While social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family overseas, meeting like-minded people who share the same interests as you and interacting with celebrities or your favourite brands, for many of us it takes over our most precious commodity… time.

According to global results of the recent TNS Research Digital Life Survey – the largest ever global research project into people’s online activities and behaviour - people who have online access have digital sources as their number one media channel. 61% of online users use the Internet daily against 54% for TV, 36% for Radio and 32% for Newspapers. A further finding of the study shows that online consumers are spending more time on social networking platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn than on email.

The above findings are proof that social media interest is a worldwide phenomenon. Our resident tech expert, Carolyn Holgate from MWEB believes that although social media can take up your valuable time, it shouldn’t be avoided as it offers many business benefits, exposure and networking opportunities. “It’s all about setting specific goals on what you want to achieve on these platforms - whether it’s staying in touch with an old class mate, showcasing your hidden talents or marketing your business,” says Holgate.

Holgate suggests the following tips for effectively managing your time on multiple social media platforms, opposed to it managing you:

•    First thing’s first: Establish what you want to achieve from social media – there is no point in having various accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) if you don’t have a solid idea of what you would like to gain in return, be it for business or personal use. You will end up spending wasteful time on these separate platforms with no relevant advantage. Holgate advises to ask yourself what your objective is, how much time you have to realistically spend on social media each day and then subsequently ask yourself which platform is best for achieving your goals.

•    Pace yourself: If you’re a newcomer to the online networking world, don’t feel pressured in joining all networks at once. Depending on what your goals are, select the most appropriate social media platform that will benefit you best. If it’s solely for business, start off by joining LinkedIn; a platform for professionals to build and strengthen business contacts and exchange information, ideas and opportunities. It’s essential to consistently engage with your platform of choice – the key is to have fewer, more targeted accounts and engage with them regularly in order to reap the true rewards.

•    Quality vs. Quantity: This is paramount to remember while you’re on a subconscious race to make a lot of connections. Too many contacts can distract you and will hinder your ability to build solid and quality networks when spreading yourself so thin. See where your main interests lie and where the associated contacts network and make that your focus.

•    Link up: No, this is not another social media website that popped up overnight while you were asleep. It simply refers to the fact that you can link your accounts to minimize time and effort spent with updates. An example, link your Twitter account to update your LinkedIn status or business page on Facebook. 

•    Dear diary: Schedule a time in your day for checking your accounts and stick to it. If not, you’ll engage in unnecessary and non-productive communication as your mind wanders. Constantly logging in throughout your day will only distract and consume your time into a bottomless pit.

•    Further to this, setting aside an hour or two a week to read relevant blogs and posting links to the articles your followers may find of interest, will keep your posts refreshed and updated with content while allowing you time in your day for other tasks. By logging into your various accounts once a day, you will be able to check your accounts, reply to the people who’ve engaged with you, post your links of interest and log out – all without your attention being captured by pointless feeds and information overload when consistently logging in to check your accounts.

•    Schedule your tweets: Yes, this is possible. Just like setting a reminder on your phone, you can set your tweets to be updated in advance. If the content that you want to share is not time-sensitive, tools such as SocialOomph or Hootsuite can be used to schedule your tweets as and when you please. 

•    The great divide: Grouping your Twitter universe is very helpful to save time. Applications such as Tweetdeck can assist you in sorting your relationships with real-life friends from thought leaders, friends and colleagues. This will allow you the freedom of ease to follow the relevant segmented group at the most appropriate time – i.e. following work or industry-related Twitter friends during working hours and the more fun tweets tailored to your personal life, after hours.

•    For researching purposes and keeping abreast of trends and news, finding blogs, podcasts and news sites that provide quality information can become a breeze when subscribing to their RSS feeds. An RSS feed, also known as ‘Really Simple Syndication’ provides you with summaries of web content in a simple format. Your RSS will simply show you what is new on the particular website you’ve requested an RSS feed from, since the last time you checked in. This can be done without you having to physically visit the website.

Remember, we should use social media to our benefit and take a strategic approach to social media. Although these above tips serve as a guideline, at the end of the day you are still the number one driver of controlling your time spent in the social media realm. 

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