Social media has this in common with trick-or-treaters: Anyone could be on the other side of that door. Sometimes, you need to turn off the lights and keep the door closed.
Managing your social media can be like making the most of your Halloween haul as a kid. Inhaling everything will not end well. You need to pick and choose what you really want and enjoy it in small, select bites.
In our ever-connected world, social media is a full-on, constant coffee klatch. The party’s always there, whether you’re ready or not. Sign into Facebook and all your friends know you’re there…and they’re ready to chat. Log on to Gmail or Skype and the same thing happens. The next thing you know, you’re madly responding to multiple chats or watching cat-in-a-bag videos when you really need to get through your inbox.
Entrepreneurs are busy enough running their business. How can you use social media and not be spooked by it all? Here are some tips to help manage the social media fire hose:
Schedule social media time blocks. Most days I check in three times: scanning for world and industry news in the morning, catching up on colleague and client news in the afternoon, and socializing in the evening after dinner. For maximum productivity, set a timer or alarm to remind you to log off and get back to work.
Separate computer and mobile social time. The convenience of checking in via mobile device can be a blessing. I love using my iPhone to check in on FourSquare or quickly post a photo to Facebook while on the go. That lets me focus on business when I’m at my desk. Using a mobile device also helps prevent me from just “wandering around” on social media. It keeps me focused on getting up-to-date.
Be selective about notifications. You can determine what’s most important and then have that specific info pushed to you in whatever form you choose. For example, I receive a text when direct tweets come in, but not Facebook or LinkedIn updates. I also subscribe to alerts from CNN, which sends me periodic texts with major news from around the world. I love being the first to know what’s going on! Carefully review your notification settings so you’re alerted to only the most important information or from the most important people.
Schedule posts for later. Want to maintain an active presence online even while you’re busy, traveling or asleep? Buffer, Hootsuite and Tweetcaster are a few applications that allow you to draft posts and schedule them for a later time, or even multiple times.
Delay your reaction to posts. Your social media should not reflect your stream of consciousness with a response to everything and everyone. Read, absorb, and if you really want to add something thoughtful and consistent with your personal brand, go ahead. It’s easy to get sucked into every political, pop culture or athletic team discussion or debate, but is it really worth your time?
Treat social media as a reward. It’s tempting to click over to Facebook or Twitter to see what’s going on when you’re bored or frustrated with a work project. A better strategy would be to treat yourself to a social media break after you’ve accomplished something. (This works equally well with teenagers trying to focus on homework while friends pop up via chat or instant messages.)
On Halloween the doorbell rings and I never know who -- or what -- I’ll find at my door. Could be an adorable Disney Princess who’s grateful for any small treat or a surly teenager with bloody face paint and a king-size pillowcase. Social media is just like that: Good, bad, cute, scary and everything in between. Sometimes we need to take a minute to turn the lights off and not open the door.
RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five. @renesiegel