Social Media: Valuable Marketing Tools or Time Waster?

social mediaIt seems like almost everyday a new social media site joins the throng vying for our attention and time. We hear that Web 2.0 – the interactive way to reach your customers – is the best vehicle for building your brand.

But the time involved to research and understand and experiment can take our eyes of the focus of our business. So is Social Media the new “must have” for small business owners or is it a big time-suck?

I have been blogging for a couple years and enjoy the opportunity to share my thoughts, ask questions and point out new tools and resources. I have jumped on board with LinkedIn and Facebook but I hesitate to participate in any other venues simply because time is valuable and rather than be minimally involved in ten different social media options, I would rather focus my efforts. But have I selected the best vehicles for my business? And how do I use them?

Anita recently conducted an informal survey of 17 tech-savvy individuals, asking what social media venue they’d recommend. Many recommended Facebook as their social media of choice. It was interesting that although some mentioned Twitter, StumbleUpon and blogs in general, no one mentioned LinkedIn. Is it just too limiting?

In an effort to save you time, I’ve done a little research on some of the social media solutions and gathered a few resources in one location for your review. Let’s start with Facebook:

Shara Karasic reviews the steps of Creating a Facebook Fan Page for Your Business. Once your page is set up, Shara talks about the importance of providing value on your page to create a need in the fans to return, noting “Keep your fans happy by offering them useful and relevant info, a place where they can connect with other fans, applications they can use, and special updates just for them. Facebook recommends messaging fans no more than twice per month. Remember, the more users interact with your page, the more News Feed stories for users’ friends are created, magnifying awareness of your page.”

Shara also has written a similar guide for those interested in checking out Twitter, the quick way to connect with readers based on the question “what are you doing right now?” But how can Twitter help your business? In Shara’s article she talks about the growing number of people looking to Twitter first for the latest information, noting “Reporters these days are searching Twitter as a starting point, and many people are ignoring their feed readers in favor of getting the most important links of the day at Twitter.”

So what about LinkedIn? I have used it as an effective way to reconnect with prior colleagues. I’ve seen many use it successfully after being downsized to make career connections. In his Guide to Getting The Most Out of LinkedIn. Greg Brown reminds readers how important it is to take advantage of the ‘recommendation’ feature of your LinkedIn profile, when he writes “One of the most-ignored features of the system is recommendations, where you either write a pithy comment on someone’s work with you, or have one written about you (you must request it). I have seen recruiters only ask about connections with recommendations. It’s that strong an indicator of trust.”

Have you heard of a Squidoo Lens? It’s a separate web page you can create to turn the spotlight on a single aspect of your business. Seth Godin shares a few thoughts on Squidoo and also links to an example so you can see this social media vehicle in action. Seth talks about the value of a Squidoo Lens for raising charity funds. “Squidoo has been around since early 2006 … it’s the fastest-growing philanthropy co-op in the online world. Even more important to you, it’s an easy way to build a directory of your blog or your corporate website.” Having set up a Squidoo Lens myself, I can tell you the process is simple and self-explanatory. Worth checking out as yet one more way to spread the word about your business.

Then of course there is blogging. I would be remiss if I didn’t provide an interesting article on: How to Market Your Business With a Blog. Brian Brown offers a convincing article for those that have resisted the urge to start a blog. The first step? Pick a niche. Brian says, “Write articles on what you know in your field. You can write them from what you know off the top of your head, or find items other people have written and respond and/or build on their thoughts.”

Jon Rognerud offers a composite article about a variety of social media resources with a little comment about each in his Guide to Social Search and Search Engine Optimization for the Internet. If social networking is still too intimidating, take comfort in Jon’s article. He explains that social networking is really just a conversation with your neighbor over the back fence with a technological twist, which allows your backyard to become global. “It turns out we humans still rely on other humans and technology simply allows us to expand the boundaries of our social networks. Studies have proven what we already knew intuitively, we pay attention to recommendations from real people.”

What social media solutions have you used for your business? Have you decided to select just one vehicle or are you dabbling in a variety? How’s that working for you? Do you find you spend more time keeping up or is it time well spent because of the relationships you are developing? Weigh in here with your thoughts on social media.


22 Reactions
  1. I think the key point businesses need to keep in mind if venturing into social media is: it’s better to focus on 1 site and master that, rather than create logins and profiles in all of the site and not making the most of all of them. Social media marketing takes practice to master, so start with 1 site, 1 idea and 1 goal. Work and reaching that. In the process you will make mistakes, and learn from those. Once you master the art replicate on other sites; you will hit the other sites with a head full of knowledge and months of experience, so you will put yourself in a much better position. Just my 2c 🙂

  2. I’m looking forward ro digging into Shara’s articles! Thanks for the links!

    I’ve dabbled in FaceBook and LinkedIn, but I don’t think I’ve done either of them justice. Twitter I just don’t see the point of, but with HelloTxt it doesn’t take any more effort. I’ve had some recent success with StumbleUpon, but it still seems kind of clumsy to work in, and it’s hard to understand exactly how to work it to maximum benefit.

    I think I’ve had the most success with my blog (4 years and counting), and I plan on continuing that for sure.

  3. Hi Anita,

    I think social media is like most things- it is what you make of it! Just like networking for example. You can go out and just waste time. Or you can leverage it to market your services.


  4. Social media is more then the consumer-based applications on the market today, Facebook, MySpace, Tweeter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. Web 2.0 tools and technologies are “enablers” allowing businesses large or small to create new channels of communications, collaboration and transparency. There are a vast number of tools, technologies and platforms that integrate all the Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wiki, rss feeds, tags, etc.) and allow professional to apply to thier individual business need. One such platform that serves the SMB market is the we+ workspace from Yooplus. You may want to check it out…

  5. I’d have to agree with Shama here. It’s what you make it. But it does help to narrow your focus, otherwise, your not getting the most out of them.

  6. Deborah Chaddock Brown

    Good stuff. I see a theme of “focus” here. Of course isn’t that what we need to do in all aspects of our business? Any sharing on which one you are focusing on? I have to admit besides blogging, I’ve spent the most time on LinkedIn but based on comments about Facebook I wonder if my time would be better spent focusing my efforts there.

    And Thomas – thanks for pointing us to yet another opportunity.


  7. Hi, thanks for mention of article, Deborah – good resources across all – I loved it! On that note, if you live in Los Angeles area, there is a social media marketing show / conference coming up Apr 22/23 in Long Beach: – should be fun – I’ll be there. Also, I’m using some powertools to distribute content, try and – it will save you hours of time! Cheers, Jon (p.s. install the stumbleupon and facebook toolbars while you are at it.)

  8. Hi Deborah,

    Valuable marketing tool or time waster … can the answer be “both”? It’s been overwhelming in terms of learning curve, but I do see the potential in leveraging Facebook. Several industry experts seem enamored of it, and that means potentially unfiltered (no gatekeeper) access to them. Starting groups can also attract members of niche markets.

    There’s no better time to make the most of Facebook. It’s definitely the site-du-jour, with several contacts inviting me to join their Friends, and training courses popping up everywhere. I guess my version of “focus” is to figure out a strategy for leveraging Facebook, and then make it happen. Otherwise my time spent there Twittering or perusing profiles IS wasted. Thanks for the research and great post.

    – Samantha

  9. The hard reality for small businesses is that time is money. So how you spend your time in the early days is imho the most important decision you can make to have your business sink or float. Since most sink in the first 2 years, this is a very important question to face down.

    I don’t see this as a binary decision. You can outsource social media and ask the experts which site is going to be the best for your business. It takes too long to know all there is to know yourself. I’ve made a few friends in the social media world, and they tell me which ones I need to watch for my business. They do it for fun (mostly), but they understand my negotiation business, and so keep a lookout for me. I help them, and they help me. Essential for small businesses.

  10. It is good information. I am with facebook but Linked in is new to me…. I will try it out.
    Thanks for the links….useful.


  11. Martin Lindeskog

    Deborah Brown: I use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I have also created a private wiki on and joined different local social networks. Here is my latest Twitter message :

    Are you “tired of social networks yet?” Have you used ?

  12. Looks like I need to spend more time on Facebook. Thanks guys! D

  13. Marshall England

    I think the other thing to consider is what are your client’s and/or your audience using?
    I hear a lot of small businesses hearing about success with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Squidoo, Stumbleupon, et al., but when it comes to leveraging their time in the day, the number one question that needs to get asked is “Which one is right for my business? and “Is my audience already using that?”

    In agreeing with the theme of the comments, focus, on building up your contributions with that community, consistently. Engaging in the community is not a sign up & show up 1 time behavior. Consistently engaging and interacting builds your credibility with the community.

    Personally, I enjoy twitter the most. It’s quick, relevant, not too intrusive (as you’re limited to 140 characters) and a great way to interact with all sorts of people. Give it a try, follow me on twitter

  14. Carrie Whittlinger

    Marketing with can be very effective because of Squidoo’s flexibility. Squidoo lenses allow for original articles, RSS feeds, product links, interactive google maps and generous support of existing external websites. This affords much greater depth than ‘typical’ social networks. To me, Facebook implies interaction as personal connectivity, not a business model.

  15. From what I read above, people are saying what we are expecting. Social networks must be focused on a niche to be valuable to a user. I hopped on MySpace way back when there was under 1,000,000 members. Me and a good friend looked at it like a “free”

    In my humble opinion, I now like LinkedIn and (and FaceBook to have fun/ “waste time” as I am addicted to the Owned app lately) has brought together industry experts to post and discuss ideas, challenges, events, and successes in social media. I find myself looking forward to the next insight from each member and have felt a close connection with almost everyone who has joined; simply because they have a similar interest.

    I would encourage anyone who reads this to at least check it out and even participate in sharing knowledge with the like minded community on


    Nelson Bruton

  16. Thanks for this article. We’ve been debating about this for awhile. But what to do about blogging for your business if your business IS a blog?

  17. When it comes to business is a cool digg like website that focuses on business news and success stories.

    The cool part about bizheat is that whenever you submit a story your company is being featured on the page of the story you’ve submitted. So without being flagged you can promote your site. Simple but nice idea

  18. I would like to suggest The Payer Player as a social media marketing tool. This is a new portable social widget that you can download to your desktop, integrates with other social networks and bookmarking sites (including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube), plus provides Live Broadcasts, VOIP and PCMobile2Chat. This is still in development but the features I mentioned are available now. Extremely viral – kind of like ooVoo, Skype, Tweetdeck with social networking / bookmarking features and Shaquille O’Neal is endorsing it … this is a serious post in regard to new social media marketing tools. Their website has an excellent breakdown. marketing

  19. Social media tools would help us to share the information at a time to all sites..