How to make time for Social Media

Train station
“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set. This is as true of earthly as of heavenly things.”

James Allen, As a Man Thinketh [the link takes you to a free Pdf of the book]

This is not a post on time management.

It is about mastery

(read George Leonard’s book of the same name)

Self-mastery of social media.

And let’s get one thing clear – you cannot ‘make’ time.

You can only accomplish more in the time available (86,400 seconds are all that you have in any one day).

The key take away (which has universal application): organise and execute around priorities.

Too many of us work well below our potential by allowing time to press on our daily activity rather than managing our output for greater efficiency, productivity or creativity.

If you have ever read any time management material or been on a course, you will recognise that discipline lies at the heart of the paradigm.

self-discipline

the ability to say no

and being able to turn off the ‘noise’ that provides all manner of distraction.

One tip: make time every week to review your progress.

If you are going to make more of your time with social media, then you have to know where you are headed. The Why, How and the What in that order.

Why social media:

more work?

more profitable work?

brand/name awareness?

communication with your target market?

PR?

standing out in a crowded market?

fun?

to sell a product or service?

In addition, you should be able to answer the question:

What is you Thing?

Too many people allow the medium (aka the job title) to define their offering.

What your clients need to understand and have (succinctly) communicated to them is your message, as it applies to them.

Remember people are not interested per se in you or your offering.

They are only interested in how you can help them.

[perhaps it is worth reminding yourself that perception is reality, but that doesn't get away from the fact that you have to have a core message that is easily disseminated]

If you are new to social media then you will feel drawn to understand the tools (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook], and that is perfectly understandable, but you need to focus on creating content that excites your tribe, has the potential to spread and will establish you as the go to person in your chosen area.

As Hugh MacLeod opines, you have to create a social object for others to gather around. If you accept the premise then anything could be a social object but the more resonant, important and valuable to your target market, the more likely it is that it will lead to you being lifted out of obscurity.

Once you have decided why you are using social media, your Thing and the nature of the social objects, you then need to optimise the time spent, as well as putting aside time to think about and execute around your priorities.

Most people have worked out that it is easier to manage their main platforms if they use a dashboard of one type or another. I use Hootsuite. You could try Seesmic or Tweetdeck. In addition, I also use Twitter for searches because I find it quicker and easier. The tweets now enable you to see more of what is going on including images or video.

The real beauty of a dashboard is the integration with your other platforms, the ability to see the whole picture and, in the case of Hootsuite, the basic analytics that it provides.

I also use Google Reader. This enables me to focus on a daily feed of information without having to rely on scanning each website, remembering where they are and organising a rather cumbersome favourites drop down on my browser. You might be more familiar with RSS but Reader is much more powerful.

The thing is, apart from the time saved in reading multiple sites in one place, I can share the content across multiple platforms by enabling the platforms into my settings in Google. At the moment, I have enabled Buffer, Google+ and a number of other social bookmarking sites.

If you find that you have too much information at your disposal then one good way to minimise the level of distraction is to close all of your tabs in whatever browser you are using. Right now when preparing this post, I have only one tab open in Chrome, and have disabled all of my Chrome extensions that have counters (GMail and Google+). The problem with running too many tabs is that there is a temptation to check in and out of what is going on, particularly those sites where you know there will be some fresh activity. Don’t.

If you do have the time to check your feeds more than once a day, then try to keep to set times: early morning, midday and late afternoon work well to coincide with the times around the world when people are most likely to be checking in and engaging.

You may also decide that you want to pre-schedule some Tweets or a few blog posts (WordPress allows you to do this). If you feel comfortable going down this route, then I would use Buffer which works either as a dashboard or as an extension to Chrome. It automatically schedules Tweets and blog posts (you can alter the times if you wish) and tends to look more natural than the other dashboards which usually allow you to schedule things in 5 minute blocks.

Buffer’s Chrome extension also allows you to go to any blog and press the Buffer extension, creating the title of the post and a shortened link, ready to auto-post or post immediately. I use this a lot, and it saves the time of having to cut and paste the Url or put it into a Url shortener.

You also need to think of making time for LinkedIn, Google + and creating some longer content. Again, you need to think of the times when most of your connections are on line.

LinkedIn has been around longer than Twitter, is still growing and has established itself as the leading B2B platform. It enables you to join with colleagues, friends, clients, referrers and proposed clients. But let’s get one thing straight. It is not just a place for your CV. It’s a place to do business.

Here are a few pointers:

> Buff up your profile.

> Write your profile from the buyer’s perspective, and not your (ego) perspective.

> Include something that establishes the Why, How and What your brand. Don’t just tell people about the What.

> Integrate a few applications: Twitter, Slideshare, Amazon reading list and Box (a friend of mine has used Box to share the directions to his office and a sample of his work – very neat).

> Use the share facility on the front page of LinkedIn to interact with your connections.

> Likewise, if you come across a website that you like that has a share button (or you can use Buffer) then share the content either across your stream or directly to people or groups.

How long should you spend on LinkedIn?

As a bare minimum, I would recommend 15 minutes per day. Better still, I would spend up to 30 minutes per day but only if you are going to use it as a business development tool.

And then there is the question of other content creation, which principally is going to be built around blogging, video or sound.

How much time are you currently setting aside to create remarkable content?

I have commented before on Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow. It might be a few years old now but it is still worth reading. If you are serious about your art, and distinguishing your offering then frankly you will be wasting your time if you think that any content is good content.

It is a good discipline to write regularly, but, better still, you should create in Outlook or Google calendar a separate calendar with the title or themes that you want to write about, so that you don’t end up creating stuff on the hoof. If you can write a few posts in one go, then so much the better.

How do you make time for blogging I hear you ask?

Quite simply you find time to write.

I’m serious.

Writing consistently is extraordinarily hard, particularly when there is no immediate return (unless you are writing a book and even then the return against the time/effort is de minimus).

The best way to approach writing anything is to start with the end in mind, and then work your way back. Or think of what you are trying to write in three parts: end, middle and beginning.

In addition, always ask yourself the question:

What is this [blog post] about?

[I am indebted to Steven Pressfield's book Do The Work for these tips]

As to managing your time, it is a good idea to find a quiet area to write without distraction. My typing speed is OK but if you are just starting off, you might like to think about trying to improve your typing speed which may mean you have to take a course or, as I did, teach myself.

Have a timer, and say to yourself that you are going to write, without distraction, for 1 hour. Don’t edit in that time. That is fatal to your output. Just focus on getting something down on paper. You will come back to it later. Remember at this stage, it is just for your eyes.

There is a range of software that you can use to type. I type in WordPress, Word, Google docs and I have tried Pagefour. It doesn’t really matter at this stage but bear in mind that if you are thinking of uploading something to WordPress it is probably better to do it in Word because there is less likelihood of the visual editor function messing with your words, spacing and any quotations that you might have used.

Blog posts vary in length.

They can be as short as one word (seriously) or as long as 5,000 words. An optimum size is around 500 words.

If you do manage to get the post written in one sitting then you need to leave yourself time to edit it. I like to edit the next day. That way I tend to have a better overview and I can see my mistakes.

There will be many people who don’t see the need or benefit of a blog.

This post is not really designed to elucidate the benefit of a blog but, all I would say, is that in trying to differentiate your offering, stand out in a crowded market and earn the attention of your tribe, a blog is by far the most powerful way to do this.

If you are stuck on which platform to use, then I would recommend that you consider Typepad, Blogger and WordPress in that order. You could look at Posterous, but, to be honest, I think it is too complex for its own good.

Prioritisation is critical in any walk of life. If you end up majoring in minor things then you will achieve very little. You have to understand how you can organise your day to crack the big rocks first before piling in all the rest of the stuff (you must remember the story with the pebbles, sand and water).

If you haven’t read David Allan’s Getting Things Done or Leo Babauta’s even simpler system Zen to Done (ZTD) then I can highly recommend both. I prefer ZTD because it asks you to focus on 3 things per day – your Most Important Things (MITs). Of course, to get to the point where you only have three things to do, it is likely that you will have to go through the other phases of simplification, delegation and sorting but for now I want you to think about the three MITs that you have to do each day. Now, of course, it may well be that you have more than three things that you want to get done, but don’t forget we are talking about Important things not just the urgent items.

If you are used to creating a To Do list, then you will know it is important  to keep it to a manageable length. If you can refrain from continuing to go back to the list and just fill it up then so much the better. The tool I use is TaDa list which is a 37 Signals free tool where you can email the lists to yourself once you have finished. By doing that you have something in your inbox. This is particularly useful if you are able to write out your three MITs the night before and email the same to you.

If you find that not one of those three MITs is related to social media don’t panic. As I have said before, don’t let the tail wag the dog and whilst social media is vital for your business, it does not get away from the fact that you have to deliver on your promises to provide a great, dare I say, WOW service to your clients.

But don’t ignore social media for too long. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break after after an hour or so just to check in on Twitter or LinkedIn but don’t let it hold your attention for more than a few minutes. If you do find that you are being sucked into a conversation or feel the need to comment at length (LinkedIn discussion groups are a bit like this) then you might need to install some browser blocking software. I have tried Focus which pulls the plug after 10 minutes. I must say that it can be a wee bit annoying because there are times when you need to go back to your Twitter feed or Google Reader, and you can’t. You then have two choices: (1) disable it; or (2) wait until the next day.

Managing your time for social media has to become a habit. It took me quite a while to work out something where I didn’t feel that I was being dragged down by the shear weight of numbers, free offers and webinars that were constantly on offer. My advice is too ignore everything in the early days and just focus on getting really good on one platform before moving on to something else.

So to recap.

1. Understand the difference between the important and urgent things that you need to do.

2. Make time, once a week, to plan what you are going to do the following week.

3. Write the three MITs the day before (or no later than the beginning of the day).

4. Even if one of those MITs is not a social media project, you should still make a point of checking early in the morning, at lunch time and towards the end of the day to see if there are any messages or mentions that you need to respond to.

5. Use a dashboard like Hootsuite.

6. Use Buffer.

7. Keep one tab open at a time when you are working on blogging.

8. Focus on your writing for at least one hour, and don’t edit at the same time as writing.

9. It is helpful to unplug from the social media grid once in a while, and don’t be afraid to do so.

10. Don’t think you have to be on every platform known to man. Stick with your website, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and one other.

One final thing.

There is more to life than social media.

The old school way of doing business is still hugely powerful:

> Letters occasionally or thank you cards.

> Email.

> The telephone.

> And face to face meetings (or Skype or a Hangout).

My raison detre is to serve.Whilst social media can help to narrow the trust gap, there is no substitute for face to face contact.

Social media has to work for you.

Don’t be afraid to stand back from the fray and ask yourself some honest questions.

Is it working or are you fooling yourself into accepting it is based on the meagre amount of interaction you have had? You wouldn’t be the first to pull the plug or at least go silent, but what you have to recognise is that social media is not about social media. It is about building something, something that makes a difference, changes lives and upsets the status quo.

Don’t feel that you have to work longer and longer and stay on line 24/7. You don’t. But if you do keep feeding the beast don’t be surprised if you get burnt out quicker than it does.

Julian

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