Should we be overwhelmed with our social media life?
Quite a few people think so. A quick search on “social media overload” returns several articles and posts on how to avoid social media burnout. There are even self-help books out to help us manage information overload from social media sites..
But the question is not so much about “social media” as it is about the volume of information within it.
How did we get here?
In the 90s, the internet became more accessible and brought us connectivity to a collection of places (web sites) for information share. Browsers became a tool for turning computer code into graphical interfaces that we could view and click. What the browser really did was remove the requirement for the average person to know how to program. Most people could now read information written by a few content suppliers. Businesses quickly made their way to the internet to get information to their customers. It was the like the wild west land grab.
Then in the 2000s social media sites and blogging brought people together with other people. Suddenly, more people became content creators. They were creating posts, adding photos, and videos. Individual sites and profiles shot up like weeds in a spring lawn.
Then, in more recent years, all became accessible on our phones. Now we are connected digitally to our social networks no matter where we are. It’s no wonder many people feel overwhelmed.
We have our limits.
It doesn’t take many active Facebook friends, Twitter follows, or LinkedIn connections to have digital dashboards that are flowing with information faster than we can process. Oh and I’m not even counting SMS text messages (smile).
The situation is ripe for new businesses and some smart people have created tools such as HootSuite and TweetDeck to help us manage multiple social media sites in one interface. But these are just tools. They don’t make the choices of which sites you use, what content you create, what content you consume, or where your audience is.
It’s all about the audience.
To begin to make sense of this we have to focus on the audience. Who are your friends on Facebook and what do you have in common with them? Who are your connections on LinkedIn and what are their interests? What circles do you have on Google+?
My friends on Facebook don’t care about content on my blog. My followers on Twitter don’t care about the pictures of my friends. As I think about this, it’s like a Marketing 101 class and studying target audiences.
So while it would be nice to have all our digital life in one place, that’s not really how it works. Which is the way real life works too. We have different groups of friends at work, the neighborhood, interest group, etc.
Our social media life is really an extension of our real life groups.
Google+ launched with this in mind talking about our people circles. The concept is pretty simple. Just create a circle that mirrors your real life connections, friends, family, etc. So the idea is to keep information segmented by the appropriate life group so that it stays relevant to your audience. That works great if everyone uses the same program. But not everyone uses Google+. Or for that matter, not everyone uses Twitter or Facebook or any other social media site.
Is the answer to avoid them all or pick just one?
I know some people would sayto avoid the problem completely, just don’t participate in social networks. I guess that’s the isolationist strategy for digital livelihood and it’s certainly an available choice.
Another option is to pick just one place. I know for many that place is Facebook. It was the first social media site to really go “mainstream” and I think many people are happy just having that one profile because that is where most of their friends share information. Oh, and I’ll be honest, I really am a little jealous of this approach because it’s simple. Simplifying life and business is another topic to itself, but is so rewarding for those who can find it.
But for many of us, it’s not an option to use just one tool. Maybe it’s because we are a marketer or business person that needs to connect with people and customers wherever they are. Maybe it’s because we are digital savvy and just want to be in more than one place to keep up with technology. I’m in this group and at the end of the day there is more than one social media tool to manage.
Making sense of the chaos.
Do I dare say that the simple solution is to use each tool for it’s intended purpose? Twitter is not like Facebook. It was created for short bursts of information. It’s evolved to a real-time stream of thoughts and news information that sometimes provides links to more content rich thoughts. Facebook was setup to allow a larger amount of content in posts along with digital attachments. Facebook has been focused more on personal relationships whereas LinkedIn is focused more on professional relationships.
But part of the problem is it appears that so many of the social media sites are competing with each other for the same audience instead of trying to assert their unique value and attributes in the market place. So in some cases the audience is blending across the sites.
You can’t read and process it all.
There is too much information. Part of the “overload” in our lives is self inflicted. We can’t keep up with every bit of information that is published. What we can do is segment the information by group or source into areas that fit our life groups. We can make our digital life an extension of our real life. That will bring some order to the chaos.