Social Media: Now It’s Personal

You may want to rethink more than just your professional online networking strategy

One of the better pieces of social media advice has always been to start personally, learn the lay of the land, make a few mistakes along the way, and then dive into the business opportunities that the social Web has to offer. This approach has been ideal for those looking to discover how social media fits into their lives. It’s akin to moving to a foreign country and immersing yourself in the language.

During the past few years, nearly all of us have immersed ourselves in the social Web. We’ve attempted to learn the language by setting up several accounts and shared (and over-shared) our lives—all while “friending,” “following,” and “liking” just about anything or anyone who crossed our paths. And, naturally, we’ve made several missteps on the road to social media fluency.

Unlike the short-term discomfort that comes from flubbing a foreign language, the missteps we make on Facebook last longer. We create and feel obligated to maintain accounts that we don’t particularly enjoy, we overload our “streams” with people and businesses we don’t particularly want to hear from on a daily basis, and people often learn things about us that we may not want them to know. 

In past articles, we’ve discussed examining what’s working for your business and adapting your social media strategy. For those of you looking to make social media a lasting part of your life and business, consider doing the same for your personal accounts.

Take a look at all your account usage.

Start by making a list of all of your social media accounts—even the ones you don’t use anymore. (MySpace, anyone?) If you’ve forgotten, but tend to use the same username, services such as can help you track down your errant accounts. Make a list and break it down into three categories:

  • Abandoned: You have no intention of ever using the service again.
  • Inactive: You may want to use it, but haven’t for some time.
  • Active: You use this regularly as part of your digital life.

The first step is an easy one: Delete any abandoned accounts. There’s no need to leave your personal information out there. (Plus, people may be trying to reach you somewhere that you never log on.) Next, take a good long look at the inactive accounts. Why are you no longer using them? Why didn’t you want to delete them—and remember, it’s not too late to do exactly that. And, most important, if you intend to keep them, how can you make better use of your presence?

Last, but not least, are the active accounts. You may be tempted to ignore these, but don’t. Study your usage. Do you visit sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as much as you used to? Are you still happy with what you’re putting out there and how you’re spending time on them?

Chances are, some social media activities are starting to wear on you. Time on these networks may feel more like an obligation or a habit. And though you may be tempted to scale back or to step away, consider the opposite. Rather than diminishing or abandoning your usage, just rethink it. Take a good look at the things you post and ask yourself if they really reflect who you are and embody what you want to say. Make sure you’re following only the companies and people who enhance your experience. Use paid tools like Manage­Flitter to bulk unfollow accounts that no longer enhance your time on Twitter. There are also paid options such as Ultimate Friend Remover for Facebook.

This kind of bulk unfollowing may seem to go against social media etiquette. There’s also a very real possibility that some people (even customers) may get offended if they notice they’re no longer on your roster. But taking steps to make social media more enjoyable will make it more useful to your business and a lasting part of your life.

In the past few years, we’ve thrown ourselves and our businesses into the world of social media. Now is the time to take what we’ve learned and use it to refine our approach. Having recently done this myself, I can tell you that the exercise has reminded me why I wanted to become fluent in the first place. It’s renewed my enjoyment with social media. And it has helped me conceive better—and hopefully more effective—ways to integrate these tools into my life and work.

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