How To Avoid Being Overwhelmed Being On All The Social Media 101

Big post today – this is “How to Not Get Overwhelmed by Social Media 101” folks. Take some time with it.

Talk to heavy social media users (like me) or worse, talk to a self-appointed guru, and they will eventually say something like this:

| You need to be on all the different social media networks. They do different things well, and…

…and you’re probably glazing over wondering where in the bloody blue hell you’re going to find the time to do all of these things.

That is a damn good question.

You probably shouldn’t try to do All The Things. Not just because there’s a huge rabbit hole of different networks, but also because more get invented every day.

But there is a problem, and one that the Social Media Gurus correctly identify. Your readers – both those who already are aware of your genius with the written word, and those who have yet to be Enlightened – are just like you.

They don’t have time to be on all the social media networks either.

I have trouble convincing my own mother to look at my Facebook updates…and she’s on Facebook. There’s no way I’d convince her to get on Twitter. (I tried.) And if my mom won’t change networks… well, that person who just heard of me for the first time? There’s no way they would either.

You have to somehow be where the people who will read your work will naturally find you.

That’s why I recommend a nameplate page that is not tied to any particular social media network – and wrote the one-hour guide to setting one up. That way you avoid any prejudice against any particular social media network.

Think about how often you hear people complain about a social media network – especially one they aren’t part of. If the first thing that comes up for your name is anyone else’s brand, you run the risk of being associated with that brand. (Yes, this is exactly like being a snob about e-mail addresses.)

Why give anyone an excuse to dismiss you or your work for something you don’t control? Let them find your nameplate page, and from there select the social media network that they most identify with? Check mine out, for example. I’ve got Twitter, G+, and Facebook all right there. People will zoom in on the brand (social media network) they identify with, and probably ignore the others.

So yes, this means you need to have a social media presence. On All The Things. Because there are few things more pathetic on the Interwebs than the completely abandonded blog or social media account. But you don’t have time to do All The Things. So… what do you do?

Divide And Automate

Chris Bellamy'Automated machining'
First, let’s face it. You’re a creator. You are someone who may consume vast terabytes of content on the internet, but you also produce vast amounts of content. (I’m using the term “content” here to reflect not just what you write, but your photos, your recording, your music metadata, whatever. You produce data – that’s the key bit.)

So the first question to think about is:

Where do you naturally create content?

Again, content is a very agnostic term here. Content can include everything from:

  • Sharing links
  • Uploading a photo
  • Sharing a picture
  • Writing a blog post
  • Recording a song
  • Filming a video
  • Doing a podcast

One of the best bits of advice from the book Crush It! (paraphrased) is this:

Do what is natural for you. Would you be blogging anyway? Do it. Hate writing, but love video? Do a vlog (or whatever they’re called these days). Audio your bag? Do a podcast.

The key part here is identifying what you already do.

There are two special forms of content creation – automatic creation and replies – that I talk about below.

Where do you create content?

Determine where you already spend energy to create content. Let me give you a couple of examples of types of content, and where I personally share them. (Please note, these are examples. If you like WordPress instead of Blogger or think flat files are the only way to blog, then do what feels right for you.)

  1. Writing = My blog. This is perhaps the most important bit of my online presence. It’s where people get a sense of who I am, what I do, why I do it, and what I believe in. I dreamed of being an opinion columnist when I was younger, and it’s quite possible that this is the best elements of that gig.
  2. Link sharing and casual conversation = Twitter. I like the quasi-instant, quasi-asynchronous communication format.
  3. Pictures = Flickr. Nearly every picture I’ve taken and digitized ends up in Flickr somewhere.
  4. Deeper conversation = A few communities on Google Plus, most notably Evo Terra’s Digital Publishing group.

There’s a bit of bleedover – I’ve occasionally had a deeper conversation on Facebook (though it’s rare), and sometimes I’ve shared stuff just on Tumblr. But these are the four big places that content originates. And these are, again, things I’d be doing anyway.

Where do you automatically create content?

I listen to music. It is submitted to I do nothing extra.

On Instagram or Flickr, if I favorite a photo, I’ve automatically created content.

Rating a book on Goodreads. Submitting a commit to GitHub. Repinning on Pinterest, or faving on Tumblr or Twitter. There is a lot of activity we do that can generate some kind of content without us doing anything extra.

What’s better, is that this is the kind of data that fans love. It makes you more than just a name on a book – it makes you into more of a person.

And many of these kinds of content are exposed through an RSS feed.

Please note: I have deliberately not included Foursquare on here. There is a line that you should be very acutely aware of in terms of privacy. See Practical Privacy Online for more details.

How do you get it from here to there?

So you have the places your content originates, and the types of content you automatically create. And this is where a few tools (and types of tools) let us have a presence on social media networks where we aren’t otherwise active.

Many services – such as, Goodreads, and GitHub – have “recent activity feeds”. It’s an RSS feed, which is really versatile for our purposes.

Quite a few of the rest are able to be accessed through If This Then That – or IFTTT. We can channel all this traffic through IFTTTT – and will in the example below – but be aware that there are other services that exist (RSS Graffiti, Buffer, Futuretweets, Tweetitlater, or even the Twitter app in Facebook) that let you do a lot of this behavior without relying on one service. Buffer, TweetItLater and RSS Graffiti even spread out your updates. For the advanced user, you can also use Yahoo Pipes to really do some cool stuff. And don’t forget things like “post by e-mail” – that’s how my blog gets to LiveJournal, or directly piping your blog’s RSS feed into Amazon Authors or Goodreads.

But back to the simplest starting point. Please note that all these connections in this example are handled through IFTTT… so I do not have to manually share it using any application. Here’s a guide to automating your online life with IFTTT.  But here’s some examples of how I use it:

  • I post a blog post. I have the blogger channel in IFTTT set up, and I have a recipie that takes any new blog post and posts it to my Facebook feed, Twitter, and Facebook author page.
  • I post a picture to Flickr. It gets reposted as a Tumblr photo blog post.
  • I post a picture to Instagram. It gets copied to Flickr and then to a Tumblr photo blog post.
  • I tweet. It gets posted to my Facebook feed but not my Facebook author page. (You’ll note this could cause duplicates over blog posts. This is where it gets tricky.)

And those automatic content creators?

  • I “heart” a track on It posts to Twitter or Facebook. (I also use TweetItLater to post the latest song in my “listened” feed every three hours.)
  • I “favorite” a picture on Flickr or Instagram. It gets turned into a Tumblr photo post.

All of a sudden, people are seeing content from me on social networks that I rarely actually look at. It’s real content – not just meaningless trash – and it’s really from me.  But it’s also not requiring a ton of effort on my part.

You’ll also notice the exception of Google Plus in all of this. That’s because Google Plus actually does a really, really horrible job in letting information in or out. Which is why I only really participate in one group on Google Plus, though I’ll manually post my own blog links when I remember to.  Note:  Buffer now has G+ integration for pages as well.

What about duplication?

Well, I’ve stopped worrying about it quite so much, and this is why: Not only is everyone else too time-strapped to be on all the networks themselves, they also use them very differently.

For example, my girlfriend barely follows anyone on Facebook. But she follows a WHOLE bunch of people on Twitter. One is close friends, and one is everyone she’s met or is interested at all in.

And then I know people who treat them exactly the opposite.

The point being that even people who are on multiple social media networks rarely treat them the same… and will probably be okay with seeing you talk about the same blog post once on each network.

And how do you keep from flooding your friends with a bunch of stuff all at once?  Check out Buffer for automated scheduled releases of your tweets, shares, and the like.  Pretty awesome, actually.

Where and how do you reply?

If all of that makes you feel a little deceptive, then congratulations! You have a soul and aren’t a SEO monster who feeds on trust and defecates spammy content. After all, this is social media, right? That means you need to be social.

The key is managing your notifications. Every online service wants to send you notifications when someone replies, tags, reblogs, or otherwise interacts with anything else you’ve done. Let’s use that to our advantage.

Notifications via e-mail are the easiest to manage. Set up an e-mail filter so that you get – and see – only the messages when someone actually replies to your post.

For example, I usually only log in to GoodReads when I am posting a full-on review. Except when someone comments on one of my blog entries or sends me an actual private message there – and those are the only reasons I get notifications from GoodReads. You can do the same with practically any social network, which lets you still be social with the people who are interacting with you while avoiding the pitfall of having to check (and create original content for) a bazillion networks every day.

What do you do differently?

Obviously, this is what I do to manage my social networks.  What other services, tips, or tricks do you use?