How much time one should spend on social media, on which channels, and where the line should be drawn to one’s private life is a very difficult question, and in a way, everybody has to answer it for themselves. This blogs attempts to provide some guidance.
Recently, the following (common) question(s) landed in my inbox:
“Lately, I am confronted with certain challenges…the difficulty to keep private and work related issues apart (especially on Fb). In my work environment the offerings exploded and I don’t really know which one of them actually helps me doing my job. If I choose to get active in every offering that we now promote, I can spend my whole day just reading work-related Fb posts, tweets, microblogs, community discussions etc. Honestly I feel overwhelmed by this, as on some days I struggle to get through my inbox, then I don’t even think about other sources. And whats next? Work Tumblr, Work Google+….? Is there a comprehensive overview of which Social Network offerings are available for which purpose?”
Here my Thoughts on the Topic:
The question is a bit like saying, “how much time should I spend being on the phone, having informal conversations in the hall way, on email and in meetings? And how many hours should I put in before I switch off the PC and work phone?”
The answer is: it depends.
As high-tech <or fill in your industry here> workers, we are entrusted with the responsibility to figure these things out for ourselves based on our overall objectives for our jobs. But just like with time management in general, of course, it makes sense to discuss this topic with others and see if there are people who have cracked the code better than we have. Begin by asking yourself:
- What social media channels support me in achieving my goals? Which ones suck up my time and have little impact? (This will likely require some research and experimentation.)
My Personal Experience:
- I would argue that I have made many meaningful, lasting and enriching connections with other social media professionals (and those interested in social media) on Twitter. I do a lot of DM Tweeting to learn and tighten relationships, and am learning a lot about social media by following the right people, including influencers like the @SAPMentors. This is mainly because I am in social media marketing and it adds value to what I do; but I also enjoy doing it.
- For me, FB is for friends and an extended network of people who I like and trust, i.e. I enjoy their daily updates, care what they are up to and believe I’ll want to connect with them in person (again) at some point. I also trust them not to say anything stupid about me. Now that Google+ is around, I am tightening up my FB community; especially work-related connections.
- I don’t see how anybody in high-tech could not be on LinkedIn as it is your own brand builder; your resume online. You don’t have to do more than that but can also learn and engage in communities. Identify the groups where the right people are talking about the things you care about; lurk or participate. Done.
- I also just joined Google+ and am struggling with it. If I were not doing social media professionally I’d probably ignore it for a bit. But I want to know what’s happening there and how it works, so I signed up and am playing with the features and functions sporadically. I am amazed by how many familiar faces are already there (= I am already friends on FB with most of them). But there is a big difference for me to FB, at least that is my initial impression: content shared on Google+ seems to be a lot more professional in nature than on Facebook. But maybe that is because many of my close friends have told me that they are too busy to also be on G+ (only time will tell) :-).
The bottom line is: it’s a struggle. Just like work-life balance is a consistent struggle (at least for me). You have to actively do something to find a good solution.
My Recommendation: Make the Time to Assess your own Situation
- Which social media channels are you currently on?
- What are the benefits you feel you get from each of them?
- How does social media help you reach your work goals? Can you quantify it? Qualitative goals are valid too.
- How much time would you say you currently spend on each channel?
- How does the time you spend correspond to the benefits you derive?
- How much time to you have to give in your day to be on social media?
- Are there trade-offs you can make? Example: now that you write your own blog, can you forward it on to give answers to questions that come up over and over again? Now that you follow news on Twitter, can you cut down the time you spend on news websites?
- Do you enjoy using the social media tools you are using?
Looks at all the answers you gave to the above and create an action plan. How much time do you want to spend on each channel each day/week? Don’t forget to factor in what you enjoy. You’ll probably adjust this over time.
- A lot of the questions above apply, but also ask yourself how much time you want to spend with people online vs. in person.
- Think thoroughly about how many hours a day you are willing to put in for work vs. spending time with your friends and family; then decide when you should shut down the PC or stop Tweeting on our PDA. Nobody else can tell you where to draw the line between work and the rest of your life. It’s a choice.
- Do you really need to be connected/available all the time or is your identity too wrapped up in your job?
- Does spending time on Facebook stress you out or is it relaxing?
I bet that after going through the question, you probably already have a gut feeling of what the right thing to do is; how much time you want to spend in certain channels, what you get out of it and how much free time you want/need. Trust that feeling but do a little deeper analysis to help you compartmentalize your social media usage. Once you have a plan, you don’t have to think as much and can execute. It takes time to establish new habits and the easier you make it, the more successful you will be.
We all know how easy it is to waste away time on the Internet without noticing. I believe that it requires conscious effort and planning to manage your priorities, be productive and happy!
To provide an answer to the question of what each social media tool can offer, I am listing a few selected blogs on the topic below. There is no way around experimenting in social media channels to form your own opinion on which ones work for you, but some quick research can help you decide where to get started and narrow down a short list.
- Matthias Steiner: The Potential of Social Networks
- John Appleby: google-plus-and-contextual-networks-analysis-of-the-major-social-media-websites/
- Social Media Today: Which social media channels should you be using?
- Natascha Thomson: What does being present mean in the age of social media?