Data Doctors: Free tools for social media posts

LinkedIn used to allow me to connect my Twitter account to my LinkedIn account so I only had to post in one place, but they don't allow it anymore.  Is there another way for me to get that working again?

If you're like most small business people, you understand how important social media can be to your business, but finding the time is one of the biggest challenges.

The cure for most people is to simply connect all their social media accounts together so that they only have to post in one place. From an efficiency standpoint, this is a good idea; from a relevance standpoint, this can't be a really bad idea.

Before I give you some suggested tools, I think it's important that you have a basic understanding of the differences in what I refer to as the big 3 of social media for business: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Each of these networks has a different type of audience and a different structure for creating posts. 

Twitter is all about engaging with new people that have similar interests. It also has its 140 character limitation, which should actually be viewed as 120 maximum so others can easily retweet your posts. Short, intriguing headlines with a clickable link tend to be the most compelling posts.

Facebook pages are about building a community around people that have a connection to your business; your customers, employees, vendors, friends, etc. and their friends. Pictures and questions tend to create the best engagement on Facebook. Articles or information about Facebook as posts on your Facebook page will also tend to get a lot of likes, comments and shares but may or may not be relevant to Twitter or LinkedIn users.

LinkedIn is specifically talking to other business people and with their recent changes, has a very similar look and feel to Facebook. But don't let the formatting of the posts lull you into thinking that everything that you post to your Facebook page is relevant to your LinkedIn audience.

The best way to signal to the world that you aren't really paying attention to your social media is to treat it like a one-way broadcasting system to automatically post the exact same content, in the exact same way on all your accounts. It's especially bad if all you do is post marketing pitches and never actually have a conversation with anyone.

So before you just decide to post everything to everyone on all your networks, take a minute to think about whether what you are about to post is actually relevant to all three networks and if the formatting of the post is relevant (Twitter-speak on Facebook isn't a good mix for instance).

One of my favorite tools that makes working with the big three really efficient and allows me to be flexible with each post is a free service called Buffer .

Buffer's interface allows you to post to any one, two or all three of the networks from a single interface via a desktop or mobile device.

But what makes Buffer a real gem is that it allows you to cue up or "buffer" a bunch of posts to whichever networks you deem relevant and it automatically posts them based on a schedule you setup.

So instead of having to remember to post at certain times of the day to increase the chances of connecting with your networks, you can take some time at the beginning of the week and schedule your entire week's posts to each of the networks.

Or as you run across interesting things to post, you don't have to bookmark it and remember to post it later; just Buffer it! To make it even easier to buffer content, get the Chrome, Firefox or Safari browser extensions so all you have to do is click on the Buffer icon when you are on a website that you want to share.

Every post that gets scheduled includes analytics of how many people engaged with your information so you get a better understanding of what your networks care about.

There are a host of other great tools that are more sophisticated such as HootSuite and Social Oomph , but if you're just getting started, the simplicity of Buffer is pretty hard to beat!

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