This article was written by guest blogger, Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva
I am passionate about social media: it’s power to change lives, to level the field, to connect us, to open doors… but is there a time to just “turn it off”?
“Ordinary” people (I call them real people) ask us all the time how we do it all: how do we manage all the status updates, the messages, the invitations, reading and posting and sharing articles and blog posts, the pipeline, the books… how do we manage all that and still get our work done?
The honest truth–if someone like me were to give it–is that we don’t. Not with the complete success that people who are not immersed in the social media lifestyle assume. I not only manage my own little personal social media empire, I manage that of our company and professional accounts.
Tools help. But we’ve had occasion over the past few years when one or more tools went haywire and started a loop, posting an update 7 times on the same account for example. That taught us a lot about how to manage them all and making sure we knew what action triggered what tool.
What do I use to keep my little empire running? I use Bundlepost to help me prepare scheduled tweets from Hootsuite. I use Triberr to find and share posts from writers – the ones I grow to trust, I set up to share automatically. My Triberr Atomic Tribe automatically shares articles that we post. I use SEOMoz and Tweetadder and we have plugins in our WordPress-driven website to help share and promote our blogs. Did I mention a small team of assistants? Unlike Guy Kawasaki, who has five people at his disposal, I have three part-time angels who each have a different scope for the company, but the responsibility to keep them busy is up to me. There’s also Empire Ave, MyBlogGuest, our personal bit.ly (rockstr.us), and of course, my smart phone. Pictures are easily posted to Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. And yes, there’s more.
So, with all the tools, which you build upon over time, how does one shut it all off? And why would I want to?
Well, I have had a couple of occasions over the last couple of years that I wanted to turn off the machine, the most recent being late September. My Dad had a massive heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. I was home in Central VA for a visit and terrified. I arrived at their condo while the emergency workers were trying to save him. After arriving at the hospital, as we waited for word, the room filled with people: family, friends, pastors, and volunteers and people who work at the hospital as word spread of Bob Brunk, a beloved volunteer himself and husband of Dorothy–also a volunteer–and father or Terri–a Nurse Practitioner and 20+ year employee at the hospital. I needed some air.
I walked down the hall and came upon a door that led out to a small courtyard and path to another area of the complex. There was a water fountain and pond surrounded by ferns, flowers and small trees, including a Japanese Maple, one of Dad’s favorite trees. I was overcome and sat on one of the benches to cry. The image though, the calmness of the courtyard, the serenity of it touched my heart and I knew Dad enjoyed that small area as well. He had sat at that very same courtyard while I was in a room upstairs 7 years earlier fighting for my own life following a horrible motorcycle wreck.
All of the sudden it seemed right, it felt like the best place in the world I could be. I wanted to share the moment with my friends but I have so many. So I took a picture and shared it via Instagram to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and later via Google+ (thanks to instant uploads from my phone). But I didn’t know what to say, so I just shared my heart: “Daddy… I love you daddy. I don’t want to say goodbye. I love you daddy. I love you.”
I believe the brilliance of social media, is that it can be used to bring us closer together if we allow it. Although I didn’t get online very often the next few days, I did share and the return was amazing. People comforted and encouraged me, sent prayers and offered hope. It was amazing.
But as soon as I started getting comments from people, I noticed something else. The automation that serves me so well was still turned on. I had to shut off the machine. I couldn’t be in the hospital, in vigilance with my dad, and sharing or tweeting about what suddenly seemed like mundane topics. I had to turn it all off… but how to do that without completely dismantling everything?
I called home and directed Mike to the spreadsheet I used to keep track of everything. What’s on, what’s off, (logins and passwords are handled by LastPass), what tool shares what item under what condition. Between the two of us, it took about an hour to find and turn off the triggers I had worked to set up over the years. And sadly, we missed a couple. But Mike was diligently watching my personal accounts @LoriRuff on Twitter and my Facebook profile.
It’s good that Mike was there for me. He posted a blog article on Monday, while we were still in vigil with Dad and somehow, shortly after my personal update that morning came a tweet sharing “Facebook reaches 1 million users…” as if I cared as much about that as I did sitting beside my dying father’s hospital bed. He quickly logged into my account and deleted the offending post, but it made us realize that I had at some point missed adding a trigger I set up to my spreadsheet. And it made me realize how critical it is to be able to shut it all down when the circumstances call for it.
So what’s my advice?
- Build your use of tools slowly over time, never implementing the next one until you’re confident how each works and how to adjust it.
- Keep track of the tools you initiate on a spreadsheet or document that is kept in the cloud so that if you are not able, you can ask a colleague or friend to help. A notebook on your desk is fine if people have access, but you can’t count on that after hours. Make sure you have two-three people who know where it is and how to access your document and accounts. You never know when a crisis will hit.
- Know when to shut it off. I have chosen to life my life out loud. A personal crisis shared publicly means that I need to act fast to turn off the mill. If you don’t, you risk looking crass and inappropriate.
- Keep it real. All of the tools I use help me manage the multiple accounts I am responsible for: my personal, my professional, my company, and my clients. I have, when testing something automated to help me with tasks I would normally do anyway, at times looked very inauthentic. Trust me. My fans and followers have no problem telling me when that’s the case. Be sure to implement tools that help you do that things you would do otherwise and know what’s ok to automate and what’s not.
I hope my story resonates with you and helps you learn the lesson I had to learn the hard way. Tools can be great when used appropriately, but don’t use them to do anything you wouldn’t normally do yourself. It’s important in this world where authenticity and transparency matter to not overuse what’s available to us. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you.
If you want help, let me know. Leave a comment below and I’ll do what I can to guide you.
- Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva