Sunday, September 20, 2009

When, Where and How Much Social Media?

Many business owners are well aware that they *should* be involved in Social Media in some way. Most of us also know we *should* lose weight, exercise more and eat right.

The word *should* is often a cloak for all the levels of discomfort and inconvenience that stand between a business and effective Social Media.

Let's take Ruth. I met Ruth this week on the ferry to New York City. Ruth is a photographer who is considering taking her photography from being a hobby to being a business. When she saw me posting to Facebook while waiting for the ferry, she said, "I should do something like that."

Let's look at what she really means when she says that.

1) Ruth needs to know Where to go.

Where seems easy because, like fishermen, Social Media experts are convinced that their favorite spot is the best. But it's important to consider Ruth's business needs. There are a lot of photographers on Twitter, (I happen to have researched this for a previous client) but are there a lot of people who want to buy photographic art? Your favorite Social Media platform might be great for networking with peers - will it bring in any sales opportunities for Ruth? Both are valuable, but you want to be honest with Ruth about Where and Why she should use a particular platform.

2) Ruth needs to know When to be active in Social Media.

It goes without saying that the most precious thing any business owner has is their time. And what Social Media takes is time.

If you've ever sat down to chat with a friend for a moment and looked up only to find that an hour had slipped away, you know what I mean. When you are truly engaged, Social Media steals your time right from under your nose.

Does Ruth sit down to have a cup of coffee in the morning? If so, she could take half of that time and post on the Social Media platform she's identified as most important for her business. Wish the people there good morning, seed a discussion, forward a relevant comment, promote an event...something to start the day off right.

Just like exercising regularly, Social Media is just as effective when done five or ten minutes at a time, several times throughout the day.


3) Ruth needs to know How much time (and money) to spend on Social Media.

Think of your office routine twenty years ago. You'd come in, check messages on your phone or from your assistant. You'd respond to the urgent messages first, then work your way down the list as time allowed. You'd deal with your business critical tasks, then work on maintenance tasks where you could fit them in. Nothing has changed, really, in business, except that along with checking our phone messages, we check our email and now, our Social Media spaces. It may seem like that takes up more time of our day, but when phone and face-to-face was all we had, they took up a proportionally larger chunk of time. What Social Media (I include email in this) has done is widen our ability to communicate with people globally, as well as make us more available locally.

When we incorporate Social Media into our lives, it becomes just another way we can talk with people and further our business needs.

Which brings us to the issue of money. It's true that most Social Media platforms have low or zero cost barriers to entry. And that Social Media strategy *can* be built with an investment of time and no money but...there may come a time where you want to move from a strategy of of "Talking with people" to a tactic like "Putting an advertisement on" your SM platform of choice. This step should be treated the same way any business development tactic would. Return on Investment can (and should) be measured at this point, as it would be with any tactic.

Budget your Time as your do your Money, and the answers to When and How Much will become simpler.

As Social Media professionals, our job is to guide people from saying "I should do this" to answering the questions "Where will I participate?" "When and How Much will I put into Social Media?"

When Social Media is incorporated seamlessly into a business development strategy, it will become part of the office routine, just like answering the phone.
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