I hope you read part one of my series on setting up listening posts. Now that your feet are wet and you’re listening to what people are saying, it’s time to join the conversation.

kids talkingStart with a blog or online community tied to something personal like an activity or hobby you enjoy.  Choose something that’s not terribly controversial but gives you a feel for, and thatincreases your comfort level with, commenting in public.

Instead, seek out another person, organization or company writing about what they know…like this blog. You can leave me a comment or a question and we’ll start a conversation. Bloggers write about topics they care about for audiences who enjoy their content. You can search for blogs on topics you care about through any search engine.

As a point of clarification, when I talk about a blog, it’s not a news outlet’s website. Comments on news stories are just that…comments on news stories. Today, many journalists also have blogs based on their personal interests (Rebecca Palsha’s alaskabites.com) or a group of reporters around the beats they cover (NY Times’ political blog).

While you’re still finding your way, create a personal twitter account. Tweet about a local restaurant you enjoy, a play you saw and enjoyed, a book you’re reading, or a place you like to shop. Something that’s not controversial but invites comments. Find followers tweeting things you find interesting and “retweet” it. It’s a safe way to get started and learn what people are tweeting. More Twitter tips.

Also, try commenting on a friend’s Facebook page, or ask your friends for input on an issue you care about. Just choose which tool is more comfortable for you, and then gradually expand.

Once you get the hang of engaging people on a personal level, you just need to translate to your business. Apply the same rules and you’re off to the races.

Next week I’ll address meshing today’s social tools with traditional communications tactics. In today’s world, we definitely need both. I’ll also discuss what’s often the most critical component in communications plans today…engagement.

And, don’t forget to keep listening, even while you’re joining the conversation.

Part 1:   Listening (And Hearing) Crucial In Communication Plans

Part 3: Successful PR Plans are a balance new and old tools and tactics

Part 4:  Reach Out and Engage Someone