These days participating in social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogging and more is almost required for any entrepreneur or business, small or large.
But there’s so much info and chatter coming in through social media that it can overwhelm you, eat up your time, and ruin your productivity.
Simplifying will help you stay in touch, and continue to participate in the conversation, without losing sight of your mission and the important work you need to get done.
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.
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