As you consider whether to invest in social networking, it’s easy to think that it’s going to be too much time and effort with some nebulous results. True, the jury is still out on the real-world return-on-investment of social media. Does it increase the visibility of a company online? Sure. Does it bring dollars through the door? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

So if you want to start out on social media, you want to do it as effectively as possible. The great answer is that you can be selfish with your time and still be seen as an active participant in your social media community.

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The first step is to sync up any multiple accounts you have (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube), so that updates will be automatically sent over multiple networks and you won’t have to craft individual messages on individual platforms. There are Web sites that are available to make this happen. For a power user, the best option is, a site which allows you to update all of your social networking accounts with the click of a button.

Hootsuite a Great Tool

But doesn’t have all the answers and really isn’t needed if you are focused on just Twitter or Facebook. For those, a great option is, a site which allows a user to manage multiple accounts (if you have one for your business, one for your personal account and one for your church, for example) as well as allowing teams to manage an account. This one-stop all-access account is good for broadcasting messages across multiple accounts or assigning the work to others while still having access yourself. Facebook can also be updated through Hootsuite.

Scheduling Messages

The key feature though of Hootsuite is the ability to time-delay messages. Type in a message, save it and tell Hootsuite when it should be sent out and the work is done. So, if you are crunched for time, you can take a half-hour on Monday morning and tweet for the entire week. Just putting in the template messages of “Good Morning” for 8 a.m. and “Good Night” for 5 p.m. every day will give you a footprint online and your followers will see you’re doing something.

If you have a calendar for your business already planned out, you can type those messages up, too. “Open House This Weekend at 5 p.m.” or even “Christmas party this weekend at our offices.”

It may be strange to type holiday greetings in the middle of spring for your company Facebook page, but it’s a proactive move that frees up your time later for bigger and better things.