Five ways to save time using social media

I remember back in the early days of social media, when I thought, wow, that sounds like a great way to waste time. As a communications professional, I quickly changed my tune. I’ve been onĀ LinkedIn since 2005, and joined Facebook and Twitter in 2008. Though you can certainly find ways to waste time on social media (cat videos, pinning recipes you’ll never make), I’ve started to realize how much time it actually saves me.

Here are some ways social media saves me time, rather than wasting it:

1. Communication with friends and family
I live nearly 3,000 miles away from my family, as well as 70 percent of my friends. Email and texting made communication easier, but social media takes it to a whole new level. I know where my brother had dinner last night. It reminds me that my best friend’s son’s birthday is coming up when I see pictures of his party. I knew that a good friend from high school was pregnant with a boy after having three girls. I feel like I am still part of their daily lives, without being there. It means a lot especially for moms, who want to share stories and photos with friends and family, but don’t have time to call or send pictures all the time.

2. Business connections
I joined LinkedIn first and used in sparingly in early years. Now I check it every day. Your contacts may work for companies that you’re interested in joining or partnering with. You may need a contractor and realize you know one. I’ve also found work through social media, when a friend posted on Facebook that her company needed someone to do website writing. I didn’t have to spend time searching online classifieds, I simply kept my eyes open on a site I already visit. Social media is a great place for networking!

3. Follow companies and organizations you care about
I love FSU. I like sales at Pottery Barn and Whenever they have news, sales or contests, I see it in my Facebook news feed. I don’t have to read promotional emails or visit each website individually. It comes to me, in between photos of my mom’s dog and my coworker’s trip to Scotland. I only follow companies and organizations I really care about, so I don’t feel overwhelmed with too many updates.

4. Quick news
I think Twitter is the best source for this. I used to skim eight newspapers a day when I worked at the Fed, and with each job I’ve had since that number has dwindled. Now it’s embarrassingly low since I’m trying to build a business and also pick my kids up early from school. I follow a diverse group on Twitter: journalists, mommy bloggers, small business evangelists, business leaders and companies. They post interesting links and open my eyes to articles I might otherwise miss. I found out Michael Jackson died on Twitter, before the L.A. Times posted it. Good and bad, the news comes fast this way.

5. Market research
I’m always searching for new products that work well at a reasonable cost – from beauty products to cleaning supplies. Anytime I need a suggestion for something new, Facebook is my go-to spot. Sure, I could read 50 reviews on on the eye cream I’m considering, but having responses from people I actually know, that come directly to me, is so much faster and more reliable. I’ve also asked for parenting tips, travel suggestions and recipes. I love the variety of responses I get, and not only does it help with the issue at hand, it lets me interact with friends.

I have resisted joining Pinterest because I know my weaknesses. I could spend hours looking at recipes and home decor, then never have the time to do any of it, so I’d feel doubly guilty. What about you? What ways do you use social media to save time? Any weaknesses?

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