One of the biggest concerns clients share with me about social media has to done in time. They seem to have one of two concerns: If they don’t have enough time to do Facebook, Twitter, or other social media tools along with everything else they have to do, Or, that once they log onto their Facebook or Twitter account (aka, the time-suck vortex), hours of time will vanish before they know it.

These are both legitimate concerns – and concerns that I’ve also had to deal with so I totally get it.While I’ve learned strategies for both finding the time in the first place and then for avoiding the mindless hours lost in Facebook Pages, I did a quick search of Google to see what other ideas were out there that I might offer you.

I was a bit surprised to find that most of the information out there on time-saving ideas for social media revolved around new tools and applications for social media. These are great and helpful – but can be a little overwhelming for social media newbies. (FYI – applications are simply websites or mobile phone downloads that help manage Twitter and perform various Twitter related functions.)

When you are brand-new to social media and are just trying to figure out the basics of sites like Twitter and Facebook – the addition of trying to figure out all the available applications can be overwhelming!Fortunately, the most effective time-saving technique I’ve found doesn’t require learning any new tools or applications or technical lingo.

This is all about setting up objectives as well as making systems.
Time Rescuer’s 4-Step Guide to Saving Time with Social Media:

 1. Get clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
This is the most important step of them all – if you read nothing else in this post, read this step. Before you start using social media at all – get clear on why you are doing it and what you want to get out of it. Don’t just blindly dive in without knowing what you’re swimming for. If you’re using social media to grow your business – know that. If you’re doing it for fun – know that.

Don’t worry so much about how it will grow your business yet. You’ll pick that up along the way, just focus on knowing your why for now. Then, once you’ve started using social media, check your why again – every time you go to log on. (Bonus Tip: I suggest not staying logged in to your accounts all the time – the act of having to log in each time you want to go on Facebook or Twitter, can help remind you to think of why you are logging on at that particular time.)Get clear about what your intention is for that time you are spending on social media. Why you are there, what you want to accomplish, how it will benefit you. Knowing these things helps you create structure and boundaries around your use.

2. Pull out your calendar.
It might be a Day Planner or your Blackberry or Google Calendar. Whatever you use to plan out and keep track of your schedule.

3. Find little chunks of time.
10 minutes before you start work or before you leave for work. 15 minutes in the afternoon. 30 minutes after dinner. The length of the chunks of time don’t matter so much – you can do as long or short of time-frames as you want and you can do them as often as you want. (I do suggest at least once or twice a day during the week as a minimum – it’s hard to build relationships on social media if you’re never there communicating with anyone!).The important thing is to find those chunks of time and write them down in your schedule. They are appointments.

4. Set a timer.
Pull out your iPhone or other cell phone that has a timer built in. Or get one of those cheap egg timers, use the timer on the stove or microwave, whatever works for you. Then set it for the length of the appointment you scheduled in step three. When the timer goes off, turn off Facebook or Twitter, and move onto what’s next on your schedule.

Finding time and saving time with social media is a challenge that everyone who uses it faces. The techniques I’ve learned, many of which were introduced to me by my coach, were learned by trial and error. These steps are what I’ve found to be most effective for me. Take them, experiment with them and understand it is going. Nip them to be able to suit you and your own style of working. The important thing is to be very clear and establish that structure. You might just surprise yourself how much you can do in a short time with a little clarity and structure!