We don't have a "marketing team" per se...
It's really more of a marketing culture that helps drive everything that we do.
Many of you are likely in a similar situation. It's not uncommon, as more entrepreneurs and startups take it upon themselves to build their social presence and branding.
Even if you are in a marketing team, technology has allowed us to consolidate the workload of 5 specialized positions into the hands of just a few individuals with a more broad range of skills. While there will always be a place for experts of their respective crafts, social media marketing (as an individual) is a field that requires competency in multiple disciplines while often feeling like you have to know more than you do.
For example, during the last year I have become well-acquainted with:
- 140-character, hashtag-based authoring
- Social data metrics and analysis
- SEO principles, ranking factors, and terms
- Dozens of distribution sites, channels, and social networks
- How to find influential people... on any medium
- Automation of systems, cloud integration, and the importance of data portability
- Plus too many other things that have just become a part of my fabric
But you don't need to go learn everything that I just mentioned above to start your social marketing efforts. Rather, once you start down the path towards an optimized, sustainable Twitter marketing workflow, you will learn most of those skills and more.
The trick is to figure out where to start.
The Best Advice I Have
Invest in developing your Twitter marketing workflow...
You're here because you want to save time, I get it, but you still will always have to put work in. The question will be, "How much?"
If nothing else, this article will help you figure out where your sticking points are so you can work on developing a workflow that amplifies your spent effort and reduces workload.
While I do hope that you leave with ways to save time, I also hope that you will continue to grind it out to better understand where you can take shortcuts and where you can't. Spending hundreds of hours struggling to accomplish what I wanted and being overwhelmed by it all has led me to building the system I currently use.
It also gave me a better capacity to judge content quality and understand the workload involved in content creation and distribution tasks. Now, when I do get around to outsourcing, delegating, or managing aspects of my social media marketing, it's exceptionally clear what I'm trying to accomplish and what we should be getting out of it.
Below I've compiled the TL;DR (Too long, didn't read) sections of a very long post of mine. It's essentially the quick history of my Twitter marketing transformation from 5 hours of social content creation for 1 account to managing 10 accounts and hundreds of posts per day in 30 minutes.
Read the full post for more detailed information and backstory for each section.
How I Save Hours on Twitter Marketing Every Day
1. Focus on What's Working
Twitter is perfect for the volume of content that we distribute. We can put out dozens of posts per day on Twitter and it's more or less acceptable; whereas Facebook, Google+, and Linkedin are best for only a few posts per day. For a while, because we were spread thinly across multiple channels and didn't have an effective system, all of our accounts were struggling.
We wanted to treat them all the same as Twitter (high volume, lower interaction) but couldn't manage to create enough content for them all. We decided to focus on Twitter, to some excellent results, but how could we make it better?
Before and after focusing on Twitter only:
Check out that pivot! What you don't see here is the huge portion of traffic coming to our site from Twitter. Back then, it was one of our primary traffic sources. Because we couldn't dedicated the same amount of attention and manpower towards all accounts, we cut the other channels out once we figured out that we could make Twitter work with the resources we had.
- Recognize that you can't treat all social channels the same way.
- Find which channel has the least resistance to your ideal content.
- Decide what type of tweets are working for you and focus there.
2. Re-Use Tweets to Owned Content
We work hard on content and the tweets surrounding our owned media. There was a time when we really would only distribute a set of tweets once and let the traction build through other channels. When we started focusing solely on Twitter, we needed far more content to fill that increased demand for content. It was an order I couldn't fill without re-using our tweets more frequently.
Example of the same tweet over and over:
Note: Other content that would have been in-between the above tweets has been filtered out for the sake of showing repeated tweets.
My solution was to build a Tweet library in a spreadsheet and to add 3 variations for each tweet. This would save time typing and help preserve our tweets for re-use later.
What tweets with variations look like:
While I didn't have to manually type each tweet anymore, I still had to break my other workflows to manually add this expanding list of ready content into our Twitter accounts. There had to be a better way...
- Re-use tweets for your owned content.
- Keep a library of your "evergreen" content.
- Triple your available content by making 3 variations per tweet.
3. Schedule Your Posts
Even with a library of tweets to draw from, I still had to break my workflows to make it happen. I wanted a way to upload hundreds of tweets at a time so we started using Buffer and Bulk Buffer to load CSV spreadsheets into our pre-defined schedules.
This is probably the biggest time-saver of them all (behind my custom, incredible, top-secret Google Spreadsheet that I will reference later on).
Using Bulk Buffer... Just drop a CSV in and select the account:
I went from dozens of tweet uploads per day to posting all of our content within about a half hour. The problem was that it was only our content and because it was so darn easy to automate, it could quickly get repetitive. We wanted to start curating to fill it out a little, but curation (done right) can take a lot of time as well. The question was: how do we make curation fit into our distribution?
- Schedule your posts to save time and add consistency.
- Take care of your day's scheduling all at once to avoid workflow disruptions.
- Decide your posting frequency and consider content curation to fill gaps.
4. Fill Gaps with Shared Content
Like I mentioned, we had a growing stream of "evergreen" content being pumped into our Twitter feed but we knew we needed to differentiate or risk getting repetitive and spammy.
We tried using Feedly to distribute a ratio of owned vs shared content but couldn't make it work well with our small team and big curation needs. Plus, quality assurance of the shared content prevented us from automating the process via an RSS syndication service.
We started using Curata about 4 months ago and have been finding it to work very well. It learns what content you like from your sources and adapts to only show what it thinks you will like to publish. It's a quick, instant publish from the curation feed into our Buffer account directly. I've also found a way to integrate it with the Google Sheet workflow that I've built.
By importing and parsing the segmented RSS feeds from Curata, I can place curated content into my CSV-generator and interspersed with our owned content. This allows one person to curate 20-30 pieces, publish them when he finds them, and then have me re-publish them whenever needed to fill out our content mix.
We considered automating this curation as well but decided against it, because our brand relies on the integrity and quality of the content we share. So what could we automate?
- Set up an aggregated source of relevant content for your team.
- Set aside a time / amount to curate between your team members.
- Reduce your content creation workload by curating more.
5. Automate, but not TOO much.
We really wanted to get some automation going to remove even more of the effort required to manage our accounts. We looked at API access to Buffer, Curata, and a host of other services to link everything together into one cohesive system, but nothing would accomplish our goals.
It wasn't that the systems couldn't be built, but rather that when we would try to automate too much, we would spend more time in damage control or massaging the machine-generated content later.
We've struck a balance between our machine-assisted curation, scheduling, and syndication that still involves enough human touch that we have complete control. So essentially, we settled on automated very little beyond some of our initial curation and content filtering.
One example of automation is to save our tweets directly to our Google Spreadsheet content library using IFTTT:
It monitors for our tweet to go out and then will automatically put it into a new row in the spreadsheet. It's a task that would have been done by human hands anyway, but is now handled via automation.
You can do all of these tasks as well:
At this point, I came to a strange productivity plateau where the core functionality was effective enough to save me hours and the return on continuing to optimize wasn't high enough to justify the time spent trying to tweak my spreadsheets.
This odd innovation standstill left me with some time to reflect on our previous strategy for distributing on Twitter. Then it hit me... what the heck was our original strategy and intention? Really, the point before was just to "Get it out there" and drive traffic. Now I was efficient enough that I could spend a majority of time both generating content and optimizing it. But to what end?
I needed a new strategy and a plan to measure success.
- Automate tasks that you would have done by hand (and that don't require any thought).
- Automated "content" such as tweets and RSS syndication are often too difficult to ensure quality.
- Strike a balance between automation and human effort for the best results.
6. Have a Strategy and Optimize
So I had created an efficient workflow for managing our accounts but now that I was able to consistently generate content, I needed to examine our strategy again and begin really evaluating success metrics.
Before, our content distribution was intermittent; now that we had attained a steady flow of Twitter content, we needed to make sure we were ensuring quality and driving the results we wanted. We began trying to structure our content and examine why each type of post was included in our content mix.
Here's the 3-column spreadsheet. See the tabs at the bottom? They're the content types:
So simple, yet so effective. We have 6 content types that we share for various purposes. What we did was to start arranging them in different ways, playing with the frequencies, and adjusting the copy to see which yielded the best results.
It's not much of a strategy, but it was a starting point.
As we have begun filling our content queues to the brim, the question of "Why" put out a certain type of tweet becomes ever more relevant. If it doesn't directly affect a bottom-line goal, we have been either eliminating it or morphing the content to suit a metric we are shooting for.
This is going to be an ongoing process for you; it certainly has been for us. We are constantly shifting content, changing frequencies, and optimizing post types to produce content that mimics the success of our best posts.
But we began to realize that all of the optimization in the world wouldn't do us any good if our strategy didn't include forming relationships and making use of Twitter as an outreach tool.
- If you haven't already, ask why you are putting out the types of tweets that you are.
- Start optimizing by changing up copy, post types, and frequencies.
- Use your successful tweet types as baselines for future social content creation.
7. Monitor Your Network and Reach Out to Influencers
We'd come up with a strategy that involves different types of owned and curated content mixed together but we were really lacking in the engagement department.
With a full stream of content and a relative strategy, we could begin to focus on reaching out and building some conversations surrounding that content. The goal was still not necessarily to build the deepest relationships with everyone (it is logistically impossible) but rather to get more people to share, view, and join our network.
We started doing outreach to influencers by finding subject matter experts (and successful posts) and then also finding those who shared those posts. We did this via BuzzSumo, which is an excellent content discovery and influencer research tool.
We would then engage with both parties via tweets and let them know that we had content that might interest them. All in all, it was an excellent tactic but one that even we, efficient as we have become, still lack the time to accomplish effectively.
Not in the other post:
We have been using 2 tools between our team to engage with those who share our content and engage with us. Ironically, they both perform the same functions but we each have our preferences as to which we would rather use (so we are unified via Twitter and our data / conversations sync that way).
One tool we use is Mention, which performs monitoring of your selected channels for keywords, tags, or (of course) mentions:
Our other tool is Sprout Social, which does the same type of monitoring but also acts more as a social "inbox", engagement, and reporting tool:
Both solutions are excellent and have their own individual facets that are stronger than the other, but none of us can persuade the other to use their respective solution!
But, as I said, Twitter syncs our conversations and we can see with whom the other has engaged, as everything is performed through our multiple accounts that are linked to each solution.
Using these tools allow us to be reactive and receptive to our brand and content's mentions on Twitter. Without them, we would not be able to even build the most cursory of relationships with those who engage our content.
I'm constantly trying to build new social media workflows to save myself time and help create the highest quality social content possible. One thing that is becoming increasingly evident is that you have to have a mastery over the mechanical aspect of Twitter as a tool before you can start applying it towards your marketing goals.
I now find myself asking:
- How could we truly leverage a tool that we struggle to manage effectively?
- How can we possibly optimize a channel that we can't fill with content?
Especially for those of us whose jobs are NOT Twitter management...
- How can we hope to make the most of Twitter marketing if it's going to take me away from managing my principal tasks?
At this point, after a year of advancing incrementally, I find that Twitter is now "manageable".
Am I a Twitter marketing expert? No, definitely not, but I'm really good at finding ways to make it take less time.
If you get nothing else from this article, I want to emphasize this:
Figure out where your sticking points are and develop a workflow that amplifies effort spent rather than reduces it. Put 200% the time and effort into getting a solid, repeatable system setup and you will only have to spend a fraction of the both from there on out.
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