As someone who works in the technology field, I'm quite accustomed to spending most of my days online. And as someone who is heavily involved in social media, I admit to spending a lot of time checking updates via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. (OK, the latter isn't necessarily work-related. Scrabble anyone?) I am also an early adopter of many new technologies, but again, this is part of my work world. But I do sometimes find the number of social media sites I must visit and update overwhelming. And I've seen more and more friends lately post on Facebook that they're giving up social media. Suffering from social media overload, they are opting not to participate in social media at all.
This decision seems a bit drastic, I would contend. Instead of cutting all social media out of your life, I recommend the following steps -- for both personal and professional use -- to help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by social media choices.
Avoid social media for social media's sake: Rather than signing up for every service possible, pick the sites that best serve your goals. Do you want to reconnect with old friends? Try Facebook. Do you want to connect with potential business associates? Try LinkedIn.
Use the services you're most comfortable with: If you already belong to a social media network, it might be better to remain active and increase your presence there than it is to create profiles on every site. The drawback of the latter is that you might find yourself with a lot of unused and out-of-date profiles. There's little use to having people stumble upon your profile if it hasn't been updated since 2006!
Engage: One of the keys to make participation in social networks useful is to, well, participate. But remember that these services are not bullhorns. Do not merely "shout" at your "friends" and "followers," only using these networks to push information out. While social media is a great place to share information, it is important to be responsive -- listen, comment, engage.
Trace, evaluate, adapt: If you are using social media for professional purposes, do be sure to utilize the analytics tools that many of these services offer. These can help you ascertain the traffic levels and the user engagement. It is important to check these regularly to evaluate the ROI of a platform. But as the field of social media is ever-changing, you should be prepared to adapt. For example, just because a service like Foursquare is popular now, does not mean you should be forever wedded to location-based marketing.
Take a break: If you're feeling overwhelmed, step away. Rather than delete your profiles and swear never to return to Facebook again, simply designate a small amount of time (daily or weekly) to give to social media. You needn't feel compelled to respond to every post or every comment or every tweet.