"It's incredibly easy these days to get your thoughts out from your brain to the screens of people everywhere, and it's critical you take the time to pause when you feel emotions stirring. It's not just big brands and celebrities who make these missteps. More than ever you are judged by your public persona. Make sure it represents who you are completely, not just in the heat of the moment." —Matthew Arevalo, social media marketer who's worked with T-Mobile, Electronic Arts and AT&T on the importance of using social media efficiently.
Use self-control. Get off the grid. Curate. These three habits will help you manage your social-media footprint and make you more effective, whether you use the medium for work or pleasure. Here's a functional, easy guide to do just that.
Icons and avatars give the illusion of anonymity on the Internet because people there aren't shouting to the masses. And they can be free of true identification. Feeling at least somewhat removed from a post makes some more open with opinions, even detestable opinions. The need to self-control, or the lack of it, falls into two types of violators. One has the above habit, using the veil of secrecy to post what they would normally not. The other, is the type that cannot stop themselves from using the Web to surf, procrastinate, and do anything and everything besides what they probably should: Working.
If you fall into this category, and lack appropriate self-control, there's a good app for you, and it's free. Wisely, it's called Self Control.
The Self Control app limits your use of email and social media, locking you out of designated sites for pre-determined periods, while still giving you broader online access. If you can't stop trolling Facebook to see if your latest update got liked. And if you suffer from both afflictions, ranting anonymously and surfing in dangerous water, this could put you on a much needed time-out.
Go Off The Grid Occasionally
Let's say you're careful about what you post. Very careful. You know about the risks of over-sharing. You're the consummate professional. But, your'e always ready to respond. Always available. That can be exhausting, and exhaustion often leads to irritation, which usually ends with embarrassment.
What to do?
Get off the grid. Fellow RW writer Brian Proffitt recently wrote that knowledge workers should change their always-on mentality and stop answering email after business hours. Why: It improves your mood. Effective workers enjoy what they do. Once overworked, by your boss or your own over-accessibility, your spark and motivation drop severely.
So, take some time off, stow your mobile and get away from it all. My colleague Jon Mitchell did just that for four days. And while his digital detox is probably different from what you'll experience, you can feel the same thing he did: Recharged and re-inspired. Make this a habit and watch your productivity rejuvenate.
The final habit you should employ could be one of the most important of all. Make sense of all the white noise out there. All the voices. How do we filter it all? Turn to curation, a growing, but misunderstood, concept that can save you tremendous amounts of time directing you to what you need to know.
I like a service called spundge, which helps me filter search results so they are more effective, saving me a ton of time. When you're searching for specific, nuanced topics, this site gives you results in an easy-to-digest format that spares me from Google readers and extraneous searches. Now I spend that time on what I should be doing: Working.
This habit I can't stress enough, and it's only getting more refined. The next step in curation is personalization.
Personalization is what Facebook mastered from the get-go. Suddenly, each person's online experience was truly personalized. A company called Gravity is moving this concept further. It uses adaptive artificial-intelligence techniques to make news sites, like TechCrunch and CNN Money's iPad app, more individually relevant. Gravity monitors your habits to give you more of what you've looked at before.
And with semantic-analysis abilities, Gravity monitors news and posts for trending topics. If enough people talk or post about an item, that content appears on your home page.
"Think of it like a reverse search," explained Jim Benedetto, Gravity's chief technology officer.
He compared his company's service to pioneering adaptive-music player Pandora, which categorizes content fairly granularly and listeners rate songs to influence future content.