Nobody Said Social Media Was Easy

Social media isn’t inexpensive, it’s different expensive.

In the QA portion of recent speeches, I’ve frequently been asked “this is great, but doesn’t it seem like it will take a lot of time?”

Yes. It. Will.

Succeeding on the social Web requires daily participation. Whether it’s brand reputation management, PR and influencer outreach, customer service and social CRM, interacting with fans on a brand community, or just creating content that builds thought leadership – it all takes time.

Fundamentally, there are no shortcuts in social media, because the entire premise is that you’re interacting with customers one on one (or one on few). That is of course more time consuming than reaching hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers at one time with a paid advertisement. How could it not be so?

The only way America is even keeping its head above the global water line is by squeezing every last drop of productivity out of all of us. Please raise your hand if you’re working fewer hours these days than you did five or ten years ago. Exactly. Unless you’re somehow on Justin Bieber’s management team, you’re probably busting your hump like never before, tethered to the world by the iWhatever. So, I recognize that you probably don’t have the time to really commit to social media, and neither does anyone on your team.

So, you have two options.

Social Media Time Management

First, you have to make the time. How much time do you spend sending, reading, and receiving emails each day? One hour? Two? Well guess what? 15 years ago we didn’t spend any time on email. But, we made the time to include it in our lives, because the net benefit was incredibly positive. The same is true of social media.

You and your compadres in your organization need to perform a serious audit of how you’re spending every minute of every day (especially in the marketing and customer service arenas). You need to do whatever you can to tie behavior and time utilization to business results. Then, you need to jettison what you’re doing that isn’t a clear net positive, and use that newfound time vacuum to fit in daily social media participation.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

The second option is to grow bigger shoulders.

Of course, you need to do a lot of the social media tasks within your four walls. There are exceptions, but it’s difficult to outsource your voice. But, maintaining a hand on the steering wheel of your persona does not mean that you need to have a stranglehold on every social media facet like a dog on a pork chop.

Couldn’t you have a lot more people in your company creating content? Maybe they aren’t great writers. But video blog posts? Consider your fans – your advocates – your 1%ers – your volunteer marketing army. Couldn’t you use them more effectively? Couldn’t you “promote” some of them, and have them help you monitor and respond to blog posts, create Facebook status updates, and so forth?

Remember back in the mid-90s when AOL was the KING of online? (I do, and still have about 6,713 AOL install CDs around here somewhere). At one point, AOL had literally thousands of chat rooms about every topic imaginable. You remember chat rooms? To keep even a modicum of peace in the far flung chat empire, AOL had to have moderators for each chat room. It wasn’t feasible for AOL to do so itself, as the personnel cost would have been extraordinary. Instead, they found the most frequent participants in each room, put them through some sort of ad hoc “freak filter” and then invited the normal folks to become moderators. Compensation was discounts on AOL service, and the social recognition that comes along with being the official moderator of your chat room on Civil War Weaponry.

That concept of fan promotion, of “leveling up” gives you access to a tremendous amount of free labor, and simultaneously strengthens bonds between your brand and its biggest fans. It works for forums and discussion boards, too. Patrick O’Keefe talk about it in his excellent book Managing Online Forums (I reviewed it here).

It’s Not Easy Being Breezy

Talk about being given an inch, and wanting to take a yard. Here we have a new paradigm that focuses at last on relevant, personalized communications AND costs almost nothing, and yet people are still apoplectic about it taking a lot of time? Nobody said social media was both transformative AND a slam dunk. It’s hard. Really hard. So you either need to make the time internally, get more people involved, or stay on the sidelines.

You can’t have it both ways.

(photos by Kairuuinzuro and jot.punkt)

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