There’s a lot of buzz about the social media site Quora. In fact, I Tweeted Mark Schaefer to ask him what he thought about it and he wrote this post. Had I just read the post, I’d be confident in my choice not to go exploring yet one more social site. But, it wasn’t just a post. It was an entire {grow} community conversation with both sides represented. And now I’m wavering, darn it.

When I was a teenager, my father told me that whatever I chose to do, I should do it well. I’ve tried my best to live up to that. But there comes a point when adding one more thing to my plate can impact that intention. That’s where I am with social media.

As I was reading the commments on Mark’s post and adding my own, it ocurred to me that there should be a reasonable way to evaluate which social media tools and platforms will deliver the most value for me – both personally and professionally.

This is My Social Media Checklist:

How much time will it take to participate?
Do I have enough time to devote to it to do it well?
If I discover it takes too much time, can I delete my profile and leave, or will it be floating around out there forever, reflecting badly on my attempt?

Noise Ratio:
How many notifications will I get and is there a way to filter them?
Are the dialogues engaging or is it just a bunch of stuff I can see and participate in somewhere else? In other words, is it spam and repetition or is it useful stuff I won’t see anywhere else that I already participate?

Are there unique ideas that will stretch my knowledge and contribute to my goals?
How hard is it to find them?
What might my participation there help me to do better?
How helpful will what I have to offer be to the people there?

Will the platform extend the other things I’m doing?
Can I gain added value by mixing them together?

What do I want my participation to help my achieve? (personally and/or professionally)
Are those expectations realistic?
What will I need to do to get there?

What impact could my participation there have on my business? Will it help me grow, bring me new clients, help me develop new services, sell more books, bring me new partnerships or get me more speaking gigs?

Are there exchanges that I want to contribute to?
Is there back and forth or is it one-off hit and runs?
How much moderation is there?
Are the same people dominating the conversations or are there new voices that I don’t hear elsewhere?

What changes will I have to make to participate?
How hard will it be to learn to use?
Will I have to give up something else to do this right?

It’s one thing to want to try out the shiny new tools that continue to show up, but at some point, that’s not enough. There needs to be more. If I could add hours to my day, that would be one thing, but I can’t. I need to make considered decisions about what I choose to participate in and why I make that choice.

When I evaluate what I already have on my plate, I’m pleased with the results. I get business and brand benefit from each of the social media platforms where I participate. I learn from the valuable ideas shared on them. Could I give one up in favor of a new choice? Maybe. But whatever I choose to replace it with had better deliver more value than I already get. And that’s a tall order.

How do you choose where and how much you participate in social media?

What payoffs are most important to you?