9 ways to tame the social media zoo

Twitter and Facebook and Blogs, oh my…

The general buzz I read: writers must have an online presence.

The Internet is an amazing place. But it can consume you, eat up your time, chew you up, and spit you out. You can lose yourself there. If you aren’t careful, you might lose more than you intended.

This is me:

  • a writer who holds down a full time job
  • limited number of hours for writing
  • limited number of hours for social media
  • personal Facebook only and on the fence about whether I need or want an “author” FB
  • Goodreads: limited use at this time and trying to figure out how to make it work in my “zoo”
  • 3 Twitter accounts (2 for work, 1 for me, the fiction writer)

Here’s my current strategy for managing the myriad forms of social media:

1. Writing must be your #1 priority. Determine what time of day works best and write (or revise/edit) regularly. Once a day, once a week. Fifteen minutes, an hour. Just do it. If you don’t finish a manuscript and publish it, what is the point of the hours you spend online with this social media presence?

2. Choose social media time wisely. Invoke it when writing/revising/editing your manuscript is beyond your brain’s capability to think straight. My weekday writing time is normally right after I leave the office. If I don’t face my manuscript at that point, it’s usually a lost cause for me. On weekends, I do the majority of my writing between 8am and noon. 8pm & later is social media time at my house.

3. Set a time limit on your use of social media. Use an alarm, set an alert. Five more minutes means 5 more minutes. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Close that browser window. Turn off your phone or put it on vibrate and place it in another room.

4. Use lists on Twitter to quiet the buzz of “look-at-me-world-go-buy-my-book” tweets. I use Hootsuite for Twitter traffic. I have at 7 streams there now (for my fiction persona), a number that goes up & down as I find new #hashtags to follow or delete others. It’s easy to shoot back & forth between Hootsuite and my blog reading.

5. Try to comment on 5-10% of the blogs you read. I try. I don’t always succeed, and some of that comes down to the issue of being too brain dead at night to formulate a useful or thought-provoking comment.  The problem is that I also feel this is one of the best places where interaction with readers, potential readers, and other writers can be established. (Update: Kristen Lamb also mentions that passive marketing of your book(s) is the better way to go. Commenting on others blogs leads to increased traffic for you; use your blog to promote rather than twitter spamming.)

If you’re like me, you spot even more things you want to read from your Twitter lists or links from the blogs you follow. Don’t have time to read them all?

6. Get organized. Create a folder in your web browser called “reading” (or whatever) and bookmark posts to read later. Okay, honestly, this doesn’t work for me. I bookmark things and never manage to get back to them unless I’ve marked them as reference sources. Most of the others remain unread. So, rather than bookmark, I take a quick look at the subject matter of the writer’s recent posts or scan the categories they’ve used. What else is he/she talking about? Good things? Do I want to keep an eye on this blogger? If my answer is yes, then…

7. Use a feed reader. You’ll have a constant reminder of what you haven’t read, and be able to check those posts when you have a few moments to spare. One folder should be your “must-read” list.

feed reader

I love Google Reader and use it to organize all the blogs I follow. I have multiple folders, including “new to watch” & “reconsider” categories. If I’ve marked favorite posts along the way and decide to drop someone – sorry, it happens – I still have those in my “starred” folder, something Google Reader automatically creates.

Many blogs offer a “follow via email” option but I already get way too much email. If you’re email savvy, you could set up filters so those emails don’t hit your inbox but go straight into a folder. Considering how many blogs I follow, this isn’t an option for me. I’d never sort through all those emails.

Another great point about using a feed reader rather than bookmarking blogs: you won’t have to click on 30 or 40 that you favorited in your web browser to see if something new has been posted. You won’t have to remember that Char regularly posts on Monday so you should stop by.

Feed readers are your friend. Open it up during your social media time and scan the posts. Pick & choose what you want to read.

8. Shun housework & yard work. Cook enough on weekends so you just have to reheat on weekdays. Get a crockpot. Order a pizza. Don’t forget to water your plants. Better yet: get silk plants! Remember your #1 priority, and organize your social media reading & participation around it.

9. Don’t avoid your children, spouse, significant others, or pets. They deserve your attention, but you need your writing time & space, too. Negotiate with them. Children (and the rest) need to have their own quiet time & structuring every minute of their day is not good for them or you.

How do you make social media work for you?

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