When there are more choices and conversations to spend time on, one can easily become distracted. Social media as an industry has created many distractions — some of which are enjoyable, some not — that can easily cause one to lose focus. This makes time prioritization and good decision making a critical skill set. Experience shows making a conscious choice to focus on what matters, individual professional and/or personal goals, makes a huge difference.
Here are five social media items that in hindsight have been personal distractions:
1) The A-List
It’s easy to become annoyed with the A-List. The fodder is endless, whether it’s their lack of originality, the ridiculous posturing and ensuing absurd behavior, or a ridiculous stream of bad practices retweeted by hundreds or thousands. Oh yes, spending time on the ills of leading A-List voices is very easy.
Overfocusing on the A-List is like feeding the trolls. The more you talk about them positively or negatively, the more you increase their stature. Further when talking about them as A-Listers rather than people just like us, you put them above yourself, lowering your market stature. Ironic, given that most of these conversations seek to reduce the barriers between the top and middle tiers of blogging voices.
In the end, negative or positive discussions about popular content producers only distracts one from pursuing their dreams. Just like Albert Einstein said ‘What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.’ So focus on what is right and matters to you. Focus on your business or personal dreams, reward those that merit praise (without labels), and ignore the rest.
2) Mistaking Attention for Respect
Balancing online presence and wasting time is always a difficult thing. But there are many people who spend their entire day on social networks or talking about social media while their business bombs. Or competitors outflank them while they are playing on Empire Avenue or Angry Birds, or some other nonsense. Meanwhile there are people receiving much less attention who are pulling down big contracts, spending time with their families, and achieving great things, like raising $20,000 for charity, successfully concluding a business, or changing the way news is reported.
Real results earn respect, while a big social network presence, well, that just equals a lot of attention. Understanding that online attention is not the same as a real outcome — personal or business — is the realization that online popularity can become a distraction.
Measuring one’s performance against their peers has been an easy distraction, bothersome or pleasing, in nature. But while rankings like the Ad Age 150 provide a barometer for general intra-industry performance (or at least popularity), they don’t mean much to customers.
Yes, online engagement is important and demonstrating you can actually walk the social media talk matters. At the same time, writing for a stakeholder group like CMOs may be much more important to you than getting the most retweets. What is the goal? This is the difference between quantifying and qualifying online worth. Does it really make sense to compare yourself to others? Never lose sight of the big picture, otherwise you’ll find yourself chasing phantom windmills.
4) Gossip and What He/She Said
The rumor mill is thick in social media. Sure, it’s fun. So what? How does this help you achieve goals? Ever count how much time you are spending talking about other people rather than focusing on your business or goals? Notice the similarity between this one and the A-List. It’s just another form of the same problem, except a bit nastier. Enough said.
5) Social Media Conferences
Rare is the intra-industry social media conference that produces actual business. SxSW and the defunct Gnomedex are the only two that come to mind. SOBCon has been very educational from an online business owner’s perspective. The rest, well, they are great to see your online friends. If you have family and business objectives to achieve, while enjoyable, social media specific conferences tend to waste time, unless it is how you choose to spend vacation. Otherwise stick to professional conferences designed for businesses with an online focus or track.
Another way to think about the topic is when you pass from this world, what do you want your digital legacy to be? Are you investing time in what matters? Or are you distracted?