Effective Social Media Marketing requires strong multi-tasking and solid organization skills. Without these two key requirements, a small business owner can be easily overwhelmed and consumed by a “beast” starved for jealous attention and fruitless labor. Social Media Marketing is a “beast” that makes no promises for success or ever feels the need to apologize for bad results, despite the best efforts of marketers. Indeed, Social Media Marketing makes the strongest possible argument for planning to working smarter, rather than simply working harder…and longer.Everybody’s Got A Plan. What Works Best for You?The Blogs are overflowing with “how to” lessons on “taming the beast,” we call Social Media Marketing. You don’t have to look very hard to find blog posts that promise great results from a one-hour daily commitment in Social Media. Is this not possible? I suppose it is; depending on a number of unique variables that begin with having a realistic set of goals and expectations. What works well for some may not work as well for others. So, don’t be disappointed if what you read somewhere was not the panacea you hoped it might be. Your situation may require an entirely different approach.Let me tell you what works for me. I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but it may – at least – be a starting point for your own Social Media effectiveness trials. Taken together with the advice of others, some personal tweaking may result in creating a workable plan exclusively for you and your business.In my position as Social Media Director for a growing web design company, I am charged with contributing directly to the corporate marketing effort, as well as assisting the many small business owners that purchase their new websites from my company. My major goals are to increase Brand Awareness for the company, as well as to “converse” with our customers and prospects, so as to better understand their needs and help them in their own Social Media Marketing efforts.These are rather modest goals with an expected ROI measured mostly in customer smiles and business compliments. For a company that is young and relatively new in Social Media, my company is confident that it has started in – exactly – the right place with the appropriate focus and a reasonable set of expectations. Let me explain more about our use of Social Media.Limit Your Options to Broaden Your AppealWe find that Facebook and Twitter work particularly well for us. We focus most of our attention on these two sites, in addition to the regular blogging we do. If you know where your target audience generally “hangs out,” you need to go there and invite everyone else to join you. These places, along with your own Website, become your “base of operations”…your primary residence, so to speak. If one has too many homes to maintain, it becomes very expensive and time consuming. This is also true in Social Media for those who attempt too much. Therefore, if Facebook is your primary choice, you need not apologize for not participating on MySpace, as well. Just be sure to direct everyone to where you can usually be found (on the Web) and they will eventually arrive there, as long as you offer them some real value.Once you have established your “base of operations,” consider what your presence will be like once there. In other words, “when can you most often be found at home?”They say that the single best time to Tweet is 9:00 am PST (Pacific Standard Time). They also say that the best time to get re-Tweeted is 4:00 pm EST on Fridays. These recommendations offer an educated framework to consider for “planning when to be home” in Social Media. In fact, there is plenty of free automation software available such as “Tweetdeck” and “Hootsuite” to program tweets for when you are not physically available on the Web. My recommendation, though, are to use these programs very sparingly. They are increasingly seen as very impersonal. They often come across more like annoying sales tools than true relationship builders.Each day, I schedule about three Social Media sessions for myself. Each session runs about thirty minutes. I base my activity on peak user times reported in online studies. My online sessions are often supplemented with additional tweets and posts – throughout the day – as interesting news and tips come my way. This is why I keep Twitter and Facebook minimized on my laptop, all day.Each morning after calling up my web browser, I open up four screens before minimizing three of them. Up and running, concurrently are:1. Twitter2. My Facebook Group (Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses)3. Bit.ly (a URL shortening tool)4 Google.Next, I search Google News for a short list of topics to be shared with our audience.Provide Value to Your Audience and They’ll Provide (Their) Attention to YouMy company shares the latest news and tips for Social Media, Small Business, Website Design and Charity Programs. The searches are refined to “past hour” results to help insure we are among the first to Tweet and post this news. In fact, rather than burden followers and “friends” with article links, I carefully review each item for its content value and for any quotable quotes by the principals in the article or post. Often the best quotes come from people we have not heard of before and what they have to share – in just a few words – sums up the entire article their views are contained within. Make no mistake that quotes are very re-Tweetable. Just make sure to give each quote a related category with a hashmark in front of it (i.e. #smallbusiness) so that others can search for it, find it easily on Twitter and attribute it to you, as its original Tweeter.Beyond sound bytes, any article or post we read has intellectual value. We either agree or disagree with its contents. It is a definite learning experience for us and often the source of good debate. So, we gain something to internalize and to share with others in the form of a Tweet; a re-Tweet; a Facebook post; an E-mail to someone we know; or it might even become the subject our next blog article. And, while we are at it, we can comment on the article or the post we are reading; leaving behind our professional footprint and a valuable backlink for our own website.With all four of the above mentioned screens available on my desktop, I essentially become a Social Media production company. I am able to create split screens and multi-task the information that I am working with in a number of different ways. At the very same time that I may be tweeting some memorable quote, I can also be expanding on the same thought with an insightful – and sometimes provocative – post to my Facebook Group audience. Thinking man’s Social Media at its best.If a link is particularly long and takes up too many Twitter characters, Bit.ly is also open and ready to go for creating short URLs. Keeping these few platform and tool screens open throughout the day, saves time and allows for a smooth and steady flow of content from reading to analysis to publication and commenting. Since much of this also plays into analytics, measurement is also possible through Google Analytics and other similar programs.Common Sense Wins the DayNone of this stuff is rocket science. It is mostly based on individual and collective user experience. The technology is all here and we just have to consider how best to use it to achieve our unique goals. There are even better ways to do the things I just described. I am confident you and others will find them through your own exploration, trial and error. Meanwhile, my system works for me. There is no right or wrong, just satisfaction. If you feel comfortable with a plan that gets you the results you are looking for, that’s three-quarters of the challenge.