From the April 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

This article is an excerpt from Get Connected: The Social Networking Toolkit for Business by Starr Hall and Chadd Rosenberg, available from Entrepreneur Press.

As if you didn't have enough marketing tasks on your plate, and now you are adding social networking! How are you going to find the time to fit all these new and exciting sites and techniques into your schedule? Here are some tips, tricks and suggestions to help you save time on your social networking sites.

Social Networking Clients
Most social sites have what are called social networking clients. These are additional sites or free downloadable software to enhance or simplify your networking experience on the particular site that the client supports. For example, Tweetdeck is free downloadable software that helps simplify your Twitter experience. It manages all the messages that come directly to you or that involve your Twitter name in the conversation. This way you can respond only to Twitter conversations in which you're being mentioned or directly messaged. This is only one of the many tools that Tweetdeck offers to support you.

Facebook has clients and partners such as Networkedblog, which allows you to connect your blog to your Facebook. Linkedin has dozens of partners and clients such as SlideShare where you can upload your PowerPoint presentations or slide shows and share them on your Linkedin page. Squidoo offers dozens of partnering clients as well and allows you to connect your Squidoo to YouTube, Linkedin, Facebook, and many more.

Automated Setup
Many social networking sites now offer automated set-up where you can connect your Twitter account to your Facebook page and your Linkedin page to Twitter and so on. This way, you only have to post in one or two places, and it will automatically post to the other sites on which you have set this up. Before you do this, make sure you want your posts to automate. Some people set up personal profiles and have a professional focus on other sites. You don't want to post something that's personal if you're set up on automated, the post would go out to your professional networks as well.

The other thing to consider with social networking automation is that there are different audiences on different sites. Your Facebook page might have more of a personal mix where as your LinkedIn is professional. Your Squidoo or Good Reads profile might be geared toward readers for your new book or ebook report.

Social networking doesn't need to take a lot of time if you set up your profiles correctly from the beginning, and if you know what sites you need to be on. If you set a schedule and stick to it, your social networking experience and results will be far better than if you post on sites for the sake of being on them. Where people tend to waste a lot of time is when they get caught up in the back and forth and when they don't have a system in place.

Keeping Things Under Control
You don't need to e-mail back or talk to every single person that responds to your post or that thanks you online for posting something. The easiest way to stay connected yet not get overwhelmed is to only respond to conversations where the person is asking for an answer, further information, or guidance. If they simply post a thank you, let it be. Another effective way to stay on task with social networking is to set up a response system. One or two days a week, set aside 15 to 20 minutes to respond to your social networking e-mails and posts.

If you have e-mails from all the sites you're on coming to your personal or business e-mail address, then set up a file in your e-mail system called "social follow-up." Check this folder on the days you choose for responding, go through them one at a time, and send a quick one-minute response and move on. If the contact is someone with whom you want to do business or stay in touch, then add that person to your "rock star" file.This is a file that you set up in your e-mail or even in your database management program to keep important contacts' information and connection alive.

Avoid Common Mistakes
There are several common mistakes with social networking that waste a lot of time and money as well as lose connections and friends or followers. One of the biggest mistakes is people making a sales pitch online. Whether your company is product- or service-related, it doesn't matter. You must build credibility before you start selling. This rule applies whether it's online or in-person networking. You aren't going to walk up to someone at an event and say "check out my consulting services or my product" before you even mention your name or get to know this person, correct? So why would you do that online?

Not effectively managing your time is another common mistake. You need to allocate a certain amount of time to social networking and stick to it. Whether it's going to be 15 minutes a day or two hours, set a timer, be disciplined, and make sure that you stop when the timer goes off. It's easy to get caught up in a conversation or a new site, but you need to walk away or you'll start to get sucked in and controlled by your computer and the internet.