I have a confession to make: I don't love social media. Unlike my husband, who spends the last half hour of every evening on Facebook because he loves the way it connects him to everyone he knows, or my stepson and his girlfriend, who whip out their smartphones and connect whenever the conversation lags, I'm just not naturally attracted to sharing my life and interests online.
But that doesn't mean I don't do it. Like you, I'd be dead in the water without some social media presence, and that requires regular and consistent activity. So I rely on a variety of tools to help make staying engaged with social media as painless as possible. Besides the obvious usual suspects such as HootSuite and Buffer, both of which I find tremendously useful, here are four applications that help me increase my presence:
Rapportive lives in a right-hand taskbar on my Gmail page and offers me quick links to connect by LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to anyone whose email I'm reading. That saves the hassle of having to search the user on the various social media networks in order to connect. (Which sometimes seems to be necessary even if I try following a social media link within the person's email.) Perhaps more important, it reminds me that I should consider inviting everyone I do business with to connect with me in the social media world. That's a useful reminder, and Rapportive has led me to widen my social networking reach quite a bit.
Unfortunately, Rapportive only works with Gmail, so if you're on a different email platform you can't use it. However there is a LinkedIn app for Outlook that supplies part of Rapportive's funcitonality.
I think business cards ought to be obsolete. Unfortunately, they seem to be here to stay. One way to make them slightly more useful is to use a smartphone business-card scanning app to snap a picture of someone's card and have that person automatically added to your contact list. CardMunch, which was acquired by LinkedIn, makes that process slightly better. First, cards are reviewed by actual human beings which means you don't have to go back and make corrections if the software reads a card incorrectly. On the other hand, it does mean you occasionally have to wait a while for the info on the card to be added to your contact list.
But there's a handy additional step: Every time it adds a contact to your list, CardMunch asks if you'd also like to automatically send that contact a LinkedIn invitation. Like Rapportive, that makes building your network a no-brainer. CardMunch only works on iOS. On Android, the CamCard app will help you add contacts via LinkedIn.
I'm a fan of social media ninja Sree Sreenivasan, who gives an annual workshop at ASJA's conference. Two years in a row, he's highlighted Twiangulate, and it's easy to see why. Go to the site and it looks like its only purpose is to show you who's connected to whom and which Twitter accounts share followers. But there's a much more useful feature if you simply enter your own @name into the first box and then search (after signing in with Twitter): It returns a list of your 100 most influential followers. You may, of course, wish to curry favor with these influencers by retweeting or responding to their tweets.
Using Twiangulate, I discovered that @johnmaeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, with more than 340,000 followers is following me. Needless to say, I've followed him back.
4. Social Media Widgets
Since I don't love social media, I don't tend to check it that often. At least not if I have to go out of my way to do so. Mobile social media widgets keep me honest by putting a stream of tweets, posts, and shares in front of my face whenever I'm using my tablet (which is pretty much all day). If I see an interesting item, or an item by someone I care about, I'm more likely to follow the link and comment, share, or retweet.
Currently, I've got Seesmic (now owned by HootSuite), and the native Facebook and Google+ widgets running, but I've changed them around many times over the last couple of years and will doubtless continue to experiment. The specific widget doesn't matter as much as the fact that it puts my social media stream front and center, encouraging me to take action. Also useful are news widgets (I'm currently using Google Currents and News360, but again it's changeable). The reason is that they show me news items all day long and--and when I find something interesting, I tend to share it.
That's it--those are my favorite tools for staying up to date on my social networks. What are yours?