Managing social media accounts across Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other sites can be overwelming for some business owners. Posting to each can simply require too much attention for time-crunched entrepreneurs.
But you don't need to be all things to all people on the social Web. And you don't need to hire a social media manager to handle it all. There are a number of cost-effective ways for you to have an active pressence on more than one social media site without devoting all your time to it.
Here are five tips and tools for how you can get your message across on multiple social platforms without wasting a ton of time -- or breaking the bank.
1. Have a strategy.
Try spending your limited time and resources investing in only the social media sites you know that your customers use. It can be better to build one or two strong profiles than to dilute your influence with a scattershot effort across four or five.
Once you determine which sites to be on, creating a social media content strategy can help you stay organized. Maybe you tweet only five times a day, post to Facebook once a day and update your business blog once a week. Laying out a strategy and sticking it to it can help take some of the haphazardness out of managing multiple social accounts.
Related: How to Create a Social Media Content Strategy (Video)
And the good news is there are plenty of free and inexpensive Web apps that can help. Bliss Control is a free tool that offers shortcuts for you to manage account settings such as privacy, profile pictures and passwords from one place. Social media dashboards such as HootSuite and Buffer are free options for managing and scheduling posts across multiple accounts.
2. Don't blindly recycle content.
Managing different accounts from the same location can create the temptation for you to use the same updates over different platforms. The problem in doing so is that customers often follow you on multiple sites and don't want to find the same content from site-to-site.
In general, form follows function. Twitter can be effective for sharing links, thoughts and quick updates about your company. Facebook can be better for creating and sharing photo albums, longer summaries of your links and customer comments. Don’t automatically Facebook everything you tweet or syndicate your blog on LinkedIn.
Related: Finding the Best Time to Post to Social Networks
3. Don't be shy about cross-promoting posts across sites.
While social-media multitasking usually means creating content that’s unique to each platform, that should not stop you from cross-promoting content without annoying your followers. The trick is to direct users to unique or helpful content. For example, ask your Twitter followers to check out new pictures on your Facebook wall.
One free option for building automation into your social networks is a tool called ifttt, which stands for “If This, Then That.” Users can build automated tasks for more than 40 social networks and Web apps using simple conditional statements.
Sendible which starts at about $10 per month also pushes content to various platforms. It also includes metrics to track who is talking about your business and on which sites.
4. Use analytics tools to know what's working and what isn't.
Don't waste time socializing content that isn't resonating with your followers. Analytics apps can be key to figuring out which of your posts are successful and why.
Consider starting with SocialBro which is available as a free desktop app or a browser extension. It includes information on which cities your followers live in and when they’re likely to be online. Free apps such as Tweriod and TweetWhen can also help you determine optimal posting times for different networks.
Related: 10 Little Known Social Media Tools You Should Be Using -- Now
Link-shortening tools such as bitly can offer statistics on who is clicking through on the links you post. Another option is to monitor your website analytics through tools such as Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics to see how many referrals you are getting from social media sites. Web hosting services often offer this capability as well.
5. Treat followers like customers.
Try using Twitter, Facebook and, for instance, Instagram's mobile posting features, to put faces to your employees and give a behind-the-scenes look at your company. Your followers are real people and they most likely will apprecaite seeing the people behind your business and your social media pressence.
There are free Facebook apps for interacting with customers via polls and surveys. Poll for Facebook comes with the ability to add custom code, multiple-choice or written questions and extra privacy settings. Promotion Builder, by Redwood City, Calif.-based Wildfire, starts at $5 per promotion plus 99 cents per day and lets users run contests and promotions such as coupons, group deals and sweepstakes across multiple sites.