One of the laments I often get from busy executives goes like this:
“How do these people have time to be Twittering all the time?”
You can insert “Facebooking” or “blogging” or “social networking” in place of “Twittering.”
The point is that many executives think of personal social networking as a sinkhole. The equivalent of their out-of-control email inboxes. Another communications channel that needs to be constantly walked, fed, and then taken out for walks so it can crap on the neighbor’s lawn.
But social networking shouldn’t be like a needy puppy constantly barking for attention.
With the right tools and the right amount of planning, social networking can reward you with amazing benefits. Here are some suggestions on how to manage your personal social networks based on how I navigate my own. I use my favorite networks to streamline communications and stay connected with friends, colleagues, clients and potential business partners.
My blog HighTalk.net is my destination site on the web. My hub, if you will. It contains links to all the other social networks that I frequent – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. My blog has a professional focus – its my canvass for my work passions – the media, PR and the social web (Note: I’ll be updating the design very shortly – I hope!)
HighTalk is where I express my ideas and observations and share my thinking with a broad audience of colleagues, friends, family and clients. It has been a crucial tool for what I do for a living. It helps establish my reputation as a consultant and works as a new business mechanism (by engaging with potential clients and helping them find me on the web). It also helps me network with hundreds of like-minded individuals.
Frequency: 2-3 post per week
Time Commitment: 2-3 hours per week
Lifestreaming is a fancy mash-up of blogging and microblogging. I use the Posterous platform. I’ve been experimenting with lifestreaming for a couple of months now. It has it’s strengths and weakness, but generally I like the format and will continue to play with Posterous in the coming months.
I use my Posterous account – which is connect to my Facebook status, Twitter and FriendFeed streams (and occasionally my blog) – for posts that don’t have enough meat for a HighTalk blog post, but are too nuance or complicated for a tweet. Most of my lifestreaming post are focused on the media. That just happened, but I like the direction it has taken. So lately I’ve using Posterous as a repository on my observations about the state of the mass media.
I don’t post as often or as regularly on Posterous, but I try to post 1-2 times every week or two. As a side note, I’ve noticed the traffic at Posterous increasing in the last few weeks as lifestreaming becomes more popular. But right now it is probably my least visited social network.
Frequency: 1 post per week
Time Commitment: 45 minutes per week
I use LinkedIn a lot. LinkedIn is my professional network – formalized. I keep a detailed record of my job history and provide information about my skills and interests. I update my status regularly (usually with links to my blog posts) and also have a WordPress widget that provides my latest blog posts in an RSS format. I get a fair amount of traffic to my blog through LinkedIn. These are usually from colleagues or from clients checking out my experience.
I also use LinkedIn to answer questions on PR and social media – and in the past – this practice has led to new business leads. Whenever I have worked with someone – be it colleague or client – I send out a LinkedIn invitation. It’s much better than sharing a business card and gives me everything I need to know about them right at my fingertips.
I visit LinkedIn daily. I update my status, check my inbox, answer any correspondence, send out invitations, check out who has viewed my profile and make any tweaks or edits necessary.
Time Commitment: 1 hour per week
I visit Facebook every day as well. I keep my Facebook page rather professional. For example, I don’t share family photos (to be honest – I’m not much of a photographer). But I use Facebook to connect with colleagues, former co-workers and friends. While I’m less formal on Facebook – I share movie and book selections, etc., I still keep a professional veneer.
I think of Facebook as my online office kitchen. You bump into friends and colleagues, share tidbits about your weekend or the Red Sox game, and then head back to the office. I also share blog posts via an automatic feed and make observations about social and digital media on Facebook.
Facebook is also a great place to get advice from people you know. The in-box and the IM features are excellent ways to make instant contact with people you trust. Much more reliable than the phone.
Time Commitment: 1-2 hour(s) per week
If I want to know what is going on – I visit Twitter. There is no better social network for catching up on breaking news or discovering trends and issues that are bubbling up. I use Twitter mainly as a listening post and can’t speak highly enough about the value I get from this network.
I keep TweetDeck open on my desktop most of the day – and when I have a moment I jump on to see what is going on. I find most of my reading material on Twitter, keep up with my favorite bloggers, analysts, colleagues and social media experts, and connect in real time with people.
I post between 5-10 times a day, but some days I don’t post. It usually depends on my moods. I like to share information on Twitter – other people’s content and my own. I get a lot of traffic from Twitter to my blog. It’s a valuable service for getting my own material read.
Frequency: 5-10 tweets per day
Time Commitment: 1-2 hours per week
I like FriendFeed, but I don’t use it much. I have all of my other social media channels aggregated on FriendFeed, but rarely use the platform to express myself. I visit sporadically to read up on posts and vote to “like” certain content. FriendFeed has great functionality, but the audience isn’t very big and its extremely “clicky” (is that a word?). What is going to happen to the service now that it has been brought by Facebook is anybody’s guess.
But I do get value out of FriendFeed – enough that I keep an eye on the service.
Frequency: 1-2 posts per month
Time Commitment: 15 minutes per week
I belong to several other social networks: YouTube, Naymz, Digg.com, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, Amazon.com, etc. but I don’t use those networks as regularly. That, of course, could change in the future.
As you can see, my use of social networks takes about 7.5 hours per week of my time. But if you remove my blogging and lifestreaming activities (which most executives don’t do) then my time becomes a much more manageable 4.25 hours per week. If you begin to introduce social networks into these your every day work day you’ll actually find time being saved.
For example, my social networking cuts down on email (and in-box maintenance), web browsing & searching and online research.
Please feel free to share you own usage of social networks and how you manage them. Would love to hear any tips or observations from you.