The title is a good question and one I often ask myself, even though I have always taken precautions – or so I think but even I wonder at times if I am truly in control. And I am sure I am not the only one but what I am sure about is that I am not a slave to it, even if I spend a great deal of time using, updating and networking across the various Social Media platforms where I have a presence.
A large part of my working life does entail using Social Media and anyone who knows me and what I do, knows that I network extensively via Social Media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. The above are the main but not exclusive Social Media platforms I use. And some may be forgiven for thinking I live for Social Media and nothing else. The above is not too far from the truth but with twenty-four hours in each day, one has to strike a balance and I think after five years of using Social Media I am beginning to find that balance. For example in recent months, I am not always using Facebook and Twitter (my main guilty pleasures for both business and personal purposes,) and if I make use of them everyday, it is never very long periods.
How do I stop social media from taking over my life?
If you find yourself tweeting when you are in the company of family and friends, checking Facebook the moment you get out of bed or looking at LinkedIn until late on a Sunday evening (guilty as charged at times,) then it is a strong certainty you allowing Social Media to take over your life.
If the above is true, then there are steps you can take to limit the amount of time you spend online and/or using Social Media. There are techniques, strategies and tool one can use to assist you in getting more out of less time spent using Social Media and as a result you will have more time to spend on other things, such as running your business, talking to clients and colleagues or (dare I say it,) actually having an offline social life, even communicating with those friend and acquaintances you don’t make use of Social Media as yet. Let us look at some of the solutions that can make the above a reality.
Step1: Priorities, focus
This is most relevant if using Social Media for work and business purposes but can be applied to personal use also.
Take time out, switch your computer, phone or whatever device you use to access Social Media. Take a step back and think about what and why it is you are using Social Media and what it is you want to get out it.
Consider one’s main objectives. It could be to drum up more business, get that next job, drive traffic to you website or even to establish credibility in what you do. It could also be to make new contacts, learn from other social media users. Whatever your reasons, make sure you articulate them.
Next, you need to think about who you need to be communicating or connecting with to achieve those objectives. The downside to this tactic is that those you may want to connect with, may well turn around and indicate that they don’t know you or have worked with you, which can be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve. Better to contact them via email/message, making an introduction as who you are, what you do and your reason or wishing to connect with them. These aside, think about the demographics of your target market/audience. Different groups ten to use different social media. For example:-
Facebook is used by more women and more people talking about leisure activities and their friendships. Great for personal networking or if you exchanging ideas, selling clothes or baby stuff but not so great if you for doing business, though this seems to be changing as more and more business have a presence on Facebook. At the time of writing I have begun making submissions for acting work as well building bridges with overseas and UK film and theatre producers. So things are slowly changing in terms of doing business on Facebook.
LinkedIn is where people go to truly do business. LinkedIn is far more structured than Facebook and while is possible to connect with people from different business and work sectors, if they are side of your connection network and you don’t have their email address, then it will be that much difficult to make a business/work connection, assuming they want to hear from you in the first place. That aside, if you are selling to traditional business and/or wish to connect with fellow professionals this is where one should focus their energies.
Now one knows who and what their market is and have an idea of where they are in the scheme of things, then it is time to focus. If your audience isn’t on a social media platform, then stop using it. If you are selling to business for example, consider whether you really need a Facebook page. If you are selling to women, focus your energies on Facebook instead of Twitter. Don’t stick with a social media platform because it is trendy to do so. Having said that, Social Media is an ever-changing world so one needs to review their strategy from time to time.
Step 2: Plan your social media time and use
Ok, you have gone through Step One, you have a plan and now you are using a couple of social media platforms instead three or four but it is still easy to become overwhelmed by it all. If this is the case, the next step is to plan what you need to be doing on Social Media and when you can do it. For a start:-
- Identify the message you want to get across and how often you need to be communicating this message.
- Plan how much time you will need.
- Timetable the times during the week or the day when it is suitable to you to post updates. Schedule this around the rest of your job or life.
The next step will show how you can post most of your updates in one batch and have them appear at different times. You don’t have to be on Twitter, every time you need to post a tweet.
The times you wish to post updates will depend on yourself. This can be done first thing each morning, while eating breakfast or while commuting to work. Some will do this last thing at night. Others will plan it during the working day, while some just do it once a week. Find an approach that is specific and sustainable for. Again, as with most things, a review of what you are doing, need to be reviewed periodically.
Step 3: Tools you can use to manage your Social Media presence
There are an ever increasing number of tools out there in the Social Media world that let you schedule your posts so they can be post as a batch of updates and specify when they will appear. You can also set up your account so you are notified when someone mentions or contacts you, which means you don’t have to keep checking. Tools such as:-
- HootSuite connects to all the big social media platforms but works best with Twitter. It lets you schedule updates, follow search terms such as hashtags (#) and monitor mentions. It has a website and apps for iOS and Android. It will notify you when someone mentions you or sends you a message.
- Buffer lets you send a number of tweets which it will then spread over a period of time. You don’t specify exactly when each tweet will appear but you can set your buffer up so tweets are posted with your preferred regularity.
- The Facebook Pages App allows you to manage your Facebook Page from one’s mobile/cellphone so you do not have to log into Facebook itself.
- In Twitter, it is possible to manage your settings so you are sent a text message when someone mentions you or sends you a direct message. Again this avoids the need to keep on logging into Twitter just to check on what is going on.
- LinkedIn allows you to change your settings for each group you are a member of so you have the choice of whether you get a daily digest or not. Some people find the daily digest an annoying feature but if you have engaged in a debate and someone responds to your contribution, it would not be too helpful if your settings are on a weekly digest for example. To change your settings, log onto LinkedIn, go to the group’s page you are a member of, then clink on ‘More’ then on ‘Your Settings’. Here you can change the frequency of digests from daily to week or never if you don’t wish to receive them.
- RSS Readers are a great resource if you like to post useful links to Social Media. In using an RSS reader to see updates from your favourite blogs in their RSS feed, you can skim the list of posts and post links to the most useful ones. Many RSS reader apps for mobile/cellphones include an option to twee or post to Facebook from inside the app.
Step 4: Avoid those time-consuming social media habits
Too many of us have gotten into those habits and time-consuming routines with social media that have become too much to manage. If one is spending too much time on Social Media than they would like then try one or more of the following:-
- Leave your ‘phone on charge overnight. Don’t plug it in by your bed. This avoids the need and temptation to check Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn the moment you wake up (before you go to sleep).
- Take that Social Media holiday you have been promising yourself. Schedule some update then don’t visit Social Media a week (not sure on this one myself given my work and getting the next depends on some elements of Social Media on a daily basis but this is the advice I was given). Take time out to think about some of the ideas above and plan how you will be more efficient with Social Media when you come back to it. At the end of the week, think about what you missed out on…And what you did not. Hmmm!
- If tempted to check your ‘phone for updates every few minutes (a former bad habit of mine,) try leaving your ‘phone in another room when you don’t need it. If there is a chance you could get an important call, leave it within earshot where you can’t see it. This applies especially when you are with other people, be it at work or in a social setting. There is nothing worse than spending time with someone who thinks the messages on their ‘phone is more interesting than you are. Something I sympathise with from personal experience and one that is more than bloody annoying!
- And the next time you are about to post a spur of the moment tweet or status update, think to yourself: ‘Does the world really need to know about this revolutionary notion or thought? Is it really important to do this now? Chances are unless it is business or work-related, it really isn’t all that important. Also and more importantly, think about the consequences of someone you don’t want seeing what you have posted. It could be your boss, a client or the national press (if you are famous). But that is a whole different story and ball game altogether. Especially if you are famous and/or well-known in the public eye that is.
Depending on how one uses Social Media, you may find some or all of above steps helpful. The question not covered, ‘What if my working life/business involves Social Media as the main component?’ Well why this may be true if you really sad down and thought this through, I am sure you would realise there is always a cut-off point. For instance your job/career is a major factor of your of life. Whether you are a paid employee or run your own business and even if you work long hours, you don’t live on the premises (unless you own the building). You still take time out from work each day, by going home, relaxing, eating, socialising, sleeping even. You are never at work 24/7. It took me a long to realise this but the above is relevant to Social Media too. There comes a time when you just have to let go every often. It works.