This piece was written by an external contributor. Lucy Skoulding‘s latest article is all about boosting your online presence without social media swallowing you up.
Social media is an amazing tool. Having somewhere to document your life experiences, share your opinions, and keep up with topics which interest you, no matter where you are in the world, is definitely a gift. Even better, social media is now becoming a key element of our career journeys, from finding jobs to showcasing your skills to impress employers.
However, social media does have the potential to be overbearing. I have definitely been guilty of checking on a Facebook notification when I am sitting at the dinner table, or scrolling down Twitter when I really should be working. This is when social media can start impacting your life in a negative way. It’s important not to live too deeply in the virtual world.
Luckily, there are simple ways to strike a healthy balance. Read on for some tips I use when I realise I’ve looked at my Instagram feed so much I’ve seen the same photo ten times.
Schedule social media time in your day
I am the first person to admit that no matter how busy I am, it’s hard to resist a notification which flashes up on your phone. ‘It will only take a few seconds to look’, I tell myself, but then the inevitable happens and I get distracted by something else on the site. Before I know it I have been scrolling down Twitter for five minutes and I’m behind with what I should be doing.
Instead of checking and updating social media constantly, it’s better to allocate specific time in your day for it. Perhaps you could spend half an hour on it over breakfast, or while relaxing in the evening? And if you want to post more than once a day, schedule short 5-minute slots and don’t exceed them.
Turn your internet off when you don’t want to get distracted
Got a deadline at uni or work? Being distracted by a funny cat video your mate sends is not what you want. Equally, if you’re spending quality time with others, or you’re at an important event, it could be considered rude to be checking your social media.
In these situations, remove your access to the internet. This may mean switching your mobile data off, putting your phone in another room, or disconnecting your laptop from the internet. Find whatever method works for you. If you really need to keep an eye on your phone, allow yourself a short break every half an hour to do so.
Decide how often you will post. And stick to it.
Everyone has preferences on how often they want to post on social media. Perhaps you need to post regularly if you have started doing so for your blog or YouTube channel. Whatever your preferences, it’s best to maintain a pattern and if you want to change this, do so gradually. If you usually post once a day then suddenly post 10 times in an hour, people may quickly hit the unfollow button on your account.
Once you have decided on your number, you can choose how to manage your posting. If you only want to post about once a day, it’s easy to do so as and when you want to. However, if you hope to post multiple times, using a scheduling tool is efficient. On Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can write out posts then schedule when you would like them to go out. This way, you can stick to the social media session idea described in tip 1 while still appearing to be regularly active.
Don’t use it just because you’re bored
This is so easy to fall into. I find I’m particularly prone to this if I’m procrastinating, feeling lazy, or waiting for something like a bus. Unfortunately, with so many tempting articles and videos out there, it can be easy to get stuck in the social media abyss if you just scroll aimlessly.
Scrolling through feeds is absolutely fine; it’s a way of reading news, learning about topics which interest you, and interacting with others. But try to do it with a purpose in mind if you can, whether it’s one of the mentioned reasons or something else entirely. For instance, you could look at Linkedin with the aim of reading an interesting article then commenting on it.
Find a productive alternative
If you do often find yourself spending unnecessary hours on social media, have no fear, there is a solution. Whenever I feel tempted to go on a Twitter spree, I turn to my ‘productive alternative’ list. I have formed a list of a few activities which can be done in the same circumstances as looking on social media.
Activities could be linked to your personal interests. For instance, I’m learning Spanish from a languages app, I keep an ‘article ideas’ tab in my OneNote where I jot down potential things I could write, and I have e-books on my phone. If you’re bored and waiting for something, one of your chosen activities might be the best use of you time.
Once you have found a healthy balance in using social media, you can focus on building a strong online presence. You must decide on which platforms you want to focus on, but whether it’s one or all, the following tips will help you forge a personal online brand.
Keep content useful & relevant
It can be difficult to strike a balance between personal and professional when building your own social media profiles. LinkedIn may be one exception, as most people focus on showing their professional selves. But with other sites, it can be harder. There is no reason why you can’t blend personal with professional and still build an enviable online profile. However, there are some important points to remember.
I’m sure that you’ve heard this many times, but remember to never post offensive or rude content, or anything which may portray you in a bad light to potential employers. Other than this, make your profiles your own. You might choose to post content mainly related to your career path, or mix it up, the decision is yours.
Showcase your skills
Social media is a fantastic way to show off your skills, knowledge, passions and creativity, especially now that some employers are asking for Twitter handles and the like. Think of your profiles as an opportunity to show what you can offer, as well as proving your digital skills in general.
This could be anything, from sharing links to your writing, vlogs, and photography, to posting original comments on trending topics, to retweeting funny and interesting content. Prove your ability to create unique, popular posts, interact with people online, and engage in what’s happening in your areas of interest.
Let your personality shine through
Finally, remember your social media is YOURS. When employers look at applications or invite you to interview, they are keen to see who you really are, and the same applies for your social profiles.
So don’t be afraid of showing your true interests, opinions, and humour on your profile. If you’ve got a particular hobby, shout about it. Or, if you have thoughts on something going on in the news, why not share them? Equally you don’t need to pretend to be interested in something just because everyone else is posting about it. Be real and be you.