You want to be more active on social media. Unfortunately, you're short on time...and maybe short on know-how, too. No problem. We're here to show you the tools you need to save time and have a greater impact on social media.

This isn't one of those lists with 852+ tools that no one has time to read, let alone implement. These are tried-and-true tools that we actually use, so we know they work. You can use all of them for free, although you can expand your options quite a bit for just a few bucks a month.

Step 1: Choose a scheduling tool.

The pros save time on social media by using scheduling tools to send messages when their audience is online. We might be up and at 'em early in the morning, but maybe your millennial clients are night owls. Or maybe your clients are primarily families getting kids up and off to school. Mom or Dad might not have time to check social media until after the kids are gone for the day. In other words, don't waste your best tweet by posting it at 7 am if your clients are most receptive between 10 and 11 am.

74% of online adults use social networking sites.

Pick a social media scheduling tool and learn to use it - it'll become your best friend on busy days.

Option 1: Hootsuite. This tool offers free and paid options. Using the free version, you can manage up to 3 social media profiles, all in one convenient dashboard. The catch is that you can only have up to 30 messages pre-scheduled at a time. If you use it and like it, however, you may find it helpful to upgrade to a Pro account ($29/month as of April 2019). Then you can schedule up to 350 posts at a time. You can access most social media networks through Hootsuite (with the exception of Periscope and Meerkat, which are live-streaming networks). If you're committed to learning social media (and using social media analytics), Hootsuite is the pro's choice. You can customize your dashboard with things like saved Twitter searches or lists, for example, making it fast and easy to see what's going on in your niche.

Option 2: Buffer. Like Hootsuite, this tool also offers free and paid options. Using the free version, you can connect one profile for Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter and store up to 10 posts for each network at a time. If you upgrade to their Pro plan at $15/month, you can also add Pinterest and Instagram and save up to 100 posts per network. Buffer acts as your social media posting queue - you fill it up with links, images, and video, and then Buffer will post that content for you at previously assigned times. You can select the times, or let Buffer select for you based on when your content is likely to get seen by the most people. What Buffer doesn't do is give you the same dashboard features as Hootsuite - you can see your content, but you can't see other people's content in lists or saved searches.

Step 2: Choose your network(s).

23% of Facebook users check their account five times or more every day.

One of the biggest social media time-sucks? Not knowing how or where to focus your effort. If you try and build a presence everywhere, it's going to be thin and ineffective. Let's get the cold, hard truth out of the way now - no one is going to master Instagram, Periscope, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Phew. So now that there's no pressure to be a social media genius who's everywhere all the time, relax! Choose 2 or 3 networks and focus on them exclusively. You may want to sign up at the other social sites to reserve your account name, but by no means should you worry about posting on more than 3 networks to start with.

The Basics: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Be sure you choose at least one of these as a focus network.

For the Artistically Inclined: Instagram, Pinterest. If you're always snapping pics, why not start sharing them on visually oriented social media sites? Just train yourself to start thinking of insurance-related messages to go along with your snaps. For example, that adorable selfie of you and your family on the beach? Share it with your followers along with a message like, "Family fun in the sun! These times make me so glad I protected my loved ones with life insurance."

For the Extroverted Videophile: Periscope, YouTube. Are you constantly recording video on your phone or GoPro? Or booking speaking gigs in your hometown? If you're comfortable in front of other people, don't waste that valuable skill. Put it to good use on social media. For example, you could make a casual series of videos where you answer common questions about life insurance. All you need to do is be yourself, give good advice, and the prospects who find and watch your video will be glad they got an easy answer - which may then lead them to contact you. It's a win/win situation.

Step 3: Choose your content sources.

57% of organizations now have 2 or more people dedicated to content marketing.

Another huge time-suck? Finding content to share on social media. Ideally, you want to share a mix of your own content and other people's content. But where do you get that other stuff? And how do you keep from wasting hours every day reading and searching for the right thing to share? The trick is to use a form of source control - and populate it with content from bloggers and news sources you trust.

Option 1: Feedly. This is a free RSS reader that brings all the content you want to read into one easy place, where you can organize it and share it. It's like reading an online magazine customized just for you. You can even create folders to keep your feeds organized - this is helpful because you can segregate content by subject or mood, then browse different folders on different days to be sure you're posting a good range of content. For example, you could have a "Life Insurance" folder, a "Family General Interest" folder, an "Estate Planning" folder, etc. All you have to do is start noting which sources you get your news from, and which topics you want to share with your audience. Bonus: You can also import content from YouTube channels and Google alerts.

Option 2: Content Gems. This tool offers free and paid options. Using the free account, you can monitor 2 interests with up to 50 keywords each. This tool is different from Feedly because it monitors a list of 200,000 news sites, popular blogs, and social media accounts in addition to up to 20 custom sources you provide. Of course, you can also put those 20 custom sources into Feedly, but Content Gems will deliver content from sources you might not even have heard of yet. You can get your content recommendations delivered by email or by logging into Best of all? It integrates with both Hootsuite and Buffer to help you share the content you find.

Option 3: Tagboard. This social search tool lets you search for posts based on hashtags. Enter a hash tag into the search box and voila - you get a complete list of recent social media posts made by others containing that hashtag. You can then share or reply. For example, if you type in #lifeinsurance, you'll see posts from other agents, agencies, consumers, and magazines. This is a good way to see what networks people who use similar hashtags to you are posting on. Sticking with our #lifeinsurance example, most posts are sourced from Twitter and Instagram. If you don't see anything you'd like to share, you can still get good ideas for content of your own.

Option 4: Buzzsumo. This tool offers free and paid options. It shows you the most shared content from either a particular website or a general search term. This tool does double-duty because you can (a) share the content you find there - and if it's popular enough to make it onto Buzzsumo's list, chances are the folks in your audience will find that content helpful, too, and (b) it can give you great ideas for your own blog. Not sure what to write about? Jot down a few ideas or keywords, put them into Buzzsumo, and see what's already been done - then do it better, or take a different angle that hasn't been covered yet. You can view the 10 most-shared pieces of content using the free version.

Step 4: Choose an image creation tool.

Tweets with images get 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets.

Here's the good news: you won't need to use this tool all the time. This step really only applies when you're sharing your own content on social media. It's gotten harder to stand out on social media, so your posts really need the help of a great image to catch a reader's eye. Luckily, you don't have to be an artist to make this happen. It only takes five minutes to make a good image using a quote, a single word, the title of your latest blog post, or a statistic. Remember, if you're sharing someone else's article, it probably has its own image to accompany it. But when you're sharing your own work, or tweeting an original thought, schedule a few minutes to create a unique image. Even white text on a colorful background can boost visibility - and zero art skills are required for that!

Option 1: Canva. Not a designer? No problem. When you first sign up and log in, all you do is click on the type of graphic you want to create and Canva will format the size for you (poster, basic social media graphic, Facebook cover, Facebook post, Instagram post, etc.). Score! Canva presents you with a blank canvas and some sample layouts. Click a sample layout and swap out the text. All the design features (font size, color, etc.) are done for you. They even give you thousands of images to pick from as a background. Some are free; many cost $1. You can always upload your own image, too. The downside? If you get paralyzed by having too many options, you may feel overwhelmed by Canva at first.

Option 2: PicMonkey. Like Canva, you can do a lot with this tool before you hit the paywall. Click "Design" or "Collage" and select a size for your image. You'll get a blank canvas to play with - add text, backgrounds, photos, overlays - anything that looks good to you. You'll need to provide your own photos to use within PicMonkey, but you can spiff them up with a great selection of Instagram-like filters. Download your image to keep, or share it straight from PicMonkey. Upgrading to a Royale account ($4.99/month) gives you more effects and overlays, but you can get pretty far with just the basics.

Option 3: Pablo. This tool, created by the folks at Buffer, is a quick and easy solution for making sharable images with quotes or statistics. It's pretty simple - type your text (and add a logo if you want), pick your font, and pick one of their pre-supplied background images. Download the image, or share it straight to Twitter, Facebook, or your Buffer. If Canva gave you a few too many options, Pablo simplifies the process quite a bit. You only get one type of image and one size of image, but you can get the job done in just a few seconds.

Step 5: Promote yourself while sharing.

As of late 2014, Facebook drives 25% of all Internet traffic.

Okay, so this is step isn't really about saving time - it's about making every social share count. What if you could share other people's content...and promote your own site or services at the same time? Cool, right? That's exactly what you can do with this tool.

The tool: This tool offers free and paid options. It attaches a call-to-action to every link you share. When you share a link and a social follower clicks on it, they'll see a customized message from you across the bottom of their web browser. You could direct readers to your blog, to your quoter, or ask them to email you. It's all up to you. With the free account, you get up to 1,000 clicks per month. It's a good way to get your message out, even when you're sharing other people's content.