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Social Networking Vs. Productivity

Social networking encompasses many online activities. For example you have probably watched a video clip on youTube or connected with old friends on facebook. These are just a couple of examples of using social tools to build online networks either for personal or business purposes.

Some examples of social networking websites include Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Reddit, LinkedIn and Delicious among many others.

Social networking can be a great tool but it can also be a double edged sword when it comes to productivity in business and time management. For example these websites provide a constant feed of updates , such as “tweets” and statuses (as well as a variety of formats to communicate with people) and share links or other material which can easily distract you from your day.

Social networking can, on the one hand, be a great way to meet new people, connect with possible business partners, network with potential clients or vendors, keep up with friends and family, and stay on top of the latest trends in your field. On the other hand it can be a huge distraction and a big time sink, which can decrease productivity.

So the question here is whether or not spending time on social networking sites is useful enough to balance out the loss of time and efficiency. It’s more a matter of what results you’re getting out of the effort you put into social networking versus how much time is spent (or lost). If you’re spending hours a day updating on facebook and twitter but it’s only earning you an extra twenty bucks a month then it’s obviously not a good trade on your time. If, however, it’s a significant factor in determining your bottom line each month then by all means - invest whatever amount of time you see fit. They best way to go about determining this is to measure the gains against the losses in the field of social networking.

First and foremost what kind of gains are you experiencing from your participation on social networking sites? Now some of these might not be monetary so think carefully about this. You may be seeing an increase in sales or revenue because of social networking sites but be sure to measure it against the amount of time that you’re putting into it - could the same increase in revenue be accomplished if you only spent a quarter of your time on these sites? Would you see a decrease in revenue if you stopped participating on them and focused your efforts elsewhere? Is there a gain of new contacts or possible business partners that could provide lucrative new deals or opportunities for your business? Does it help you keep an eye on emerging trends in the market or possible competitors?

Be clear about what you’re goals and intentions are for social networking sites so that you can monitor the trade off of time/value received with them on a constant basis to make sure that the energy you’re putting into them is warranted. If you’re only goals are “to connect with more clients” then you’ll have no way of really tracking that or measuring it by any standards. But if instead your goal is “to find five new potential clients weekly” then it’s much easier to see if you’ve been able to accomplish that goal through the use of your social networking sites. If you have and it’s bringing you in more of whatever it is you need (money, clients, opportunities, etc) then continue on and fine tune it to make sure you’re getting the best return on your efforts. If it’s not working either find a better way of using the sites (such as for a personal use only with a limited amount of time daily) or dump them completely.

It can be extremely easy to get sucked in to the social networking frenzy and lose sight of what you’re original goals were so even if you do find that social media has a relevant and useful place in your life it’s still wise to limit your exposure and participation in it. Keep things in perspective when you participate on these sites. You can probably accomplish what you need to in just ten or fifteen minutes a day total if you spread out that time throughout the day evenly. It only takes a few seconds to type up a new update and publish it or to share a link or a photo. Use those few seconds and then be done with it.

What’s ironic about limiting your participation on social network sites is that the more you limit your time on there the more likely it is that you’ll have something interesting or relevant to say when you do get on. This will make your presence on there more useful which in turn leads to more benefits. Less really is more when it comes to social networking.

Keep in mind what social networking sites are designed for and how to appropriately take advantage of them. Twitter is not ideal for hashing out work proposals and facebook is not a substitute for a contract signing. As useful as they can be these sites are not a substitute for developing a real relationship or connection with other people in your life and it’s important to keep in mind that you can read a great deal in to status updates and tweets that may not have been intended. Make sure not to jump to any conclusions based on the information you get off of these sites as they are completely personal and many social networking sites are referred to as the “bathroom wall” of the internet. Anything can be said or done on sites such as these so it’s important to maintain a big picture look in using them and not get caught up in any drama that might surface.

Overall social networking can be a useful tool or a harmful one depending on your level of awareness and maturity when using them. Get clear about your intent with these websites and make sure that you’re only using them in a way that furthers your goals, provides value for you and others, and allows you to focus on what’s really important.


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