Lifehacker had a great post where they interviewed social media expert, Steve Rubel. Steve had three steps to making social productive, I have outlined them below and added a couple of my own.

Step 1: Set A North Star
(Keep it real and be honest. Why are you using social media? Apply social media to reach your goals. How can you use it to accomplish your goals?)

Step 2: Apply the Pareto Principle
(80% of the value comes form 20% of the content. Use tools to aggregate great content and make the most of your time spent using social media)

Step 3: Face-to-Face Newton
(Make time for being social. Face-to-Face Interaction)

Steve Rubel makes some great points in the interview. I thought I would add a couple of points that helps me stay productive in the Social Media world.

Step 1: Use the 4-Points Model

When using social media you should keep in mind the 4-points model. There are 4 points social media applications should touch in regards to your daily life: Business, Local Business Networking, Social, and Information. Choose four main networks where you spend the most of your time.

I use LinkedIn for business applications, Smaller Indiana for local business networking, Facebook for social application, and FriendFeed for information. LinkedIn can be described as my connection rolodex. Facebook is to keep me updated on my friends and acquaintances from college and high school. FriendFeed is a wonderful information aggregation tool where you can follow influential people and the information they share. Smaller Indiana is a great place to connect to local professionals and share ideas on how to make Indiana a better place.

Step 2: Commit Yourself

You get what you put in. How many times have we heard that? When using social media commit to a set amount of time a week to using your applications. You will find yourself spending to much time on your applications if you fail to designate a certain amount during the week.

I try to designate an hour of each day to information sharing (writing blogs, commenting on blogs, perusing my Google Reader) and an hour a day to using my other networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Smaller Indiana).

Step 3: Be Authentic

I get numerous e-newsletter in my inbox everyday, most of them vary from mundane to outright boring. When posting on your social media applications, try to add some authenticity and personality to the information you are sharing. When I am reading blogs and posts on social applications the last thing I want to read is an impersonal e-newsletter. I want to know that the keystrokes behind the information is an actual person. Be personal. Be Authentic.

There are the three steps I use to get the most out of Social Media. Cheers!