Writing 20 tweets in a batch saves a ton of time, as your creativity builds momentum. Once you schedule posts in a tool like Buffer (which I use but #notanad) or Hootsuite, it’s easy to move them around as needed. Using a scheduling tool is a huge efficiency booster.
  5. Monitor engagement on your tweets. I’m not talking about obsessing over the analytics (we’ll get to that in a future post). But pay attention to the accounts that are liking and retweeting your tweets. If they’re in one of your target audiences, follow them and engage with their content. 

Repeating these steps on a regular basis will naturally result in higher and more meaningful engagement, without a massive time commitment. If you’re managing your own social media and just starting to build your followers, you can do all these steps in an hour or less, once or twice a week. If you want to be more involved on a daily basis, just pick one or two tasks from the list per day and rotate through the list over the course of your work week. And if you’re prone to falling down the hashtag rabbit hole, just do what I do: set a timer.


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