Social Media. How to Use It in Your Business Without Wasting Your Time, or Losing Your Mind.

Do you ever wonder whether the time you spend on social media could be more productively spent elsewhere? I’d be amazed if you haven’t had that conversation with yourself at least once.

When running a business, it’s easy to feel like you have no choice but to spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and maybe others.

FOMO – the fact that everyone even knows what this means these days blows my mind. It’s everyday language now. It’s also a big part of how we all consume all sorts of things, including our social media feeds, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it also comes into play when you’re trying to run a business too.

My relationship with social media is perhaps atypical. I didn’t grow up with it. I don’t enjoy spending time with it. I don’t use it outside of ‘work’ It’s just never been something that I’ve ever felt compelled to be a part of. I only joined Facebook so I could set up a business page, I’ve never used it for anything else.

I’ve had to learn how to use these platforms. I can’t say it has been an enjoyable experience. I’ve been sucked into Twitter rabbit holes and lost many hours as we all have. Worse than that, I often end up feeling used, drained and annoyed at myself for having wasted so much time.

You’re probably getting a sense by now that I’m not a big fan. I’m feeling slightly embarrassed at having admitted that my relationship with social media has been driven largely by FOMO – or more accurately, thinking that it’s something that I have to do.

There are positives too. Social media channels provide a quick and easy way for you to communicate with your customers. Reach into your pocket, take a picture, write a few words. Done. Want to show your customers something that happens behind the scenes? – you can achieve this in seconds.

You can also share access to your social media channels with your team. Some of them will enjoy posting.

I know that it’s possible to get ads to work for you because I’ve had some success with that too. That’s a discussion for another time.

These are all good things. But what about the downsides?

If you are active on several channels, you can easily spend hours each day maintaining your presence, responding to messages, liking other content, researching which hashtags to use and scheduling your content. It’s a job in itself. It is exhausting.

Every time you open one of those apps, you expose yourself to the powerful pull to stay on the platform. Hate, conflict and controversy are good for engagement but probably not so good for your wellbeing.

How do you feel at the end of it all? For me, it’s hardly ever a great experience, hardly ever fun and rarely even all that interesting.

And nowadays, more than ever, you are probably going to need to pay to even get in front of the people that follow you, let alone those that don’t. That sucks.

Solutions?

Get rid of all social media and burn your phone. I’ve been tempted to go down this route myself from time to time. In the end, here’s what I did.

Most of our people hung out on Instagram, so I deleted all other social media accounts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially if you have thousands of followers but the simple fact is that feeding all these hungry mouths was taking up way too much time and energy. It’s been just over a year now and honestly, it’s been liberating. The amount of time freed up for doing other things has been unbelievable.

Mute everyone. We only have Instagram now, and everyone we follow is muted. The only thing we see on our feed is ads. Which means I don’t spend any time at all looking at our timeline. I’ll still check out what other businesses or favourite customers are up to from time to time but the point is, it’s all intentional now. I don’t look at what Instagram decides I should look at anymore. That feels good. I feel like I am using the platform, not the other way around.

We also use a free app called Instafeed, (which you can find here – there are others too and this is not an affiliate link) to show our last couple of Instagram posts on our website homepage. They can see them on our website, whether they use Instagram or not. You can see what that looks like on the ‘What’s Happening Right Now?’ section, about halfway down this page.

Finally, I am happy to leave the posting to those within the business that enjoy doing it. I’ll still do occasional posts myself and the weird thing is, I now enjoy it. It’s not a pressure anymore, it doesn’t take up much of my time. I hardly ever spend time on the app, unless I want to look at something specific. In a typical week, I’m on Instagram for between ten and twenty minutes.

Social media – we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re in a good place now. I’ve just started a Twitter account because that seems to be the platform that makes the most sense for engaging with people who read my newsletter. I’ll be adopting the same approach, finding ways to use just one platform positively and actively thinking about and guarding against the pitfalls.