Tiny TurtleAre you a “small” business? Who exactly is responsible, or is going to be responsible for your presence across the web, and more specifically, your social media participation? Are you, or is this person aware of the time that can be involved in maintaining an effective social media campaign?

By campaign, I mean forever. A campaign has a beginning and an end. If your first reach into social media is indeed some type of a release or a launch, this will have an end date. The tools, identities, profiles, and footprint remain. The presence and interaction are ultimately what it’s all about. It is the medium by which you listen, engage, and communicate with people in this new marketing era. It must be managed and maintained.

To be ineffective or inactive on any front will get you an “F” from those that find you in such a state. There seems to be a natural tendency to spend 4 1/2 days creating accounts in every single nook and cranny one can find on the social web. Don’t do this. Ask yourself if you are willing to dedicate focused and intentional time to each individual account. Can you see checking in almost every day over the next 6 seasons or so? This is a call to preparedness.

If your company (…and you’re “that guy/gal” handling SM) is already involved in social media, then you are already very aware of how time-consuming the maintenance of a campaign (read: social presence) can be. Are you budgeting your time? Are you using some method to chart and adjust the time you spend engaged on the social web? How do you decide, or convince your boss to allocate the time for social media?

If you are someone who’s just now doing your homework and looking to get involved, be prepared to re-budget your time to make allowances. This is certainly not complicated math, and there are no “norms” or standards, although excellent articles have been written, and suggestions made. Every small business has to decide for itself how much time and manpower to dedicate. This is not set in stone either. There will be instances where more or less time is required.

If you are new to social media, perhaps your first campaign could be a fact-finding mission. I can’t stress enough how important homework and listening are, so this I highly recommend. Find other companies that share a similar business size and scope. Search within social sites; try Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for starters. Find those that are having a high level of success in social media, and are already communicating this. Reach out and communicate with them. Ask, and engage with them. How much time has been given for the results that they’ve enjoyed? You’ll likely find your answers, and here’s a bonus…you’ve begun your journey into social media already. You can take “starting” off the list!

I can’t offer a blanket solution as to the best places to begin. I also can’t tell you how much time each day you’ll need to set aside to meet your goals where social media plays a part. Allow yourself a few weeks, more if you’re able, to find a rhythm. The three places I find myself suggesting the most are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I feel like these three are an easy-in for most small businesses. Being active in these three also produces some measurable results fairly quickly. Facebook can update Twitter, and vice versa, which saves time. LinkedIn is, in my opinion, a necessary place for every business owner to have a presence.

Whether you’re new to social media or not, I think it is vitally important that the time you invest into your presence is monitored and intentional. Budgeting my time, and journaling my efforts have proven to be very useful tools. These provide a way to look back, and then more effectively adjust my efforts and time spent to gain maximum results. How do you manage and/or monitor your social media time?

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