You know what I’m talking about … those social media sites where you can network with other people, make valuable business contacts, and spread the word about your business. Everything from blogs to Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to ….
Social media sites can put punch into your marketing and PR at little or no cost. The price is definitely right — the price in dollar terms, that is. For some small businesses social media has become a cost effective and crucial part of the marketing mix.
Only problem is … 4 hours into it you’re flitting from site to site reading everything in your path, leaving comments and voting on your favorite articles, and making new connections along the way. With no end in sight! It’s social media marketing gone amuck.
Meanwhile your phone goes unanswered. Your email inbox is reaching crisis proportions. And work keeps piling up.
Developing a Regular Routine
The secret to avoiding the “social media time sink,” as many entrepreneurs and businesspeople are calling it, is to work social media into a daily, weekly and monthly routine.
Make social media part of your regular workflow and it becomes something you do almost automatically. You’ll be much more efficient at it because you are used to doing it. You don’t have to think about it. (Or at least, you won’t have to think about it very much.) You don’t put it off and you don’t neglect it. You just do it — like clockwork.
I happened to be talking recently with one entrepreneur about this very topic. I mentioned how I work my social media into my morning routine, 30 minutes a day.
Get a cup of coffee. Do a quick check of email just to make sure there aren’t any emergencies brewing. Then I’m off to make my “social media rounds” on various websites for a half hour.
Getting Organized is the Key
The one tool that I find invaluable to organize my activities is Netvibes, where I bookmark my list of social media sites. The sites I visit regularly include OPEN Forum; Sphinn.com; SmallBusinessBrief.com; Work.com; my own websites; Facebook; Twitter; and numerous blogs and forums.
If I had to stop and think about every site I wanted to visit, and manually type in the URLs, it would take me a lot longer. I’d certainly forget some of them. Using Netvibes to bookmark my master list, I don’t have to think about which sites to visit. Also, if I stumble upon a new social media site or discover a new blog, I simply add the URL or the RSS feed to my list.
Some sites I visit daily. Some I visit every few days or once a week – depending on how active the sites are or how much value I have gotten from them. Some like LinkedIn, I visit only when I have a specific purpose (e.g., to approve invitations to connect or to check someone out).
I’m pretty active on social media sites –- maybe an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Now that I have gotten organized and into a routine, I can pack a lot of activity into 30 minutes, visiting a dozen or more sites.
As soon as the half hour is up, I jump immediately to my regularly scheduled workload. That way, I make sure to get my social media activities out of the way early – if I don’t, I may never get to them. The day could be gone and I’d be too pooped to follow through.
How do I make myself stop, though — isn’t that the question? Well, I used to set an Outlook reminder to notify myself when the 30 minutes was up (otherwise it would be noon and I’d still be at it!). But now, I don’t even need a reminder. It has become such a part of my daily routine that my internal clock just “knows” when it’s time to stop and move on to other activities.
Ivana Taylor of Strategy Stew also mentioned a similar morning routine. In her case, she starts at 7:30 am and moves seamlessly through a progression: first reading the print newspaper, then heading to the Web for her digital reading of her favorite blogs and others sites. Finally she focuses on interactive outreach, i.e., connecting with others on social media sites, conversing with others on Twitter, and so on.
She organizes her list of sites to visit using iGoogle, noting that it is convenient and easy to click through directly to the sites she wants to visit.
How does she stick to a schedule and avoid having social media take over her entire day? Ivana says, “It helps if you have a meeting or event that forces you to stop at a certain time. For instance, I have a morning meeting that I attend 3 days a week, and have to stop for that.” In all, she spends 45 minutes a day most days.
Doesn’t Need to be Rigid
Now, you might wonder, what happens if you have an early breakfast meeting or some deadline keeps you from your morning routine? Well, so be it. Sometimes I miss reading my morning paper, too, just like I miss my social media rounds, because of a deadline or a business trip or an early meeting. But that’s just a temporary situation. The next day or two you can get back to your routine. If it’s become a routine, you will feel a need to get back to it.
Just having a routine is enough to keep you organized and focused.
When you do your routine doesn’t matter — do whatever works for you. Maybe you decide to do your social media routine on your lunch hour or in the evening. Whenever you do it, a routine will help you make the most of social media — without it consuming your entire workday.
Do you have a social media routine?