Social networking is increasingly becoming a vital aspect of our search marketing efforts. The connections we form amongst our online social communities can provide ever-expanding avenues of awareness of our sites, brand recognition, and ultimately buzz and link-love.

Sadly, however, there is a dark side to social networking. This dark side is one that we'd rather not talk about because we are afraid we might see it within ourselves. What could possibly be so scary? I call it the swirling vortex of social networking.

How many social networks do you belong to? How many do you actively participate in? How much time each day do you spend in this networking process? I'm not sure how many people want to honestly evaluate the amount of time they sink into this activity each day. I can tell you that at one point, at least 80% of my working day was devoted to social networking. 80%!

Social networking is a fine activity to place on your to-do list, but it should not be the only thing on your to-do list! Unfortunately, social networking is addictive, and it can suck up your time before you know it. Since it can be passed off as "all part of your business strategy", the time-sink can be justified, and that makes it even worse.

I recently had to stop and take a hard look at my long, long to-do list, and then compare it to what I was actually accomplishing every day. I had to face the fact that I had immersed myself in social networking to the point that I was being sucked down into the social vortex, and was getting nothing else done.

I then set about to make a new plan. That plan still includes a couple of hours per day for social networking. It is important, and I won't ignore it. But I've scheduled several hours per day for other tasks that I've ignored for too long.

I use a virtual assistant (not of the human kind) called Sandy to remind me events, tasks, and to-do's every day. She keeps me on track. After I created my new plan, I gave her my schedule, and each day, she lets me know what I need to be doing – at the moment I need to do it. Now, when Sandy tells me to write a new piece of content for Site x, y, or z, I can focus on the task at hand and get it done. I need to note that during these scheduled tasks, I completely unplug. No IM. No email. No Twitter. No social connections of any sort. Just me and my task.

I can't tell you how much productive work I've accomplished since I started this. It's been great. I'm still socially connected every day, but no longer am I swirling down that social vortex. If you've managed to balance out your daily tasks, congratulations! If, however, you think you might be one of those people pictured above, you may want to consider spending a day re-thinking your strategies.

I've shared my strategy for crawling out of the vortex. If you have a different strategy, I'd love to hear about it.

Donna Fontenot, aka DazzlinDonna, is an Internet Entrepreneur and SEO, who has long utilized search engine optimization and affiliate marketing to create a successful online business. Her goal as an ebusiness coach is to help others make a living online from the comfort of their homes (and in their pajamas). Her motto is "You'll never shine if you don't glow."