Priorities: Curing Social Media Overload

The following is a guest post from Future Buzz community member John Boitnott. If you’d like to contribute thinking here, please read the guidelines.

Pinterest. Pinterest?! Really? Do I have to? That was what I first thought. I’ll admit it. The last thing I wanted to do was add another network to the long list of online communities I was already attempting to participate in.

It’s tough enough just to send out a few tweets, speak in a few conversations on Facebook and update my Tumblr. Now they want me to join Pinterest. Let’s not even mention the mobile apps that have entered into my world. Their number appears to be as boundless as their brothers that exist solely in Internet form. They include Foursquare, Foodspotting, Tiny Review and endless others all competing for my attention.

The bottom line is, the biggest hurdle for a community manager, social media strategist, or any person who tries to leverage their online presence in any way or for any reason is that there’s too much to keep track of and too little time.

The situation inevitably leads to an overarching feeling that you can never get caught up. Most of us are reconciled to the idea that it’s just not going to change and that it’s a fact of life. But *should* it be this way? Is this right?

My answers are no and no…. to an extent. There have to be measures put in place to make the whole thing more manageable, without sacrificing what you’ve built, and what you want to build.

These measures are certainly not going to come from anyone other than yourself. Your boss isn’t going to like the idea of you spending less time leveraging social networks for the benefit of your company (if he or she even understands what you do). The pressure will be on for you to miss sleep and spend all waking moments building your company’s brand online. It’s plain to see that the less effort you bring to the table in any online network, the fewer times the world is going to visit your site or service.

The answer lies in priorities. Set them.

Analyze what networks you’ve been able to find success in for your site. Concentrate on those. The old standbys need their required daily work. But – watch out for the new hotness. (OMG, did I really just say that?)

I was speaking with an employee of an online clothing company. She confided to me that they had always seen great success through StumbleUpon, and in the last 1-2 years, Tumblr. In recent months however, Pinterest arrived on the scene. Pictures of the company’s clothing began to find tremendous success there. There were even ways to spike this, by making sure that the most eye-catching or stylish clothing were “pinned” and “repinned.” Now suddenly Pinterest, a site that is technically still only in ‘private beta,’ began to rival Stumble and Tumblr for referrals.

This meant that the community manager had to shift priorities. She still spent a reasonable effort on Facebook (always one of their top referrers) as well as Tumblr and Twitter. But now, and deservedly so, a new service had come along which demanded a portion of her energy. Embracing new platforms is what we must all be willing to do when the time comes.  You can’t simply stick to your old standbys here.

To an extent, many of us got involved in the online world because of that limitless feeling that comes with it – like the old walls were falling and the old rules were dying. This is that phenomena put into action.

I would make sure to write out a list of those networks that you know you have to participate daily in. Then a list of those that need less maintenance. Keep it by your side. This means constantly reevaluating the success you are finding on these networks.

Is a particularly supportive group of folks forming on Google+? What about Tumblr or YouTube? Let the priorities shift when they have to based on data and results. Try and see if it might be possible to get a new coordinator, intern, or even another employee to help (and of course, train them properly).

Manage your employer’s expectations. Keep them apprised of the latest changes and developments. Show them the change as it happens and make sure they know you’re on it. The number of networks isn’t going to shrink at this point. Try and see if there’s some way you can scale your team to meet it – with your company’s help of course.

One of a small group of social media consultants with a background in the newsroom, John Boitnott consults with a variety of sites and publishers on how to build their popularity on the Internet.  John has worked for NBC and Village Voice. John is currently Vice President of Business Development at Hasai Inc.

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