Are you considering consolidating your online presence?
I've been giving it a lot of thought over the last couple of months. I often have a lot of projects on the go, and have found that extending your reach in a variety of directions can lead to an inflation of email accounts, social profiles and subscriptions to feeds, podcasts and newsletters.
Obviously organization is important. Having separate email addresses means spending less time sorting through messages. Having separate social profiles means the ability to brand your pages and create cohesive recognition. Your feeds, podcast and newsletter subscriptions help you keep up-to-date and informed in your industry.
But there can come a point where you are far too loaded down to even be able to check all your emails or touch your feed subscriptions. Or maybe you just don't have enough time to post to all your social streams because you're too busy creating content. Whatever the case, if you are considering consolidation, here are some thoughts to ponder and tips to implement.
When you really think about it, this is true. People don't email you because they are mindful of all of your activities, plans, schedule, or goals in life. They typically email you because they require something of you, or they have something they need your help with.
If you want to accomplish what you set out to do with your day, you will have to learn to put your agenda first. This does not mean that you should avoid communication. Quite simply, unless your job requires you to, only check your inbox twice a day.
Unsubscribe from newsletters that offer nothing relevant to you right now. You can always re-subscribe later. Otherwise, they will pile up in your inbox and you'll never feel caught up.
I currently have eight email addresses, all of which connect me to relevant information of varying importance. Whether or not this works out in my favor aside, I am considering either cutting down on a few of them, or having multiple accounts forwarded to one place. I have a feeling this might help me get through my email faster.
Since I have two Gmail accounts, I am also considering having those forwarded over to my email application (Mozilla Thunderbird). I'm not sure if this still works with Thunderbird (it did at one point), but I'm going to give it another try. Having everything in one place should help me prioritize and streamline.
Another thing that can flood your inbox is social media notifications. The good news is that you can go into your social profiles and change the notification settings. The bad news is that it can take a bit of time.
Before you arbitrarily start turning all notifications off, you have to consider what's important to you and what you actually want to be notified on. Furthermore, with some social platforms it can be difficult to navigate to the right section just to adjust these settings. Nothing a quick Google search won't fix, of course.
Another aspect of social media is that, like me, you might wind up being the manager of multiple accounts (seven Facebook fan pages, six Twitter accounts, three YouTube channels, etc.). You may have a good reason to start new profiles for each project, but I have found that there is only so much time in a day, and after a point it's hard to find the time to manage and post to all of them.
Moreover, if your entire day is taken up by posting and scanning your social channels, you're probably not making the most effective use of your time. Whatever it is you do online, you have to keep the main thing the main thing. For most people, social media is likely not going to provide the highest ROI (return on investment) on their activity.
One of the strategies to use here is to schedule your posts in advance using a tool like HootSuite or Buffer. If you can spare a couple of hours at the beginning of each month, you could take the time to strategize and prepare your posts well in advance of them ever being seen by the public. There tend to be good times to engage on social media, and you can take advantage of the studies and infographics online to determine when and how often you want to be posting.
In my experience, these tools work best for platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook and Google+ have a particular way of formatting posts depending on how you enter the data, so it seems the best way for these two is still manual entry. Otherwise, you won't know what the post will look like until it rolls out (if you don't mind going in and editing later, that works too). If you're just doing text updates, these social media management tools work great.
On the upside, Facebook has a built-in post scheduling function, and that seems to work quite well. It just means you'd have to spend some time on Facebook in addition to your social scheduling tools.
I have also come to realize that not all projects require all social channels. A visually heavy or product based business might consider using Pinterest or Instagram. Tech industry people might consider jumping on Google+. It's good to cover your bases, but you don't always have to spread yourself and your brand to every single social network. If I had to use but one tool - and this is just my opinion - I would pick Twitter.
Finally, one of the things I'm thinking about doing is deleting several accounts. Out of the seven Facebook pages I manage, six of them all have to do with my own projects, and, while it might make sense to have two or three, I don't think I'll be hurting too badly if I direct my fans to 'like' the page that I intend to keep, and eliminate the rest, slowly over time. I haven't tried this before, so I don't know exactly how it will pan out, but I think it will make my life easier.
Feeds, Podcasts, Newsletters
If you're posting to your social channels often, you may be finding that you need good content to share with your followers on an ongoing basis. You could keep posting the content you or your team's been producing, but there are advantages to posting interesting and relevant things you find elsewhere.
To a degree it is okay to rehash content, but spamming should be avoided at all costs. Posting the same article twenty times in the span of 20 minutes is a surefire way to get un-follows.
I believe this is where feeds come in. It's good to keep up with your industry and I think you should definitely do this, but whenever you come across a piece of content you like, you can also share it with your followers.
Having some type of feed manager is advisable for this task. Until recently, Google Reader filled this niche, but alas it will no longer be available after July 1, 2013. Although Google may be replacing it with a new service at some point, I've already backed up my data and imported it in to my email client (Thunderbird, as I mentioned earlier).
While it may not display everything correctly (it seems to have some trouble with video embeds), I like having my feeds in my email application, because that way I can access my emails and subscriptions all in one place.
If you are subscribed to a feed that is not relevant to your industry or if you don't have any other compelling reasons to be following it, it's time to unsubscribe. I don't believe you have to keep up-to-date with all of your feeds at all times anyway, but it is good to purge what you don't need from time to time.
The same goes for podcast subscriptions. Take a little bit of time to purge and cleanse every once in awhile and it won't get out of hand.
Another strategy that I like is timely learning. In other words, what you don't need to know right this second, you don't need to know. People tend to consume a lot of information today, but most of that is pointless unless you do something with it!
One thing I like to do with podcasts is search for a keyword and download all episodes associated with it. For example, I might search for 'Seth Godin' (which I have done before), and download all the interviews I can find. This is a great way to narrow your focus but simultaneously get more of the information you want now, as opposed to diving through hundreds of episodes just to get to the tidbits you need. It also saves you from having to subscribe to every podcast you find.
I've already touched on newsletters, but I will add a couple more thoughts here. Sad to say I don't read many of them. It's a great way to scope out your competition and learn more about their strategies, but it can also be a time sink with little reward unless acted on. I can't speak for you, but I often get newsletters I didn't even know I subscribed to, and that's the kind of clutter that can definitely go.
I know that this is not a comprehensive guide. There are a lot of other things I could cover like Gravatar or password and account management. However, hopefully you've gained something from my thought processes and how I am or how I intend to consolidate my online presence.
Finally, if all else fails, either put off or ignore what isn't important to you right now. At all times, try to be focused on the most important tasks you have to do, and don't let irrelevant or unimportant things sidetrack your flow.
If you have any thoughts or ideas you'd like to add, please leave a comment below.