I attended a great talk on social networking a few weeks back given by Peter Shankman. The big question on the minds of most in the audience was, “When am I supposed to do this?” Everyone’s days are already filled to the brim. How do you make time for something when you don’t really understand its value?

I’ve been dabbling in LinkedIn for about a year now and Facebook for less than six months. It’s just beginning to feel like there’s some potential for my life and business. (I can hear those 20-somethings snickering as I type.) When I go to visit my profile on Facebook and see reports on what all my ‘friends’ are up to, I think, Hmmmm. This is pretty cool. What do I want to tell them about what I’m doing?

Peter reminded us that any networking takes time. I certainly remember the effort it used to take to attend events when I was new to entrepreneurship. I was afraid to walk into those crowded rooms and act like a businessperson, especially when I’d just returned from carpooling or a pediatrician appointment. Or, I’d just changed out of sweats and was racing around my office trying to locate my business cards so I’d appear more professional than I felt.

I’m experiencing that same awkward adjustment period with the online communities. How do I want and need to show up here? How often do I participate? How do I download photos, video and blog entries? Should I create a business page, groups, etc.? There’s always a learning curve. It’s just a different modality that I need to get accustomed to.
 The time issue though, with all these additional online commitments, is what to let go of. I decided that it would be an indulgence I’d gotten used to: casual lunches with friends. These could take up a good two hours in the middle of my day. Now, I take a 30 minute break, then go back to my desk. It’s increased my momentum, kept me focused and allowed me time to explore the new media and to feel current.

Happily, I’ve substituted early morning or late afternoon beach walks with those friends who I used to dine with. What I’m always hungry for is a conversation with them, not an egg sandwich.

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