Social media is compelling, interesting and valuable but it can also be a time-suck and productivity-killer. One minute, you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation before the call of the Twitter distracts you for the next 15 minutes.
So what can be done to use social media more productively and efficiently to make you control it rather than the other way around?
1. Turn it off. This is the extreme solution for people who have a difficult time resisting the urge to flip over to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or their RSS reader but it may be the only effective way to control your social media behaviour. This approach takes a lot of discipline because it is like going cold turkey – a challenge given social media has become an inherent part of our digital lives.
2. Establish time slots for social media. For many people, this is likely a more reasonable approach than not using social media at all but it still requires discipline. Using this management method, you create slots during the time to use social media services. It could be 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes later in the day. It means having “social structure” so you can focus on other activities without feeling the urge to jump over to social media.
3. Embrace less is more. Rather than splitting time between multiple social media services (aka the shotgun approach), it might be better and more productive to focus your creation and listening efforts on one or a small group of services based on the idea that less can sometimes be more.
4.Create metrics to assess your performance. At the end of the day, there should be an end-goal for using social media. It could personal or professional brand-building, Web site traffic, lead, sales or conference invitations. Whatever metric is relevant should be measured on a regular basis to see if social media is meeting expectations, otherwise you may just be singing into the wind.
5. To publish content, explore the idea of a multi-platform tool such as Tweetdeck or HootSuite that lets you write once and publishing to a variety of social media services at the same time.
If you are interested in learning more about digital productivity, a good read is Mark Hurst’s Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, which is a free download on iBookstore and 99 cents at the Kindle store.