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[This is a guest post from Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks]

“I don’t have time to participate in social media” is a common cry heard within enterprise. The concern is that social media has a steep learning curve and is a time vacuum preventing more essential work from getting done. In other circles where social media is more widely used, those who haven’t started are sometimes in a pickle.  They don’t know where to start and won’t ask for help, worried about exposing that they haven’t developed this professional skill yet.  Fear not…while we are led to believe that everyone and their uncle is using social media with great skill and acuity, there are many who have yet to take the plunge.

Here is a 20 minute social media activity plan to help you dip your toe in the water while managing your time for efficiencies.There are many different activities you can do once you have started to master the art of social, but this activity plan ensures that the core efforts are covered.  But, before you start, you will need to do a few things.

First, go to Google and set up alerts on your name (in quotation marks for best results – e.g. “Tom Smith”) as well as topics that pertain to the work you do (e.g. “airplane parts manufacturing” or “firmware and quality assurance”).   Try to be specific so you don’t get too much information or that which is not relevant. Also set up an alert for the name of the company where you work.

Second, create a LinkedIn profile on at least one other network such as Twitter or Google+ if you haven’t already.  Here are some practical tips to make the most of your social media profile.
Third, if there are a few blogs that you find interesting, subscribe to them.  I recommend having the new posts emailed to you so they come to your mailbox for easy access.  Most thought leaders publish a blog, so if there is a speaker or author you value, search on their name and most likely you will find their blog.  There is usually a way to sign up for email delivery directly on the blog post.
For extra credit, try to find an online community or LinkedIN group that is specific to your subject matter expertise.  I have created a big list of professional online communities that can serve as a starting point, but you can also search online or ask peers where they find discussions and resources online.   For many professionals, here is where you will find the most value in terms of content and connections to support the work you do.
Now it is time to begin…
1. Read blogs posts sent by email – 2 minutes
2. Check reputation alert, topic or company key word alert – 1 minute
3. Log in to LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+ and see if you have any messages. You may want to vary the network you log into by day of the week– 2 minutes
4. Respond to a blog post you have read or look at the twitter activity to see if anything catches your fancy  – 5 minutes
Possible actions include;  send email to author of great article & invite to connect if person responds,  re-tweet an article or blog post you have read, make a comment or like something one of your colleagues posted on LinkedIN
5. Participate in 1-2 professional networks or online communities once to twice a week.   8-10 minutes
  • Connect to 1-3 people every few visits
  • Write a personalized email to 1-2 connections
  • Comment briefly or post a forum message that is relevant to you.
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you are already on your way to social media success. Congratulations!  If you know someone who wants to get started but doesn’t how to begin, do a good deed by forwarding these suggestions to them in email. And, if you are a savvy social media user, consider “adopting” someone who isn’t.  Offer to set up some time with them to show them how the tools work.  Be sure to use searches that evoke professional topics that may catch their interest – as relevancy is the key to success. And if you crave more information, here is a good blog post from the Social Media Examiner offering videos and additional resources to help support the learning curve.
I read Vanessa’s article on Social Media Today (where I contribute articles as well) and had to comment:
“You must read fast.”
She wrote back:
I completely concur that taking 20 minutes a day to participate in social media will not yield mastery of the skill.  Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into an activity.  But the idea of 20 minutes a day is about behaviour change!  Many people are reticent to begin and havent developed the habit of participating online as the perceived and actual hurdles of doing something new can be quite daunting.  Easier to remain static than to endeavor to change.  However, rooted in learning theory, a commitment to *just try* something new is often a gateway to change. Just as no marathon runner ever started their first foot journey with 27 miles, no social media participant starts with hours of effort.  And if they do, most likely there will be frustration and fatigue.  The idea behind 20 minutes a day is to socialize and expose a new social media user to the experience so that they can choose to scale over time, or not. But at least they have a reasonable starting point with a clear direction in mind.

Thanks Vanessa. Great stuff.

Vanessa DiMauro is the CEO of Leader Networks, a research and strategy consulting company that helps large organizations succeed at social business. A pioneer in using B2B online communities for business results, DiMauro is a popular speaker, researcher and author. With over 15 years of experience business and using social technologies, she has founded and run leading online communities for CXO Systems, Cambridge Technology Partners and IDG, and has developed winning social strategies for influential companies such as Cisco, Cognizant, EMC, LexisNexis, Palladium Group and SAP. Vanessa DiMauro is an Executive-In-Residence at Babson College’s Olin School of Management, and holds both a B.A. and a M.A. from Boston College. She blogs at