How to Use Social Media Without Letting it Eat Up Writing Time

How can we use social media without letting it grow into a hungry monster that gobbles up our limited writing time?

Last week, I opened up my blog to questions and Lisa Jordan brought up a problem most of wrestle with: “I'm trying to create more of an online presence with limited time--Twitter, Facebook, building up my blog followers and blogging on a regular basis. I'm using the time I have to write to interact with others...I need to find a nice balance.”

Since increasingly more of the population is hanging out in cyberland, most of us can agree that social media sites are important hang-outs for writers. (See this post: The Importance of an Online Presence.)

I’ve been developing a web presence over the past year and a half. I joined online communities before I was agented or had a book contract and then worked at broadening my presence throughout cyberland in many different ways. Now as my first book gets set to release in a couple of months, I've built a strong foundation and can move forward with confidence. I don’t have to jump in, figure it all out, and meet people right when things are heating up with my career.

In other words, as I’ve said before, it’s never too soon to begin developing an online presence.

But exactly how much time should we devote to developing that online presence? We’ve talked this week about TIME and how hard it is to find enough to write with all the other responsibilities we’re juggling. How can we squeeze in the social media stuff when we barely have time and energy to devote to our writing? And if we do try to interact online, is there really any way to keep it from eating our writing time?

Here are just a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. View social media time as part of the job description.

Sure I’d rather devote all my work time to writing itself. My husband is a private-practice counselor and even though he’d prefer to spend his work hours meeting with clients, he also has to set aside time for other duties –paying bills, doing paperwork, returning phone calls, etc.

Likewise, we have to accept the fact that a writing career is going to involve work besides the writing. We have to plan time into our days for those other things—returning emails, commenting on facebook, or writing up a blog.

2. Dedicate time to social media, but don’t let it take over.

No matter where we’re at in our writing careers, social media should never occupy the bulk of our work time. It would be crazy for my husband as a self-employed counselor to spend the majority of his day talking on the phone or writing up notes at the expense of seeing people. Even as an almost-published author, my primary job is my writing.

If we leave the social media door wide open all the time, it’s all too easy to spend our days chatting with co-workers and never get the really important work done, especially for those of us who find socializing online an easy, enjoyable part of the job.

Yes, we can schedule online time into our work days, but we also need to establish boundaries for “how much.” For example when I read blogs—I give myself permission to make those connections. However, I also give myself a time limit, and when it’s up, I move on to other work, even if I’d love to keep “visiting.”

3. Maximize the social media time we are carving out.

In cyberland, consistency and socializing are two of the top ingredients to growth. People need to see our friendly presence on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean we have to be chatting with everyone everywhere. Instead we need to make the most of the time we do have.

Maybe all we can afford is one blog post a week. Then we should put everything we have into that one post and make it shine. Maybe we don’t have time to visit all our blogging friends on a weekly basis. Then visit them every other week. The point is not to give up, but to keep our presence visible and genuine.

And if we want to continually see growth, we can’t forget to make time to meet new people on Twitter, leave comments on new blogs, and add Facebook friends. We have to build room in our daily schedules for new contacts too.

How do you make time for social media without letting it eat a chunk of your valuable writing time? Are scheduling in enough time? Or are you allowing it too much? And if you’ve found a good balance, please share your secret to success!

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