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The Boston Globe

Business

Social media might not be worth the time

An excerpt from Jason Keith’s first Small Business Blog posting:

If you’re a small-business owner not using social media, you probably feel under pressure to get in on the action. Facebook has over 650 million users, Twitter is growing at a breakneck pace, and Google + is on the rise. Everyone is checking in on Foursquare, while Groupon and LivingSocial offer innovative ways to get customers.

On the surface, the business benefits of using social media are obvious - it allows a company to connect directly with customers and costs nothing to set up an account. It can also be incorporated into e-mail, websites and other materials to help attract followers and fans who might turn into paying customers. It’s a microphone that everyone should be stepping up to, because if you’re not, your competition is - right?

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Maybe. Social media is also a time-consuming way to market a business. All of the popular platforms - especially Facebook and Twitter - require a significant commitment.

As a small business grows its base and gains more followers, more time has to be spent on site updates and reaching out to followers. If they number in the thousands, expect to spend roughly an hour a day keeping them up to date. That’s time that most entrepreneurs or businesses with only a few employees traditionally haven’t been able to spare.

But it’s not just about time - social media work also takes diligence. One negative comment or potentially offensive post can make a business look unprofessional or disconnected from its customer base.

So if you’re not ready to monitor your Facebook page at least a few times a day - and use a good chunk of your work day doing it - think long about whether the benefits of social media-marketing outweigh the downside.

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