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7 Steps to maximize your social networking time

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Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are an essential way of solidifying your brand as an actor in the internet world and beyond. The challenge with these sites is that they are, in fact, connected to the internet: it’s all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of tangential links clicking on side topics falling into they-did-whats before you realize that three hours of your life have disappeared. Here’s how to break the surfing habit, buckle up, and make some serious social networking magic for your acting career:

1. Schedule a time to check your networks. This is not something to leave to impulse. The high octane turnover rate of internet information has resulted in a type of compulsive status-checking once reserved for slot machines (see operant conditioning), giving us a dopamine hit each time we check our feed, or our email, or our page, whether or not something’s actually of use, or even of interest. (Dr. Andrew Weil wrote an excellent article on this subject here.) Like B.F. Skinner's famous rats, the compulsion to keep pressing that button can very easily take over our day, even our lives.

Instead, pick a time of day that makes sense for you. Some like to check in the morning when they're first rolling out of bed. If that’s you, then make that your time, but keep in mind, if you’re still half asleep, or unprepared to respond with appropriate comments, links, or research, you’re wasting those first precious minutes of consciousness as you’ll have to check all over again later when you're prepared. Worse, you may forget entirely, and miss the opportunity to engage with current and potential followers. I check my feeds in the morning when having my first cuppa, after lunch, and again around 6 p.m.

2. Set a time limit. Then, stick to it. This is the easiest place to drown in the internet riptides, and where you really want to set anchor. Give yourself 10 minutes, barring any unforeseen news-breaking event, to quickly scan through your feeds and see what’s up. Set a timer if you have to: there’s probably one on your phone.

Now, decide your best branding approach to what you’ve seen, and take another pre-determined amount of time to implement your plan. Obviously, it will take longer to write a blog post than to retweet, so use common sense, but give yourself boundaries. If you’re not finished when the buzzer sounds, come back later when your thoughts are more clarified. If you don't come up with anything amazing, that's fine. It's better to provide premium content than a feed stuffed with fluff.

3. Use lists. Both Twitter and Facebook offer list features that are hugely advantageous in reducing time spent scrolling through pictures of lunch to items of importance. For example, one might create a ‘Casting’ list, adding all the casting directors and casting associates you follow. Do the same for Producers, Directors, networks, or even special topics.

Twitter allows you to add accounts you don’t even follow to your lists, which is an incredible time saver. This option lets you eliminate some of the clutter from accounts that you want close by, but don't necessarily want in your feed all the time.

4. Use notification services offered on casting sites. Actors Access, Casting Networks, and Backstage all offer notification service via email or text to let you know when a breakdown meeting your search criteria has been posted. This means you don't have to keep checking your phone like a teenager the week before prom. These notifications tend to come one or two hours after they've posted but will guarantee you won’t miss anything, without keeping you hand-cuffed to a search engine.

5. Use Google alerts. No more repetitive and endless searching! This amazing little freebie allows you to put in a casting director’s name, for example, and get emailed any time something new about them is posted. Whether they’ve picked up a new film, have just been interviewed, or are teaching a new class, you’ll know. Google alerts can follow people, companies, agencies, or even trends.

6. Write posts now, schedule them later. Sometimes brilliance comes like an avalanche, but dumping a bunch of posts onto your audience at once is a huge turn-off. It dominates feeds and can cause you to alienate and even lose followers. Spread your creativity out by scheduling your posts for later days and times. Both Facebook and Twitter have this option integrated into their sites, and dozens of other apps such as Buffer offer scheduling options across multiple platforms.

7. Know the best times to post for each network. You spent all that time cramming your creative genius into 140 characters, so make sure your followers actually see it.

The science is relatively new but one thing all studies indicate is that there are better times, and better days, per social network. Generally, Facebook posts are best later in the week and later in the day, while Twitter posts do best between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on the weekend. Check out the following articles on the subject and determine your own best posting times:

You can also personally take note of which posts seem to get the most engagement. I have found that my Facebook posts at 8:00 a.m. do better than those at even 9:00 a.m., in terms of engagement (likes and/or sharing) and number of views. Facebook offers some stats directly under each post, Buffer provides statistics on each post scheduled through their service, and Google Analytics is a gem in this arena.

Summary: work smarter, not harder. Once you've got your social networking plan of action, you'll spend less time wading and waffling, and more time benefiting from all your articulate fabulousness.

If you have other suggestions about this topic, please share them in the comments section below!

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