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9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Social Media

9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Social Media

Get the Most Out of Social Media

    I recently had the opportunity to talk with social media expert Muhammad Saleem about social networking. For those of you new to the site, I interviewed Muhammad back in February on Lifehack Live.

    Muhammad is the one to watch in the social media sphere. He’s a top-ranked user on Digg, Propellr, Reddit, and other social news sites, he has almost 2000 followers on Twitter, and he blogs or contributes guest posts just about everywhere. He is jsut the person I wanted to talk to about making the most of social networking services like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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    Although I wasn’t interviewing him for Lifehack, in the course of the conversation Muhammad gave a good number of tips on how best to approach and use social media sites. We talked for over an hour, but I’ve boiled his advice down to the following nine points.

    1. Permission

    Almost all social media sites, from Digg to Twitter, have some way for users to control who can and cannot reach them. These are minimal standards, though — all they do is open a channel. Don’t abuse people by trying to fake them out or overwhelming them with updates — they’ll just close the door entirely.

    2. Relevance

    Don’t add relationships willy-nilly. Limit your “friends” or “connections” or whatever they’re called on your favorite social media site to people who share at least some of the same interests as you. And be selective when sending out “shouts” or “DMs” or whatever you send — send updates to people for whom they are meaningful, not everyone you just happen to have some connection with.

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    3. Relationships

    It should go without saying that to make the best use of a social network, you have to network, but a lot of people seem to want to do an end-run around that. Building relationships starts with a friend request or invite  — it doesn’t end there. Get to know the people you are connected with. Answer their questions, send them a link or piece of information now and again, and read their profiles.

    4. Integrity

    Don’t be phony! Be yourself — it’s what your social network friends added you for. There are, of course, many ways to “game” just about every social media system, to get more diggs, to appear to have more followers, to get your posts Stumbled, and so on. But in the end, it’s an empty gain — people who follow you because you appear to be something you’re not will quickly un-follow you, people who end up at your site because you managed to get more votes on a post than you deserve will leave without reading, and all you’ll have is an empty number to show off.

    5. Focus

    Signing up for social networking sites and social news sites is easy, but unless you’re willing to put in some work, you won’t get much out of it. You need to keep your profile reasonably up-to-date, maintain at least a marginally active presence, and talk to other people now and again to make it work. If you have a hundred different profiles on a hundred different sites, you’ll soon get overwhelmed and none of them will get the attention they need to thrive. Pick a handful of services and sites to put a lot of energy into — or however many you have time to really commit to — and stay off the rest.

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    6. Diversify

    That said, don’t participate in too few sites, either. First of all, if you slip up and damage your reputation at one, you’ll have to start from scratch somewhere else. But more importantly, different sites have different strengths. LinkedIn is best for professional advance, MySpace for broadcasting your interests and creative work; Digg is traditionally better suited to news, especially technology and weird stuff, StumbleUpon to smaller niches.

    7. Personality

    Social networking is about connections between people, not profiles. Make use of the means for self-expression offered by each service — whether that’s the way you summarize stories for social news sites, or a blogging platform, or feeds integrated from your non-social network sites. Worry less about finding the perfect background or your 5 favorite songs and more about creating something people want to pay attention to.

    8. Giving

    You have to put into social networks in order to get out from them. This is basic human nature — anthropologists call it “reciprocity”. If you want recommendations on LinkedIn, start writing some — people will usually return the favor. If you want followers on Twitter, start following people — again, people will usually return the favor. Once you do something for someone, they will generally want to do something for you in return. But you have to take the lead.

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    9. Add Value

    This is the single most important thing to remember on any social networking site. Do whatever it takes to make your posts, your profile, your story submissions, or whatever the “currency” of the site it, as valuable as possible. You add value when you submit a link; you add more value when you include a really good description of the article; you add more value still when you explain why I would want to read it; and you add yet more value when you tell me what the author left out or how the information might be used.

    Social media sites can be great ways to promote a brand, promote your business, find clients, get jobs, find new employees, and build personal relationships, but they don’t “just work”. They’re tools, not machines — you have to use them, not put in some inputs and wait for them to do their magic. Keep the 9 principles above in mind, and you’ll find that people start responding pretty quick — after all, they’re there for the same reason you are, to find people whose interests mesh with their own.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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