“This is work. It’s not a social hour, you know.”

How many times did we hear that in the workplace before social media became a mainstay in our business lives?

When it comes to social media, one of the top concerns among small business owners is how they’re going to fit it in along with all of the other activities they do to keep their businesses up and running. This is why there are a lot of false starts, sporadic efforts, and spotty results when it comes to keeping an active online presence.

If you’ve ventured into social media or are just now getting acquainted with the various tools and best practices, odds are you’re looking for an answer to the nagging question about how much time it’s going to take before you see results.

While’s there no magic formula, it’s recommended to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes a day, or approximately two hours a week, engaging with your audience.

If your already-taxed schedule feels like it can’t squeeze in another two hours each week, consider that social media is a low-cost vehicle that will allow you to effectively reach your target audience in one of the most powerful ways: engagement.

If you’re looking to uncover those additional two hours each week, here are five short cuts to finding them.

1. Eliminate or reduce the non-performing marketing efforts. Ask customers what brought them to your business and assess which activities are driving the most profitable customers. You’d be surprised how often this simple question is not asked and yet how critical the answer is to determining where to invest your marketing resources.

2. Focus on the two places online where the majority of your target audience is most active. Put a tickler in your calendar to check the other places when you have a few spare moments but don’t try to be everywhere.

3. Take advantage of the many free tools available that will track the online conversations about your business and package them up in one tidy email that gets sent to your inbox as often as you’d like.

4. Make your efforts work double-time by bringing together your campaigns in one central location and enabling your fans to distribute them in many places. For example, you can now customize a campaign in Facebook and encourage your fans to “Like” it in exchange for a special offer that’s revealed after they hit the “Like” button. Once they see the compelling offer behind curtain number one, they can easily click a button to tell their friends about it via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. This way, you’ve further engaged your key audience and enlisted free, additional marketing muscle to extend your reach.

To learn about the fifth item on this list, check out my latest contribution to American Express’ OPEN Forum, “5 Shortcuts to Maximizing Your Social Media Presence.”