The first thing I tell people when I first meet with them and they ask me about blogs or social media of any kind is, “don’t half ass it”. What do I mean exactly by that? I mean, don’t do it if you aren’t going to (a) stick with it or (b) put up meaningful or at least interesting information. There are a bunch of traps that people fall into when they’re deciding to jump into online communication, but one of the biggest is that they get really excited about it for a few months and then other things start to get in the way. That’s how life happens so you have to plan for it. Here are a couple of things to help you get started or keep your focus when engaging people online:

  1. Get to know the tools that will make your life easier. If you’re going to be blogging, set up WordPress or whatever you’re going to be using to allow you to manage the site via a phone. You’re going to want to respond to comments quickly and make sure that you’re not being spammed or that someone’s not flaming you. If you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and anything else – find a tool that allows you to aggregate and post to all of them at once. Hootsuite is a great option.
  2. Decide what your voice is. Are you going to be funny or serious? Are you going to be informative or just aggregate? Or are you going to be all of these? No matter what, you need to be consistent. If it’s just you, that’s a whole lot easier than it is if you’ve got a team of people writing.
  3. Put together a plan. Decide how much you’re going to post and how often. Blogs should be at least one a week, while social media should be a couple of times a day – IF IT’S GOOD. As part of that plan, you need to do some research and make sure you’re not just re-hashing something that’s already been written or that shows you’re way out of date (I say this while I’m writing something in 2011 that’s already been covered by a ton of other people long before this, but these are things that I still have to tell people on a regular basis, so I figured I might as well get it down…).
  4. Set aside the time. Once you’ve got the plan in place, set aside however much time you’re going to need daily/weekly/monthly and just schedule it on your calendar. If you don’t, you won’t do it, it’s just that simple.
  5. Turn off the distractions. While you’re writing or researching, turn off your email and phone. If you don’t, you won’t end up concentrating and you’ll get sidetracked. Then even though you’ve scheduled it on your calendar, you’ve now got a stage 5 crisis and people throwing hairy eyeballs at you through the phone and you’re going to put it off until next week.
  6. Spell check.
  8. And finally, don’t blog/Facebook/Twitter drunk. Just don’t do it. It never leads to anything good and generally ends up being embarrassing. If you want to do that, do it on your personal account and don’t let any of your coworkers, clients, vendors or whatever be friends with you.

There you have it, Josh Lampe’s short list of how not to be stupid when starting to converse online.