sociallikeSomehow you made it over the hump and you’re actually using social media.  You know what a Tweet is, you’ve got close to 500 connections on LinkedIn and you’re starting to understand when and where to use a hashtag.

You’ve probably had a few cool experiences up until now, like one of your marketing idols following you back, or a cocky colleagues from a past job reaching out to you via LinkedIn to see if you have any work for him.  But at some point, the newness wears off and you start to wonder how you can actually leverage your social media accounts to maximize your return.  Here are a few tips on how to do so.

Take advantage of free software tools

Hootsuite is a software service that allows you to schedule tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates in advance, for free.  If you come across a great article one night when you can’t sleep and want to share it, preferably at a more optimal time than 1:00am, schedule it for noon the next day.

Synchronize accounts, if appropriate

There are lots of ways to synchronize your social media accounts.  The aforementioned software will help you post to multiple accounts at the same time.  There are also built in functionalities in many networks that allow you to cross publish.  For instance, Instagram lets you automatically send your pictures to Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way to encourage people to follow you on Instagram.

Link to your networks from your blog or website

If people don’t know how to find your social media accounts, they wont follow you!  If you have a blog or company website, link to your accounts from it, and post content from your blog or website on your accounts.  Use your social media networks and your blog as a unit, not as if there’s a great divide.  Here’s an exhausting list of WordPress social media plugins that can help you do this.

Use Twitter advance search to tap in to conversations and add value

Do you provide a product or a service? Do you have a blog that offers advice to people based on a niche topic?  Then look for people who are talking about your area of expertise on Twitter using its built in advanced search options, and drop some knowledge on them.  If you’re looking to establish yourself as a thought leader, there’s no better way than to add value wherever possible.

Read your timeline, respond

It’s way to easy to spend 15 minutes crafting a tweet and then sit back and wait for someone to reply.  Don’t be that guy, or girl.  Social media should be reciprocal, and you should be speaking through a two-way channel, not a megaphone.  Watch your timeline to keep up with the news and conversations that are spreading in your circles, and then contribute to them when you can.  You can also create lists to help you keep track of specific types or groups of followers and news. When people know you’re paying attention to them, they’re more likely to pay attention to you.

Set time aside each day, schedule

You’ve got to devote a little bit of your time each day to cultivating, maintaining and growing your networks.  Take 15 minutes in the morning to read through your timeline.  It’ll help you catch up on the latest news, help give you some fuel to post about, and keep you in tune with your followers and fans.  Check back again at lunch and spend another 10 minutes doing the same.  Finally, give them a check sometime in the afternoon.  Three times during the workday is probably plenty, depending on your job of course.  Your extracurricular social media usage is totally up to you.  Keep in mind that the more time you spend, the more chances you have to obtain great info and grow your networks, though you may risk missing out on things like going out side, or watching your child’s first steps.

Set up notifications

Even if you can’t check in when you want to, you can set up notifications (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) that let you know if someone you should be responding to or reaching out to has messaged or followed you.  There’s even a really cool WordPress plugin that notifies you when you’re site gets submitted to a social media network.

Suit up and get your Tweet on like a pro

There are countless ways to keep growing your social media prowess, and though these seven examples are not the end-all-be-all to being a social media guru, they can help you be better today.  Try a few of these on for size and let us know how they worked.

Which of these examples did you find most helpful?

What creative methods, online tools or personal habits have helped you become a better social media user?