By now there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of the amazing amount of opportunity that effective participation in Social Media can offer. SM can and will provide a benefit to your life or business whether it’s connecting with someone who knows someone who needs a service you provide, or if it simply offers a way to hook up with a handful of new people to play poker with on Thursday evenings. There is quite literally something in it for everyone.
But, when talking amongst colleagues, clients and prospective clients who may be a little late to the party about the benefits of Social Media, the single most common point of resistance is that participating in Facebook, Twitter and the like is an unproductive use of their time – especially when they consider all of the other ‘real world’ obligations they have pulling them in 100 different directions. The truth is that although there is a little bit of a schedule commitment to Social Media, it isn’t nearly as much of a time-sucker as it is often perceived to be.
We all know someone who spends hours a day on Facebook. They seemingly update their status hourly with all sorts of useless and uninteresting tidbits ranging from announcing that they are home from taking their kids to school to complaining about the old lady driving 20 miles per hour under the speed limit on a two-lane country road making them late to whatever destination they were headed for. These types of stories – while always related in a mocking tone, are not the best use of Social Media, and this brand of obsessive behavior is the exception, not the norm.
The cool thing about Social Media is that while you choose your own level of involvement, the success you’ll derive is not proportional to the amount of time and resources you dedicate to the activity. As I was explaining to a client during a presentation just the other day, Social Media is the type of endeavor that shows a lot of back end benefits that you don’t always see right away – and it isn’t something you can force. Successful participation in the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube is a very organic, genuine process. The cream rises to the top and the pretenders and offenders are very easily and swiftly weeded out.
The trick to finding time for Social Media is to remove the idea that the activity as a whole is a task or a chore. You’re using it to connect with people. If you’re a business looking to get new clients or customers, use it to add an element of humanity to your business. Engage people and provide value by way of free information, or simply join or start a conversation. It’s called Social Media for a reason.
Twitter and Facebook are set up so that you can conveniently receive an email anytime you’re mentioned or something of interest comes to light – and there are external tools like TweetDeck that also make using the sites a more efficient undertaking.
When you’re starting out, plan to spend five minute, three or four times a day playing with your Social Media accounts. Find people to follow or friend up, retweet interesting stuff you find, post interesting questions to garner responses, or respond to the posts of others. There are many ways to use these tools – but the trick is to have fun with it. If you don’t enjoy yourself, then don’t participate, because it will be obvious if you aren’t into it or you are only in it for self-serving reasons. Value the experience and value the connections you’ll make and relationships you’ll create, and you’ll reap the rewards for a long time to come.