Celebrate Social Media Week By Being Socially Productive

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This week is Social Media Week, which is a great opportunity to put the emphasis on the “social” aspect of social media and boost your productivity at the same time.

Isn’t social media inherently unproductive, though? After all, studies suggest that it wastes money. Gobs of money, in fact, according to more than one survey, like this one reported by Mashable that estimates the cost of social media at more than $2 billion for UK firms alone. But is that the whole story? Even before social media, people found ways to avoid working. Luckily for those of us who work remotely, we can both “avoid work” and accomplish something at the same time.

LinkedIn Fall Cleaning

If there’s one thing I don’t like about LinkedIn, it’s how it tells you when your profile is “100 percent complete.” If you’re reading this, LinkedIn developers, take that completion bar out. Or make it stop at 99 percent complete no matter what you do to your profile. If I see something’s done, then I’ll check it off my to-do list and forget it completely.

Which is exactly what happened with my LinkedIn profile. Of course, if I receive a connection request, I’ll pop back in to see how things are doing, maybe add a few people suggested to me by the site, and then I’m gone again till another message or request prompts another flurry of activity. For Social Media Week I’m making a concerted effort to do more.

I’m going to start by writing recommendations. Not for people who’ve requested them (though I’ll do that too), but for anyone whose work I’ve found to be truly impressive, be they colleagues, peers in the same field, or former employers. Not only is it a great good faith gesture, but it’ll help you identify qualities you value in others, and evaluate whether you share those same qualities or whether you could stand to improve in the same areas.

After that, I plan on looking at my group membership, joining more, and becoming involved in the discussions that go on there. Online workers have more of a challenge finding professional organizations to join, and ways to interact with them, but LinkedIn groups is a great way to make up for any lack of real-world interaction you may have. Plus, it can actually be fun and useful, and it doesn’t involve membership fees.

Start A New Facebook Group/Page

A while ago now, I started a Facebook Page for my favorite daily online distraction, a webcomic called “Scary Go Round,” penned by John Allison. I only did it because I wanted to “Like” it on my Facebook profile, and there wasn’t one in place despite the comic having a strong fan community. Later, when Scary Go Round came to an end and was succeeded by another effort by Allison, “Bad Machinery,” I likewise started a page for that, too.

Years later Allison contacted me and wanted to share admin privileges of the two pages. Planting that seed led to the building of a working relationship with someone I admired and respected. Yes, doing things on Facebook can actually do that for you.

Not to mention that if you do it successfully, it will prove to potential employers and contracting agencies that you can run an online community, and do so even when not compensated for your efforts. All that’s left for you to do is to convince them that you can do a even better job when paid.

Use a New Tool (or an Old One You Didn’t Like)

Chances are you don’t jump on every single social media bandwagon that comes along as soon as it appears. If you do, you’re probably Robert Scoble. If you aren’t, then you should look around and see how the social media landscape has changed recently, or give a second chance to something you may have dismissed.

There are two major social media apps that I’ve tried and left behind that continue to be popular. One is Posterous, the ultra-simple blogging site that works incredibly well with photography and other graphics work, and with straightforward text, too. The other is Foursquare, the location-based social network that at times felt more like a chore than anything else.

I’m going to use Posterous again because I’ve got a better mobile camera in my iPhone 4, and because I no longer post on a personal blog of my own, so there’s a greater chance I’ll have something worthwhile to say in that forum. Foursquare I’ll be trying again with automatic check-in tools.

Posterous is just another facet of your public face as an online worker, and it can be a great one if filled with professionally relevant content. Foursquare I see as more of a secondary tool designed to fill gaps in your tweeting, Facebook and LinkedIn activity, or to add greater depth to all of the above. It could result in a business lunch if the right person is watching when you happen to check-in near them or at a conference you’re both attending.

September 20-24 is Social Media Week, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing any of these things when the week is over. In fact, the idea is to foster productive new habits that should help you network, build relationships and grow your business. And that’s something that’s a good idea 365 days a year.

What are you doing for social media week?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Can Enterprise Privacy Survive Social Networking?

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