How Much Time Does Social Media Marketing Take?

In 2008, consultant and author Beth Kanter blogged about how much time it should take to implement social media. She created a  diagram to illustrate the main social media activities and the hours per week it takes to implement them, and I’ve used it ever since as a reference point in slide presentations for folks who have yet to embrace social media.

The diagram put the big unknown of one’s social media marketing time commitment into perspective. Kanter’s diagram was by no means discouraging, but led people to say “OK, I will start with listening — that seems manageable.” And that was just what many of us advise people to do when just starting out with social media marketing: Listen.

Two years later, and things have evolved in several ways:

  1. There are more tools available to help us take part in social media activities.
  2. There are more best practices for newbies to find and follow.
  3. There are many tips published online on how to be more efficient in one’s efforts.

I have a new presentation coming up this week to an audience at varying stages of social media adoption, but mostly on the early end of the spectrum. I’m sure I’ll once again get the question “But how long does it take?” So I played around with Kanter’s original diagram to create my own. I wanted to illustrate not only how long each activity should take, but also to identify additional tools that can be useful in each area:

This diagram is by no means perfect, but I’m striving to keep it easy to understand for the layperson. I also wanted to address some of the efficiencies we’ve worked out the more we’ve used these tools. For example, I blogged about how to mine Twitter’s wealth in 15 minutes a day. I wanted to show that you don’t need to spend hours a day on Twitter or Facebook or the like to be effective in your efforts.

I reordered “Participate” and “Generate Buzz” activities from Kanter’s original diagram, and renamed the latter “Promote.”  I reordered them because we now have tools that make promoting something (generating buzz) so much speedier. Participating — even at a cursory level of engagement — really takes more time and consideration even though useful tools are also there. The tools may make it easier for us to monitor and participate in our social media channels, but we are now monitoring and participating in many more channels than before.

What I tried to avoid was listing all of the hundreds of apps that could fit in under each category; instead I referenced the more popular and effective tools to give a sense of what one can use. The main goal of this is to show the person new to all things social media that it doesn’t have to take an unmanageable amount of time to handle your social media activities but as you want to connect more deeply and leverage your social channels more strongly, you will cumulatively rack up the need for a greater time commitment.

I hope this diagram — or a future iteration of it — becomes a useful slide in any Social Media 101 presentation. Eventually, this, too, will become obsolete or irrelevant, but until then, how can it be improved?

What is my diagram missing? Where is it off base? Where is it right on the money?

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