1. Start Slow. You need to start slow and gradually build up to a pace and level that is right for you. If you go out too fast, you'll just throw your rhythm and your body off course and have to start all over again. That means don't go setting up a hundred profile pages. Rather, be methodical and have a plan. Measure your success incrementally.
2. Vary the Terrain. Just like in running, when trying out social media, you need to experiment and try some variety, or you're not really getting the full experience. You also benefit most by alternating flat areas (what you are familiar with) with hills (which you may be less familiar with) so that you can get the most benefit from both. That means don't just go for Twitter because it's getting the most buzz right now and it seems like it's the one everyone is using. Maybe you're more of a Linked In or Facebook person after all.
3. Drink and Sustain. With running, that means water or a healthy replenishing beverage. With social media, that means energizing yourself with the resources you need to make the right decisions. Choose the books, e-newsletters, webinars, and teleseminars that will help you the most, and let them fuel your interests and appetites.
4. Get In the Zone. Once you've been running for a while, you start to feel a great endorphin buzz and the sense that you're in tune with yourself, with nothing else distracting or worrying you. You can clear your mind for a set amount of time, and only focus on your running. The same is true with social networking. Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day, make them count. Write great blogs, tweets, and updates, and only focus on how they can help others. You'll reap the rewards - a greater number of friends and followers, more resources coming back to you, and higher online visibility.
5. Aim for a Marathon, Even if it Seems a Long Way Off. Even if you think you'll never run a marathon, and just 3-4 miles seems like forever, keep the longer distance in your mind during your workouts, and they will seem easier. In the same way with social networking, aim high and have clearly set goals. Once you have an established footing, raise the bar, and try for even more connections. Maybe these are the people you'll eventually be selling to, or maybe they will just be part of your online community, or they will change your life in some way. You never know, but one thing is for certain - it always feels good to sail through the finish line, and see how far you've come.
Thanks to RunnersWorld for inspiring this post, and my 2 NYC Marathons.