How to Survive Information Overload in Social Media Engagement
Social media engagement requires a lot of reading, analyzing, and reporting. On its own, the act of engaging exposes you to a tremendous amount of information that can be overwhelming to digest. Here are a few tricks you can use to help you reduce the potential overload and to handle the fire hose of content and conversations coming your way.
Develop the habit of using a consistent process of engagement. These steps outline one process we've tested (with time estimates) that works well if you're struggling to handle too much information:
Peruse your news feeds and messaging streams to see what topics other people are discussing and to gauge the mood of your audience.
Average time: 5 minutes. Set a timer, if necessary.
Retweet, share, favorite, or otherwise engage with others as appropriate.
Average time: 5 minutes.
Look for public mentions of your brand or direct questions or requests. Respond or forward messages to the appropriate team members or to an assistant to help respond.
Average time: 5 to 10 minutes.
Look for direct or private messages that aren't forwarded to your e-mail account, and respond or forward messages to the appropriate team members or to an assistant to help respond.
Average time: 5 to 10 minutes.
Log out, and get back to work.
That's 20 to 30 minutes per session — tops. Repeat these steps two to three times a day. You can get a lot accomplished with social media engagement in about an hour a day.
At times, you may have reasons to deviate from a process. The more active your social networks become and the more your community members interact with you, the more time and attention you should devote to build and maintain momentum.
After you're spending more than an hour every time you monitor and manage your social networks and engage with your audience, look for additional ways to streamline, or turn to others for help. Follow these additional tips for managing information overload:
Filter the conversations. Look for features within the social networks or tools you use to filter conversations so that you see the information that's most important to your business. Use dashboard tools such as HootSuite, MarketMeSuite, and SproutSocial to create columns or tabs of specific content streams, searches by hashtags, and other filtered criteria to home in on key conversations.
Stay on top of it. After you gain momentum from your engagement efforts, maintain consistency and stay on top of the messages and interactions. Develop a plan for covering your channels when you're away so that you don't return to the fallout from a failure to respond or to a glut of messages needing attention.
Hire help. The larger the online community, the less likely one person can spend an hour a day handling the interactions. Spending significantly more time than that can stand in the way of running your business. Consider hiring an intern or a virtual assistant to help you with social media engagement, even if she covers only weekends and evenings or simply directs queries to the appropriate team member.
Replace genuine interactions with genuine replies, not timed or canned messaging. Though scheduling precrafted messages can be useful to lessen the burden of participating in your social media channels, you (or someone you've hired and trained) also need to pay attention and respond personally as frequently as possible.
In the end, spending all your time in social networks is unrealistic. When online community members point out your absence or delayed responses, simply admit that you're human and that you're doing the best you can. Thank people for their input and concerns. Then catch up as much as possible, continue to engage well, and identify areas where you can improve.