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.

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  • Ryan McBride

    John, thanks for this article. This is very helpful. I’ve seen this strategy work very well for me on LinkedIn lately. When someone adds me on LinkedIn, I send them a short, quick message, thanking them for connecting with me and I usually compliment them on information in their profile. It’s definitely helped me form connections with new people on LinkedIn.

  • Jocelyn Lum

    Thank you John!

  • Nick Arcieri

    Great article, John! I really like the perspective of viewing social media as a cocktail party. I’m going to be more conscious of my efforts to engage now rather than observe.

  • Ted Hayash

    John, that’s one of the most useful posts about social media – actionable advice that’s easy and fun to follow. I also have had people comment in person that they’ve liked some of my social media posts but never bothered to click the like button! What a great reminder. Thanks.

  • Garrett Philbin

    I love the analogy, it hit home and made me think “wow, that IS a little weird isn’t it?!” The opportunity to not only be more productive but also save time is huge, and I look forward to giving this a shot across not just social but blogs as well, as other people have been mentioning. Thanks!

  • Keith Clarke

    Great analogy, John. makes so much sense when you put it like that. There is far too much browsing I am guilty of when the whole point should be connecting. I have a thing I do that I always at least write to someone to thank them if they wrote an article that resonated with me, but I never translated that to all of social media. A simple trick missed, but no more. Cheers

  • Lillian Kliewer

    How did you what I was thinking and what I needed to hear? This was spot on! I’ve always felt like a voyeur and as such shy to admit my presence however, you’re absolutely right. If they don’t mind, why should I?
    I accept the engagement challenge!

  • Steve Little

    I currently engage via like’s and posting positive comments. However I want to be more effective, so I’m going to make offers of help and see what results. Thanks John for reminding me of the power of reality engagement!

  • ohno tanaka

    Great piece of advise John..I will try this..thanks