The Minimalist Guide to Social Media

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Image by 55Laney69.

Note from Nick: This is a guest post (actually, it should be called a friend post) from my friend, Toni, over at Duolit (SelfPublishingTeam.com). If you haven’t heard of them, check them out and see what they’re all about (and then come back here!). 

Enter Toni:

Social media can be a huge time suck.

When I first discovered Facebook (in September of 2004 – thanks, Timeline), my roommates barged into my bedroom a day later to make sure I was still alive!

It makes me feel better, however, to know that I’m not alone. Social networking is the most engaging online activity worldwide, accounting for 1 in every 5 minutes spent online!

With all of the demands modern life places on us, though, can we really afford to dedicate that much time to social media?

Every day, we hear from authors overwhelmed with their workload, barely having enough time to write and market their work. When we dig deeper, however, we find that many spend precious hours of their free time on Facebook and Twitter!

Remember how social media was supposed to make our lives easier and more fun? Instead, it often holds us back from the work we really need to get done!

I think a little streamlining is in order. Let’s drill down to the basics and build an online social life that works for you!

5 Easy Ways to Streamline Social Media

1. Break Up With a Social Network (or Two or Three)

Take a moment to think about each of your social media accounts. Do you still feel the rush of excitement you had when you first signed up? Can you still visualize all of the possibilities the service provides?

Like any relationship, that initial “honeymoon period” eventually wears off. Before you know it, the social network which was once new and exciting has become a bit…boring. Instead of enjoying and savoring every new moment and experience, you’re simply going through the motions.

If you’re feeling less-than-satisfied with the relationship you have with one (or more) of your social media accounts, it’s time for the good-old “it’s not you, it’s me” speech.

  1. List each of your social networks (either mentally or by actually writing them down).
  2. 2.     One by one, decide if you and that social network have a future together.
  3. Pare down the list to only those networks that (1) help you reach your audience and (2) you actually enjoy using.

The key to this strategy is to make the cuts swiftly, and without guilt.

If you’re agonizing over whether or not to keep a network, err on the breakup side. Cutting the networks that aren’t working for you lets you better focus on the ones that are!

2. Define Why You’re Using Each Service

Do you use Twitter differently than Facebook? Are your updates on Google+ different from those on LinkedIn?

It’s natural for us to adapt our social media strategies to match each individual service, but have you ever actually created a plan for how to use each service?

While formally outlining a simple strategy takes about 30 minutes to set up, it will end up saving you time down the road by:

  • Eliminating the process of trying to decide what to post and when.
  • Helping you better cater your content to your audience.
  • Forcing you to remember why you use each service.

Pretty good use of a half-hour, huh? When you’re ready, grab a sheet of paper (or download this .doc version) and outline the following for each social network:

  • Name of network:
  • Who am I trying to reach? Note both the audience you want to reach and those you actually see responding to your updates.
  • Topics/types of updates: Think about the types of updates that most appeal to your audience above. Also consider which updates most often provoke action (comments, retweets, etc.)
  • How often I should post: Be realistic and consistent. It’s better to post less often and make the content truly awesome!
  • Specific days/times I should post: If you know when your audience is more likely to respond, note that here.
  • Why am I using this service? This is your purpose statement. Why do you like this social network? How is it different from the rest?

Also include any other service-specific notes, like users you need to pay special attention to, scheduled meetings or chats, groups you’re a member of, etc.

You might find, after performing this exercise, another network which needs that breakup speech!

3. Set A Schedule (And Actually Stick to It)

I know, I know, schedules are like new year’s resolutions. You excitedly set one up only to break it just as quickly.

If that sounds familiar (it does to me!), you probably made a very common mistake: creating your ideal schedule. That is, if the day goes smoothy, your schedule works out swimmingly! When it doesn’t, however, you end up unproductive, frustrated and annoyed.

No matter how well you plan, in any given day, life loves to throw up a brick wall. Your alarm clock doesn’t go off, you get stuck in traffic, and your daughter wakes up an hour early from her nap (I have some personal experience with that one).

To avoid this, create a schedule based around a worse (and more realistic) day.

My favorite method of schedule-setting is by assigning chunks of time to general tasks (writing, marketing, family time, etc). Grab the weekly planner (PDF) to start working on yours!

  1. Begin by filling in the blocks of time that are non-negotiable such as your job, church, family activities, childcare obligations, chores, sleeping, etc.
  2. Then, find your “most likely” free time; the time that’s least likely to be infringed upon by anything else. Outline these blocks in green, but don’t fill them in.
  3. Following the same process, outline your blocks of “semi-likely” free time in yellow.
  4. Set the planner aside for a moment, and make a list of the general tasks you’d like to complete in your free time (writing, marketing, social media, taking bubble baths, napping, whatever!)
  5. Finally, fill in the open blocks using the items on your list. Be sure to put the highest-priority free-time tasks in the green spaces and the lower-priority tasks in yellow.

Note to Nick: I have an image and other links for the process above I’ll send over!

Out of this process, you’ll have a much more realistic schedule you can actually stick to. As you gain experience using your schedule, don’t be afraid to go back and revise it as needed.

4. Use Automation Wisely

I’m not going to lie: we use social media automation about 80% of the time. There’s a delicate balance, however, between using automation to make your life easier and sounding like a robot or spammer.

While there’s nothing wrong with using HootSuite, Buffer or the myriad of other services to spread out updates or promote your friends’ posts, automation should enhance your social presence – not replace it.

Whenever possible, spend 5-10 minutes personally responding to your fans and any interesting updates you see in your feed. Remember: the whole purpose of social media is to connect with your audience.

5. Evaluate Monthly

Social media certainly isn’t static. Even if you complete every item on this list, by the end of this year, you’ll likely feel social media overwhelm sneaking back up.

Don’t let your online social life get gunked up again! Go through the streamlining process monthly, or whenever your relationship with social media needs a renewed state of calm and order.

Ahhh! Breathe a Sigh of Relief

After completing the steps above, you’re in control of a much more streamlined social life – and your roommates will never have to check your vital signs again!

I’m curious: which social network do you enjoy using the most? Which could you easily drop? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Toni Tesori is one half of Duolit, two gals who help passionate fiction authors sell more books by building their crazy-dedicated fanbase. If you’re ready to become a book marketing whiz, check out their FREE book marketing toolkit.

Nick ThackerThe Minimalist Guide to Social Media
  • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

    Thanks for having me, Nick! It was a blast :-)

    • http://www.livehacked.com/ Nick Thacker

      Thanks for writing and posting here — you’re always welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/Writingmytruth Alison Strachan

    Nice suggestions there Toni. I need to get back into using my buffer account. I also find having a spreadsheet of your most tweeted links to add into a tweet or other automated account saves me time too.

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      That’s an awesome idea, Alison! I *heart* Buffer; I highly recommend giving it another shot. I let it go for awhile, but find it indispensable now.

    • http://www.livehacked.com/ Nick Thacker

      Buffer is AWESOME — and I love the spreadsheet idea!

  • http://www.turndogmillionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    Sage words, I’m currently re-jigging my social media world. 6 months in and the time to evolve is upon us :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Ah yes, good luck with that, Matt. It can feel overwhelming, but I find the act of re-jiggering (love that word) inspiring!