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Mashable: The Holiday Survival Guide for Social Media Professionals

Originally published by Mashable

As self-identified social media addicts, we recognize that not everyone shares our passion for tweeting, posting and checking in. We value these activities because they help us stay informed, share our work with others and build networks of meaningful relationships. But with the holiday season upon us, many will be reconnecting with family and friends who do not use social media in the same way. We can't help but wonder if some of our loved ones might consider our connected lifestyles to be strange, or worse, rude.

Some family members who have not connected with us through social media may be less familiar with the work and interests we share with our online communities. Even our longtime friends may embrace us as who we've always been rather than the person we've become since our last holiday together. This disconnect can leave us searching for conversation starters at holiday parties or looking like a Grinch as we take refuge behind our iPhones.

Meanwhile, as we spend time with those we love, we may find ourselves missing some of the people who have become part of our lives via Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. These friends know us as we are today; they are like-minded and share our most current passions.

The desire to remain in contact with our social networks may seem like technology addiction to some, or even a signal that our offline relationships have become less important. However, this view overlooks that both online and offline relationships are formed based on mutual respect and common interests. Social media allows online connections to develop into very real friendships, and it is only natural that we would miss these distant friends during the holidays.

But going home for the holidays doesn't have to be about distancing from one set of relationships while celebrating with another. It is possible to balance these aspects of our lives during this time. Whether you're a community manager, blogger or a fellow social media addict, here are a few suggestions to help you survive the season.

1. Reintroduce Yourself

Some of your family and friends may not know what you've been up to or understand how and why you connect online, but that doesn't mean they won't be interested in learning more. You should feel free to express the most current you, which includes your passion for social media. You will find that you have much more to share when you are true to yourself and speak confidently about your interests in the same way you do online.

2. Talk About Your Online Friends

There is no reason to shy away from mentioning your social media friends during holiday conversation. Non-users may return curious looks the first time you reference someone you know on Twitter, but acting like your social network is the online equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys will only reinforce their skepticism. You understand the value of your network. Allow yourself to acknowledge it.

3. Your Phone Is Not a Shield

It is important to remember that social media is not the only place for relationship building. Our family and friends require the same attention. Although we are used to multitasking between in-person and online conversations, and we usually forgive each other for this, your phone can become a barrier between you and your loved ones during the holidays. Instead of trying to convince your family that using your phone at the table isn't rude (of course it is), look up and show them you're interested.

4. Schedule Social Media Breaks

Instead of tweeting with one hand while decorating the tree with the other, plan to check in with your social networks during down times. Step out of the room for a few minutes while you reply to messages, or allow interested family members to have a look at the post you're reading.

To make your social media breaks more efficient, try creating Twitter lists of the people you don't want to miss during the holidays, or make a folder in your Google Reader for only your favorite blogs (the rest will be waiting for you when you get back to work). This will allow you to quickly review posts before you re-enter the party, keeping you present and available to the people around you.

5. It's OK to Have a Silent Night

Holidays are both joyous and hectic. You can allow yourself the freedom to tweet less! And please, no selling. If you're a community manager, avoid scheduling automatic tweets. Aside from being impersonal, you’ll sound like old Mr. Potter talking business when you should be exchanging gifts or sharing a holiday meal.

Apply the same approach to e-mail and other work-related connectivity. Many of us, especially social media community managers, have gotten used to an "always on" approach to our jobs. Unless you work for Ebenezer Scrooge, use this time to relax and disconnect a bit. If not, one e-mail will lead to the next until you've missed out on holiday memories.

6. Share Your Holiday With Everyone You Care About

You've built your network by being your authentic self. If you choose to be online at all during the holidays, don't hesitate to share special moments with your social networks. Take the opportunity to tell your online friends what they mean to you, and feel free to blog about your favorite traditions or post a few Instagram pics from your party. This will extend your holiday celebration to include your social media family.

These are just a few suggestions to make the holidays a time for embracing family and friends while remaining connected to the information, inspiration and support you value from your social networks.

We'd like to hear your survival ideas, and we wish you a very happy holiday season!


Anthony Rotolo is a professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies and cofounder of, a storytelling company that specializes in social media, animation and interactive design. This post was co-authored with Dabney Porte, who is a life coach, social media consultant and international speaker. She is the host of the Twitter chat #smmanners where she educates her following on social media manners.

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