Avoid Getting Overwhelmed: Make Social Media Work For You

June 27, 2012

I find that there's an interesting divide in mindsets when it comes to social media as tools. Which camp do you fall in? Do you just use social media haphazardly, or are you making these tools work for you in some way? Is social media:

  • a necessary evil that provides little benefit,
  • an unnecessary evil, or
  • a vital component of your communications strategy that adds value?

How about your department? Is your department just using social media because it 'should'? Which of the above is your mindset? I find that customization and strategic thinking turn an unnecessary or necessary evil into a tool that adds value and works for my benefit. Just like the background or profile photo can be personalized, the way each account is used also can be personalized. For example, there are several content types beyond broadcasting news: sharing opinions, asking questions, etc. There are different uses for social networks: business, personal, education, networking, dating, etc. Endless possibilities. One can customize how they read their followers' updates by organizing them into Twitter lists.  One can form groups on Facebook for increased productivity when making event plans. However you use each social account, you can tailor it to your life. You make it work for you. If you don't organize your social media in the way your brain organizes all its (social) information (connections, networks, interactions, reactions) then a social tool will seem chaotic, overwhelming, and more trouble than it's worth. I use my social networks for specific purposes and have tailored them to be a benefit for my life. I'm meeting more colleagues in my field (on Twitter as much as on LinkedIn); connecting with extended family members on a deeper level (on Facebook through personal messaging and sharing photos); and keeping on top of emergent technologies, tools, and strategies for my career (through blogs, Twitter, SlideShare, etc). I'm even spending more of my free time outdoors so I can use one of my favorite social networks: Instagram. I am making social media work for me, and not the other way around. Social media networks are a bit overwhelming because they are a mental challenge. It's hard work keeping our connections not only in the cloud, but also in our mental 'cloud.' While we build a system as best we can within digital-based networks, our mind tries to wrap around those connections. I think our brain may be getting bigger (read how we're like monkeys whose brain size increases when they gain a cagemate). Keep in mind that your department does not have to be on every social network that exists. Just get on the networks that work best to support your priorities, that you enjoy the most and out of which you get the most value. As Alexa Mills from MIT CoLab said in our seminar 'Social Media on a Shoestring,' pick only a few social media platforms and use them well. Stephanie Hatch

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Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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