Last night I was at a local networking event. As the topic of conversation turned to social media, I remarked at its usefulness for making connections and promoting businesses, but noted keeping up with the various platforms could be a full-time job itself!
Blogs and tools such as Twitter and Facebook are commonly used to gain exposure for companies and form relationships with potential clients and professional contacts. Although the value of a strong online presence is recognized, many professional find social media time-consuming. Often, adding one more thing to our “to-do lists” can seem daunting. Thankfully, there are many options for simplifying online networking and managing multiple social media profiles.
Use an Application that Manages Several Services
Cut out time visiting individual websites; applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are free, easy to configure and centralize use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other services. Benefits include:
- Simultaneously post one message to multiple accounts.
- Automatically shorten messages to fit Twitter’s 140-character maximum.
- Schedule posts to be published at the date and time of your choice.
- Connect the RSS feed of your blog so new articles are automatically shared to social media services.
- Built-in tools to post photos and shrink web links.
- Columns to view live feeds, direct messages and mentions of your name or topics of interest.
Taking centralization further, Digsby manages email and instant messaging along with social media. Zen Habits has even published an article explaining how to make Gmail the ultimate productivity centre. While it takes a bit of time and effort to configure, email, social media, instant messaging and Google applications like RSS Reader and Buzz can be utilized through the Gmail inbox.
Specify Social Media Time
Make better use of your time by not keeping applications open on your computer all day. If they’re running in the background, sounds or pop-up boxes can alert you to every new post, making the temptation to read them strong. I suggest scheduling when to catch up on social networking, for example 5 minutes before lunch and 5 minutes before the end of the work day.
Post High-Quality Messages
When you only have a limited amount of time to spend on social media, don’t waste it with messages about what you want for lunch. High impact posts containing useful, interesting information relevant to your business will maximize your efforts and gain you the most attention.
Forget About Reading Everything
Learn to scan, skim and skip; trying to look at every message published can get overwhelming. Start by only following those who offer rich, interesting content. Then, scroll through your live feed without reading line by line and only check out what immediately catches your eye.
Form Close Relationships with People who Offer the Most Value
When networking to further your career or promote your company, you’ll want to connect with people who subscribe to your posts or whom you follow. Eventually, you’ll likely receive invitations to networking groups, social media seminars and “tweet-ups” (in-person networking events for Twitter users.)
Be discerning with your time and friendship. Many fascinating people network online, and opportunities for further connection are ample. But squeezing social media into your busy schedule is enough without engaging in endless conversations with strangers and participating in every somewhat-useful event.
Develop a rapport with people whose expertise you could benefit from, do business with, or engage in mutual support as members of similar professions. Don’t ignore or be unavailable to everyone else in your online network, but don’t spread yourself too thin.
If social media overwhelms you or takes up portions of your day that should be spent on other responsibilities it will become more of a burden than a benefit. Develop a plan of action by using the productivity tools available and being conservative with your online networking time. As a result, you’ll maximize its value to you and your business.