Whenever I speak about social media, the biggest question I get is “How much time do you spend on it?” My response? Not as much as you’d think. I use a number of time management tools to help me streamline my activity. The 5 with the greatest impact are outlined here:

1. Hootsuite or Social Oomph

The beauty of Hootsuite and Social Oomph is that they let you manage all of your Twitter activity and relationships in one place. You can post-date tweets for another time. You can monitor direct messages and mentions as well as your Twitter stream. You can decide which posts will go to which social media platforms.

2. RSS Feeds and Subscriptions

These allow you to pull information to you. When you want to know about items of interest to you or your following, or find fuel for articles and blog posts, it’s easier to have the information come to your e-mail or dashboard than to go out searching for it. Whenever you find a blog, podcast or newsletter that you’d like to continue to read, subscribe via RSS feed or subscription box. Then the information will come into your e-mail box.

Another way to use RSS feeds is to pull your social media platforms to a dashboard like iGoogle or Netvibes. Like to answer questions on LinkedIn but don’t want to go there every day to find them? Great! Use RSS feeds to have the questions show up on your dashboard and make it easier to participate online. In the same vein, you can see all of your social media platforms so you can update your statuses in one place – saving you the time of going to each site individually.

3. iGoogle or Netvibes

These dashboards make it easy to monitor your social media platforms in one place. You can also send your blog there. If you make the dashboard your home page, it will come up every time you log on. I use both and keep them open while I’m working. That way I can take a look a couple of times throughout the day and see what’s going on. I can update my statuses easily as well. I have a couple of LinkedIn Question categories that I like to keep an eye on, so I’ve got them on my iGoogle page. They automatically update so I know I am seeing the most current questions.

I have my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blog links attached to my Netvibes page. I’ve also added some other blogs that I’d like to follow there. Both websites are very easy to set up and manage. And, once set up, they handle themselves. Imagine the time savings of not having to go to each website to update your status!

4. Google Alerts

Want to know what’s going on in your industry? Looking for interesting articles to tweet or use to write articles or blog posts? Using Google alerts is a great way to have that information come to you. You can put any words into an alert and choose how often you’d like to receive an e-mail with whatever Google found with those words. You can then go to the webpage and read the item for yourself.

This reduces the time it takes to participate online. Instead of having to search the Internet every day, you’ll have the information you need coming to you. The more you can pull information to you, the less time you’ll have to spend accomplishing your online goals.

5. Linking

So you have all of these great Internet profiles. However, having to post to each of them could take over your life. Solution? Link them. Let’s start with Twitter. You can link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. Now when you tweet the post will go to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. One post, three sites.

Next is your blog. You can link your blog to your Twitter profile by using Twitterfeed.com. When you post to your blog, the post will go to your Twitter profile and then to your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. One blog post, four sites.

If you write articles and submit them to online article submission sites, you can link those accounts to your profiles as well. When you post an article, the news that you’ve posted will show up on your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

As a small business owner, you need to have and maintain an online presence. More than that, you should be building your brand online. The challenge is to do this without spending all of your time on it. Using these tips can help you streamline your activity so you have time to be active online and in your business.

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