Stop Wasting Time on Social Media


“Social media is a cocktail party, and you cannot afford to be a wallflower.” — @johncorcoran (Tweet this.)

Let me paint a picture for you.

You are at a cocktail party. You’re mingling, having a good time, talking to some new and interesting people.

Now let’s imagine a new person shows up to the party. This new person grabs a drink, then he starts walking around, circling the other people who are talking in the middle of the room.

That new person keeps circling and circling, never actually talking to anyone at the party.

Everyone else is looking at this guy, thinking “who the heck is that person?”

But the guy just keeps circling and finally, after 30 minutes, he takes off.

No one ever finds out who he was, and that guy’s time was completely wasted.

That’s what it’s like with social media.

How People Use Social Media in the Wrong Way

People will go on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn for 45 minutes, looking through other people’s travel photos or pictures of their dog or reading their posts, without ever commenting or engaging. As a result, no one knows they were there.

If you care even a little bit about your own productivity, please do not do that.

Then these same people say “social media is a waste of time” because they don’t get any business from it.


I think that’s the wrong approach, and here’s why.

How You Can Use Social Media — the Right Way

Social media is one of the best things and the worst things to happen to business, especially small businesses, in decades.

On the one hand, it has leveled the playing field, allowing small businesses to break through the noise and get attention in spades.

On the other hand, a lot of small businesses go broke or go under wasting time using social media the wrong way.

I think you should use social media to develop relationships, and to turn those relationships into business, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, I don’t think you should rely solely on social media.

And, whatever you do, you should not be passive when using social media (any more than you should be passive when mingling at a face-to-face cocktail party.)

The reason a lot of people say social media is a waste of time is because most people don’t focus on engagement.

They consume, rather than engaging.

It’s much better to spend 10 minutes a day on social media engaging than it is to spend 60 minutes consuming. (Tweet this.)

When you are active and engage on social media, you can be helpful, you can share your knowledge, you can acknowledge others’ presence and and you can remind others of your own presence and value.

You are a part of the party, rather than on the perimeter watching from the sidelines. Social media is a quick and easy way to remain connected to the people in your broader network.

Social media is a cocktail party, and you cannot afford to be a wallflower. (Tweet this.)

I get people telling me in person all the time that they saw something I posted on LinkedIn or Facebook. Usually I have no idea they saw it. I am always baffled by this.

I would have no way of knowing they saw my post or photo if I didn’t run into them in person, because they didn’t engage with me online.

See the disconnect?

It’s like you see someone you know at a party, and rather than saying hello, you just walk away and later send them a handwritten letter in the snail mail saying you saw them at the party.

Why didn’t you just say hello in the first place? Or at least a head nod or a shrug or a goddamn wink or something.

So, are you engaging on social media?

Are you being an active participant, or are you a wallflower and a lurker?

If you have found social media to be a waste of time in the past, then I want you to try this simple 3-part test this week:

  1. Spend 1/2 as much time as you usually do on social media. Commit yourself to a period of time like 10 minutes or 15 minutes per day, and do not exceed that limit. (Set a timer if you need to.)
  2. While you are on social media, be active and engaging the entire time. That means you should be clicking “like” or leaving comments actively throughout your time.
  3. At the end of the week, review the people you connected with during the past week who you hadn’t connected with recently.  For bonus points, send 2-3 emails to these people saying that it was good connecting with them over Facebook or Twitter, etc.

Over time, you will see much better returns and you will waste far less of your time. I guarantee it.

Tell me in the comments below how you are going to commit to spending less time consuming and more time engaging on social media this week.


  1. Bob Delaney says:

    Great Article John!
    A simple like can let folks what is on your mind and get their follow-on comments as well. I try to like/comment peoples post and tag them as 1,2,3, type contacts. My #1’s are people i need to maintain an active business relationship with. Every Friday afternoon I review the priority 1’s and see if I need to send an email or note. I know you like Contactually but I use Outlook for contacts. I have used Insightly for a CRM system but that is a little overkill for just follow-ups.

    Love the idea of a timer- I use a “meeting ended early” system. over the course of a week if i get 5-10 minutes by a meeting ending early- I use some of that time to review what’s going on with my connections on LinkedIN- avoiding the temptation to “surf” and waste time

  2. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I have a problem though. I am honestly already an active interacter on Facebook. BUT (to stick to the party analogy) I feel like I spend too much time at the party! I’ll keep working on that;-) Any suggestions?

  3. Thank you John. As already mentioned…a great reminder. I need to do a presentation next week and this scenario will help. Cheers!

  4. Sidney Lander says:

    I’m such a guilty lurker.
    Never used to understand the appeal of the whole social media stuff until about a week ago. Treating it like a party – I love it! Definitely more fun and rewarding being engaging.

    PS: totally just copied that 3-part test onto a notecard.

  5. Insightful perspective. Thank you. I do engage, but am encouraged to engage even more – and also to limit – via a timer – my time on social media.

    Thanks again!

  6. Tom Cooley says:

    Perfect analogy! I am very active on social media but there is always room for improvement. Good thoughts and some interesting action plans. Thanks John.

  7. tcbrowne says:

    So, am I better off using that 15 minutes to post my own content on LinkedIn so my 2200 followers see me contributing as they lurk, or commenting on someone else’s post (like this one) where my comment is buried in the comment string so very few of my followers will ever see it? I run a LinkedIn business group where I actively “like” and comment on submitted posts but I don’t see much serial activity unless I’m on one of my special interest groups, in which case it’s like “Friends” online; everyone knows your name and they all have an opinion!

    Engagement isn’t the same as a CTA; do we really generate any more than camaraderie from that use of our time? Maybe those lurkers are silently identifying targets-of-opportunity and snagging them directly while everyone else chit-chats. Kind of like submarines and snipers. Nobody knows they were there but that doesn’t mean they were ineffective.

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