7 Secrets to Maximize Social Media with Minimal Time

Social media is an addictive time suck. We know that, but we still spend almost a quarter of our time on social networking sites. Can this be optimized? Can we get most of the benefits of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn without such a time cost?
People have increasingly been asking me these questions, so I decided to put together a list of my top secrets to social media savvy.
If you have a message to spread about your project and you want to reach a big audience without twittering yourself into a stupor, this list is for you. #7 is the most important one, so make sure to read all the way to the end.


1. Find your audience
To build a following on Twitter: first, find the thought leaders in your space. Wefollow has a good directory of top people by tag. See which leaders have thousands of followers but only hundreds that they follow, then click to see who they are following and follow the same people yourself.
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2. Keep your numbers in line
After you’ve followed a bunch of people, wait a few days, then unfollow people who don’t follow you back. You want to make sure that your following-follower ratio is not too high, as this is an indicator of unpopularity or spam and makes people less likely to follow you. FriendorFollow is a useful tool for seeing who doesn’t follow you back on Twitter.
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Repeat steps 1 and 2 for multiple thought leaders. Unfortunately, Twitter’s interface makes all of this very labor intensive, but I’ve found that 3-4 hours a week is enough to build and engage a following from scratch. (If you have an Twitter shortcuts, let me know in the comments!) And the rewards from Twitter can be surprising – funding, invited talks, international collaborators and close friends have come into my life as a result of tweeting. 
3. Be selective 
Only add people to your network that you know well enough to be able to introduce them to someone else. Twitter allows for more promiscuity, but on LinkedIn, you should have met or had a conversation with every person in your network. Ignore requests from anyone you haven’t met.
4. Offer up your wealth

This ties in to the most important secret #7 below, which I won’t reveal just yet… Basically, be willing to share your network with others. When someone asks me for help finding a job or a collaborator or a connection in a new city, I send them to my LinkedIn list, let them browse the connections and ask for any intros they think would be helpful. This saves me time looking through 600+ names myself every time – and I always do follow through on making the introduction requested.
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5. Spread your events
To be honest, I’m not a big Facebook user. I find it most useful for personal support and keeping in touch with friends in other countries, and not as useful for business or buzz spreading. But the one place it does well is with events – your friends can invite their friends, and the word gets around. As of yesterday, Quantified Self now has a Facebook group, so please join us and spread the word! 
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6. Use your voice
If you have a blog (or 5 blogs, like me), you have a platform. Write about people whose ideas you appreciate or who you want to have in your network, then find their email or Twitter contact info and let them know about your post. Everyone likes to be recognized and have a bit of spotlight shined on them. You’ll be doing them a service as well as adding to the value of your social network. 
Which brings me to the last and most important secret to maximizing social media…
7. Help people!
This may sound obvious, but it’s not. If you look at people’s Twitter and Facebook streams, you’ll see a lot of me, me, me. Look how great my life is, look at this cute cat video, look at me, look at me. If you turn this around and start using social media to help people, you’ll have a totally different experience. 
I have a goal of helping 10 people every day, and often I do this through social media. Everything from helping someone find a place to stay to promoting their event to answering a question to making an introduction – if you set out with the goal of helping others rather than promoting yourself, you will build a much stronger network that is there for you when you need it. Feel free to talk about yourself too, since openness builds trust, but don’t only talk about yourself.
So that’s my list of top social media secrets. I hope you enjoyed it! Please share your own secrets in the comments below.

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4 Responses to 7 Secrets to Maximize Social Media with Minimal Time

  1. Matthew Cornell says:

    I think your advice is excellent, Alex. An important part of making sure your social media time investment is worthwhile is making sure you’re reaching the right audience, as you discuss. I found it takes time to find them, and I suggest that folks treat the process as an experiment. Decide what you’ll measure – resulting hits on a product page of yours, for example – do your work to connect to them (using your suggestions), then evaluate how the experiment went. Did you get results you care about? If not, keep Thinking, Trying, and Learning. What’s a trap is getting sucked into the Twitter/Facebook/etc realm (they’re addictive, after all) and losing sight of what you’re using them *for*. This shift, so it helps to re-evaluate after some time.
    Re: helping people … YES! One of the things I love about LinkedIn is those times when someone asks for an introduction. Being able to connect two people who can help each other is tasty, and I wish I could do it more often. I’ve had a few home runs, which I’m pleased about.

  2. Matthew Cornell says:

    A follow-up:
    o http://wefollow.com/twitter/quantifiedself returns zero results. Have to fix that!
    o 5 blogs: That takes a *lot* of energy. Plus QS. Plus CureTogether – so impressive.
    o “I have a goal of helping 10 people every day.” – I’ve added it to the TTL ExperimentIdea repository. Great one!

  3. Alexandra Carmichael says:

    Thanks for your comments, Matthew! Very insightful – I love the simplicity of the TTL model, and am curious if your experiment idea repository is open for other people to see/contribute to?
    I should also rephrase my helping 10 people a day as an intention, not a goal. It’s gentler on myself, and I’m done with goals, after watching this interview with Stephen Fry – http://vimeo.com/11414505

  4. Pingback: How I wasted two years on Twitter, all because I wasn’t tracking | Quantified Self

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