HOW TO: Deal With Social Networking Overload
As a career and workplace writer, I get asked all the time: “I feel like I’m on social network overload. I’m a member of so many different sites, and I’m not sure how I should differentiate my presence on each one. For example, should I be “friends” with the same colleagues on every network?”
It’s a great question. Figuring why you’re joining social networks and how best to use them is the first step in coping with social networking overload. Here is a four step plan for helping you figure out how to keep up with your social media universe and get over that overloaded feeling.
1. Ask Yourself Why
The first step is to ask yourself why you joined each site. Was it because everyone else was doing it? Was it because you heard about it on Mashable or from one of your social networking idols and felt compelled to have a presence? If you don’t have a genuine purpose for participating in the network, you might want to think about stopping your activity there. I learned the hard way that joining too many social networks means that you can’t concentrate properly on the ones that are truly important to you.
When you’re overloaded, people may try to engage with you, but you might ignore them simply because you can’t keep up from all the contact being generated by your diffuse presence. As my grandmother used to say, “the person who tries to please everyone pleases no one.”
2. Consider Your Purpose
Once you’ve narrowed down your top networks, consider what you value about each one. For instance, do you enjoy Facebook because it allows you to keep up with your niece and nephew who are growing up across the country? Do you like that you can use LinkedIn to research individuals working at the organizations with which you’d be most interested in working? Is Twitter the best way for you to communicate just-in-time information to your core audience?
In order to avoid duplicating your information on every network, think about your purpose for being on each one and limit your activity to that purpose.
3. Create Boundaries
A typical example is that many people I’ve chatted with recently have chosen to use Facebook for family and past and present friends, where they reserve LinkedIn for business contacts. Creating boundaries between social networks allows them to post personal information and photos without worrying that they’ve shared too much with managers or direct reports or even getting into trouble with HR (disclaimer: any information that you wouldn’t be comfortable showing your grandmother or religious officiant shouldn’t really be on any social network, because on most networks, you never truly know who might be able to gain access without your express knowledge). On the other hand, they can feel more comfortable promoting themselves and their achievements on LinkedIn and don’t have to be as concerned about coming across as a braggart to friends and family.
4. Communicate Your Plan
You don’t have to be “friends” with the world on every social network, and you don’t have to import status updates and news items to every network either. My recommendation is to simply make clear to your contacts what you are using the various networks for. If a colleague asks to be your Facebook friend but you are using Facebook exclusively to keep up with your college buddies, just tell her so politely and invite her to connect on LinkedIn.
Being honest upfront very well may save you from an awkward situation later. In terms of the networks you already have a widespread presence on, consider making good use of the privacy settings (Facebook and Twitter have fairly comprehensive offerings) so that you don’t accidentally overstep the boundaries you’ve worked so carefully to create.
More social media resources from Mashable:
– HOW TO: Make Firefox Your Productivity Machine
– 14 iPhone Apps With Push Notification for Productivity
– HOW TO: Live Inside Twitter and Still Stay Productive
– 7 Productivity Tips for Freelancers and Web Workers
– HOW TO: Simplify Your Social Media Routine
If you love Gmail and you happen to be a disciple of the Getting Things Done philosophy, reader Chris Zimmerman details how he employs a couple of Gmail Labs features to transform Gmail into an impressive GTD inbox.
Using Superstars & Multiple Inboxes:
- Enable both “multiple inboxes” and “Superstars” in Google Labs
- Then in general settings, set your stars up like this:
These are used to represent, in order from left to right:
- Red Bang – Needs Immediate Action/Scheduling, search query: has:red-bang (or l:^ss_cr)
- Yellow Bang – Needs Action/Non-Immediate, search query: has:yellow-bang (or l:^ss_cy)
- Red Star – Scheduled on Calendar, search query: has:red-star (or l:^ss_sr)
- Orange Arrows – Delegated, search query: has:orange-guillemet (or l:^ss_co)
- Purple Question – Needs Further Follow-Up or Research, search query: has:purple-question (or l:^ss_cp)
- Purple Star – Some Day/Long Term, search query: has:purple-star (or l:^ss_sp)
- Green Check – Completed, search query: has:green-check (or l:^ss_cg)
- Green Star – Archive, search query: has:green-star (or l:^ss_sg)
- Blue Info – Archive as General Reference Item, search query: has:blue-info (or l:^ss_cb)
- Then I set the settings of my multiple mailboxes up like this:
- The idea is, nothing should sit with a “red bang” for very long. For me at least, if it isn’t scheduled, it probably won’t happen, so I want stuff on the calendar as soon as possible.
- Once your Inbox is set up it looks great and automatically sorts things into the proper piles like so:
- I then also use labels to define Contexts, Projects, and Resources – Prefixed with a C/ or a P/ or R/ respectively:
- P/Company Site
- P/Source New Building
- P/Board Outing
- P/Spring Vacation
- R/Jones, Steve, Attorney
- R/Zoning Board
- R/Thomas, Joe
- Toggling the stars quickly puts things in the right action pile for fast processing. Tagging them with context and project labels, I know what I could be working on and how to move projects ahead.
- I also save common searches in my toolbar using this Gmail bookmarklet generator. Using the same search queries from above, you generate bookmarklets you can drag right to the toolbar. As an example, say I want to quickly see all mail that’s been delegated (the orange arrows); I go to the site, and enter l:^ss_co as my query, like so:
“Title” is the word that will appear in the button, so I keep it simple and stick to what I am looking for.
After I hit “generate”, here’s what I got:
Then I just dragged it to my toolbar.
I took it a step further, and put my common searches in and created a folder for all of them, like so:
Clicking on any of the bookmarklets takes me directly to whichever search I need.
Thanks for the great writeup, Chris! Got a similar implementation of your own? Let’s hear it in the comments.
Love this site, I’m buying a sub for the crew, everyone needs to know this much about WP!
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Check out this quick instructional video showing how to use Google Books to find information, including searching, viewing options and ordering or requesting a copy of a title at a library.