Have you ever gone through your entire day and realized that it’s sort of just fuzzy? You know you did stuff, but you don’t really remember what stuff that was, as in, you don’t remember the details. This is typically because of distractions and more specifically as of late, social media. Statistics show that people spend an average of 145 minutes per day on social media, but I’m a firm believer that it’s way more than that.

Social media doesn’t always have to be bad though, as long as you’re not sitting and consuming all day.

with that, when can social media actually be good for engineers?

Consumption vs Selling

There’s an old sales phrase that goes something like if you’re getting it for free, you’re the product.

What this means is anything that you consume for free, you’re the target for the sale. Let’s take something like Instagram for example. It’s free, but why is it actually free? Surely it took millions of dollars to build and another million(s) to maintain it. The reason why it’s free is that the whole point of it is to grab your attention. When you “scroll down” and the feed refreshes, that’s not on accident, that’s by design. Free platforms have one intention – to keep you on there for as long as possible. Guess what? It works! There’s nothing like a cute puppy video to help you stay distracted throughout your day.

That’s the consumption side.

There’s another side of it – selling.

The word selling typically makes people uncomfortable, but that’s what you’re doing if your posting blog posts, videos, events, etc., you’re selling. Using social media for this is perfectly fine to do because you aren’t sitting and consuming. Instead, you’re getting a product out there, even if that product is yourself.

Using something like Buffer to schedule your tweets/posts instead of having to manually log into social media is a great approach.

The motto? Sell or be sold

Marketing Yourself

10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, the best way to market yourself was at conferences and conventions. You’d go with your product (yourself or an actual product), talk to people, gain connections, see what people are looking for, and build yourself or your product up.

Now, especially in the world we live in, a lot of marketing is done via social media. However, don’t let this consume your entire day. Social media platforms have algorithms that “push up your post to the beginning of the line” if you’re on social media a lot, post a lot, comment a lot, etc.. It’s extremely time-consuming and quite frankly, a huge chunk of shallow work.

Instead, what I recommend for marketing yourself on social media is:

  • Use good hashtags.
  • Provide value in your posts. Don’t just ramble.
  • Share with the world something that people actually care about.
  • Post valid information. No one cares about how good your bagel was that morning.
  • Make your social media profile stand out. A good bio, a good photo, a good banner photo, etc…
  • Be consistent with your posts. That’s why it’s great to use something like Buffer. You can schedule your posts for days, weeks, or hours out.
  • Respond back to people that post on your thread (but schedule this out for say, 15 minutes per day that you’ll check social media).

Sharing Ideas

Ideas are meant to be shared and how we work with society is meant to provide value. Deep focus comes from when you’re in a quiet, secluded area away from people, but innovation and ideas come from when you’re working around others. There needs to be both. You can’t just have innovations all day without deep work and you can’t just have deep work without ideas/innovations. Because of that, it’s a great idea to share your ideas.

This can be done via social media.

Although I often say how much I hate social media (and I do because it’s shallow work), it works for meeting people. I have personally met my closest friends today on social media. People that I consider my friends, colleagues, and innovator buddies. Social media is really good for that and sharing ideas, but you need to ensure that you time-block it.

Just like everything in life, it must come in portions. You can’t just go eat cheeseburgers all day because you could get really sick. However, one cheeseburger is fine. You can’t go on social media all day because you won’t get any valuable work done, although 30 minutes per day is fine.

Take it in moderation.

Limiting Your Time on Social Media

You briefly read in previous sections about limiting your time on social media, but let’s dive into it a bit more. As with everything in life, it must come in moderation. Being on social media all day may feel fun at first, but you don’t actually get anything done other than having some conversations and looking at funny memes. There’s no actual value that comes out of it. No true product or success. It’s really just a time suck.

Social media can burn you out as well. I know anyone that’s been on social media for lengthy periods of time (myself included) feels mentally tired afterward. It makes you question what social media is actually doing because it’s not cognitively demanding work to be on social media, but it can burn you out.

When you’re thinking about how to limit yourself on social media, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t use social media in the morning. Don’t allow it to take your focus so early. Instead, focus on the work that matters in the morning and check social media later.
  • Don’t let social media keep you distracted when you’re with your family or friends
  • Limit social media to 30 minutes to 1 hour per day
  • Realize that whatever is going on via social media doesn’t actually matter. Tons of people have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and in reality, nothing is ever actually happening that’s worth it that won’t be there a few hours later.

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