Having conducted a couple of informational seminars and networking meetings recently, I’ve been hearing a pattern of questions from a wide range of entrepreneurs from my community: “I know social media is something I need to be doing for my business, but I don’t know where to start, or how much time to devote to it”.
It’s a complex social media world out there, and while many people only think of a few channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there are literally hundreds of other choices (including blogs, wikis, podcasts etc.) that might be good options for your communication and marketing strategy. Add to that the somewhat long development period required to establish yourself and your company as a credible “voice”, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion and misguided time investments.
When I came across an article by Leo Babuata on Mashable, I was happy to see his basic step-by-step summary of “How To Simplify Your Social Media Routine”. For me, this seemed an easy-to-understand, basic summary that anyone could follow, and avoid the risks of wasting time and ruining long-term productivity.
Here’s Babuata’s recommendations for your consideration:
Step 1. Use simple tools to make the most of social media.
The simpler the tools, the better. But tools that combine two or more social media into one are best, because that means you need fewer tools. An example is TweetDeck – not only does it incorporate Twitter , but you can see your Facebook friends’ updates at the same time.
Another good example is Digsby, which combines email, IM, and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn.
My setup uses Gmail , as it’s the communication tool that I use most often. I’ve set it up to be my all-in-one inbox: I can Twitter, Facebook, delicious, Flickr, IM and more. You can make Gmail your ultimate productivity center.
Step 2. Focus on sending out high impact messages.
Here’s something that many people who use social media don’t understand: if you send out too many messages, people might stop following you or might even block you, because you’re flooding their inbox.
The secret is to try to make every message you send, or at least a high percentage of them, high-impact messages. Examples: share really useful links, news related to your field, things that are really funny or inspirational, or inside information about your business or blog. The key is to make sure almost every message is something that people will want to share with their friends.
Limit yourself to high-impact messages to reduce the time you spend communicating.
Step 3. Let go of the need to read everything. Learn to scan.
It’s impossible to consume ALL the information that comes at you. It’s like trying to drink from a fire-hose — not only is it a waste of your time, it can be damaging, because you have other important things to do.
So be selective. Find sources of information that are valuable. And scan to get the gist of what’s going on, instead of trying to read every message. Let go of the need to stay on top of everything. Let it go! And instead, just take a dip in the river now and then.
Step 4. Figure out which social media give you the most value, and simplify.
I recommend trying the main forms of social media, but only for a little while. It doesn’t hurt to try them out, but you simply can’t keep up with it all, and what’s more, it’s not the best use of your time. Not all forms of social media are effective for all goals, for all people.
Instead, find just one or two or three that are most effective for you. For me, blogging and Twitter are the best. I try to stay in touch with Facebook, but MySpace and the rest are not worthwhile, for me.
Your choices will be different. But in the end, be selective and guard your time wisely.
Step 5. Form close relationships with people who give you the most value, not everyone.
I’m not suggesting you only follow a handful of people on Twitter or Facebook. But while you can have a large number of friends, you won’t have the same degree of closeness with all of them. So find the people who give you the most value — who share great info, who make you laugh, who inspire you, who give you great suggestions for improving, who help you on a regular basis, who you enjoy talking to. Then focus on building relationships with them. They’re worth spending time with.
Step 6. Manage your time wisely.
It can be easy to do social media too much. Find ways to integrate social media activities in your life without them overwhelming the other work you have to do, and your personal life.
You can set regular schedules, such as doing it 2-3 times a day at certain times, or 10 minutes every hour, or at certain times when there’s a lull in your schedule. But be sure to have boundaries — the rest of your life should be held sacred too.
No article is able to effectively help manage anyone’s social media campaign. And for that matter, social media in itself is just one small part of an integrated marketing communications strategy. I continue to find that many business leaders, especially smaller companies, continue to think that social media is a panacea for marketing effectiveness – and continue to struggle with establishing themselves with credibility and measurable results from thier efforts.
Like any profession, social media offers experts that can help guide you to establishing a process that works for your company specifically. If you don’t know where to begin, or how to strategize a social media campaign that will help your efforts, I’d recommend you team with an individual or company that can show you the results from their efforts – and not just anyone claiming to be an expert in today’s social media sphere.
And don’t forget: Social Media is a communications channel (like traditional media, public relations, etc); not a comprehensive, integrated communications marketing strategy.