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How to Avoid Social Network Overload

social mediaFor freelancers, staying connected is critical for finding the next gig, but it also likely means you’re likely getting burned out using social networks (if you haven’t already.) The New York Times called this “digital fatigue.” Perhaps that’s why Brian Solis, one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media, recommends approaching your own use of social media with a personal strategy. Using a personal social media strategy will help you benefit from using social media and learn how to change your habits to use social media networks more effectively.

Here are five points to consider when developing a personal social media strategy.

  1. Use social networks to benefit you both professionally and personally. There are dozens of social networks around the world, and while Facebook currently reigns as the most popular, many niche social networks are incredibly influential in certain regions and topics. As a freelance journalist, your success may hinge on being able to generate the most traffic for your articles, but this does not necessarily mean sharing your articles on the most popular social networks will attract the most readers. If you know of niche networks or forums (such as Reddit) that have a very active group of users interested in the topic you are writing about, sharing your article with these users may generate more views than simply seeding your article on Twitter or Facebook, where your broad general base may not care. If you consistently write about certain topics, building relationships with users on these niche networks can be critical in generating the traffic you need, and will be a better use of your time than haphazardly building a broad following across dozens of social networks.
  2. Decide how much time to dedicate to each social network to see results. While focusing on niche networks is important to generate those critical page views for an article written about a specific topic, a professional presence across the most popular social networks–such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+–is important for new readers to easily find and follow your updates to read your latest articles. Because your fan base will be much broader than the focus of your articles, it’s important not to spend too much time on any one specific social network unless you know that you have a strong following interested in what you write that will also share your articles with their friends and followers. Once you do find the social networks that help generate the most attention for your articles, be sure to focus your time on these platforms more, and less on others.
  3. Change your habits to use other social networks more effectively. If you find that none of your social network activity is benefiting your professional career as a freelance writer, you may need to dedicate time to building up a targeted fan and follower base that would be interested in your articles and likely willing to share your work with their friends and followers. One of the best social networks for journalists new to social media is Twitter. This social network is evolving into a social platform comprised of users eager to share news and information, and as a result, you may want to focus on using it’s search function to find users interested in your topic and following them, which in turn will usually lead to these users following you back. Twitter users loves to share news, blog posts, and other interesting articles, and as a result this social network is a great place to generate viral attention for your articles. Just be sure you’re actually using Twitter by sharing your articles so your new followers will read and share them with their followers, too.
  4. Reduce the noise of social media. For freelance journalists with well-established social media accounts, your problem may not be a lack of followers, but a total overdose in social media hindering you from using social media to benefit your ability to not just share your work, but source material. For those with noisy social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all now feature ways to create “lists” that allow you to selectively choose from which friends or those of whom you follow you want to read updates. This feature is not new to Facebook, but is more prominent and can be accessed from the sidebar on the home page, and on Twitter, you can easily add a user to an existing or new list from the other user’s profile. For journalists, Twitter’s lists can be especially valuable when sourcing information for stories or articles, as you can group users into specific topics and scan through just these updates, cutting out the extraneous noise.
  5. Set a schedule to reduce distraction and accomplish your goals. If you find that you still need to use multiple social networks throughout the day for not just your professional job as a freelancer, but for personal enjoyment or benefit, consider creating a schedule to limit the amount of time spent on each social network. Personally, I will not use Facebook until the evening unless I am doing research for an article or consulting for a client, as I find it’s too easy to become distracted by updates about my friends’ pregnancies, upcoming weddings, and photo albums from last week’s birthday parties. Since I work from home, imposing this limit forces myself to focus on work and just the aspects of social media that benefit myself as a freelance journalist.

Have you found yourself overwhelmed with social media as a freelancer? How do you balance multiple social networks? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.