With the flood of content now available online, the increasingly common way to look at social media is as a colossal waste of time. You can spend hours watching useless videos on YouTube and wade through commentary on Twitter endlessly. It is not hard to get caught in this flow and before you realize it, you've wasted more valuable time than you actually had for the task you set out to do online. Is there a way to use social media to actually help your business WITHOUT falling into the trap of wasting hours?
The answer is yes, if you pay attention to what you are doing and adopt a few simple techniques. As someone who gets paid to spend most of my time on the Internet for marketing reasons, I have learned a few techniques that help me use social media and technology to actually save myself time instead of wasting it. Here are a few of them:
1. Headline Surfing. One of the biggest time drains can be keeping up with all the latest news and things that you want to read. Often you’ll find advice here on OPEN Forum how important it is to read and consume new ideas. Luckily, there are a few social media tools that can really help you do exactly that. The first is RSS, which lets you subscribe to many different sources of information and pull them into a single page. Here is an introduction to using RSS in case you are unfamiliar with it. Combined with using sites like www.alltop.com to get the latest news in easy to read pieces can help you consume more content without spending more time on it.
2. How-To Multimedia Content. One of the most frequently searched for phrases online is “how to” -- but when you do a simple Google search you get millions of results for any topic. Sifting through them can be a huge time waster just to get to the information you want. Instead of doing that, consider just honing in on multimedia content. Do your “how to” search on YouTube and see what videos come up. Try going on Slideshare.com and see if anyone has already uploaded a visual presentation about the topic. Not only will your searching be easier, but what you find will be a lot simpler to understand than pages of text.
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3. Twitter Search. When you learn how to use Twitter’s built-in search feature at http://search.twitter.com, the effects can be transformative. You can hone in on what people in a particular area are saying right now, you can listen to conversations and even respond to them, and most importantly you can get a sense of what is happening right in the moment, and use this to build your business.
4. App-ification. If you have been hearing a lot about apps lately, it’s because they generally allow you to do the one thing that the Internet has become tremendously bad at: simplifying. Using the Starwood app to access hotel reservations and make new ones is a lot easier than using their website. Other apps exist for productivity, shopping, commerce, news and media, and just about any other category you can imagine. Apple has done a great job of promoting their app store, but you can still be part of this app revolution no matter what smart phone you have. Apps for Blackberries and Android phones are growing at a fast pace and getting the right apps can help you to get lots of things done without ever needing to open the computer at all.
5. Digital Archiving. One of the things the Internet is great at is helping you to keep track of content and materials that you find which you may want to come back to. In some ways, part of the reason I started writing my personal marketing blog was to capture ideas that I felt might be useful in future projects that I worked on. I also use a site called Del.icio.us to bookmark sites to come back to later. Whatever tool you use for this, having a digital archive can save you time when you need to go back and find something later.
Rohit Bhargava is the author of the best selling marketing book Personality Not Included, a guide on using personality to create a more human business that employees love to work for and customers can’t wait to buy from.