Precision Social Media: Productive and Efficient Strategies and Tactics
by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP
When it comes to time management, social media can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can help you make connections and expand your professional network faster than ever before. On the other hand, you can dump countless hours into social networking sites and see little return on the investment. Here are five things you can start doing right away to help you use social media efficiently and productively:
1. Separate your business life from your personal life. Not only is this a good idea in terms of maintaining professionalism and not boring your friends, but it also has big implications for productivity. If you comingle your personal social networking with professional social networking, you are basically inviting your friends and family into your workday and your clients into your personal life. That means that when you are at work and decide to focus, for example, on marketing yourself, that you will almost certainly be distracted by updates and messages from family and friends. Just glancing through those personal posts is going to make your social media activities take a lot longer than they need to.
I use Twitter (www.twitter.com/laurastack) and LinkedIn for my business network (clients, prospects, vendors) (www.linkedin.com/in/laurastack). I use Facebook for my personal network (actual friends, family, speaker buddies). I do have a Productivity Pro® tip of the day that gets posted to both, but the rest is separate. I announce business seminars, news, and updates on LinkedIn. I put personal updates on Facebook and don’t want to wonder what a client might think. Instead of “friending” my clients, I invite them to become a Fan at my Laura Stack Fan Page instead (www.facebook.com/ProductivityPro), so I can choose what business items to post separate from my wall. I only visit Facebook when I’m on personal time, rather than thinking of it as a marketing activity.
2. Get into a regular social media routine. Keeping current on social networks really doesn’t take that much time – provided you are approaching the task efficiently. It’s easy to spend the better part of an afternoon reading blog posts and checking status updates, but generally speaking, that’s not what you’re there for. In fact, the things that eat up the most time for social media users are typically not things that add value at all; they are just another form of procrastination, like lingering at a coworker’s desk or surfing the web.
The best way to approach building a social media routine is to establish dedicated blocks of time to handle social media. This might be a single 15 minute session each morning or maybe a few quick sessions spread throughout the day, whatever makes sense with your needs and situation. If you keep the time period short you will be more likely to maintain focus and accomplish what you logged on to do and less likely to fritter away time with idle chat or mindless wandering.
Or do what I did: write a year’s worth of postings at one time. Yes, I wrote 365 daily Productivity Pro® tips over the course of a couple focused days, so I don’t have to think of something new to say each day. I currently have over 1500 people following on Twitter, doing nothing more than posting once each day. And I don’t post them manually…read on.
3. Embrace third-party applications to automate manual processes. If you’ve determined that it makes good business sense for you to participate on several social media platforms, it probably won’t be long before you realize just how big a time commitment it takes to keep current on each one. It was hard enough back when we just had to keep our blogs up-to-date. These days, that’s just the beginning. Chances are, at some point, you’re going to need a little help.
That’s where third-party applications come in. Rather than posting to multiple places, sites like Ping.fm allow you to go to one place to make updates to all of your social networking sites. That will save you the trouble of jumping from site to site and generally streamline the experience across the board.
To get even fancier, load your future postings into hootsuite, and have that update Ping, which updates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, delicious, typepad, aim, gtalk, myspace, etc. That means that while you are sitting in a meeting, it can keep your account looking alive. Obviously you don’t want to be disingenuous with such a tool, but it is perfect for reminding followers of special events, sharing professional wisdom, or anything else more strategic than a simple status update.
I also like www.SocialOomph.com (formerly TweetLater) to help manage multiple accounts. It also provides a number of business tools to help you leverage social media effectively. For example, it automatically follows back anyone who follows you on Twitter with a custom message. I also get a digest every day of key words I’m searching for on Twitter.
Last, http://blip.tv is a video uploading site that posts to YouTube, TubeMogul, iTunes, your blog, etc. automatically. I definitely recommend at least checking out Ping.fm, HootSuite, SocialOomph, and Blip.tv. Your specific needs and personal tastes will influence which platforms makes sense for you, but the best way to learn about them is to give it a try.
4. Decide what you’re really trying to do with SM. The biggest reason that otherwise productive, well-intentioned people end up wasting a ton of time on social networks is that they never sat down and figured out what they were trying to accomplish with social media. It isn’t just about how many friends/followers/readers you have. It’s about what your business has to gain. That might mean interacting with existing clients, reaching out to new prospects, or simply building your online reputation. Whatever makes sense for you, be sure to have a goal in mind whenever you commit yourself to another online profile. Otherwise, you could spend 40 hours a week bouncing from thing to thing without ever adding real value to your business. Meaningful goals might be based on sales (establish one new lead per week), generating awareness (post industry-related content once per day), or even something more subjective, such as establishing a reputation as a valuable online resource for customers and prospects. The bottom line is that you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. After all, if your goal is simply to create an account and make some noise, that’s probably all you’ll do.
5. Connect, listen, and contribute. This is the easiest one to forget. You’ve already decided that you are going to invest time and energy into social networking, don’t forget that you aren’t there to simply broadcast your sales pitch to anyone who will listen. Just like you make time to Tweet, update Facebook, or post on LinkedIn, you need to set aside a few minutes just to see what other people are saying. This will give you great insights into the needs of the community and help you better focus your message when you do have something to say. Even just carving out five minutes twice a day to pop in and see what others are saying can add tremendous value to your social networking activities.
Just as an example, Twitter provides plenty of great opportunities to listen, but realistically, this social media network that is famous for broadcasting what millions of users are eating for lunch does come with its fair share of background noise and low-value information. A third party application like TweetDeck and Twhirl can help you scan, sort, and filter the conversations taking place on Twitter and help you hone in on things that matter without wasting time on things that don’t. If I were to just scan the tweets of everyone I am following , I would be overwhelmed by mundane updates (“eating lunch”), annoying promotions (“retweet to win XYZ”), and complete nonsense (“which Harry Potter character are you?”). TweetDeck allows me to focus on the handful of people that I know well and even keep an eye on important topics through search terms like “productive” or “Outlook.” That saves time and keeps me focused. And make sure YOU don’t post ridiculous updates.