My addiction to social networks started  like many addictions with casual use. I created profiles on Plaxo and LinkedIn and started connecting with friends. I slowly moved on to creating my own content on Squidoo and Blogger and sharing images on Flickr. I enjoyed the interaction, and with a profile on SmallerIndiana, I discovered how social and face-to-face networking worked together. I was hooked. Profiles on FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube followed in rapid succession.

Just a few minutes a day to update or check in on each of these sites started to add up. Suddenly I realized my addiction was taking over my life, sucking hours out of my day.  I knew I needed to get my addiction under control.

While I have no intention of giving up social networking completely, I have started a 12-step program to help me manage my addiction, deciding when, where, why and how I will participate in social networks.

  1. Set Objectives and Measures – Stop and ask yourself why you are participating on social networks. Separate out those elements you do just for fun from those that truly have a business connection. Then decide how you will measure your success. It is really important that you select one overriding objective. If you have too many, you will find yourself running in too many directions. Until you define your objective, don’t proceed to steps 2 – 12.
  2. Who Is Your Audience –  The correct answer is not, “anyone who will listen.”  Again, the primary principal is focus. When you know who you are talking to, it is easier to decide which social networks make sense for you.
  3. Find Your Voice –  Will you be serious, playful, sarcastic or sympathetic in your tone? In real life, I have a slightly sarcastic, teasing style of communication. That part of me comes through to my online personality as well.
  4. Choose Your Topics – As you think strategically about your objectives, make a list of topics which make sense for you to talk about and focus the majority of your time on these topics. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about anything else, but the more relevant you are around a specific type of content, the easier it will be to build a loyal following. It also means deciding what you won’t talk about–for me, that is typically religion and politics.  
  5. Start With Your Blog – All the social networks are great, but if you are doing this for business, then your end goal needs to be to drive traffic back to your website.  Your blog is the best destination for visitors because they can come to exactly the content they are hoping to find.
  6. Pick Your Platform – Refer back to step two. If you objective is to reach C-level executives, you don’t need to spend a lot of time on Facebook. On the other hand, if you are trying to reach teenage girls, you will need to understand how to communicate on Tumblr.
  7. Create a Schedule – Social media can be a huge time suck. Managing my addiction meant setting boundaries. I hop on first thing in the morning for 30 minutes and again in the late afternoon. Do I miss things because I am not on all day? Sure, but I also get a lot of other things done.
  8. Be Original – Every one of my competitors can write about three ways to improve your business, but few of them will use the metaphor of a race team, or sales lessons from a three year old. I write from my experience and it becomes content only I can write.
  9. Be Visual –  With a smartphone in your pocket, your camera is always with you. Take lots of photos and use them to enhance your written content.
  10. Be Responsive – When fans and followers reach out and comment on something you say, respond. Remember that social media is about ego and when you notice someone, they are more likely to notice you next time.
  11. Use Tools Wisely – There is a huge difference between using tools to supplement your social activities and using the tools to run them. We schedule 5 – 6 posts to run though out the day on Twitter. These are typically links to other content we found interesting. This keeps the Roundpeg  brand in the news feed for our followers. We add updates as they happen and respond to comments and questions so we don’t start to sound like a robot.
  12. Measure and Start Again  – If what you are doing is working, keep doing it. If it isn’t, change. Recovery from a social addiction is an ongoing process.

This outline is ta presentation I gave in Chicago at the CMS Expo.  You can view the slides here: