Posted November 28, 2008 12:55 am by with 33 comments

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By Patricia Skinner

Have doubts about how useful social media can be to you?

Let’s get right to the main reasons why social media may not be right for you personally:

  • You hate publicity
  • You have something terrible to hide
  • You are too busy being a star to bother with networking
  • You’re less than ten year’s old or over 100
  • You already have too many customers
  • You’re dead

Seriously, there are very few situations where a social media profile will not be of some use in your business or private life.

Pushed for time?

Social media can be very time-consuming and this makes some people hesitant to get involved: hey we all have very limited time resources. But the truth is that more and more social media channels are churning out mobile options to make things as easy as possible for users and service companies are getting onto social media in an effort to better serve their clientele. City Search is just one example of this move to mobility and social media. Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and many other sites have had mobile options for some time now.

While there can hardly be a teenager in the universe who doesn’t consider social media a vital part of life, there is still an element of the rest of us that resists the move to online socializing. While you may resist it, you probably won’t be able to stay out of it forever, so perhaps it’s better to get in there now.

Networking for everyone

After ‘create a business plan’ most business coaches next advise entrepreneurs to network, network, network. Everywhere we look in business, marketing and branding resources we see that the advice to network figures pretty highly. Social media provides a medium where you can network to your heart’s content from wherever you want and at no cost or inconvenience.

Because social media has received such a huge amount of buzz recently, as it continues to grow exponentially like some out-of-control virus, perhaps too many companies feel that they simply have to join everyone else on FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace (to name a few). You can read more about the results of this conundrum in an SEOmoz article on Social Media by Rebecca.

Says Rebecca:

Both Brian and The Office taught me (in both a pointed and comical way) that before diving into something as time-consuming as social media, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What goals are you trying to accomplish by engaging in social media marketing?
  2. Is this a top priority, or are there other, more important things I need to take care of first? (There’s no point in having 30 social media profiles if they point to an ugly, poorly SEO’d, horribly converting website.)
  3. Is social media appropriate for your business?

While I agree with her that a social media strategy should be planned, I’m not sure that there are many people for whom Social Media may not be the right choice at all.

There’s no doubt that it takes time and energy to use social media well. A good plan might look like this:

  • Do some research and decide which social media sites would best suit your interests
  • Learn how to use social media so that you benefit and other users don’t get ticked off
  • Spend some initial time making friends and connecting
  • Set aside regular time to keep up with your contacts and contribute meaningfully
  • Remember that it’s all about making relationships: without this you won’t succeed in social media.

Depending on how many social media sites you subscribe to and how many individuals you interact with, your social media activities might take anywhere from 10 minutes a day to several hours.

Admittedly this kind of commitment is not for everyone. However, there are circumstances when it can pay off handsomely. Businesses have considerably increased their bottom line for example, from the traffic that can be produced by a power user on Digg. Stumbleupon is renowned for it’s fabulous ability to drive traffic: many servers have been shut down by traffic surges coming their way from Stumblers alone.

Social media can:

  • Help establish your brand
  • Help you decide on a direction for your business
  • Create trust and credibility
  • Spread the word about your products (no cost marketing)
  • Facilitate joint ventures and other entrepreneurial opportunities

Not all social media sites demand the same level of commitment from members. FaceBook is very time consuming, especially with their multitude of applications which, to some might be very annoying. Twitter, at the other end of the scale, can quietly run in the background on your desktop, if you use one of the great Twitter applications that allows you interact through a small window instead of a web page.

Some social media venues are more formal than others. LinkedIn, despite recent efforts to change its modus operandi so that it more closely resembles other, more popular sites, remains the site that you’ll go to if you’re solely interested in a business application and don’t want to get into the social side of things.

Quick and dirty social media solutions

If you really don’t want to commit to social media in any way, you can probably benefit from everyone else’s time commitment by taking out paid advertising on social media sites. It has proven to be highly effective and often brings a great return on investment.

But even a small-scale involvement in social media of say five-ten minutes a day can be of benefit to your brand and your bottom line. As with all things, when it comes to social media moderation is probably best.

Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social director at Mideast SEO, providing branding, social media marketing and organic search. Connect with her on Twitter: ISpeakSEO.

  • Loved this post. And actually if you look at “The Office” you will see sides to everyone’s personality. I guess when it comes to social media that it is important that you be a participant rather than a lurker. If you see yourself as one of the filer characters then you need to change it up.

    Which “The Office” character are you? Make sure it’s the one that makes you laugh. 🙂

  • I have nothing to hide, so I do not hate social media 😀

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  • Oops! Your dead?? Please edit it to You’re dead!

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  • I think there are still some people who are afraid to share TOO much. Teenagers have grown up not knowing anything else other than the Internet, cell phones and Social sites where communication is instantaneous. However, some others are still afraid of this technology and worry that somehow their personal info will be used against them in some manner or may even be stolen by some unscrupulous sorts. As long as the user can find some kind of balance, Social Media can be for everyone.

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  • I think social media can help anybody, both online and offline. Online is kind of obvious, it is the equivalent of the real world word of mouth. Offline it can help unify several business and PR fronts, it can help you communicate better with friends and coworkers, it can be the easiest way to find you in an emergency (believe it or not).

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  • Pilgrim Writer

    I totally agree with you VideEditing: it’s kind of hard to imagine how we ever lived without social media–much less the Internet–isn’t it?


  • I think Social media is very hard for some people to understand. The fear of “being on the internet” is still too scary for many. The younger generation really puts out a lot of “personal stuff” more than sometimes necessary, but they grew up with all of this. The concept of no internet or cell phones (even cell phones that cannot take a picture) is hard for many to imagine – yet there are many more who lived that way.
    I am experiencing “social media benefits” with my business. I have realized quickly how much it can benefit you, and am now taking a course that will help me specialize in social media.
    Getting to understand how a good balanced social media presence can work for you is hard for many to accept, but when they do – watch out!

  • No matter what advantages, the fact is that it is addictive, eats into productive time and is, at the end of the day, totally useless unless you want attention all the time.

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  • Pilgrim Writer

    I would disagree with that Nicole. I and many others I network with have achieved progress and seen real benefits from social media–my Twitter account in particular. If it’s totally useless to you, chances are you’re doing something wrong or not looking for the right benefits.

  • Red

    I don’t think it’s a fear of being on the internet, it’s that most of the social / web 2.0 are geared toward teens or geeks and the rest of us feel there isn’t really a place for social networking. Twitter and Facebook are okay, but the others are more tech or teen.


    I believe another important aspect of social media, especially in today’s economy, is the freelance work and employment it creates. Businesses are moving towards social media to cut through the clutter and reach that generation of Internet users–they need all of the consumers they can get at this point! Social media presents a simple, quick, often less expensive way to get a message out there and keep your consumers updated and interested. It’s use will only continue to grow in the near future-

  • The Book Doctor

    Anyone who still doesn’t know that ‘media’ is the plural of ‘medium’ shouldn’t be using social media, or news media, or entertainment media. Plural subjects take plural verbs. Social media ARE, not is. Though it would cause less confusion, I’m afraid it’s almost too late to retrieve the anglicized plural: social mediums. Social mediums (or media, if you prefer) are gradually becoming useful as more grown-ups connect to them, but most of them are still huge time-wasters most suitable for gossipy teens.

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  • GPS

    Struggling to find the time to even do #1 on the “good plan” list — “Do some research and decide which social media sites would best suit your interests” 🙂

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  • Kevin W

    Ok, perhaps I’m missing something here. Unless my message goes viral, which is unlikely due to my content, am I not limited to getting my message out only to my friends list? If so I don’t really see the point since even my teenagers, who are on Facebook all the time, have less then 500 friends between them. If that’s all I’m reaching I could do just as much with a handful of flyers and a couple nights walking

    So someone fill me in, just how is this social netorking supposed to help?

  • I agree with this post. You have to take a step[ back and make your product makes sense on social media. If you sell insurance and you are trying to connect with 20 yr olds on Myspace you might be wasting your time.

  • Social media is very useful for people who care about : popularity, friends, opportunity in business, etc. So if we not people like that dont ever get in or join at social media.

  • My location is Bulgaria. My native language is Bulgarian.
    As you know, PC, Internet, and many other ways, that are been used for global communications, usually “speak” English.
    The mass Internet access here is from few years.
    I am full time on line, from a year.
    Thanks Patricia for the article!
    I read the comments with interest. Thanks, to all, for sharing your opinion.
    I am registered with some of the social sites.
    I am moving inside slowly. Quite new atmosphere.
    Why? You have written above many of the reasons.
    But I like these sites. New challenge in human relations.
    My first communications, last night, with my Squidoo account, I have registered before a month, made me laugh, at my self, in a voice.

  • These days it’s hard for a company to hide online. People are going to talk about you so you might as well talk with them and spin the conversation how you like.

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  • I totally agree with you Utah. No point in hiding. 🙂

    Kevin W: You most certainly are missing something here. Have you ever posted a good article to StumbleUpon? I have had over a thousand hits in just a couple of hours from my SU network, even when that was only about twenty people! Try it and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t try posting rubbish though, because you’ll fall flat. It has to be something worth passing on and it’ll take off.

    Although SU is the best of all for getting traffic to your site, the same process works through other social media too. If you talk about something that interests readers then they will tell others. This is the premise around which the entire linkbait industry has evolved.

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  • Kevin W

    Perhaps I should clarify. I can see how sites like Digg or StumbleUpon can expose an article to a large number of users and give a huge boost, it’s more the Facebook and Myspace social networking that I don’t see the point in. From what I know about these sites the only people who will see your message are your contacts, so it seems like the opportunity to reach new potential customers on these sites is quite limited. That is unless, as I mentioned before, you manage to come up with something that goes viral. I doubt that is likely in my case since I am trying to market security software not the newest iPod gimmick

  • yes, i agree, it is too time consuming indeed!

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  • I think the time involved cannot be underestimated. To do social networking right you need to invest the time in the community and really build relationships. For those who think they can just slap up a Facebook page, and post a couple links on Twitter an be good to go, they are going to be let down when they measure the response to their social media efforts and find they were better off doing nothing than doing SM half way.


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  • Not sure what I will rely on here but I totally agree with this post. You have to take a few step back and make your product makes sense on social media. That’s the essence of SM as it ‘s really time consuming.

  • I understand Social Media so it isn’t that hard for me.

    I would say it really depends on certain groups of people and how they integrate it into their lives or their community/businesses

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  • Businesses are moving towards social media to cut through the clutter and reach that generation of Internet users–they need all of the consumers they can get at this point! Social media presents a simple, quick, often less expensive way to get a message out there and keep your consumers updated and interested. It’s use will only continue to grow in the near future-

  • Totally yes, i agree, it is too time consuming indeed!

  • I don’t think it’s a fear of being on the internet, it’s that most of the social / web 2.0 are geared toward teens or geeks and the rest of us feel there isn’t really a place for social networking. Twitter and Facebook are okay, but the others are more tech or teen.

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  • While social networking can be good for some (the people who know how to) It can be damaging to those who do not know how to go about it. Time consuming? Yes, if you want to do this proper, you will need to take out some serious time for it. Just like in the offline world really. I remember networking as a sales manager with Canon, you just do not rush in, shake a few hands, throw a few business cards left and right and go home, thinking your new contacts to become beneficial. This takes time. I am assuming this is the same with online networking.

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  • Social media cannot be considered the waste of time at all. It can be very beneficial for those who really understand its value. Why some people are so scared to be on publicity?