Three Strategies for Managing Social Networks and a Full-Time Job

Alyssa Gregory

social networks at workLast month, I spoke at a conference about social networking for professionals, and many attendees were full-time employees. During the session, there were a number of questions raised about managing time on social networks when you have a full-time job, and best practices for dealing with the merge of personal and professional lives on these sites.

It was a great discussion, and while it didn’t produce any definitive solutions, it certainly got me thinking. Then, Craig’s post on UK employees’ access to social networks, and a recent post on Mashable about Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project’s survey about the use of social networks by employees got me thinking even more.

Many of us who work from home, me included, take some things for granted. Particularly the fact that we can control our own time and can spend as much or as little time on social networks as we want to during the traditional workday without any employer repercussions. Of course, we may still be interacting with clients during these activities so it’s not a free-for-all, yet we do have a lot of leeway.

But what about the full-time employee who is using social networks to advance their career, explore new opportunities or build support for a new endeavor? What’s the best way to manage the overlap between work, personal and on-the-side activities, and be able to keep up during the day? Here are a few possible strategies I’d like to throw out there for discussion.

Separate, Define and Limit

Sure, you can create separate accounts that fulfill each of your individual needs. But right off the bat, I see potential time management overload from creating different accounts for all of your different uses. Think how time consuming it can be to manage just one account.

Plus, what if you have a business account and a personal account, and want to use your business account to network and potentially find a new job. Great, you can send your business profile to prospective employers to enrich your resume. But what if you already network with coworkers or your current employer with that business profile? You could be opening a huge can of worms.

One idea to consider is creating a very limited business-related profile for the purpose of extending your online persona, a Facebook Fan Page for example. You can use this profile to share links to your web site, blog or other things you’ve done online and communicate in a general sense, limiting the ability for public interaction. It could be more of a showcase of who you are and what you do, instead of a real-time two-way communication tool.

Go Mobile-Only from 9 to 5

My second strategy relates directly to the challenge of keeping up with your social networks without using on-the-job time. It’s very tempting to check in on your networks during your workday, but this can be a slippery slope, especially if you’re using your company’s equipment, time and Internet connection to do so.

One possible workaround is limiting your social network interaction to your mobile device during the workday. In most cases, even with all of the new social networking apps that are available for mobile devices, I would guess that this would create shorter and less distracting check-ins. I know I can only do so much on my BlackBerry, even armed with Facebook Mobile, UberTwitter, etc.

To take it one step further and avoid the pull of your iPhone while you’re working, you can schedule time during your day that will be used for social networking, your lunch break for example. This would obviously take a lot of discipline, but when it comes down to it, it could potentially be the deciding factor between staying employed and losing your job.

Aggregate to Make It Easier

Time management is another major challenge when it comes to managing social networks and being a full-time employee. It just takes a lot of time to log into three or four different sites to check on things. One way to get a handle on this is to make sure you have all of your email notifications set up in your social networks, so it will take less manual work on your part to see who is saying and doing what. Setting up rules in your email client can be an effective way to manage these emails.

Using a social network aggregator to pull of your information into one place is another way to limit the amount of time it takes you to keep up. In fact, this seems like such a good idea that I think I need to start doing this myself. I’m going to try out a few social network aggregators over the next week or so, and I will report back my findings.

At the end of the day, it certainly takes a lot more work and planning to actively participate in social networks when you’re a full-time employee. But if you’re clear on what you hope to accomplish and strategic about how you will do it, it can be done effectively.

But, what do you think? If you’re a full-time employee using social networks, how do you manage it all and not let your activity eat up company time?

Image credit: Robert S. Donovan