New York Times - 7 Tools to Manage Social Media Overload

“I get by with a little help from my friends… I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends." - The Beatles

Today, I was featured in a New York Times article on social media. Many thanks to Stephanie Rosenbloom for including me.

I’m receiving a ton of questions about the tools and techniques I use to manage online information overload, so I decided to put together a few more details for your reference.

To get a quick feel for how I use social media, check out @joshkaufman (my Twitter account).

My Personal Social Media Rules:

  1. Twitter is my primary service, since it’s the easiest to use and automate.
  2. LinkedIn is for business contacts, former colleagues, and Personal MBA readers.
  3. Facebook is for family and personal friends only.
  4. Google+ has the same rules as Facebook.

Syndication: Facebook & LinkedIn Twitter Accounts

As I mentioned in the NYT article, everything I do in social media is posted to Twitter first. Those posts are then automatically syndicated to Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook - I use Facebook’s official Twitter application to syndicate my Twitter posts to my Facebook wall.

LinkedIn - Likewise, I use LinkedIn’s built-in Twitter features (found under “Settings" —“Manage your Twitter settings") to syndicate my Twitter posts to LinkedIn.

Syndication saves me so much effort it’s ridiculous. It’s a smart way to cut your social media time in half, easily.

Automation: Twitterfeed & Buffer

I love automation. Since I don’t want to be tied to the computer all day, automation programs make it easy to spend a little time deciding what I want to do, then have those things happen automatically.

Twitterfeed is a tool that allows you to synchronize an RSS feed to a Twitter account. Every time I publish something new on, it’s automatically posted on Twitter, and is also syndicated to the Personal MBA Facebook Page.

Buffer is an online application that helps you schedule Twitter posts in advance, so you don’t overload your readers. I try to keep 1-2 days worth of posts in my Buffer, which are mostly links to articles and posts that are interesting or useful.

Twithawk is an online application that helps me find people who are talking about The Personal MBA. This helps me respond quickly to my readers without having to follow a billion people. (As the article mentions, I actively follow 86 people on Twitter, mostly colleagues and friends.)

What’s the Business Return on Investment?

I’ve found that social media is a worthwhile investment, in small doses. Here’s why:

  • I’m now friends with people I originally met via social media, particularly Twitter.
  • People who say kind things about my book are more likely to leave a review if I have a conversation with them personally.
  • My work spreads very quickly via social media, so it amplifies the results of things I’m already doing.
  • It doesn’t take a lot of time or money, so my total investment is small. (Investing hours and hours a day would be different - that’s too much of an Opportunity Cost)

My Comprehensive Morning Social Media Checklist

  • Reply to comments from friends via official Twitter for Mac application.
  • Check Twithawk to find new conversations about the Personal MBA, and reply as needed.
  • Fill Buffer with links to interesting business-related articles.

That’s it. The whole process takes no more than 10-20 minutes. I usually do this while my daughter is taking her morning nap.

When it’s time to work…

I turn off the internet. Seriously.

  • Freedom is a desktop application that disables your internet connection completely for up to 8 hours. Freedom allows me to continue using my computer without the risk of falling into a rabbit hole of “research" instead of writing. It’s safe to say that, without Freedom, my book wouldn’t exist today.

  • Editing ~/etc/hosts~. This is a useful technique if you’re comfortable with technology. I use the hosts file to permanently block specific sites like Reddit, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. to make it difficult to procrastinate via random web surfing. When I notice myself spending a lot of low-value time on a website, I block the site in my hosts file to reclaim that time. Here’s a tutorial on how to use the hosts file via Lifehacker.

These are both examples of Guiding Structure: by using your willpower to block websites once, you don’t have to rely on willpower during the day to get things done.

On a practical note…

There are people out there who are using social media for awesome things. Example: Dan Portnoy (one of my clients) is using social media to raise millions of dollars for non-profits that are doing important work. Dan is about to release a book called “The Non-Profit Narrative." If you’re interested in how to use social media for great good, Dan is the guy to follow.

Here’s what I’ve learned from Dan: if you invest in telling a story worth paying attention to, these tools can spread your message far and wide. All it takes is a bit of strategy, effort, and persistence.

Read more essays by Josh Kaufman →

Published: August 10, 2011Last updated: August 10, 2011

Books by Josh Kaufman