Blog Post

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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23 Responses to “How Much Time Does Social Media Marketing Take?”

  1. Hi Eliza

    I like the simplicity of the overall framework and I agree with the estimates you give as they help to give people a sense of the relative commitment each will take.

    I’m working on something similar myself and wondered about the inclusion of so many different options at each stage. I find people are put off by the amount of stuff they need to think about and are especially confused by the different names and tools that get mentioned.

    You have a total 22 different pieces of software on this diagram, which moves it from a simple five step process to something more complex.

    So I wonder whether you have specific software which you recommend to different clients? Or do you suggest they evaluate each of these options as they consider each stage?

    For my part I suggest they start by using Tweetdeck to listen. It means you can start listening without worrying about who you’re following and it offers a stepping stone to understanding the value of Twitter and building up confidence to start participating.

    I’d also suggest that ‘Sharing’ is more like Participating than Promoting as it gets people to move on from ‘telling you about me’ to ‘being helpful’.

    I find that helping people visualise this process is a key stage in adoption, though, so I would welcome your thoughts on this.

    Happy new year


  2. Great post and great model! My experience is that stage 4, “publish”, is more time consuming than 3-5. Being one of us who tries to persuade people in our organization to take active part in SM, I know that a lot of people find it hard to express themselves in this kind of media. Particularly people who are not native English. So, I’d swap the order of the content-intesive ‘publish’ and the last stage. Would be interesting to know more about why you place ‘build community’ as the most time consuming, considering that you also have some hours on ‘participate’?

  3. Hi Aliza,
    Great resource! Wish I had seen this a few days ago in response to a comment made by a man just starting out in social media, when he said in all seriousness as he was about to throw in the towel:

    “I’ve been doing social media now for three weeks and haven’t seen any new business yet!”

    I guess some people need to have it further articulated that it is a a commitment and an ongoing process of listening, promoting, participating, publishing and building community!

  4. Nice work Aliza! This diagram is helpful when trying to answer the question that folks always ask, how long does it take? It helps put some perspective and guidelines. As far as how do you squeeze this into an already busy day – how do you not? Thanks appreciate your work on this.

  5. Thanks for this. I think the time estimates are pretty realisitic. The other side of the coin is return on investment. With social media we can measure our engagement with our audience in nearly real time. If the ROI doesn’t pan out, we can reduce the effort. Few other marketing tools offer that ability.

  6. professionalmojo

    Great visual and extension of Beth’s original diagram. Newbies should love this – and also will likely be shocked that it does take more than 5 minutes a day. To do it right is, indeed, an investment. Thanks for the post.

  7. Very helpful and insightful. This is a question that seems to be at the forefront for many small businesses, usually coupled to the claim “I haven’t got the time”. Does anyone have comparable information for the time spent on conventional mrketing channels?

  8. Great concept! Implementing this would be another story. Social media can sometimes be a distraction if you’re not mindful. It’s not easy to get entangled with a thought provoking post or a conversation and thus makes the time a big challenge. I’m everyone is guilty of this every so often.

  9. I think the number of hours listed on the publish/content creation side, at 3-5 hrs a week is a bit too much on the lower side. Especially if you throw in video.
    Pro bloggers estimate 20 minutes to a post (text). I am not there yet myself, so don’t see newbies doing those numbers (meaningful consistent content in 3-5 hrs a week) when they start out.
    In any case, like you said, its not perfect but a great start! Thanks for getting us thinking.

  10. Really insightful post which articulates the thoughts running round my head about how much time I’ve been investing in SM and for what. Love the way you’ve taken Beth’s concept to the next level. Great thought leadership…