Do you NEED to Twit…er, Tweet?

If you own a computer or mobile phone with internet access, you can’t get through your morning coffee without sensing the urgency of social networking.

Facebook, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, Twitter—ugh—are all the rage and driving us to increasingly short, frequent, distracted, and interrupted communications. And, you can likely add a half-dozen LinkedIn groups or other networks of interest to your burgeoning list.

Can you keep up with the constant checking and email digests? I can’t, and don’t try.

Is all of this communicating necessary to our daily lives or business? No. Is it useful? Often. Can it be constructively tamed? Yes.

On June 10th, CNN posted a poll in which over 70% of respondents said they felt overwhelmed by social media. MSNBC reported “social media overload” last summer (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25707391/). I’ve recently seen many online discussions about how many discussions are about social media…and not much else. Have we reached self-perpetuating babble?

When clients ask if they can—or should—use social media as part of their communications, I guardedly say, “yes,” with caveats.

  1. Be realistic about time: join only networks that you can maintain. If you can’t tweet and review Twitter postings at least once each day, don’t use Twitter. Blog only if you can do so at least once each week. Join social networks only if you have time to scan email digests daily and post once a week.
  2. Be selective: not every social media format is right for you or your business. Try out a couple. If they are productive—in terms of what you learn and what connections you make—pursue them. If your networks aren’t growing or the information isn’t valuable, drop them and open your schedule to others.
  3. Set a discipline: as with all things that involve time, discipline is crucial. Set a limit (5 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.) and a routine time of day to manage your social networks, including both reviewing and posting.
  4. Set goals: what do you want your social networking to achieve? Increased web traffic? More customers? A broader network for partnering? Have a clear idea of what you hope to gain, and shape your networking efforts to support those goals.

Next time, we’ll talk about what ROI to expect from your social networking efforts, followed by a third entry on how to integrate social media into your overall marketing and communications picture.

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