I’m sitting here writing this in front of the TV – watching a documentary on Steve Jobs. It’s very apparent that he was very good at seeing the business opportunities in some very geeky areas of technology. His real genius, though, was in hiding the complexity of that technologyfrom the person using it, and presenting instead a very slick and user-friendly interface.

So how does that apply to the use of social networks for your business? Well, in Part One and Part Two of this series I outlined just some of the options available, and then outlined which were best for particular scenarios. What hasn’t ben discussed yet is how best to use those networks on a day to day basis.

The problem

Promoting your business can be a full time job in itself. In addition to tradition methods you may be using such as print advertising, radio, TV, and so on, you have probably invested time and money in online promotion too – centered on your website. And that is as it should be.

On top of the money, effort and, most importantly, time spend on these, you are now been asked to spend more time updating social media…possibly across multiple networks.  Surely its too much? But many other business owners manage to use social media to effectively promote their business. Are they giving up on other methods?

How to make it easy

There are very few businesses that will succeed by transferring all their promotional efforts over to social media. The solution is to make it as easy and time efficient as possible to use social media in addition to other channels. How? Let’s look at a couple of ways you can do this.

1. Create once, publish many times

One of the most effective uses of social media is to attract readers to your website, and in particular to blog posts like this. If, like me, you have a website based on the WordPress content management system, then you can extend the functionality of your website in a very effective way. In WordPress, you can add extra features to your site by installing ‘plugins’, which are a bit like the apps on one of Steve Jobs iconic telephony devices.

There are plugins for many uses, but for now we’re interested in pushing new blog/news posts to the various social media channels. These will work by linking to yoru account on a social network, and then publishing a new update/tweet/etc. when you create new content on your website.

One which I use on a regular basis is called Wordbooker. As stated above, this connects to your social network, Facebook in this case, and allows you to automatically have new blog posts pushed to your Facebook wall, or more pertinently to your business page’s wall.

Another plugin, Twitter Tools, will let you link your site to Twitter in a similar manner. In fact, pretty much every social network will have a WordPress plugin that will allow you to automatically promote you new content. The one exception at the moment is Google Plus, and this is simply because Google are rolling out the API (Application Programming Interface) on a gradual basis, and there is currently no means of creating new G+ posts programatically. You can be very sure that a plugin will surface as soon as the API is extended.

Of course, not all websites use WordPress, but the principle applies across many of the popular content management systems such as Drupal and Joomla.

2. Social dashboard

Of course there are times when you want to use social media to promote something other than the latest blog post on your website. For instance, you might want to make a series of updates across Twitter and Facebook promoting a special offer or a competition. Whilst you might have a single blog post setting this up, your blog probably isn’t the best place to continue making updates to drum up as much interest as possible.

As with the publishing of blog posts, there are a number of ways in which you can automate this process. One which I use to good effect is Hootsuite, which is an online service that allows you to connect to most of the major social networks. Hootsuite then allows you to post updates to one or many of the connected services.

Beyond the basic functionality, Hootsuite will also allow you to schedule updates in advance. In addition, you can use it to monitor blogs, posting updates when new content appears. In this way you can get around websites that don’t allow you to automatically push new content out usign plugins.

Hootsuite has other features, some of which require a paid-for Pro account. But it’s feasible for someone needing relatively basic features across a limited number of accounts to use the free service to very good effect.

Make it happen

I hope you have found the information in all three posts in this series useful. If there is one item of advice I could offer, though, it would be to get started. Don’t wait until you understand absolutely every aspect of all the social networks you choose to use, and the tools you employ to make life easier. The nature of social media changes constantly, and if you wait for full understanding then it will have moved on by the time you get there.

Social media is quite ephemeral in nature. To paraphrase, today’s tweet is tomorrow’s recycled bytes. So mistakes tend not to hang around to haunt you in the way that, say, blog posts might. So get started, connect with lots of people, engage with them in a personal way as well as promoting your business, and find your voice.

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