Social Networking is a Full-Time Job

Yesterday, Ann Handley posted an article on The Huffington Post about how it’s rapidly becoming too much work to maintain all the contacts that she amassed on Facebook. This is become a serious problem for many of us as we now have social tools that enable us to stay connected with a much larger number of contacts than ever before. We end up with hundreds if not thousands of contacts spread across our email, social networks, instant message clients and countless websites.

On Friday I discussed how social media is overwhelming. This has become a serious problem. This isn’t really a new problem but is instead a problem that more people face thanks to the new technologies that make it easier to stay connected with others. A simple wall post on Facebook, tweet reply to someone on Twitter or web based purchase of a gift package for that special client can be all it takes to maintain a relationship.

Now multiply that activity by hundreds and you suddenly end up with a lot of time being spent in order to stay connected. There are definite trade-offs for staying connected. On one end you can stay connected with people that you care about as well as those that will bring you future business. On the other you now have a visualization of relational opportunity (a phrase I’ve made up to represent the added value of maintaining a connection) and decide that it’s better to maintain hundreds or thousands of connections to avoid the missed opportunity by not keeping in touch.

So how do we handle the overload after overbuilding our personal networks (which is inevitable on social networks)? I personally haven’t come up with a perfect solution but here are a few ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Understand your personal threshold – Rather than obsessively commenting on everything that any of your friends or family post be selective about what you take the time to discuss. Ultimately the discussion has only begun once you make a statement in response to any of your contacts’ actions.
  • Limit your social network activity – Rather than spending hours a day on Facebook or another social network, limit the amount of time you spend on them and specify the times of day that you will surf through your contacts.
  • Outsource your life – Personally, I don’t like this option but Tim Ferris claims to have been successful at it. If you want to try this route there is really no limit on how large your network can get. The alternative to this is hiring your own personal assistant but I’d assume most of us cannot afford such a luxury.
  • Leverage the newsfeed – Rather than browsing across all of the sites you have activity on, personal newsfeeds such as FriendFeed and Facebook’s newsfeed will help us to filter out what is important and what isn’t. While we aren’t there yet it is coming soon.

Have any other useful tools for managing social networking activity? Do you think it’s possible to maintain a large digital identity? I surely haven’t figured out an effective way yet. I’d love to get any advice you have.