Thursday, October 13, 2011

Social Media Time Management

There is a saying that goes something like this: “Are you working in your business or on your business?” Translate that to social media, are you working in social media or on social media? If you are “in” it, it’s time to figure out a way to be “on” it.

But what if you could improve your social media time management in just 18 minutes a day?
Let’s face it, we have a finite amount of time each day and usually we underestimate our to-dos and overestimate our time. If you’re in any type of online marketing position and reading (OK, skimming) this article, chances are high social media is part of your mantra. Bets are probably higher still that you spend more lost time in unaccountable social media diversions and distractions.

Whether you’re on the front lines, sidelines, or bylines, social media can easily monopolize hours of our day.
Scanning, curating, and aggregating content requires serious organization skills. Writing, reporting, and re-purposing content is best served with minimal distractions and maximum focus. Social media can be a 24/7 black hole or, if managed properly, a gold mine. It all depends on how disciplined, organized and aware you are of the time spent in social media.

I recently read Peter Bregman’s book "18 Minutes." It was just released last month and the result of a blog post he wrote for the Harvard Business Review that became one of the most popular and most commented posts on the site. That post, “An 18 Minute Plan for Managing Your Day,” began with Bregman’s humbling admission that we can all relate to, but here is my slightly modified version:

“Yesterday started with the best of intentions. I walked into my office in the morning with a vague sense of what I wanted to accomplish. Then I sat down with my laptop and a Starbucks, checked my Facebook, Twitter stream, iGoogle and e-mail. Two hours later, after fighting several digital fires, solving other people’s PR problems, and dealing with whatever happened to be thrown at me through my social media world via screen and phone, I could hardly remember what I had set out to accomplish when I first grabbed my Mac Book Air. I’d been ambushed at social media gunpoint. And I thought I knew better...”

Bregman’s takes you through specific and actionable strategies to seriously shut down the daily distractions and open up windows of social media opportunity. As I read this book, my social media fog began clearing and my days are now busier doing social media right.

Pick Your Social Media High Five

Look at your social media year and pick five areas that will make the most difference in your business. Social media is enchanting because there are so many interesting things to read, people to meet and places to go. It's challenging to prioritize and pick just a few; so instead we end up trying to do it all.

One of the secrets to thriving in social media is to look at doing fewer things better and pick the ones that matter most. When you decide on your five areas, commit to spending 95 percent of your social media time on these things and allow 5 percent for the rest of experimental or unforeseen unknowns.

Getting the Right Things Done

I’m always busy. But I asked myself after reading this book: Am I busy doing the things that matter in my social PR life? "18 Minutes" brings us to the reality that it’s possible to be busy in social media, look busy in social media, and unfortunately … get nothing done.

Making sure we’re getting the right social media things done is key – because it’s so easy to get off track when exciting breaking news happens, like Facebook F8 developer’s conference latest updates or industry shaking news like Steve Jobs passing away last week. I lost hours of focus to the reality and shock of losing one our greatest innovators. But to me, that was my 5 percent bucket of the unknowns you have to plan for.
Once we have our five buckets of focus, the goal is to make sure we spend 95 percent of our social media time each day doing things that fit into our five most important areas. Our focus is making sure the right things get done, as opposed to making sure everything social media gets done.

The 18 Minute Social Media Day

Step 1 (5 Minutes) Your Social Media Morning Minutes

This is your opportunity to plan your social media for the day. Before turning on your computer or picking up your PDA, sit down with the to-do list and decide what is happening to make this a social media successful day. What can you realistically accomplish whether it’s writing a blog post, researching a new Twitter tool, sitting in on a webinar, or getting ready for that next conference?

Step 2 (1 Minute Every Hour) Social Media Refresh and Refocus

Managing your social media time hour-by-hour is both a discipline and a science. Don’t let the hours manage you … How many times do you all of a sudden realize you have spent the last 20 minutes reading Twitter updates, surfing Facebook Pages, or reading an article from an e-mail subscription?
Set your phone, computer or watch to ring every hour and start the work that is listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep, do a social media check up. Assess your progress and recommit the next hour to get back on track.

Step 3 (5 Minutes) Your Social Media After Dark

At the end of your day, shut the laptop and review your social media day. Ask yourself some questions: How did my social media day go? What did I learn today? Whom did I interact with? Did I meet new followers on Twitter that I should send a quick @ reply? Was there a nice RT of me I should acknowledge? Any comments on my blog I should respond to?
Building and maintaining relationships is critical in social media and it is easy to forget that it takes just a few minutes to share appreciation, congratulate someone, or offer thanks.
All that seems easy, but here are some tips to add to the 18 minute plan.

Social Media Delete

It’s very hard to say no. I get invites every day to join a webinar, take a survey, look at this press release for a nonprofit who has no money, help my brother-in-law send a logo that I have sent him 20 times already, take unscheduled phone calls, or get sucked into a technical problem with Apple support.
All of these unscheduled things can rob you from important and strategic social media time. To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important to choosing what to focus on.

Social Media Calendar

Bregman emphasizes and I agree: Place the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. He also notes the power of the when and where. Statistics show that when you schedule an action item with a time and date, the chances of it getting done are far greater than letting it float.
Mastering distractions and getting things done efficiently and effectively goes far beyond social media. Bregman offers a system and practical guides of how to get done what matters most to us and our business in 18 minutes.

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