Guest blog post by Jamie Self, Constant Contact’s Social Campaign Sales Team Leader

Social media marketing is a great tool that all small businesses and organizations can use to stay competitive and grow.

One of the biggest barriers to small businesses using such a powerful tool is time.

But while small businesses are incredibly time starved, social media does not have to be the big time-suck most think it is.

The most common questions about social media marketing

Last week, I attended multiple events in San Francisco as part of the worldwide celebration of Social Media Week. The two questions I heard over and over were “How should I manage the time I can allocate to social media marketing?” and “What should I use to help make sure my time spent is worth it for me?”

People generally want to control their time dedicated to social media, but they are scared and unsure of how to do so. I sat in an array of panels and keynotes, and there were some great ideas and some worthy advice presented that can help businesses and organizations take control of their time and get the most out of their investment in social media.

Two tips to help you manage your time

1. Develop a plan. As a marketer on any level, you have to start with a goal in mind. It’s important to know what you want the action of your fans, followers, and connections to take. Do you want them to use a coupon you are offering? Read exclusive content they can only get through your Facebook Page or share a great tip or video?

2. Tell a story. We’ve all read or know a story we can tell, and it’s really no different with marketing. Think of the marketer as the author. As the author, you have to know what you want the end to be in order to write the details to get there. Knowing what that “story” is will save you time and help create a plan that puts you on the path to success.

So what type of story should you tell?

It’s important to tell a story that truly represents you and your business or organization.

We all know what makes us great and unique, so bring this into your story and relate it to your audience.

In today’s highly connected world, marketers are constantly fighting for the time and attention of their audience, and it’s not just with other brands. It’s with pictures of our friends’ kids, articles posted by college roommates, and the latest “must see” viral video. In order to win you need to post things that your fans can connect with and relate to, as well as feel passionate about.

Everyone has heard the phrase “content is king,” but the truth really is “good content is king.” You know your business and customers better than anyone else, so create content that they can relate to and will want to share with their friends.

Know and use the right resources

Every successful marketer has their go-to tools. These can be anything from an application, to a contact person, or even a forum of experts.

A few great applications that were mentioned over and over last week were HootSuite, TweetDeck, and of course, the actual social platforms themselves.

However, out of everything presented over the course of the week, one thing stood out specifically for small businesses and organizations: Starting with basics is key. You can’t hit a homerun before learning how to swing a bat.

Get comfortable with how the systems operate first, before you start to use a third party tool. Once you understand how each platform works, it will be much easier to integrate different tools and use them successfully.

The rewards of social media marketing are many

There is no doubt that incorporating social media into a marketing plan can take time. That said, it doesn’t have to be a dark cloud looming over your time.

Not only can you make it easier to incorporate social media into your marketing plans, but you can enjoy the time you are spending with it. Once you find that niche for your audience, the return is exhilarating!

Now what’s your story?

How do you manage the time you spend on social media marketing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments field below.

Jamie Self is the Social Campaign Sales Team Leader at Constant Contact. Follow Jamie on Twitter at @jself03.