Social networking has taken the world by storm. Though it can trace its roots back more than a decade to discussion forums and blogs, social networking has exploded with the popularity of sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
It seems like every day there’s a new social networking site or social networking tool that the blogosphere is clamoring about and saying your business, church, or non-profit “must use” if it wants to keep up, stay relevant, and connect with people.
So, to make sense of all this I’ve invited a panel of experienced social networkers to do a Social Networking Round Table with us. They’ve been gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to share their insight on social networking with us. Because issues are so extensive, I’ve broken up the interviews up into 4 parts.
Part 1: Social Networking Consumption
Our panel for part 1 includes
- John Saddington – Social computing technologist, avid blogger at ChurchCrunch and Human3rror, and Twitterer @human3rror.
- Kem Meyer – Communications Director at Granger Community Church, author of Less Clutter, Less Noise, blogger at KemMeyer.com, and Twitter @kemmeyer.
- Matt Farina – Web developer, co-host of the Geeks and God Podcast, blogger at MattFarina.com, and Twitterer @MattFarina.
1) What social networking tools do you personally consume (read/view)? Do you read blogs? (how many?) Do you visit forums? Are you on Facebook? How many Twitterers do you follow and actually read?
JS: Ok, so first I personally use a number of social networking applications and services but primarily I spend most of my time on my blogs which is human3rror.com and churchcrunch.com and a number of other blogs that I manage as well and spend some time on twitter often as well. Of course I read tons of blogs. I read approximately am subscribed to 224 blogs currently. I visit a number of forums for all set information I am on facebook, yes, I don’t spend too much time. I probably check it about once a month. Currently how many twitters a month is about 3 ½ thousand and I don’t read all of them because it is impossible.
KM: I regularly use three main tools: Bloglines, Twitter and occasionally Facebook. I don’t visit Forums. I’m following about 100 blogs and about 250 people in Twitter. In my Bloglines, Twitter AND Facebook, I group people into different categories. The category determines the frequency that I actually read new posts. Some I check daily, some monthly, some quarterly, some only as needed, some are professional, some are personal, etc. I use other social media tools as well (e.g., YouVersion, LinkedIn, etc) but they are not part of my daily routine.
MF: My social networking is fairly limited. I primarily use twitter where I follow just under 150 people. To be in on more conversations I used saved searches on topics. I also use facebook. While I don’t take advantage of many of the features or applications it’s been a great way for me to connect with old friends.
I read a lot of blogs. Using Google Reader I follow a couple hundred blogs that I’m able to get through in less than a half hour each day. For the most part I skim them and read the posts that jump out at me.
The one forum I frequent is the Geeks and God forum. This forum is centered on technology use in the church and is one I run.
2) On an average day how much time do you spend reading/viewing social media?
JS: Probably a lot. I typically spend at least an hour in my Google reader alone. At least reading up on current blogs and information and then throughout the day I am viewing other resources as well. I don’t know how much that might actually be.
KM: Depends on the day… but the average is probably 1-3 hours.
MF: It’s hard to say how much time I spend in social media each day. I directly spend about a half hour each day reading RSS feeds. Beyond this the time is a few seconds here and there while I do something alongside something else. It’s integrated into my day like drinking my mourning coffee. It happens alongside the other things I’m doing. You won’t find me searching youtube, playing games on facebook, or in many of the other distracting things out there. My time is limited and I just don’t have time for that. When I do have time I prefer to spend it with my wife or new puppy.
3) A lot of people struggle with “tyranny of the urgent” – phone, email, and other messages coming in that distract from more important work. Years ago, before the advent of social networking, the most common suggestion was to keep your email tool closed all the time and just schedule in 3-4 times to check and respond to email each day. Now with social networking, people are getting dozens of emails, Facebook updates, tweets, RSS updates an hour. How do you manage this? What’s the best way to do social networking still keep your sanity and get things done?
JS: I’m not sure. I am actually not the best person to ask in terms of managing the chaos. I do have somewhat of a loose schedule in terms of how I do manage it. I am a fan of Inbox Zero but I have never actually done it. So I try to get it down as much as possible. Managing your priorities I suppose and making sure your priorities are in order – spend time where you really need to spend time with your family and with your ministry and with friends and other activities that are available to you.
KM: If I’m working on a deadline and really need to focus, I turn everything off (facebook, email, phone, twitter) and focus on the project at hand for 2-3 hours at a time. When I come up for air, depending on how much time I have, I may only check email and Twitter and leave the rest for later. I don’t stress out about keeping up with my social media. I consume what I need, when I need it and don’t worry about what I’ve missed. Sometimes I’ll go scroll backwards to catch up, but rarely. If I miss something, it’s really inconsequential because I can always find something later if I need to. Also, I don’t prioritize replying to Facebook contacts. It’s more social/recreation tool for me than the others and, therefore, less of a priority. I get to Facebook when I have the margin.
MF: From what I understand, people typically perform better when they are focusing on one task at a time. I try to do this. I check my email at 3 – 4 times a day. When I have to write or focus on a task I try to shut other things out. I use a program that isolates the window on my computer I’m working in and turns the rest of the screen black. This blocks out the distractions. I do keep twitter open much of the day. But, I only check it every so often. It provides a nice distraction for the micro breaks I take.
Big thanks to our panel – John, Kem, and Matt – for sharing your social networking usage and insights with us.
A few things that stood out to me…
First, these guys (and I use that term in a non-gender specific way) read a lot! If you want to know what’s going on and want to know how to speak into social networks, you’ve got to listen.
Second, they all turn off social networking (and other communication) tools when they need to focus and get stuff done. Good advice.
Third, I really liked what Kem said about how she doesn’t stress over missing things and rarely goes back to catch up. I know for me, sometimes reading blogs (and I subscribe to about 150) can feel like a chore, especially if I’ve been away or buried in a project for a few days.
Next week in Social Networking Round Table – Part 2 our panel will look at how organizations should decide which social networking tools/sites and talk about how to use those tools/sites most effectively.
Continue the discussion with your comments… What social networking do you consume and how do you manage it? What’s your reaction to our panelists?