For many, especially those giving the Web 2.0 world their first embrace, social media presents a challenge in terms of time management. Between the thousands of social media venues and the countless tools used to manage them, it's easy to see how even the most experienced and savvy web user can lose track of time.
Time management is an important aspect in handling any work-related task, and social media needs to be viewed as one such component.
It is always important to focus on what works and what doesn't. Maybe you have a great blog connected to your website where original content continuously goes viral. Your links are often retweeted and your LinkedIn inbox is full of requests to connect. So why are you spending a third of your social media efforts on Facebook? Your company fan page only has 77 fans! Spend the time where it is most productive. Respond to some more LinkedIn requests or cut another blog post. Sure, you can post the link to the Facebook page and respond to any online commentary, but if your audience isn't engaging you on Facebook, you should be focusing your social media efforts elsewhere.
Before creating a Twitter handle, YouTube stream or Facebook fan page, you need to ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish?" Of course, your social media presence should be reflective of your company/industry, whether it's business to business, a consumer product, a nonprofit, etc. Do the research. Do you want a large, general fan base where any member/follower/subscriber is accepted, or do you want a refined audience whose business interests are similar to yours? Is generating discussion/feedback and establishing your company representative as a thought leader important? Are you looking to connect with the investment community? By identifying these goals, you can pick and choose what demographic groups you should be reaching out to, and how much time you should be spending using social media venues to do so. Set initial goals such as gaining 500 Twitter followers in the first month, initiating three productive discussions on Facebook or connecting with 10 target individuals on LinkedIn. By setting/reaching your goals, you create metrics for time spent.
Stay focused. Just as with web surfing, what started off as a focused work task can end up 14 browser windows later as watching YouTube videos of soccer highlights from 1986 (obviously I'm telling you this from personal experience). If you're looking for content to post, individuals to connect with or companies to follow, you should be doing so without distraction. Gameplan specifically what you are looking for and seek only targets that fit that criteria. Another tip involves using a timer. Set aside a certain percentage/portion of your workday to devote to a certain task, and set the timer. When it's over, no extensions and no overtime - move on.
As with anything else, time management for social media revolves around a plan, execution and self-discipline. By implementing a system that integrates social media into your workday while still maintaining a high level of productivity for your business, you too can succeed in the social media frontier of 2010.