Jack MacKay, CIO of the American Hospital Association (AHA), acknowledges he's "slow to adopt" social media tools, but he has opened Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to "at least become knowledgeable in the areas." Maintaining a presence on these sites has proved more difficult.
"With Twitter, for example, we don't have any products we'd want to announce since we're a healthcare company, and if we wanted to find out what people are saying about it, we can pick up any newspaper in America," he says. "Plus, I have very little free time to stay on top of things. I know social media is growing and is going to be around for a while, so I'm trying to get better about it."
To read more on this topic see: LinkedIn Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Social Network for Professionals and Twitter Tips: How to Find Experts in Your Industry.
And then there's Chuck Musciano, CIO of Martin Marietta Materials, a producer of construction goods. Musciano tweets several times a day on two separate accounts—one personal, one professional—maintains a blog and frequently connects with others via Facebook and LinkedIn.
There's no doubt that the popularity of social media sites has increased. But while some CIOs, like Musciano, have embraced these platforms, others, like MacKay, are more hesitant. What they do agree on, though, is that jumping onto the social media bandwagon puts your time management skills to the test.
Matthew Cornell, a productivity expert, understands why some are overwhelmed by social media. "When you sign up for something like Facebook or Twitter, implicitly or explicitly you're making a commitment to it, and that can be a lot of pressure" he says. Conversely, losing track of time when browsing social media sites can happen easily if you're not disciplined. Musciano's time-management breakthrough occurred when he realized that you can't "drink a river."
"You reach that moment where you realize: a) I can't keep up with every update and b) I don't want to," Musciano says. "You learn to skim—the same way you'd skim a headline in a newspaper or glance through 50 e-mails in your inbox."
Musciano sorts his followers for easy scanning with the TweetDeck app. And by linking his Facebook and Twitter accounts, one update appears in both places. "You can waste a lot of time if you don't have the right tools," he says.
Cornell suggests very active social media users establish boundaries. "Limit the amount of time you spend on the sites—build it into your calendar if you have to."
For those like MacKay, who may be struggling to understand the value of time spent on social media sites, Cornell recommends treating each source like an experiment. "You're not sure when you start something how much value there is in it. Find some metrics—how are we going to measure the value?—and then reevaluate it a little bit down the road."
Knowing when it's time to walk away from a site that's not serving your needs is also important. "We don't block sites like Facebook and Twitter, but I have a lot of concerns about how much bandwidth is being gobbled up and the amount of socializing going on in the workplace," says MacKay. "I think there's a little more value with LinkedIn and other business networking sites." And the value he derived from dabbling has even transferred over to his workplace: MacKay is currently working on developing an internal social network for the AHA's members.
Reach CIO.com Staff Writer Kristin Burnham at firstname.lastname@example.org.