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One of the biggest questions I get about using social media is “How do you keep track of everyone when they start contacting you all these different ways?”- meaning, how do you manage the individual social sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, in such a way that you’re not spending your whole day responding to communication?

While there are many strategies you could use, here are a few that I’ve used successfully:

1) Put social media applications on your smartphone. If you have a Blackberry, Android, or Iphone, you should be able to install applications that help you manage your social site participation. The way I use these applications is to ‘carry my social media with me’- so if I am waiting in line somewhere, or riding the Metro, or otherwise have a few minutes, I can quickly and easily log into my accounts and respond right from my phone. I’ve found these applications to be particularly helpful for Twitter and Facebook. While not perfect, they can help streamline the process.

2) Try to funnel contacts into just one or two preferred modes of communicating. For example, if you are contacted on LinkedIn, you can immediately ask that person to contact you directly through your own email, or by phone, or however you prefer. This will help you shape the communication process into something that works better for you, and can reduce how often you need to check your various social inboxes. I, routinely, will ask people to email me directly rather than messaging me on Facebook or LinkedIn. I check my Twitter DM’s every two weeks or so and let people know that there are better ways to reach me more quickly.

3) Set aside time every few days to manage your social accounts. While it can be tempting to try and address every friend request immediately, you can actually wait a couple of days. Set aside about 30 minutes every 2-3 days, and use this time to catch up and manage your social media profiles. If something is more urgent or timely, respond to it more quickly. But, usually, most things can wait. If you adopt this strategy, you may even want to reduce the number of notifications you get from the social sites, knowing that everything will be there when you next log in. This can help reduce the amount of email management you have to do.

4) Keep all of your contact information in one place. I make it a habit of regularly entering all my new contacts into my Google contacts. I make sure to add name, email, phone number, as well as Facebook ID and Twitter handle. This has saved me on more than one occasion! Try to keep your end of the information stream as organized as you can, and reduce the number of places you store this kind of information. Make use of online services that you can access from anywhere, especially if you travel quite a bit or have a mobile office.

5) Remember, this is a good thing! As you become more well known, it is inevitable that more people will want to reach you. The challenge comes in how you view these contacts and in how you manage them. People want to connect with you because they like you and you’re interesting. Remember this; it will help you manage your relationships with more grace and ease.

And finally, remember- even though we live in a super-connected world, it’s ok for you to put some boundaries around your availability. Unhook from the computer once in a while. Leave the phone in the car. Spend more time in nature.

We’ll still be here when you get back.