An outpouring of support

As many of you know, and maybe some of you don’t, Maggie McGary has been the Online Community & Social Media Manager at ASHA since May 2008.  She is behind the @ASHAWeb and @ASHAConv handles and has been in charge of more or less their entire online presence (ASHASphere, LinkedIn groups, other member groups on the ASHA.com site, etc.) and has done a great job of keeping members and non-members abreast of all info SLP and AUD related in the online community.

Maggie is leaving ASHA to take on a new role with the FDA. It’s a tremendous opportunity for her and we’re all sad to see her go but want to wish her well in her next position.

Our community has become fantastic at supporting and showing our love and appreciation for each other. We’ve done it many times in the past. Let’s do a ‘sneak attack’ of appreciation and goodbye’s for Maggie before she leaves ASHA. Her last day is December 14th, but let’s start the outpouring December 5th.

If you would like to donate to a group farewell gift for Maggie, please email Heidi (Heidi@pediastaff.com). Heidi will be signing the card for the gift “Best Wishes and Love from the SLPeeps” followed by the names of the people who contribute – so if you aren’t on Twitter, you can still contribute and be acknowledged!  Also, Maggie’s ASHA email address is mmcgary@asha.org in case you want to send her a more personal (or longer) farewell.

UPDATE: I’m making this post public now because I feel that most of you have provided your support to Maggie and word is out pretty strongly. Thanks everyone for showing Maggie how much we love and appreciate her contributions to the online community of SLPs and Audiologists.

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2012 Edublog Nominations

Well, I’ve been wanting to post this for several days but have been caught up in other things. I also thought nominations closed November 28th, which they actually close November 26th but I’m hoping they’ll take a one day late post. And even if they don’t, this is a good exercise in sharing resources! So here are my nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards.

Best individual hashtag: Obviously I’m going to pick the #slpeeps tag, since it has been extraordinarily influential in my own life and the lives of many other professionals. It has unified a profession across the globe and across populations with whom that the profession (SLP) works.

Best New Blog: I would have to say that Mary Huston’s Speech Adventures is my favourite new blog. The Twitter community hassled her to have a blog for years and now that she has, it has been very enriching.

Best Group Blog: I like ASHAsphere for this category. They have many different contributors and post great information on a regular basis.

Best Individual Blog: I love Aubrey Klingensmith’s blog Speechie Apps. I have often read her reviews of apps and used this information to decide if I should try one or suggest it to others when I am (frequently) asked. She even does Android app reviews, which I don’t use but I know many who do and want this information.

Best Individual Tweeter: I like @pediastaff for this category this year. Not only have they been tweeting great content for multiple professions for years, they performed a giant undertaking in funding a Social Media Learning booth at the ASHA conference this year, in order to teach others about social media and how it ca help their professional growth. Many people helped out at the booth and behind the scenes but organizing it and having the idea to do it deserves major kudos.

There are so many other great people out there but these are the categories where I felt compelled to nominate this year and just some of the people contributing to my PLN right now.

And the winner is…

Well, I woke up early this morning so I went to a random number generator and drew a winner. There were 12 participants and a total of 21 entries (remember, I enter you every time you tweet). I suppose the law of averages works nicely when there’s a small sample size, cuz the winner is one of two who tweeted the most times *insert drumroll here*  @alour! Ashley tied for the most tweets/entries (5) with @dibsondebs so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still was!

Congrats, Ashley – I’ll be in touch to get your address to mail you stuff and give you the code today. Thanks to everyone for participating. Here is a Chirpstory of the tweets during the contest.

To be on the up and up (as best I can) here is a picture of the number generator and the list of entrants in the order they tweeted with the tags #ashaless and #slpeeps (or I that noticed their tweets) through the week:

ASHA-less Giveaway

This post is brought to you by the word: lugubrious  [loo-goo-bree-uhs] /lʊˈgubriəs/

adjective

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.
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I really wanted to go to the ASHA conference this year, but it wasn’t possible. I’m hoping to go next year, but in the mean time I’ll content myself reading the tweets and watching the goings on of all the #SLPeeps who are there in real life, like I have for the past 2 years. I know many of you are also ASHA-less – unable to attend this year and also sad about it.

To cheer us all up, I’m going to have my first blog giveaway ever. And it’s only for those of us who aren’t at ASHA this year. Don’t worry ASHA attending folks, you’re going to have plenty of giveaways and contests while you’re at ASHA. Actually, anyone can participate, but only those who aren’t at ASHA can win a prize.

How to have a chance to win

If you want to be included in the draw you must include the hastags #SLPeeps and #ASHAless and a reason you love some online community of SLPs – it can be twitter, pinterest, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn – whatever! But you have to have those 2 hashtags in your tweet to qualify to win (and most importantly so I see your tweets and can enter you in the contest).

If you are going to attend ASHA this year, you are welcome to also tweet why you love the #slpeeps and include the #ASHA12 tag – I’ll include your tweets in the chirpstory I make later (you knew there had to be a chirpstory at the end of this!). However, you have your own contest at the Pediastaff Social Media Learning Centre featuring #SLPeeps. Don’t miss the 3 Tweet and Greet times where you can record a video of yourself and be entered to win a prize. See here for how.

Prize drawing for non ASHA attendees will be random, but I’ll put your name in as many times as you tweet reasons – upping your chances to win. The contest will run from today until the end of Saturday, November 17th. The draw will occur on Sunday, November 18th.

What you could win

At this point there are 3 things up for grabs: a digital copy of the movie Rio (such a great movie), #slpeeps swag of your choice (more or less), and a copy of the Profile of Phonological Awareness app.  I’ll keep you posted if anything else is on the table (e.g. gets donated).

Wish there was an app for that? Write it yourself!

This post is brought to you by the word: contrive [kuhn-trahyv] /kənˈtraɪv/

verb (used with object)

1. to plan with ingenuity; devise; invent: The author contrived a clever plot.
2. to bring about or effect by a plan, scheme, or the like; manage: He contrived to gain their votes.
3. to plot (evil, treachery, etc.).

verb (used without object)

4. to form designs; plan.
5. to plot.

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If someone had told me in 2009 that I would author apps, I would have told them that wasn’t possible. How could I write an app? I didn’t know how to code them or how to get them on the market. I was an app user – just wishing there was an app out there that could do this, that, or the other thing for me; until I got on Twitter.

Stumbling Into App Authorship

When the #SLPeeps first formed, there was an explosion of sharing thoughts, ideas, and resources, as I’ve blogged about before. One of the things that came of it was the #SLPeeps Shared Folder on Google Docs (now called Google Drive – thanks to Shareka Bentham (@speechreka) who created folders initially). As a part of this sharing process, we decided we wanted a repository of common goals we use and discuss – to make it easier to share our goals with others. Janelle Albrecht (@albrechtjn) set up the SLP Goal Bank to fulfill that goal, and it still exists.

A little before this, Barbara Fernandez was busy writing some of the first SLP specific apps with her company, Smarty Ears Apps. I knew about her, sometimes interacted with her, and watched her company and apps with interest. She approached those of us who had first started the SLP Goal Bank to write an app with our own goals.

It all happened extremely fast but suddenly I was a co-author for an app! I just sort of fell into it by accident and found the process very interesting. However, for that app, all I had to do was contribute a bunch of my own goals to various areas of speech pathology – I didn’t have to do any lay-out or trouble shooting. I couldn’t even test the app because I didn’t yet have an iPad at that time.

Writing the App

This process got me thinking, though – what if I could write an app that was missing in my life? I now knew a little bit about how to write it while working with a designer/publisher and realized it’s as ‘easy’ as writing a book (and I actually did have to write a book for my app, but most people wouldn’t need to do that).

As it happens, what was missing in my app life was a phonological awareness profile. I had grown weary of the CELF-4’s screener1and was screening kids with it more or less daily. So, in the summer of 2010, I started thinking about what I would want a phonological awareness assessment app to look like and do. I contacted Barbara at Smarty Ears, who loved the idea, and then I started working on it – SLOWLY.

The Content

I started by writing the profile the way I wanted it; touching on the major areas and skipping the not so major areas that contributed to the length of the screener I was currently using. I fleshed out things I wished I could speak to better, like segmenting consonant clusters. I spent quite a bit of time (months) choosing words that target a variety sounds and word lengths, as appropriate, and aren’t too similar to other sounds/words in the same subtest.

I took time to organize the profile items into a more or less developmental progress, but by overriding type, and decided not to create a criterion score. This was so that there’s no worry of false positives/negatives and so that sections of the profile can be skipped as an educator sees fit depending on age and reassessment status. There’s nothing worse than feeling obliged to administered several subtests you know the child can/can’t do (or shouldn’t be able to yet do) just to get a criterion score.

Portion of pen and paper test version of the Pro-PA

I then put the whole thing into a pen and paper screen and passed it out to several of my friends globally as well as my own colleagues, to test it out on real kids and get feedback on items that failed consistently or anything that didn’t work. Then I spent several months refining the screen.

I should note here that I didn’t go into designing my own profile out of nowhere – assessing PA skills in children and setting goals to target these areas is something I do daily in my practice. Also, my graduate thesis was on early literacy skills, and I sit on a committee to organize a literacy workshop every year, in which I often present as well. I’ve read and done research in the area and I looked to current research and my experience when writing the app.

App Lay Out and Functionality

I worked on the concept in my head for a while but, basically, I spent the better part of 10 months writing and organizing the content of the app. THEN I wrote the app structure and lay out, which took me a month or so (working on it bit by bit and after many months of considering the app layout in my head as well).

I did my mock up in Power Point, making each slide a different page from the app. This went beyond mocking up how it would look, though. I also had to think a lot about lay out and functionality in terms of navigating the app in the simplest way possible. When would I need to get to various menus and pages inside the app? When might I need to get out of them again? How will the app progress? How will I input various things such as success or failure of items, make notes about the items, or enter client names and information? For that matter, what client information is most important to include and why?

PowerPoint mock up of results in Pro-PA submitted to Smarty Ears

Actual in-app results section of published Pro-PA app

Discussion With the Publisher

Actually, given the type of app I was authoring, the lay out for the ‘test’ portion was the easy part – the part that was most difficult was the menu. Up until that point, other apps like mine displayed only one client at a time, but I wanted to be able to organize by groups (e.g. class, school, etc) and also have the results available by group (e.g. an entire class) to help direct where the group generally needed to go next, but not losing the information for individual children. How to lay it out best?

This is when I went to Barbara and proposed what I wanted to do and how I thought it might work, but she and the programmer might have had other ideas how it could work with the programming options available. Barbara and I spent a while discussing it via email, Facetime, and Skype to flesh it out better so that she understood what I wanted and could give ideas based on how apps are written/function. She was also able to foresee some things I hadn’t fleshed out because of my inexperience in writing apps, which was very helpful.

Once I had the app laid out and submitted to Smarty Ears to code it, I then had to write the manual from start to finish. This was also a rather large task, but most apps wouldn’t require such a hefty undertaking. We then beta tested it (used the app to work out bugs and issues) and it was submitted to iTunes.

From my first ideas of the concept, to its’ being published in January 2012, I spent about 18 months on this app. I could have written it faster, but I work full time and have a family I like spending time with, plus I’m a big perfectionist when it comes to these kinds of things.

Learning Opportunities (a euphemism for Mistakes)

One thing I learned through this process is that you need to think through every possible functionality or navigation of the app from the start. I mean VERY specific and detailed. I got most of them, but forgot to highlight the idea that the profile can be stopped at any time with skipped sections. I had thought through colour coding yellow in the results to indicate that a section had been skipped, but not how to quit the ‘test’ portion if you don’t want to do the final section(s). So the programmer coded the app (initially) so that it only finished the ‘test’ and went to the results once you administer the last section, which is how other apps had worked (like the Sunny Articulation Test, for example).

This was a pretty big oops for my app functionality, but to change it and add a ‘finish test’ button, or something like it, the programmer would have had to reprogram the entire app from the ground up again, which would cost too much money. This was a detail I didn’t know going in, since I’m not an app programmer. So, I had to live with the app saying that a child scored incorrectly on the final section (substituting final sounds) for several months until the programmer could redo the app over again. I’m happy to say that it’s been fixed now, but I had to be patient for that part.

My advice (to myself if I write any more apps) is to take the extra time and energy to visualize and think through the entire app – every single page possible. Visualize the app as it’s being used and ask: If I’m doing this in the app, what might I want/need? How will I build the app to allow this to happen? What ELSE might I want/need? Going a little more slowly can pay off a great deal in the end and ensure a very well designed app of which you can be proud. Not that I could have gone much more slowly last time, mind you – there will probably always be that one thing that you didn’t foresee. That’s just life, though2.

Why an App Publisher?

You can choose to find someone who knows how to program apps and strike some sort of bargain with them or pay them outright. I know a few SLPs who have done this but I chose to go with a publisher. It’s basically the same as going with a publisher of a book, versus publishing it yourself. If I had tried to publish this myself I would have been in charge of: getting it made (programmer fees), submitting it to iTunes (small fee – learning curve), updating it regularly (more programmer fees), and advertising it. So I made the trade off of not making as much percentage per sale for not having to front a bunch of expenses and time and not have to worry so much about advertising. I’m fairly confident that I’ve come out ahead with my choice.

I didn’t write this app for the money, I wrote it so that I could use it in my daily practice. However, I couldn’t have fronted a rather large programmer bill to get it made and risk not making that money back on the sales. Nor do I have the time or ability to properly advertise for an app to be able to make back those various fees. Not to mention recompense for the considerable time I put into the app authorship – my time is worthwhile too. I specifically chose Smarty Ears Apps because I had experience working with them before, I knew Barbara from Twitter and had a relationship with her, and she is the biggest app developer for SLP related apps on the market (even though mine is for SLPs and Educators alike – I know lots of educators use her apps as well as SLPs).

What about you?

Is there an app you wish you had that doesn’t yet exist? Maybe you could write it for yourself, and other people might like it too. Have you authored any apps? Please drop a comment to share any similarities or differences you had from my experience and any tips you think helpful for others who might author their own!

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1 – I want to say here that the CELF-4 PA skills criterion referenced screen has served me very well over the past many years. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s actually a vey good tool and very thorough. I just wanted/needed something faster. On the CELF-4, there was no way around giving every item in a section, regardless of the child being clearly unable after the trials, which is painful for the student as well as for me as the assessor. Also, it is typically ‘forever’ before you reach the ceiling, making it even longer to administer. Finally, I would frequently use it on a grade 2 or 3 who could do lots of things, but couldn’t identify or produce rhyme at all. These students would typically ‘pass’ the criterion score, but clearly had difficulties that were not age appropriate, and could cause a lot of grief working on word families and other reading/writing techniques. Obviously I would write appropriate goals and recommendations based on this piece of information, but it looks odd to parents and teachers when a student ‘passes’ a test and is still told there’s work to be done.

2 – Like when I put I-don’t-know-how-many thousands of hours into my graduate thesis, only to see a type-o on the first page I flipped to when I finally got my bound copy. Somehow, I, and about 6 other people, missed it but of course I found it within the first minute after it was printed.

The #SLPeeps go to ASHA: Creating a hashtag that sticks

This post is brought to you by the word: muster  [muhs-ter] /ˈmʌstər/

verb (used with object)

1. to assemble (troops, a ship’s crew, etc.), as for battle, display, inspection, orders, or discharge.
2. to gather, summon, rouse (often followed by up ): He mustered all his courage.
verb (used without object)

3. to assemble for inspection, service, etc., as troops or forces.
4. to come together; collect; assemble; gather.

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At the last #slpchat, an OT asked how to make a hashtag that a community might use similarly to the #SLPeeps tag – which has united an entire profession on Twitter. At the same time, @pediastaff has been doing a ton of work to create The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps (#1823 in the Career Fair section of the exhibit hall – more on this below) for the upcoming ASHA 2012 conference.

A physical booth dedicated to online PLNs for SLPs and Audiologists with a hashtag in its’ title? You bet that’s a hashtag that has ‘stuck’. So, here’s how our community created the hashtag and made it stick so well.

This blog post is meant to do several things:

  1. Give a history of the #SLPeeps tag
  2. Explain what factors made it so popular
  3. Give you details on the upcoming #SLPeeps booth at ASHA 2012

Disclaimer: This may or may not work as well for you if you decide to create a hashtag, but the following elements seem to contribute to general popularity of use.

Have a specific group or purpose for the tag

To understand how #SLPeeps was born, you need a bit of history. If history is boring to you, skip the next two paragraphs.

I joined Twitter in March of 2010 at my husband’s insistence that it could be used as a learning tool (contrary Twitter’s claim that I joined in November of 2009 – I was most certainly still in the ‘scoff’ stage‘ of Twitter acceptance at that time). I found around 15 SLPs to follow and was exceptionally lucky to have jumped in just as a tight-knit group of professionals was finding each other and beginning to share knowledge, ideas, learning, etc.

After a short time, we began to realize how much professional growth (and bonding) was happening in each of us as a result of these long and intense conversations that were occurring almost daily. A problem arose, however: what if you were actually busy in real life during these great conversations and sharing sessions? You missed out on a great learning opportunity and possibly an opportunity to swap resources.

We agreed that we needed a way to track our group’s conversations more easily so no one would miss anything really great just because they were busy at that moment. This is when I learned how hashtags were being used on Twitter and decided we needed one of these to help track our conversations and make sure we didn’t miss out. But we had to find a term that wouldn’t be confused or used by others. #slp was often a common tag people were using but if you searched it, you also found tweets using it to mean ‘sleep’; not helpful to have 50 other tweets in the middle of the conversation we were trying to track.

Create a completely unique tag

At this same time, @speechbob put out a general #FF to all of his SLP ‘friends’ on twitter. In order to save space, he created a great witticism, saying “to all my SLPeeps”. Everyone loved the term and thought it was brilliant and I realized that no one on Twitter could possibly use the word “SLPeeps” in any other context imaginable. I took a poll, everyone liked it, and voila – a hashtag was born.

Note: While Bob originally was mashing ‘slp’ and ‘peeps’ together, the tag has come to represent all speech and language professionals, whether your title is SLP, SLT, SLPA, or otherwise. Many tend to think of it as “Speech and Language Peeps”.

Get others to use it 

Now we had all agreed on a very unique hashtag and we had planned to start marking all our tweets with it whenever a really great conversation began to emerge. Except, this is difficult to do in a naturally evolving twitter conversation. Suffice it to say that we would forget to do it, especially when we were caught up in a really good discussion.

After a short time, however, we realized it was better to use the #SLPeeps tag to flag especially pertinent tweets for everyone to notice. This is what the tag is used for today, and to great success.

The success is because our small group or original #SLPeeps began using the tag consistently to mark tweets that would be interesting to the rest of our group. This consistency is key. If we were only using it occasionally, I don’t think it would have bound the group as well as it did or taken off to such popularity.

I still remember around early summer of 2010 when our small group began to notice ‘strangers’ (new twitter SLPs we didn’t know) using the tag to mark tweets of interest to other SLPs. This both surprised and excited us. We had never considered that others would begin to use it, but since we were modeling its use so much, of course other SLPs joining Twitter began to use the hashtag.

With those three things, you can usually get a hashtag off the ground. I’ve launched quite a few, including #SLPeeps, and as long as I am or someone else is using them regularly, so do others.

Bonus: Community branding

The #SLPeeps tag has become an identity for our community – we proudly refer to ourselves as “the SLPeeps” and now we have mascots/logos and you can even buy #SLPeeps merchandise online! More on that below.

This ‘branding’ isn’t necessary for a hashtag to become commonly used, but it certainly helps. This is especially true if you are trying to unify an entire community of people online. Frankly, it requires a bit of luck (we certainly stumbled into it with the #SLPeeps tag) and/or a certain type of community. I’m not sure that #AUDPeeps has taken off as well, partially because the online community of audiologists generally has a different ethos from the SLPs online.  Plus let’s face it, SLPs are a loquacious bunch, which also contributed greatly to the success of our hashtag unifying us as a global community. It also helps to have something catchy/witty that people like to say, like SLPeeps (thanks, again, Bob!).

The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps

Nothing says branding like a booth devoted to an online community!

Thanks to Pediastaff.com (particularly Heidi) and several core #SLPeeps volunteers that pediastaff has amassed (they need more, by the way, if you’re interested) there will be a physical social media learning center (booth #1823) at the exhibitors hall at ASHA 2012 in November. With community input and a lot of hard work on Heidi’s part, we also have very cute mascots: Julio for the SLPeeps (pronounce wholio) and Julia for the AUDPeeps (pronounced wholia).

The booth (#1823 – find it here before you go) will be a place for #SLPeeps and #AUDPeeps to find each other and connect in real life, but it will also be a place of learning for those interested in online PLNs. There will be rotating lessons there on using Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and more. There will be information and sessions targeting beginners as well as the tech savvy. There’s even curriculum available and a learning lab on the Friday for people to come learn about social media and SLPs/AUDs.

The booth will be staffed by PediaStaff and #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps volunteers (have I mentioned they need more volunteers to help? Contact Heidi @pediastaff if you’re interested – c’mon, you know you want to ‘party with the #slpeeps!’ – which reminds me to thank Bill @Lessonpix for adding to @pediastaff’s Julio and creating the ‘I party with the #SLPeeps’ image – located in my sidebar. Read here how Bill is trying to have exhibitors join forces around the #SLPeeps).

Going to ASHA?

If you’re going to ASHA this year, consider volunteering at the SocMed Learning Centre booth for an hour. I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t participate in all of this, but very glad to be at home with my baby. I’ll actually be volunteering from home via Skype, hopefully, so you don’t have to go to help out!

Also, don’t miss the three “tweet and greet” opportunities to record a video message to the #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps who couldn’t come! They’ll be posted to youtube later.

Whether you’re going to ASHA or not, there will be several contests running for everyone to participate in so stay tuned for more on that!

Get the swag for yourself

Finally, be sure to order your t-shirt or other #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps swag before you go! The booth will have some things there as demonstrations (and will be passing out buttons) but you can only buy t-shirts and other swag from the online store. There are 2 online stores:

Spreadshirt SLPeeps Store is the best (and cheapest) place to buy the shirts/hoodies. If you get ladies sizes, order up, they fit small. You can also get very nice mugs and an iphone case there. I’m still waiting for my shirt and mug to get to Canada so if you’re international, order right now to hopefully get them before ASHA.

Zazzle SLPeeps Store is the other store with keychains, tote bags, different mugs, water bottles, magnets, ornaments and shrits. The shirts cost a lot more here, though. The benefit to the zazzle store is that everything they have can be personalized! I got a keychain with my twitter handle on the back. For a lot more $ if you’re interested in personalizing your shirt, zazzle is the place to get it. It’s an exorbitant amount in shipping outside of the US though. Thank goodness I live on a border town!

I’d love to hear your history

Please leave a comment and tell me how you came to be in the #slpeeps/#audpeeps community!

Balancing life with social media

This post is brought to you by the word: hiatus  [hahy-EY-tuhs]   /haɪˈeɪtəs/

1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series,action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna

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Want to know more about using Social Media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

I’ve been away from my blog for a long while – sorry about that. I hate that I’ve become one of the many people who have left their blog lonely and stale. Actually, I’ve taken quite a long and significant social media break lately because work and family life got rather busy and that was my priority. After family got busy, it got even busier when I had a baby girl in mid July. Now I’m feeling ready to get back into the swing of things (maternity leave helps a great deal) and start posting to my blog more regularly again. To that end, I thought a good topic to discuss might be the balance between social media and real life because, let’s face it, many of us really struggle with this. Here are some suggestions that work for me or for others.

Decide how much time you have to commit and at what level of commitment

Do you have 1 hour a day or 3-5 hours a day? Will you check your socmed platforms once a day or are you hooked up to them seemingly by intravenous? The time you invest can be different for different platforms. You may put more time and energy into one or two platforms (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) at the expense of all others, depending on your priority and how you use your social media. I’ve also heard of people keeping track of how much time (via post it note next to their computer) to help manage and limit the amount of time they spend on social media sites.

How much time you want to invest will also dictate how many different platforms you can handle. Personally, I’ve found I devote the most time to Twitter, then some time to my blog and very little time to Facebook. I devote almost no time whatsoever to LinkedIn and have basically dropped Google +. That’s become my preference in how I use social media and I reserve the right to change that up based on where I’m at in life at any given time.

Find ways to make this time investment the best bang for your buck

Consider scheduling your social media time and posts

I once read an article that mentioned checking your email on a schedule, rather than having it open to pop up and tell you whenever an email has arrived. This is so that you aren’t interrupted as often and can be more productive. I think this is a good trick for social media as well. Schedule times throughout your day to check or update to your various socmed platforms, especially on busy days. I’ve found egg.timer a great tool for this to ensure I keep to one task for a certain period of time and when the timer goes off, I can check email and Twitter for a few minutes, then I reset the timer.

Scheduling future updates/posts (through a social media client like Hootsuite – which can handle Twitter, Facebook and many other social networks simultaneously) can be very handy for this so that your posts come in a steady trickle and it doesn’t appear as though you’ve popped online, updated 5 different things all at once, and logged off again. Facebook now allows you to do this from your Facebook page too.

Prioritize

Which socmed sites are most important to you and why? Now check in on them in the order you just considered and if you run out of time, the ones lower on the list don’t get checked. In order to make Twitter, in particular, faster and easier to manage, I suggest you check and respond to any DMs and Mentions first, before you do anything else. You probably already do this but consider, if you’re having a busy day, that this is ALL you do that day.

I hear many of you saying “but I might miss something?!” with some amount of hysteria in your voice. I once felt this way too but if you can get over that fact, life becomes much easier. I might scroll back a little bit in my various timelines (through lists – see below), but not much anymore. Let’s face it, you’re missing TONS of stuff by sleeping, not following certain people, eating dinner, watching Big Bang Theory, etc. There’s plenty of sharing to go around, missing something isn’t a big deal.

Make lists and check those before you randomly check your entire timeline

If you only follow 100 people this isn’t necessary but once you go past that, it’s a huge time saver. Then you can also prioritize which lists you’ll browse depending on how much time you have. Basically, you’re filtering out the people who tweet content you don’t care as much about and ensuring you see tweets you really don’t want to miss. With lists, you can save yourself from having to browse through hundreds of other tweets to see the your favourite tweeters. How much time you have can dictate which and how many lists you peruse (or if you have time to read through your whole timeline). Here is how you create and manage lists in twitter.

You probably only need to check the #SLPeeps feed about once a day – while it is typically one of the most used hashtag in healthcare, people don’t post so much content that you can’t breeze through it in about 5 minutes two or three times a day to find what you’re interested in knowing and sharing via RT.

Learn to scan tweets quickly

Don’t feel you need to read every tweet carefully in your entire timeline. If you can perfect the art of scanning tweets for keywords, key tweeters, and whether or not they have follow up links, you can become much faster at reading what you care about and skipping what you may not be interested in right now. This just takes practice but I suggest you scan tweets for keywords (not always hashtagged words) to know if you want to read further.

Post once for all platforms

Hootsuite will allow you to connect to most socmed sites which allows you to read posts from various sites in one place. More importantly, though, it allows you to write one post and choose which sites you want the post to appear in, which is a very versatile and time saving feature!

If you use Facebook and Twitter, you can also connect your Twitter and Facebook pages to one another (if you don’t want to use Hootsuite). Your tweets will then show up as a status update on Facebook. You can do this by going to “Settings” on Twitter and “Profile” and then choosing “Post your tweets to Facebook”. I strongly suggest you hook up Twitter to go to FB and not vice versa, or else ensure you write posts that will fit within the Titter 140 character rule. This is because Facebook forwarded tweets often don’t fit in the character limit and can’t be read in their entirety from most people’s place of employment (due to Facebook blocking), not to mention you then force people to click the link to read the rest of the tweet, which is very annoying.

Timing is everything and real life people should come first

Try to choose times when you can be tweeting and casually looking through your timeline while doing something else (making supper, while eating lunch at work, quickly in between activities with family/friends). Also, know when and where it’s not OK to be checking your socmed sites (e.g. during dinner with family/friends, during fam/friend activities, while driving, during meetings at work, etc). Consider making rules for yourself or your family and sticking to them (e.g. no checking socmed when in a conversation with others, eating dinner, etc.).  Also, consider taking a complete socmed break while on vacation (or limiting its use significantly) so you’re fully present in the moment with your vacation partners and you’re getting rest/relaxation/fun. I hear some of you saying, again, “but I might miss something?!”  Yup, you definitely will,  but far better to miss something online than to miss precious moments with friends and family.

What other tips do you have to help others keep their sanity in a socmed world? Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you, since perfecting this balance is a constant work in progress and what works for some people doesn’t work for others. And I’m always looking for more tips and tricks!