My social network is kind of a monster.
Like the giant Venus Fly Trap in Little Shop of Horrors, it’s grown into a Hydra-like beast that requires constant feeding and attention.
I have no one to blame for this but myself.
I’ve created oodles of social profiles for myself and my company and syndicate content among them.
This has created an elaborate conversational web that makes it appear that I am in many places at one time, when, in fact, I am not.
As a consequence, any one post of mine can initiate a domino fall of comments that funnel in from multiple social sources: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn, Ning, Buzz.
Add to this a host of parallel conversations via text messages, emails and chat programs, and I’ve got a serious traffic control problem on my hands.
So, how do you tame the social beast when it starts to exponentially grow like this?
Start by trying these five things:
1. Get yourself a dashboard.
You’re a busy person and you probably don’t have time to log into each of your social media accounts throughout the day. (Nor should you have to.) Focus instead on aggregating that information into one central portal.
If you have multiple social channels to manage, set up some sort of central dashboard where you can monitor your conversational traffic. There are a number of free ones out there to choose from, such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Seesmic, PeopleBrowsr, etc.
I use Tweetdeck as the “command central” for my personal communications and populate it with feeds from not just my Twitter account, but also Facebook and Google Buzz (You can add LinkedIn too, I just choose not to). Additionally, I use this tool to monitor search terms and accounts for our KaneCo clients.
No matter what dashboard you pick, just try to get all your stuff in one place. You’ll miss less and be able to engage more.
2. Hang up some of your social “phone lines.”
You don’t need to be everywhere on the social web. (In fact, you’ll probably be more effective if you start in just a few places).
The important thing is to be transparent about where you do and don’t “hang out” online, so if people can’t find you, they’ll know why.
Go ahead and set up accounts on secondary channels that you intend to check less frequently. Just make sure to manage people’s expectations in those spaces by doing things like including a message says, “Hey…I’m not on [Name of App] much. The best place to reach me is [Twitter/Facebook/etc.]”
Or, for instance, if someone is continually trying to chat with you via Facebook, let them know that you only check that account once a day. Then, make sure you’re not leaving a browser window with that account open in the background throughout the day so it appears that you’re available to chat when you’re really not.
3. Get over yourself.
Not everything you say in social media will get a response. That’s the nature of the beast, and it’s a hard thing to get used to. If you say, “Wow, today is a beautiful day,” and it’s met with the sound of crickets, that’s perfectly appropriate.
Let go of the notion that every conversation has to have both a sender and a receiver to be viable. And, don’t assume that, if you say something to a person and they don’t reply, that they didn’t read it or didn’t care.
Each person’s experience with social media is unique to their communication style, workplace, logistics, technical set-up, availability, and a host of other factors.
In other words, you’re not always driving the conversation bus in social media … so, focus instead on making the most of your ride.
If you find it imperative that all of your social media conversations get wrapped up nice and tidy (and good luck to you with that), employ the backchannel. Send direct messages, emails, or (gasp!) call people on the phone to thank them for reading your post, schedule a date for your coffee meeting or hash out your differences.
4. Keep an eye on your peeps.
While not responding to every social media comment is a new reality, not responding to multiple comment attempts is still just plain rude.
The social web is fundamentally a giant game of “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.” If you’ve been the beneficiary of many scratches lately, you might want to stop and take a look around to see if your community of supporters are starting to get a little itchy.
If you can’t reply to someone in the moment, look for another point of engagement down the road. This might take the form of promoting something they’ve written, doubling back and asking for their advice on a topic or just giving them a compliment out of the blue.
Another way to reconnect with your community is to pick someone out of your feed each day that you don’t really know and respond to something they say. A lot of times when I do this, I get no response. And that’s okay. This exercise is more about planting conversation seeds for the future than harvesting relationships.
5. Find moments of silence.
I’m an introvert, and although the people on social media aren’t actually physically surrounding me, steeping myself in a never-ending stream of their chatter can make it feel as if they are.
When this happens, I just need to close the dashboard, step away from the desk and go listen to something that demands no attention … like the hum of the air conditioner, or rainfall or childrens’ voices down the street.
By doing this, I’ve learned that sometimes the best way to feed the beast is to let it go hungry for awhile.
Go back and audit your stream. If you were following yourself, would YOU need a break from you?
- Are you chattering incessantly?
- Are you badgering people with your attentiveness?
- Are you bludgeoning people with information they haven’t asked for?
As in our offline lives, what can seem like devotion and engagement on your part can come off as sucking all of the air out of the room to someone else.
Set aside a moment of silence and look at the world through your community’s eyes. The view might surprise you.
Open up and say “Ahhhh …”
At the end of the day, it’s not about the number of people who talk to me or listen to me on the social web.
Actually it’s not really about ME at all.
It’s about having the ability to hear what’s in people’s heads and the opportunity to choose how I’m going to respond to that information. (Comment? File it away for a rainy day? Pass it along to my network?)
This is a valuable, revenue-generating, soul-supporting activity when it’s done right.
Ultimately my social media beast is one that I’m never going to be able to fully tame. But that’s okay. Its wildness is what makes it work.
It’s monster, but it’s MY monster.
Now excuse me … I gotta get back to it. It’s feeding time again.