Social Media Is Not For You

I’ve been getting into a lot recently of being connected to systems, while at the same time really being as disconnected as possible from them. I starting thinking about that while reading Tim Ferriss‘s book, the 4 Hour Work Week. Tim gives examples of businesses that he’s set up, which require very little interaction from him anymore; check the email once a week, attend meetings rarely, etc… I think there’s a lesson there that can be applied to social media which will help people change their perspectives on how involved they need to be in the different conversations happening on a personal level (as apposed to representing a business), and on traits of being an active versus a passive participator.

Social Media Is Not For You

Social media is not for you to spend a copious amount of time on.  Social media is there for you to use as a tool.  Productive people don’t use social networks like Facebook by being on them for hours of a day, doing constant monitoring and updating.  They use social network effectively as tools by managing their time, adding value, and by participating in discussions with others, each of which can be done in surprisingly very little time.

Most of the messages on social networks aren’t going to be directed at you, help you with your problems, or have anything to do with you. Hardly ever will those messages be urgent or important. And that’s absolutely fine. The only thing that you need to learn from that is to behave in response to that appropriately. Watching the stream can be a nice way to fill in your work hours, or feel connected with the few people on twitter that you really care about staying updated with, but it’s habit forming and it’s an almost 100% unproductive use of time.

Chances are you’ll never get an @reply or a DM on Twitter where if you don’t reply in 5 minutes, anyone will notice. If you cut down your social media usage to a few times or only once a day you might come in on the late end of the conversations that occur, but that’s actually a benefit. You might want to be the first person who replies or comments to the initial question, “What is it About TweetDeck, Web 2.0’s Bloomberg Terminal?” and follow that discussion and it develops. On the other hand, you could save yourself from the distraction, staying focused on doing productive work, and join the discussion at a later time and reap the benefits of joining a discussion that has already matured, either into something relevant and interesting that’s worth your time participating, or into a superficial or shallow discussion, in which case you’ve saved yourself time.

Social Media As A Distraction

People underestimate how much of a distraction checking different social networks and pulling up their clients is. Enabling notifications for twitter clients I’ve noticed was one of the worst productivity decisions I could have made 8 months ago, and it was only two days ago that I learned the trick to increasing my focus, being more productive, and saving time.

Don’t Multi-task

For all the talk that’s out there, not multitasking seems to be an idea that’s pretty well known by now. Wrong. People still have the same problem of standing up from a three hour computer session, looking up, and then trying to figure out what it was they just did for the past three hours.

“I opened up Word, while that was loading I checked Gmail and Twitter, then spent a few minutes organizing my resources before writing. After starting to write for a few minutes I saw a notification of Will asking me about a website, sent him a quick message, then decided to check Facebook before getting back to work…”

Since upfront the barrier to participate in social networks is so low, and there’s still some value to be taken by just checking-in on your friends, people think it doesn’t count as multi-tasking. That’s a bad habit that should be stopped in the name of getting anything done.

David Allen, Tim Ferris, and so many others have all repeated the key to being productive: Focus. Let’s create a new definition for what a distraction is, after all, distractions are the enemy of focus:

Anything that takes your eyes’ attention is a distraction.

This definition is really dangerous in the sense that it automatically creates hundreds of distractions for us in our environment. Not only are notifications distractions now, but our work environment is now filled and cluttered with distractions. Now, even our desktop environments and office tools are out to get us.

A Social Media Diet

A social media diet is not to remove social media from your lifestyle or habits, but to remove it from your hourly or to-the-minute habits.

1. Turn General Notifications Off

Turn them all off if possible. If you find it to difficult to cut yourself off completely, only enable notifications for messages directed at you personally, @replies and direct messages. Everything else can wait.

2. Batch It

If you can manage it, check and correspond on social networking sites at specific times of day: Morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon, early evening. This rule is the hardest for me.

3. Reduce Your Inboxes

This is the same rule that applies to emails, and tasks. Either combine the streams, or choose to not follow some. There are tools that make doing this much easier. Two that I’ve used in the pass include the Flock Browser, Zenbe, and Digsby.

4. Focus on Sharing

A more productive way to participate on social networks is to give yourself a goal of sharing great quality content with your followers. Find some great articles, and share them using the FriendFeed bookmarklet. This gives you the opportunity to participate, and is also one of the fastest ways build credit and credibility with your followers through the network.

5. Use TweetDeck

TweetDeck is the “fire hose” of information streams, it’s a bad idea to stick your face in front of it all day, but it’s great to the big picture with only a glance. You can use whatever twitter client you prefer, but I find that to get all the information I need at the fastest speed, TweetDeck wins hands down.

Here’s another great post by Leo Babauta on tips to use Twitter productively: A Minimalist’s Guide to Using Twitter Simply, Productively, and Funly

How many times have you checked Twitter while reading this article?

4 thoughts on “Social Media Is Not For You

  1. I have seen that the biggest roadblock to social media for many small business owners is the perceived investment in time.

    I think you addressed it well and personally I have been doing some thinking recently and started looking at how I can use social media more effectively. Personally I use my downtime and tools like brightkit to leverage activity when I am working. Also tools like twitter are most effective in peak times (ie. non work hours) when there is the most eyeballs.

    I have read Tim Ferris' stuff and I have any appreciation for it but you have to look at his approach.

    Many business owners I have met aren't too happy with his approach. It is almost like he hates what he does and tries anything to avoid spending another hour more than necessary on what he does for a living.

    That is very different to Gary Vaynerchuk's approach. He is very passionate about his work and is famous for his dedication to his work. He boasts about spending hours daily answering emails and replies.

    Two very contrasting perspectives which is right I can't say, who is more effective in business? I don't know, but I think Gary has a stronger more loyal personal brand.

    My general rule for social media is that your results are directly involved in how dedicated you are to participating.

    1. Great point Daniel. I would say that Tim and Gary's approaches to social media are a part of their different goals and strategies. Gary truly loves wine, is dedicated to his business, sharing information, and being close to his community. While on the other hand Tim has other goals; all of his traveling, learning languages, physical activities, and his new TV show are his motivations, which he doesn't mind dedicating time to.

      Who has more fame might be hard to answer on a world wide scale, with blogs + podcasts + books + cruises + main stream media + speaking, it's hard to measure and compare. But there's no question that from a social media perspective the amount of time Gary spends each day directly participating with his follower base through his podcast and answering emails pays back in ways that are different from Tim's only activity on his blog and Twitter.

      Both different, but if you are wondering who is more effective in business, its important to point out these social media activities are not financially motivated for Tim, where as Wine Library TV is a vehicle to promote Gary's business at

  2. Definitely agree with point #3. I've found Google reader to be fantastic for this. If you ever use twitter search you'll notice that the results page has a feed available and so I can get all of the twitter topics I'm interested in (including replies to me @davmac) straight into the same "inbox" I use for news etc.

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