The Phantom Project.
Every business, every household has one.
You probably can instantly identify your Phantom Project. You know, the one you'll do when you have some time, or a little bit of money? That project. The one you'll never actually get to, because you'll never have enough time and money to devote to it and when you do, something else more critical and immediate rears it's head to fill the vacuum.
For many businesses, Social Media is that Phantom Project.
Talking on various Social Networks takes too long, or it cost too much to build a presence. Since time and money are the two primary currencies of business, there seems to be an insurmountable wall between you and effective Social Media. And so it becomes a Phantom Project.
Here's a few tips to taking Social Media off the Phantom Project list and moving it to the Priority Project list.
1) Social Media is only expensive if you want it to be.
The most effective Social Media presences are small companies in small markets that build a following by being unique, relevant and authentic. Whether you're a local sandwich shop offering deals to your followers, or a indie band mobilizing your fans effectively, you don't have to have a slick, expensive look. Just a unique, authentic message that is relevant to the people who might care. Fancy design is rendered pointless by the number of people checking their networks on mobile devices. Expensive design is expensive - being real is priceless.
2) In Social Media, your Time is worth more than Money
For a small business owner, Time is more precious than Money. You might be able to get more money, but there really are only so many hours in the day.
So how do you fit Social Media into your already full schedule? By giving yourself an allowance.
Every day you read the paper, watch TV, answer email. Add to that list - talking with people online. Maybe you only spend five minutes every morning. Check your Facebook group and ask a question, or respond to one. Talk to one, two, three people on Twitter. Check the folks who mentioned you on Foursquare, connect with one new person on LinkedIn. Do not exceed the allowance of time you've given yourself. You have ten minutes - spend ten minutes. Prioritize the networks you're on. You find one that brings in more customers? Start there. If that takes up your ten minutes, drop the others for the day. You can't be everywhere, you can't do everything. Allow yourself to focus on one network to the detriment of the others. If Twitter sucks away an hour, then avoid it unless that hour is worth your Time.
Make hard decisions about your Social Media, the same way you do about any other form of promotion or networking. It might be worth more to advertise in a local paper than to join the Chamber of Commerce. You won't do both if it's not worth it to you.
You don't waste your time and money off-line, don't waste it online either.
Bank your hours, give yourself an allowance every week, and you'll find that the interest rate will pay well, when you've developed meaningful relationships with your consumers, your vendors and your peers.