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Social media might not be worth the time

Posted by Jason Keith  September 4, 2011 08:25 PM

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You’ve heard the hype by now.  Facebook has over 650 million users, Twitter is growing at a breakneck pace, Google+ is going to crush them both eventually. Everyone is checking in on Foursquare, while Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals and ways to get customers not ever seen in the industry before. By now I’m sure small businesses owners everywhere are feeling the pressure to get in on the action, wondering what it is they are missing. 

The benefits of social media are obvious; it allows you to connect directly with customers and it’s (relatively) cheap to set up, costing no money to set up an account.  There’s also a lot of ways you can incorporate it into email, websites and other materials to get followers and fans, so building up a base sounds easy.  It’s a microphone that everyone should be stepping up to, because if you’re not, your competition is.  Right?

But what you never hear is that social media, without question, is the most time consuming marketing channel you will ever undertake.  There is a level of commitment with any one of these platforms, Facebook and Twitter specifically, that you need to be aware of before you even consider using them.  The other caveat is as you grow your base and you get more followers, the time commitment needed to maintain your social media properties in an effective way also grows.  The more people you have talking about you, the more you have to respond and reach out yourself. 

Wondering how much time it actually takes?  There are varying degrees.  Dell for instance has its own social media  command center, which tracks 22,000 topics a day.  At Vistaprint, we have 70,000 Facebook fans and 10,000 Twitter followers, and spend on average 3-4 hours a day monitoring and interacting with our community.  If you have a group in the thousands, you can expect to spend roughly an hour a day on your social media initiatives.  Traditionally this has been time that entrepreneurs or small businesses with a few employees simply don’t have to spare. 

The reason social media can be a bear for a small business owner or entrepreneur is that it not only takes time, it takes diligence.  You have to be on top of your social media pages daily, because all it takes is one unhappy customer, spam comment or potentially offensive content to really make your business look unprofessional or distant.  If you’re not ready to monitor your Facebook page at least a few times a day, then don’t jump in in the first place.  Your time will be better spent on a traditional avenue like email marketing, direct mail, search ads or even networking.  Those are controlled environments and while they do need a level of consistency, don’t require the level of commitment social media does. 

So while social media CAN be a great avenue for small business owners, what you really have to ask yourself before getting into it is, “do I have the time?”  

Have you had time to get into and really see success with social media? If so please discuss in the comments section. 

Follow Jason Keith on Twitter at @jaykeith.

 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email jasonpkeith@gmail.com.

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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