When I was a foreign correspondent, I lived in constant fear that I was missing important news. I’d be awake at night wondering if there were a business deal or political controversy or factory strike that I didn’t know about. Someone else would have the scoop. With a whole country to cover, I was sure to be unaware of something. So I always worried and never, ever relaxed. The only time I exhaled was at the foreign correspondent’s club when all my competitors were at the bar and I knew that even if something was happening, nothing was being reported. At least we were all in the dark together.
When I quit wire service reporting, I remember feeling relief that those days were over.
Well, now they’re back. And I don’t even work as a journalist anymore.
This is the dark side of social media: it’s on all the time, and if you’re checked out you’re bound to be missing something: a critical Tweet about your organization, a burning question on your blog post, a news development development you need to understand. Just like with reporting, responding slowly on social media has its hazards. I’m on vacation this week, but I’m still online because the old reporter in me knows switching it all off has its costs.
So what is a person with work-life balance to do? Here’s my advice.
1. Choose to do a few things well, rather than many things poorly. If you don’t have a lot of time, pick one or two social media presences and dedicate yourself to being a good listener, conversationalist and content producer in that space. I focus my energy on blogging and Twitter.
2. Make it a priority to be responsive in those spaces. Establishing an online presence and then ignoring it is foolish. If you fail to provide great content, it’s like building a digital ghost town that makes you look irrelevant – or dead. if you neglect to actively listen, it’s like going up to someone at a party, telling them about yourself, then walking away when that person begins to talk. You have to commit more of yourself than that. If you can’t sustain a conversation on social media, don’t start one.
3. Pass out the slingshots. I was on a panel with Joe Trippi last night, and he talked about empowering your champions to spread your message and do your work. He said it’s like handing out slingshots to an army of Davids. You don’t have to carry the burden of conversation alone like some Goliath social media guru. That doesn’t work well anyway. The more your supporters take over your engagement, the more effective your message — and the saner your life.
On that theme, any volunteers to guest post this week?