Getting Control of Your Social Media Life

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You can balance your social media life between “I don’t have time for it” and “I can’t stay away from it!”

Social media participation is no longer a topic of debate. Businesses and consultants who have an online presence and a customer base MUST be involved in the conversation. People are talking. Now, one of the biggest challenges is:

"How do I find time for it?"

How do I find time for social media?Companies who are fully engaged in social media find they are pressed for time sharing on Twitter, blogging, responding to comments, and keeping up with Facebook fans. The result of social media engagement is:

  • Multiple connection and friend requests
  • Strengthened relationships
  • Elevated interest in the company’s products or services
  • More concept proposals and pitches
  • More incoming emails, newsletters and junk mail
  • Instant messaging alerts
  • Dreaded auto DMs from Twitter
  • Increasing level of accountability
  • Increasing influx of SPAM
  • An escalated amount of INPUT!

Enter … Social Media Shock!

Futurologist Alvin Toffler, in his book "Future Shock," defined the concept and effects as "too much change in too short a period of time." He made a detailed study of the acceleration of change and the effects on humans. Toffler suggested the velocity of change and the choices made based on the increasing amount of incoming information would result in severe physical and emotional trauma. That was 1970!

Today, the input feels like it’s 24/7. Dolly Parton would need to write new lyrics to "9 to 5" if referring to a career in today’s world! Social media presents MORE layers of information to process. The constant barrage of bits of information can leave one feeling shell shocked like military personnel in war.

Social Media Shock can leave one feeling out-of-control, with an overwhelming sense of:

"How do I keep up with it all?"

Are you "always on," "always available," with "instant access?" What do you do when answering an @ reply on Twitter becomes more important than answering the phone or even the voice of your spouse or children? You may fall into the camp of …

"I can’t stay away from it!"

Social Media Addiction

This post is not a 12 Step Program to help with social media addiction. I’m assuming many reading this, however, may relate to my Story of a Social Media Addict. Surely Toffler could not have imagined an Internet Addiction Recovery Program would open to treat addiction to texting, gaming, and the Internet. Psychological trauma is real. Social Media can lead to changes in behavior.

  • Some people have admitted that social media feeds their egos.
  • Others have said that receiving a DM or text message actually excites them, like a drug.
  • For some, acquiring more "friends" is an obsessive compulsion.
  • Most of us are wired with a "need to know." The quest for the latest information and "what’s happening" can lead to one being logged into social networks from morning till night.

Social Media Addiction

The addiction may result from the "high" of having one’s interpersonal and relational needs met. Dana Larson wrote about the "Hierarchy of Social Media Needs" on Bruce Clay last year where she covered the psychology of social media marketing. It’s a necessary aspect of marketing that must be balanced each day.

You can break the chains of social media addiction! You can be productive and social! How?

  1. Set boundaries
  2. Set aside time for processing.
  3. Schedule social time.

This is not a post in project management or personal productivity or even a list of tools to ping multiple social networks so it looks like you are online. Below are some tips to start:

Quit Working in the Emergency Room!

Do you often feel like you are working in an Emergency Room? It feels as if emails, friend requests, IMs, DMs, and phone calls come at you with a sense of urgency. Unless you are employed in a hospital, quit working there!

Close the doors!

Work on tasks and projects the way a doctor focuses on patients. Doctors do not answer emails or take out their iPhone while performing surgery.

Close the doors that open you to distraction. Turn off the constant flow. When you are working on a project, turn off :

  • Popup windows
  • Instant Messaging
  • Skype
  • Your Twitter client
  • Your phone!

Put on those headphones!

Schedule Blocks of Time.

Schedule blocks of time for projects as appointments on your calendar. When information comes in or distractions knock at the door, remember you’re in a "project appointment." Process it when the appointment is over. If you have turned off your popups, you won’t even know it’s there!

On average, it takes at least 15 minutes every time you check and answer email. A water cooler break on Twitter or Facebook may be another 15 minutes.

How much is 15 minutes worth to you?

Can you afford to check your email and social networks three times every hour? If your billing rate is $1,000/hour like some of the top SEOs, then maybe. However, if you watch the habits of these same SEOs, you won’t see them socializing 45 minutes out of every hour.

Water-cooler breaks on Twitter and/or Facebook are important and a stress relief to many. Just make sure you control the social networks rather than allowing them to control you! Schedule social time throughout the day.

Batch Process!

Batch process your work. Say goodbye to A.D.D.!

Your brain is not a multi-processor. Your brain processes logical information linearly, one-by-one.

  • Do you have multiple browser sessions open?
  • Are you able to read two blog posts, share and comment on both at the exact same time?

Unless you have mastered parallel processing, then you cannot do more than one thing at once efficiently and effectively.

Didn’t Einstein say the definition of insanity is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in the mind at one time? Could processing email, IM, Twitter, social media lead to a feeling of insanity?

Batch process your workday into chunks of time so you can focus on one item at a time.

Music, however, can be processed simultaneously. Music is processed as spatial-temporal orientation, the emotional side of the brain rather than the logical. So, go ahead …

  • Put on those headphones!

Let go of the Emotional Control of Your Inbox!

Do a search on Twitter for "inbox." Note how many people post comments related to their email inbox. Getting our "inbox to zero" is a common quest.

Inbox zero!

You can let go of the emotional control of your inbox. After all, who is in control? You decide!

  1. Outlook Rules Schedule uninterrupted time to process email.
    (Ahh… Does that mean you need to set an email processing appointment on your calendar?)
  2. Set rules to put "like" emails into a folder.
    I have rules to place incoming emails into folders and bypass my inbox, e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. I read those friends requests or messages when I’m in that "mode."
  3. Check your email periodically throughout the day. If it’s too much of a temptation, close it!

A Microsoft at Work article suggests using the "Four D’s for Decision Making" when processing email:

  1. Delete it
  2. Do it
  3. Delegate it
  4. Defer it

You do not have to instantly respond to every request within 10 minutes or even the next hour! Taking control of your email inbox is one big step toward getting control of an active social media life.

Okay, are your ready to resign from the ER yet?

Get Stuff off your Mind and into a System

Capture and store information. Think,

"Out-of-sight, out-of-mind."

Declutter your Mind.

Social Media Shock - Mind ClutteredPut your thoughts somewhere. You don’t want those creative blog post ideas lingering in the back of your mind while you should be focusing on another project.

I recently started using Evernote to capture ideas and inspiration. Evernote works across platforms – Windows, Mach, Web, iPhone. You can capture and organize the following into multiple notebooks, like a filing system:

  • Text notes and memos
  • Web clippings
  • Audio notes
  • Photo notes and comments

Has anyone used Jott? (I haven’t tried it but am salivating.)

Track all your Tasks.

I track tasks using a combination of Outlook Task Manager, an old-fashioned tablet of paper and the Franklin Planner system. Your system may be Outlook, Getting Things Done, Franklin/Covey, The Action Method, Remember The Milk, voice memos, or writing on the palm of your hand.

Whatever you do, you must get your ideas, tasks and notes out of your mind and documented into a system.


Social media engagement requires planning and strategy! Planning is easy yet often the hardest thing to do. You have to set time aside to plan.

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." -Author unknown

You need to understand what social media is and how it fits into your organization’s overall marketing, customer service and linkbuilding efforts. It’s more than posting links to your blog on Twitter and Facebook. Your efforts will be fruitless if they are not strategic.

The 10% Rule

Many social media strategists suggest that sharing your own "stuff" should be no more than 10% of your participation. Unless you are a news organization or aggregator who is broadcasting, remember the 10% rule for sharing your personal posts.

I recently attended a MarketingExperiments’ "Live Landing Page Optimization Certification" course. I grabbed onto this key planning principle:

Successful marketers spend at least 10% of their time in reflective thinking.

Use the 10% Rule to plan your social media participation. If social media is 10 hours/week of your job description, then at least 1 hour each week should be spent planning and reflectively thinking about your social media activities.

Productivity Tips

David Wallace shared his Productivity Tips for Busy Search Marketers after speaking at SMX West 2009. The key takeaway for being busy and productive is that you need a routine and a plan. His approach is a great example of batch processing. (I especially like his front loading of tasks into the first three weeks of the month!)

Improve your productivity by taking the Henry Ford assembly-line approach – batch process your work and your social media life!

Shut down distractions when you’re not "online," and watch your productivity soar!

Addicted to email

  • What if you loose track of time in while in the social networks?
  • Want a little help with your attachment to email or Facebook addiction?
  • Do you find yourself checking them too often instead of doing what you’re supposed to do?

Try Keep Me Out, an online application that can help you overcome your addiction of visiting certain websites (Gmail, Facebook, Digg, MySpace, etc.) too frequently. It sends you warning alerts!

Keep Me Out -

In Summary …

Develop New Habits!

It takes 7 days to make a new habit and 21 days to break an old one. Begin habitual processing, develop a routine, schedule your time. Start today!

Getting control of your social media life is not about project management or getting a virtual assistant to help with your mail. Shut the doors to distractions. Open them when your mind is free to process. Capture needed information, and track all your tasks. Prioritize and organize your workday and personal life first! 

Let us know how you capture and manage a busy social media life. How do you get the most output with the least amount of effort?

Dana Lookadoo is a Search Marketing Optimizer with a focus on Word-of-Mouth SEO, where search engine optimization and social media intersect. Dana is launching a new brand, Yo! Yo! SEO, to provide Search Marketing Consultation and Education. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Dana Lookadoo

Dana Lookadoo

Dana Lookadoo is the founder of Yo! Yo! SEO, a boutique agency based around the concept of Word-of-Mouth SEO. Focus is on helping businesses optimize... Read Full Bio
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  • Mickey

    Great article! Regarding Jott, I love it! I use it in combination with Nozbe (my “Declutter your mind” solution). It’s a great way to keep a free mind when driving. If I think of something I need to do later, I call Jott, tell it “Nozbe”, then say the task. It’ll be sitting in my task list for later, and I can stop thinking about it.

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Mickey, what a FANTASTIC tip! I had not heard about Nozbe before – just looked it up, an iPhone app. Well, I’m in “new phone” mode and have been wondering about taking the iPhone plunge. If increased productivity is an option with that app, then you may have convinced me to go ahead with AT&T. Glad to hear Jott is working so well for you with it. I’m very excited. Thanks!

      • Mickey

        Dana — I LOVE Nozbe. It’s not perfect, but it’s by far the best I’ve found.

        The collaboration tools are well-planned, too. I can share a project with someone and we can assign tasks back and forth.

        It’s free for up to five projects, so give it a shot!

  • Mercylivi

    I was thinking about it today, and realized that I’m active on a ridiculous number of social media networks. I’ve got Twitter, Facebook, orkut, sphinn and more – I’d get exhausted if I went through them all. Though each application is improving, and has its own lures and reasons to use, keeping track of them all is hard. It’s a lot of different places to check, a lot of information to consume, and a lot of work to stay active on all the various sites.

    Great post in time! Enjoyed reading it!

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Mercylivi, I’m tired just thinking about having all those networks open at once. I confess … I too easily suffer from Social Media Shock by doing the same. When I have 23 windows open, Firefox is not the only thing that runs slow, my brain begins misfiring! I’m beginning to use Streamy,, as a dashboard for many of the channels.

      I so understand the “need” to stay active on many sites. At some point, one needs the difficult process of elimination. Think of it like trimming rose bushes. You cut off parts of the plant so the rest of it can bloom bigger and brighter.

      • Vikk

        TweetDeck is a new tool I’m using that helps me manage Facebook and Twitter so I don’t have to have those windows open and switch between them. IT also allows me to organize the input of Twitter. It’s made life much easier. I just open it in the morning and it runs in the background. Sometimes I use Twitter and it posts to my Twitter and Facebook but generally I use them for different purposes.

        I also like the way multiple tasks can now be rolled into one or two tasks. I use Word to write my blog entries and then I can easily upload to Typepad from Word. I have Evernote and have used it but really haven’t incorporated it into my daily habits yet. I have the app on my iPhone along with iTalk so I can record easily. I don’t have many windows open but then my main social media is Facebook and then Twitter. I have a Fan page for my blog on Facebook and my blog entries roll into that without me having to do anything. In general I try to keep my entries and replies limited so things don’t get out of hand. Having clear goals on how I want to use the various social media and programs helps. I can’t imagine having 23 windows open, guess I’m not that social. πŸ™‚

  • Dan Patterson

    Very well put! I suffered from inbox addiction for a while so I took Tim Ferris’ advice and only checked it twice a day. That broke the addiction. Now I can leave it open and not panic every time an email comes in because I taught myself to not respond immediately.

    You have to know when to unplug. You won’t die if you miss some twitter updates!

  • Dana Lookadoo

    Dan, checking email twice a day? WOW! It sounds like Tim Ferris’ helped you develop “inbox bio feedback” – super! I like it!

    Thanks for the “unplug” reminder. I’ll get over the shakes soon! πŸ™‚ Great advice!

  • Lori

    Wow, amazing post, Dana! I am guilty of many things you mentioned. I remember one time when my internet was down and I got so much done on the computer b/c I wasn’t checking email, etc.

    I’m going to go offline now πŸ™‚

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Maybe we should all go to someplace where we cannot have Internet to get our work done? I share your guilt! πŸ™‚

  • Dawn Wentzell

    After years of being addicted to my email, I can now proudly say that when I’m in the “zone” I am able to completely ignore incoming message notifications. I often need to keep my email open to reference project information, so this skill has become invaluable.

    Of course, coworkers often don’t understand why I haven’t replied to their email 3 seconds after they sent it. Isn’t that what IM is for?? πŸ˜›

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Dawn, what a great takeaway … to be “in the zone” and completely ignore incoming message notifications! Agreed, invaluable skill! Great insight! Thanks

  • Kevin

    This was a great article. I have also found to be a GREAT way to save time. I update my blog and it updates me social web 2.0 sites with the new content links.

    This helps save a lot of time instead of trying to update a handful (or more) social websites.



    • Dana Lookadoo

      Kevin, thanks for the tip, hmmm… Looking into it. I ponder about pinging & posting to multiple sites. Do you try to engage on those sites as well and show a presence and interact depending upon those connections? I guess, however, if one is thinking syndication, OnlyWire would be a good solution. Appreciate the tip!

  • Dr. Pete

    My name is Pete, and I’m a social mediaholic. There’s a lot of great advice here – I think some people can manage it and find balance, but I’ve found that I have to just shut off the noise sometimes and take an hour or two to focus on a project. I’ve even started shutting off things like Twitter on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, or any time that I’m feeling productive.

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Pete, didn’t I see you in the Social Media Anonymous meeting? You’re so right…shut down to focus, then come up to breath and hang out at the Twitter Water Cooler!

  • Mike Gomez

    Great article! I find I read so much in the social media front that it’s hard to remember and come back to it at a later date. Writing those ideas down in Evernote should definitely help that.

    What’s worse is new technologies are coming out all the time. Just today I’ve been invited to look at the new Yahoo Meme! Have you managed to have a look at it yet?


    • Mickey

      I’ve played with Yahoo Meme a little bit. Seems pretty slick, but I don’t see how it’s really any better than Twitter.

      • Dana Lookadoo

        Glad Mickey chimed in about Yahoo! Meme. I haven’t “played” just watched. It’s going to be hard for anyone to get a foothold in the Twitter door.

        Mike, it will be cool to share notes later, as I’m just starting to use Evernote. It solves part of my “capture” info solution and frees my mind for other stuff.

    • Mike Gomez

      They was my thoughts exactly. There aren’t any real innovations apart from everything being seemingly in one place and therefore no imputous for the Meme to take off.

      Dana, will be checking out Evernote today so will certainly share notes when we both have a foothold on it πŸ™‚

      • Dana Lookadoo

        Here’s a little Evernote fun …
        Click on the blue play arrow & turn up the volume!

      • Dana Lookadoo

        trying that Evernote “fun” link again with http:

  • DazzlinDonna

    I have my most important tasks scheduled on my calendar. The calendar interrupts whatever I’m doing to let me know that I need to stop doing whatever I’ m doing, because I really really need to work on Project X now. Obviously, if I’m already doing something I feel is critical, I won’t stop, but more often than not, I can defer whatever I’m doing to get X done. This way, even if I’m getting bogged down in some social craziness, my calendar is there to remind me to “just step away” and focus on a highly important task. (I have a million other productivity things I do as well, but that one is at the top of the list).

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Donna, I love you! I’m laughing because I do the same thing, well sometimes. I’ve been scheduling projects on the calendar more and more and keeping them like appts. Since doing this, my discipline has taken over my desires and whallah – stuff gets done. I know some task/productivity system suggest not doing this, but it’s working for you and me. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Vikk

      Donna, I’ve been using my Outlook calendar for a couple of years now to remind me of routine tasks. As a writer I can end up running down rabbit trails for hours. My calendar reminder has a quiet but effective sound so it doesn’t jar my thought process but reminds me that I need to take care of something. I also use it to remind me of upcoming events and meetings. Now that I have an iPhone, it works on my phone, too, so I get the reminders no matter where I am. It’s up to me to then go do the tast but it’s a huge help.

  • The Communicator

    Good post on managing personal social accounts, but I’d add something for your readers to think about as it relates to social networking for a business. Although some social communication can be achieved in-house, it is often recommended to outsource much of the task to someone who has time to manage the voice or brand of the company. That way staff members don’t feel fragmented and the experts can stay focused on preserving and enhancing the company’s image.

    • Dana Lookadoo

      The Communicator, you bring up a good point and one of debate. Many feel no one can instantly respond and truly be the voice of a company other than the company itself. However, social communication doesn’t come naturally and requires a paradigm shift for those used to old-style marketing and PR. Social Media is push and pull, listen and engage. It takes understanding and some practice. Many agencies can help guide businesses in this or maybe get them started. There are, however, firms who so simply become the voice of the company.

      Matt Leonard wrote a good post as part of this Social Media Series about the importance of social media guidelines. Companies must understand that their employees do become a “representative” of their companies when they are socializing, even if they are not officially the social communications team.

  • Jesse Friedman

    Great Post Dana!

  • Steph Woods

    Social media is distracting!

    I have to turn off Twitter entirely if I want to get anything done. It’s tough for my brain to comprehend that “quickly” checking what people have posted on Twitter adds up over the course of a day.

    A few harmless moments here and there can lead to an unproductive (and ultimately frustrating) day!

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to keep my social media habits in check.

    • Dana Lookadoo

      Steph, I imagine that many of us reading your comment about how tough it is for your brain to comprehend that quickly agree with the resulting effects on productivity and emotions! Some days, Twitter can be like a drug. πŸ™‚

      Keeping out social media habits in check may result in withdrawal symptoms. After we get over the shakes, we should be able to use and enjoy the advantages of socializing, sharing, and marketing online.

  • ProMomBlogger

    This article was fabulous. I am a social media virtual assistant but I find that what I do mostly is find ways to get small business owners to “own” their social media experience by providing them first with the setup (customized design, automation and support) and design of their web presence.

    I love and will be reading more from you. Keep up the great writing!

    Do you do interviews? Please email me. I’d love to have you on my radio show.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    ProMomBlogger, you have a great approach to ensure businesses own their social media presence. Hope this helps as a resource to help them find a balance between the extremes.

    I’m honored by your interview request. Of course! I have a tight schedule the next couple weeks but would be happy to discuss and share any insights, things I’ve learned the hard way! πŸ™‚ I don’t have access to your email. Mine is in the link below my photo. Look forward to chatting!

  • ProMomBlogger

    Oh Dana, Oh Dana,

    I’ve subscribed and following you now at @YoYoSEO. I’m watching, reading, learning and hoping to share my knowledge with my audience very soon and looking forward to meeting you very soon as well. I’m at @ProMomBlogger on twitter.

    I didn’t see your email address in the link below your photo so I used the other mediums to connect with you. Hoping to chat very soon as well.

    You SO rock “YO”… lol

  • Facebook Application

    People now really conider cosical networking and wants to connect with friends and people by social life. Its really getting popular. Nice info

  • Facebook App Developers

    Now people of every age are using social network specially facebook. They want to connect with friends and want to increase circle of new friends.