If you search for social media management, the majority of results you’ll find are written for a business audience interested in company branding and community building. When I conducted a similar search for students, in preparation for a recent #IOLchat session, most of the results addressed the job search and importance of a professional digital footprint.
At first glance, these social media goals may not appeal to traditional academics and educators, but a closer look reveals a connection with interests in developing an online presence, becoming an authority in your field, and collaborating with other educators. In addition, social media participation brings with it the potential for connection with students, colleagues across the globe, and new career opportunities.
With so many platforms and networks available, trying to be everywhere all the time is an unrealistic, and unnecessary, goal. Fortunately, there are tools and strategies available to help you manage your time and energy.
If you are involved in more than one social networking site, there may be times when you forget to check one or another, or find it difficult to keep up with all of the information being shared by others. These tools can help you consolidate your efforts, providing a big picture view of your accounts and related information:
- Dashboards: Systems such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and SocialBro allow you to connect your multiple profiles (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+) through a single account, providing one sign-in to access them all. Additional features include hashtag filtering and tracking statistics about your use.
- Aggregators: Flipboard, IFTTT, and RebelMouse also pull together items from your social profiles, as well as the information being shared by others, to create a sort of newsfeed. Social functions allow you to comment on and share articles, posts, etc. though connections you make with your own accounts.
- Mobile Apps: Many of the dashboard systems and aggregators listed above, and the individual platforms, offer options for easier viewing and interaction via your smartphone or tablet. Download these applications, which are usually free, to sync your social media activities across devices.
Selecting tools to manage your social media accounts is just one way to improve your experience. Creating your own goals for how you’ll interact with the world via social media is also part of the process. Take a look at several strategies designed to help you manage your social media participation:
- Balance the professional and personal. Finding a balance between what and how you share via your various life roles (i.e., family, work, school) can be tricky. Have a plan in place for each account related to the type of information and updates you will post and follow.
- Find your voice. You’ll find this phrase used in the blogging community, but it applies to almost all social media platforms. What do you want to say, who do you want to reach, and how do you want to be perceived? Consider the potential audience for each account you open to communicate with students, collaborate with colleagues, participate in professional development activities, disseminate your research, and more.
- Cast a net. While you may follow lots of different types of accounts, you can organize the flow of information using criteria of your choice. Explore each system’s capabilities to collect and filter information by topic – Twitter Lists, LinkedIn Groups, and Google+ Circles are just a few examples. These features take time to set up initially, but may save even more time later on.
- Include an education community. See how other educators are managing their social media participation. Edmodo, Academia.edu, Mendeley, and edWeb.net are just a few of the options that have been established specifically for use by education professionals. These communities offer more than just online profiles and status updates with existing networks of people whose interests are similar to yours, such as blended learning, gamification, and emerging educational technology.
- Schedule time to participate. Social media is something you can turn on and off, and rest assured it will be there when you return. Block small segments of your day to check in and establish a cut-off time to keep you from getting lost in social media and putting off other tasks you need to accomplish.
- Be selective. Don’t accept the pressure to be active all the time or on all of the popular networks. It’s not realistic to expect that you’ll have time for them all or find an audience in each one. Start small, with just one or two primary networks where you already know a few other people and explore from there, adding and subtracting as it makes sense for you.
Where do you find the most value in social media participation? Share your favorite sites and management suggestions with us here.
Image credit: Frau Holle, Flickr, CC:BY-SA