Let's face it: we're living in a time of change. Changing technology, changing workplace, changing media, changing roles, changing responsibilities. And whether you know it or not, you've developed a digital agenda. It may be "ignore" digital innovation, it may be "embrace" digital innovation. But whatever it is, you've got a Digital Agenda. What I propose is that you control your Digital Agenda - engage and shape it. And I'm going to offer a three point plan that you can use as a checklist to manage it.
Step 1 - Taking Digital Inventory
Start with a list of whom you listen to in the digital world. Whose Twitter feeds do you follow? Whose blogs do you read? What RSS feeds are you subscribed to? Who seems to be the most vocal on Facebook? How many requests do you get from LinkedIn? What about email lists, newsletters, subscriptions? Chances are you're listening to A LOT of voices, and probably not focusing on the ones that matter. Because there really are no tools today that allow you to adjust the volume of the voices that engage you, chances are your digital input is a muddle of conflicting voices and sources.
Then, make a list of whom you speak to. Who's following you on Twitter? Who are your fans? Do you publish a newsletter, or have any white papers or PDF's available for download? What about podcasts or video blogs? Do you publish photographs to Flickr? Do you comment on blogs using Discqus or other blog commenting log ins? What about your Boxee sharing settings? Do you share music? Stock tips? Social networks, sharing sites, blogs. You ARE speaking to the digital world, whether you know it or not.
Finally - what about your memberships? Are you a member of any professional organization or group? Do you attend yearly conferences or meetings? What do you attend in person, what do you attend virtually (reading notes, watching live video feeds, following Twitter hash tags)?
Okay, so you've got a list with three categories: Whom you listen to, Who listens to you, and your Memberships.
Step 2 - Assigning Value
It's hard to think of your social and business networks in terms of cold, hard value - but you've got limited attention, and right now you're investing your attention somewhat indiscriminately. That's got to change. So now that you have a master list of voices, go ahead and rank them. Be brutal. Who provides you with business knowledge? Who provides you with wisdom and revelations? What about actionable business intelligence? Don't be afraid to value joy in all of this. If someone who takes up a bit of your attention bandwidth is a college pal who isn't in your current business sphere - but reading his comments and viewing his pictures makes you happy - then that counts too. But like all calories, they count, so don't think that viewing random Facebook stuff for an hour a day isn't a trade off, it's a decision.
Step 3 - Whom Are You Reaching - and Why?
Now that you've begun to think of each and every social media action as a 'published' event, the question is whom are you publishing to, and why? I know for a period of time I tried to limit or manage the people I allowed into my various channels. But frankly, this is no small challenge. When someone reaches out to you in Facebook to become your 'friend,' what rules do you employ? Does 'friend' in Facebook mean the same thing as it does in the 'real' (non-digital) world? It doesn't. Friend means more like 'contact' or acquaintance, or fellow traveler. But if you too narrowly define what Friend means, you're going to be limiting your ability to talk in the social sphere. And you don't want to do that.
So, when you think about whom you are reaching, think about this list: You're reaching your customers, your competitors, your peers, your potential customers, and your friends.
Your voice, while it can be modified for different audiences, needs to have core characteristics that cross all the lines of your social networks. If, for example, you choose to express your politics, or your religious views, or your sexual preferences, or any of the things that would have been thought of as personal in previous times, you'll find that those personal characteristics will deepen your connections with like-minded individuals, and distance you from others who don't agree with you or share your views. That's a decision you have to make.
You can certainly draw lines. You can share your family pictures and your kids' pictures with friends and family on Flickr, and share video of your company holiday party on YouTube with clients and friends. But just be aware that the lines between our business and personal lives are blurring. After all, it wasn't that long ago that a client would never have thought of calling you on a Sunday afternoon, and now your cellphone rings round the clock with little concern for personal space or boundaries. Being digital is to be connected 24/7, and that has complexities and consequences.
Next steps - Making Changes.
If you've followed the steps above, than you've probably come to the same conclusions that I did when I went through this process. You have too many sources, too many voices, and too many memberships in social networks and news sources. It's time to prune. Pick the social networks, groups and events that add real value in your life and your work. Don't be nostalgic or wear rose-colored glasses when you evaluate to refocus your Digital Agenda. You may think that getting a newsletter from an old group in which you used to be active doesn't 'cost' anything - but it does. You have to see it, glance through it, feel regret that you can't participate more fully, and delete it. That all takes time and costs mental energy. Remember the calories? Don't do it. Do the right thing. Unsubscribe.
Secondly, there are things that you may want as a reference, but not as a weekly newsletter that you have to engage. Put them in folders. Label the folders Occasional Reading. Make sure your mail program puts all new newsletters like this directly in the "whenever" folder.
Finally - make NEW friends. Go to Meet-ups where you don't know everyone in the room. Push outside your comfort area. Read blogs and follow Twitter feeds that are outside your comfort zone. Your Digital Agenda should include things that challenge your beliefs, expose you to new people and ideas, and GROW your network.
Your Digital Agenda is just like any other part of your life. It requires attention, consideration, review and adjustments. In these fast-moving times, not challenging the way you invest your attention in media can be just as risky as any other half thought through investment. But with attention and review, there is a terrific opportunity to both explore and expand how your Digital Agenda is serving your career and your life.
We're past the point of endless embracing and experimenting, we need to adjust our digital world to make sure it's not a digital junkyard where our piles will come tumbling down upon us. A bit of pruning can be a good thing.
Steven Rosenbaum is the CEO and Co-Founder of Magnify.net - a fast-growing video publishing platform that powers more than 50,000 web sites, media companies, and content entrepreneurs to aggregate and curate web video from a wide variety of web sources. Currently Magnify.net publishes over 50,000 channels of Curated-Consumer Video, and is working closely with a wide variety of media makers, communities, and publishers in evolving their content offerings to include content created by, sorted and reviewed by community members. Rosenbaum is a serial entrepreneur, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, and well known innovator in the field of user-generated media production. Rosenbaum Directed and Executive Produced the critically acclaimed 7 Days In September, and his MTV Series Unfiltered is widely regarding as the first commercial use of Consumer Generated Video in US mass media. Steve can be contacted at email@example.com Follow Steve Rosenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/magnify
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