With hundreds of social media platforms, apps and websites vying for our time, marketing strategist and social media consultant Crystal Washington has some sound advice: “Social media should be practical. Use only what serves you and leave the rest.” Wasted time and information overload are two of the many issues users face—after all, there are only 24 hours in a day. “There’s a dark side to social media,” she warns. “Being consistent doesn’t mean spending an hour a day on Facebook; all it takes is a few minutes.” Collaborate contributor Mari Shirley sat down with Washington to learn tricks and tips about four of the top social networks—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube—to help you make the most of your valuable time. This feature acts as a basic customer relationship management system, allowing users to make notes, set reminders, keep track of past LinkedIn messages and much more. “Often, we make connections with people at conferences or events and we don’t keep in contact with them, and that’s what true relationship building is,” says Washington. “Using LinkedIn Contacts as a CRM system allows you the ability to stay connected to these people and touch them lightly so they know you’re still around.” “Creating prospecting lists is obviously important for anyone in sales. But as meeting planners, when you’re planning events where sponsors are involved, it’s helpful to know who the director of community service, or whoever is likely to write you that check, is,” explains Washington. On LinkedIn’s Advanced Search, add qualifiers like job title or location to narrow down results. For instance, you can build a list of people in the oil and energy industry who have directors of sales titles and live within 50 miles of a particular zip code. Similarly, Facebook’s Graph Search allows you to comb Facebook the same way. Example searches would be “people who like Meeting Professionals International and live in Chicago,” or “friends of friends who are directors of sales and marketing.” Facebook will then return a list of people who fit the criteria. At the top of your LinkedIn page is a share box where you can post updates and share links and attachments with your connections. “If you saw a newspaper article 10 years ago that you thought one of your clients or colleagues would like, you’d send them the original or a copy and include a short note in there,” says Washington. “Today, if you see an article online, you can share it on LinkedIn and tag [people] so they see they’ve been tagged. You could send it in a direct message, but what if there are three different people who would benefit from seeing that post? You can tag all three of them, and they’re more likely to start a conversation about it. LinkedIn isn’t the best social network outside of groups for engagement, but if you start to tag people, you will see an increase in engagement.” To use LinkedIn’s Mentions feature, type @ and then begin typing the name of the person you want to tag in your update. Click the name you want from the list and continue typing your message or tag another connection. When creating a post on Facebook, rather than taking a screenshot of the post for your blog or other social platform, you can choose “embed post” in the drop-down box where you would edit your post and it gives you a link you can embed in your website. “This is better than doing a screenshot because the data on it changes—if more people comment on it, those new comments will also show up wherever you’ve embedded the link. When they click on the embedded post on your blog, it will take them to the original post on Facebook.” After entering a location for search, then checking those contacts you wish to send a note to, click “message” to send a message to up to 50 contacts at once. “They’re individual messages—you uncheck a box at the bottom of the page so that everyone isn’t seeing everyone else who is in the email, similar to blind copying. When they reply back, it just goes to you,” says Washington. “I strongly believe you should never send a public group message to more than three people, and if you’re sending something to those three people, it should be because all three of you know each other or you’re trying to connect everyone and you’re purposely having a conversation about a topic. You [shouldn’t] just send mass messages to people on Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s annoying, and it makes people mad.” Twitter doesn’t have as much data on people as Facebook or LinkedIn do. “On Twitter’s advanced search [twitter.com/search-advanced], you’re searching for tweets and it’s almost like Google, where you can look for something that has certain words or excludes certain words,” Washington explains. “It’s a much cleaner search than if you’re looking for something exact.” You can even search for tweets that have a happy sentiment or negative sentiment. “People are more likely to click on a video if the initial screenshot is engaging,” says Washington. “The three [thumbnails] YouTube randomly selects may not be the best options.” Instead of an uninteresting B-roll shot or a thumbnail of someone with their eyes closed mid-blink, you can choose any screenshot from a video you upload and make that the main thumbnail. “You can even add text on top of the image to make it more engaging so people are more likely to click and watch that video.” You must verify your account at youtube.com/account_features before you’re able to choose custom thumbnails. Once your account is verified, take a screenshot of the clip you want to feature from the video you’re uploading (you can do this on YouTube or in a program like iTunes or QuickTime) and use that file as the video’s featured thumbnail. “There are people who you want to know what they’re tweeting about, but you don’t necessarily want to follow them every day,” says Washington. “If you’re a planner, there are groups that could be potential sponsors. Suppliers can find potential meeting planners and even different types of meeting planners in different markets. If they see a good article that applies to the association market, they can go into that list and start having conversations with those people about it.” When making a list , you supply the list name and description  and choose whether you want it to be private (only accessible to you) or public (anyone can subscribe to it). Once you’ve created a list, you can add anyone with a Twitter account—even if it’s private—to it . You also have the option to add a user to multiple lists . Whenever you want to see what certain groups are tweeting about, click on that list  and tweets from each member will populate , with the most recent tweets at the top (similar to your Twitter feed).