If you’re dabbling in social media you’ve no doubt seen banners, buttons and blasts saying Follow Me! Follow Me! Be it Facebook, Twitter or one of the many other geo-targeted or industry-specific social networks, people want to be followed, liked or otherwise connected so that they can begin a conversation.

Remember my 4 C’s diamond analogy:

Community + Conversation + Content = Conversion (Ca-ching! which works well too)

But Follow Me is not license to copy me. Oh sure following savvy social media enthusiasts can be helpful in learning lingo, finding useful links and generally getting your feet wet. But here’s the thing: you have to find your own unique voice, your own cadence, what I call your social media tone and tempo.

I was coaching an executive recruiter the other day on how to utilize his social networks for business development and he said, “I like your updates better. You’re so good at this… maybe I can hire you to write mine.” Flattering as it was, that’s not really the answer.  Social networking by definition is highly personal. That’s the whole point really, at least from where I sit. People buy from people they know, like and trust. They make business referrals and employment recommendations too. So use your social network to be known, liked and  trusted. You are the brand. You are the product. To be successful you have to be you.

My first tweet was something like, “How does this thing work?” followed quickly by, “Am I doing this right?” Nearly 15,000 tweets later I have developed my own style that works well with the 140-character limit yet still reflects my true voice – inquisitive, sometimes sarcastic and looking for the humor in life. On Facebook I alternate between one word status updates such as the one I posted Sunday after the Bears miserable performance which simply read {sigh} and longer updates that oftentimes spark a conversation. On LinkedIn I’m fairly buttoned-up but every now and again I’ll break stride and evoke a smile from my network.

The frequency of my online interaction varies weekly – I can dial it up or down depending on my schedule. In fact over the holidays I took a Twitter time-out and found it entirely refreshing. If you’re just getting started, I recommend scheduling time on your calendar so you don’t forget, and then setting a timer so you don’t get lost for hours in the social abyss. There is no one right answer, only a commitment that works for you.

There are many aspects of social media that can be outsourced or managed by a team… your blog, your Facebook business page, even your business Twitter account. We can debate the pros and cons of outsourcing another day, but on this point I remain unmovable: You cannot outsource being you. Not convinced? By all means get a second opinion, just don’t ask Milli Vanilli.

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