Social Media: Coping with a Literal a Stream of Information

I’ve been giving quite a few talks on social media these days and have several blog posts in mind right now, all steaming from interactions with the participants.

Many people wonder how to keep up with all the information social media offers. During the seminar I said that we need to simply be okay with never being able to read and process all the tidbits flying our way. It’s difficult to look back at their expectant faces and see the disappointment. I didn’t have a magic bullet. I point to the Twitter stream and let them know that I can get 10-15 new tweets every few minutes.

On my way home from today’s session, it came to me. There has ALWAYS been a huge amount of information to process. The only difference is that news editors filtered it all for us and offered up what they thought was relevant in a neat package of the 6 o’clock news. Remember when CNN started and we all wondered how they were going to fill 24 hours? Well, they did.

The advent of social media was the same. We all wondered what we’d talk about and who would care? Well, clearly there is no shortage of conversation or things to mention. We all talk about everything — the restaurant we’ve tried, the new supplier we love, the article we just read.

On the receiving side, this looks like a literal stream of information. It is. A stream that we are responsible for filtering ourselves. The news editors aren’t there on social media sites. We need to do it all on our own.

Here are some tips on how to keep the noise to a dull roar:

  1. Choose a specific amount of time to dedicate to social media per day. I like to spend about 15 minutes after I deal with my emails in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Others like larger blocks of time. Still others are really smooth at fitting it in their day over their mobile devices (e.g. BlackBerry).
  2. Choose who you follow carefully. If you follow quality connections who will offer you the information you are most interested in, it will cut down tremendously on the “extras”.
  3. Use a filter program. HootSuite offers an easy way to filter through all the major platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) for keywords in the posts. Yes, this is still a stream of information but it’s specific to what you’re looking for.
  4. Use the “Favorites” star on Twitter to mark what you want to read later. See a post you want to find later? Just click on the star (it’s down there by retweet and reply). That post will be put into a Favorites list so you can read it at your leisure later on. This is especially good when posts have links to articles you want to read.