Business owners agree, spend as much time as is necessary, and no more.
For the average individual, three hours a day is typical, according to a survey by research firm Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange. The average business owner spends almost 50% more time Facebooking, Tweeting, and so on. Senior executives and decision-makers spending 40% more time than those not in those positions.
But those are just the averages. What do things look like in the real world? We asked several business owners just how they use social media—and how much time they spend doing it.
CitySolve Urban Race of Berkeley, California, produces public clue-solving scavenger hunts, but fans don’t have to hunt to find the company online. CitySolve occupies space on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp! and Pinterest.
“I check it about three times a day just to see if a customer has a question or if people are commenting. So maybe that amounts to about 20 minutes a day. Then I also post in the afternoon, which takes another few minutes,” says Director of Business Development Mitch Anderson. (His posts may include open-ended trivia questions: “If you were an ice cream flavor, what ice cream flavor would you be?”)
His efforts have generated 5,000 Likes, and Anderson would like to see more, but he isn’t going to spend more time at the computer trying to boost the numbers. Organic growth will likely add a few thousand more by year’s end, he says.
“I don’t want to spend more time on it, just because the return is not there right now,” he says.
Keeping It Lean
At Rebel Luxe, parent company of RockerRags.com, owner David “Lando” Landis has looked for ways to keep his social media time lean.
On the one hand, he needs all his varied online personae: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Tumblr. “I use it as an opportunity to inform our customers and our followers what is currently going on in the mainstream rock music scene,” he says. “I try to update it at least five days a week. Then about once a week, we’ll do some sort of pitch of product. We don’t want to totally ignore the fact that we are an ecommerce store, but we also don’t want to be perceived as a company that utilizes social media simply to hawk a lot of goods.”
Daily updates, product pitches: It sounds like a deep time investment is called for. But Landis has found ways to streamline the process. “For example, I’ll do an initial announcement on Facebook. From there I will usually cut and paste exactly what I’ve posted onto Google+. Then I may edit it down for Twitter, simply because of the character limitations. Otherwise it is all cut and paste,” he says.
Net time spent, thanks to clever content management: About 15 minutes a day.
Petplan Pet Insurance is visible on all the big social media sites, including its own blog, which offers veterinary advice for pet owners.
Through the various social channels, the company shares pet health news, information about pet food recalls and alerts, and success stories sent by customers.
Social media provides a place to answer questions and react to customer concerns.“Social media allows us to foster better communication with our policyholders, fans, and friends,” says Natasha Ashton, co-founder and chief marketing officer.
To reap those rewards, the company literally makes a 24/7 commitment to its social presence. “The actual work of maintaining our social media communities happens very much in real time throughout the day—all day, every day,” Ashton says. “Our team members responsible for community management have iPhones to monitor activity 24/7, so we can always respond in case a customer concern escalates during off-hours.”
On the far opposite end of the spectrum is Mark Faust, a principal with business advisory firm Echelon Management in Cincinnati.
He’s got a Facebook page for his business and has used it to promote his book. He’s got the obligatory LinkedIn profile. He has Twitter, but he doesn’t Tweet much.
“Most businesses waste time and overly concern themselves with social media,” he says. “There are plenty of businesses that could and should be leveraging it and aren’t, but I sell to CEOs. These are not people who troll around looking for a consultant to hire via social media.”
That isn’t to say social media has left him high and dry. In fact, Faust has landed a handful of clients, thanks to managers who have found his profile on LinkedIn and then passed his name to the CEO. But it isn’t something he relies on, or spends time cultivating. “I probably spend 10 hours a year or less,” he says.
So, how much social media is enough, and how much is too much? As with so many things, the answer will lie in the type of business, the size and scope, and the ambitions of the owner. In short: Spend as much time as is necessary, and no more.