It’s the mantra of many companies that have yet to use social media for marketing, and probably the occasional lament of companies that do.
The reply from social media marketers often goes something like this: Social media does not require a massive investment of time; you can get going in as little as 15-20 minutes a day; and that quarter-of-an-hour will pay off.
Well, this isn’t one of those posts.
Like any other venture that is actually worthwhile, social media takes time to do well. A lot of time.
There are things you can do in 15-20 minutes a day: you can establish a presence. And that is certainly better than nothing – and better than many other companies are doing.
But growth will be slow. You will have to limit yourself to one platform, or doing a couple very shoddily. And you will find it hard to build up those meaningful relationships with clients, influencers, stakeholders that ultimately make a tangible difference to your business.
In short, you can put your foot in the door, but you are unlikely to achieve business-changing success.
So how long does it really take to make a difference? I don’t think you can do it in less than an hour a day, at an absolute minimum. And really, that’s not enough either, particularly if you are blogging frequently.
Why? Because to succeed on social media – rather than throwing out a bunch of random links and hoping for the best – you need to be planning properly, producing quality material, and interacting with others.
You can’t do all that in 15-20 minutes a day. Let’s break it down:
- Planning. Producing a monthly social media schedule is a serious task (albeit not a daily one). You need to brainstorm appropriate topics, work out a good balance of different types of posts, perhaps do some research about what’s been written before or what resources are available, assign the work, and set deadlines. For each platform! This can take many hours.
- Writing. The lifeblood of any good social media strategy is a good blog. Researching just one quality post, writing it up, editing it, finding pictures or taking screenshots can take 2-4 hours. Yes, you can produce one blog post a week – and that is certainly better than nothing. But ambitious companies will produce several.Those tweets and Facebook posts also don’t write themselves.
- Curating third-party material. A good social media presence is not just about sending out your own material. You must try and give your followers useful information that others have produced. This will probably even be the majority of your output.But finding good material from elsewhere involves reading through your Google Alerts, skimming Twitter, and checking blogs that you follow. This takes time!
- Posting. Many people assume that once they’ve written their blog posts or Facebook posts, posting them is just a matter of a few minutes. Not true. If you are operating on multiple platforms, you have to take into account that all those minutes-here-minutes-there add up.
- Interaction. You can automate many of your posts, saving an enormous amount of time, but at the end of the day, to build up a relationship with your readers and potential clients, you need to actually talk to them.This involves responding to comments, reaching out to influencers, and finding conversations in which it would be useful for you to participate. You can’t build up relationships in real life in minutes, and the same holds true online.
- Monitoring. Checking your stats weekly and monthly does not have to take long, but you also have to analyse them and spend time understanding how to apply the lessons.
- Large pieces of content. Quite apart from the day-to-day social media activities, the less frequent, but more substantial content that really sets your company apart – such as webinars, podcasts, videos, infographics, eBooks and white papers – naturally require heavy research, planning and writing time.
By now, you’re probably thinking that there’s no way your company can ever handle a good social media campaign because you just don’t have the manpower. Please don’t get scared off – In a couple of paragraphs, I’m going to make some suggestions to make it all manageable anyway.
It also wasn’t the point, which is that you need to have realistic expectations about how much time social media really takes (companies often underestimate this, leading to tension with the team actually doing the work – and often the failure of the entire programme) and what kind of results you are going to see.
A company that sends out a few tweets each day simply cannot expect the same returns as a company that invests time producing five blogs a week, actively engaging with its fans and creating an eBook every quarter. Simply entering “social media” is not a magic bullet in and of itself!
So does this mean that companies with limited manpower shouldn’t bother? No, no, no.
What to do if you really don’t have the time?
1. Reconsider. It is no longer really an option not to use social media. Customers expect you to be online, and chances are that your competitors are already there. Staying out of that space puts you at a business disadvantage.
If growing your business is a priority, finding time to do social media properly must be a priority as well – just as you find time for other business essentials you are not necessarily so keen on, such as payroll and pitching.
2. Prioritise. It’s better to do one social media platform really well than several badly. Pick the one on which you are most likely to find clients and develop your presence there as strongly as possible.
3. Expand gradually. Consider launching a limited pilot project, which will help you understand what the time requirements really are. The results will also be limited, but once you have a better handle on how to manage your programme, you can grow it. Just don’t get stuck in the launch phase!
4. Manage your time well. Be ruthless about time-efficiencies. We have 11 great social media-specific suggestions here, ranging from stockpiling content and collaborating with people outside your company, to re-purposing and re-using old material.
5. Outsource. If you really don’t have the time, you need to delegate to those who do. Your business depends on it.
How long does your social media marketing take you each day? Let us know in the comments what you think is realistic!
Miriam Shaviv is director of content at Brainstorm Digital
If you liked this piece, you might enjoy:
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