I’m always being asked for strategies to increase the ROI of social media. DIYMarketers are busy folks and no one has any time to waste.

My advice to every crazy-busy ?small business owner who has recognized that social media as a marketing vehicle is just too valuable to pass up is to streamline and automate wherever possible.

Tools to Help You Automate

My favorite automation tools are HootSuite, MarketMeSuite and SocialOomph. Each of these social media apps allow you to manage many accounts and automate and schedule Tweets. I allocate about 15 minutes a day to review my goals and strategies for social media and program any Twitter love I want to hand out to my community.

I use automation to do the things that don’t require any personal interaction.

  • Promote your peeps. For example, if my clients are running a special contest or program, I create unique tweets with hashtags and links and program those to go out over the course of the day/week or month depending on the program.
  • ReTweet. I pay attention to content that I’m always re-tweeting. For example, I noticed over time that I re-tweet just about every quuote, cartoon or infographic that’s out there. So I automate those items. I also have people whose content I just love that I’ve automated as ReTweets.
  • Manage Followers. I’ve automated my following using SocialOomph. That doesn’t mean that I don’t clean my lists, it just means that I follow everyone and then about once a month, I spend an hour or so watching TV and cleaning my list.

Automation Doesn’t Build Relationships or Influence — Conversations Do

Don’t think that automating everything will bring you success — in fact, it will ruin your brand reputation. Brand equity and follower responsiveness is built with personal conversations that you have with people and the action items that come from those conversations — and THIS is where so many of us fall down. We have these great ideas, and we don’t follow through — and this is where Nimble becomes your saving grace.

Nimble is the Next Generation of Relationship Management – Social CRM

Anyone in sales and marketing is familiar with the CRM systems like SalesForce, ACT and Goldmine. These systems were developed to manage customer relationships, but have evolved into sales and marketing management reporting systems rather than relationship development systems.

I have several clients who use all of these programs and they definitely bring value — but with 28 million small business owners and over 50% of them being solo-preneurs, these systems really do little to manage those all-important and profitable relationships.

The observations I’m making here aren’t just mine — these ideas come straight from Jon Ferrara, the developer and CEO of Goldmine and now, the creator of Nimble — the latest CRM tool for the social generation of small business owners.

Nimble Streamlines and Automates the Relationship Building Process Without Sacrificing the Personal Touch

I’m a Google Apps girl. And on any given day, I can have as many as 15 tabs open in my browser. I hop and skip from email to calendar to HootSuite and then click over to my Google task manager to make sure I am getting everything done that I’m supposed to do. It’s crazy.

I’m always looking for tools that will help me reduce the number of tabs I have open in my browser. Nimble is one of those tools.

Nimble combines the three core activities that every small business owner has to manage 80% of the time; email, calendar and social media conversations.

All you do is register, import your email accounts, primary Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and your calendar. That’s all there is to it. The entire process took me about 3 minutes. And I did it while chatting with Jon Ferrara about a completely unrelated topic. So you won’t need a lot of concentration to complete the task successfully.

Nimble keeps things very simple — notice that I said PRIMARY social media accounts and calendar. Nimble’s focus is on building profitable relationships and actions and not just on generating tweets, updates and content.

Nimble Ties Contacts, Conversations and Tasks Together

I haven’t used this feature much – but I’ve only been using the system for a day, so it’s just a matter of time. Nimble gives you the ability to TIE TOGETHER your social conversation with contacts and tasks. Here’s how it works.

Say you start a Twitter conversation with someone. They ask you a question, you answer and then you start a conversation about a potential opportunity you want to create together — say you decide to partner on a webinar for example. So now, you’re going to move the conversation to an email.

With every other system, the Twitter conversation is lost in the Twittersphere and then it continues in your email client. Then you add tasks on your list. In Nimble — ALL of these things become CONNECTED. So that you can see that you started your relationship on Twitter and then migrated it to email and then you can create tasks from the email or the Twitter stream. In the midst of all this, you’ve added this new person into your personal contact database.

Standard marketing strategy for maximizing on social media is to transition these virtual relationships into REAL LIFE, face-to-face interactions — and Nimble allows you to do that.

What You WON’T Find in Nimble — Today

One notable item that’s missing from Nimble that makes in practically incomparable?to the current CRM systems is it’s lack of sales funnels and management reporting. The focus is squarely on meeting people, building and generating leads and generating tasks based on these relationships.

That doesn’t mean that these items aren’t coming. In my conversation with Jon, he shared the future of Nimble and you can expect to see all these items and more become part of the application — for a fee.

For now, I’d recommend that you sign up for Nimble and give it a shot. It will take some practice to wean yourself away from the myriad tools you’re using now. I still find myself going over to my email now and then before I remember that I can send messages from Nimble — but guess what? ?That doesn’t matter because Nimble still keeps track of all that. So you can send email from ANY device you like – and it will be connected.

Nimble is a super new tool. I’ve already noticed that I’ve increased the number of valuable interactions and conversations that I’ve had on all my social networks. So far, I’ve found Nimble to be a valuable complement to my automated social media content. It’s helped me to become a more interactive and influential part of the conversation.