While writing this post, I checked LinkedIn at least five times, Facebook twice, and Instagram once. It might seem like a lot, and you might even be thinking I am easily distracted. Or maybe you’re assuming it was just part of researching to write this post. But the real question should be, how much time did I spend checking all those networks? The truth is, probably less than five minutes.
It’s a common misconception that to effectively use social media for your business it will require a great deal of time. Certainly, to anyone new to social media, it can seem a daunting undertaking to begin with. But the reality is, social media can help you be more efficient with your time so you can spend more time focusing on your clients and growing your business. You might still be skeptical, so let’s compare it to another digital medium you most likely use every day … e-mail.
The average person spends 28% of his/her workweek reading and answering e-mail according to a study from the McKinsey Global Institute. In a typical 40-hour work week, that’s nearly 2½ hours a day spent on e-mail alone. While we don’t do that all in one sitting, even spread throughout the day, it’s a large amount of time. The point is, we have all become accustomed to the daily chore of e-mail, and for most of us it’s automatic and rarely given a second thought. But despite the amount of time we spend on e-mail, it is still a vital business activity. It is a communication tool to learn about your clients’ needs, set up appointments, and establish action items. Social media can be just as important in achieving the same things, but doesn’t require a quarter of your day.
Thumbing through a social network feed is very similar to scanning your e-mail inbox in certain respects. Posts are presented in a linear fashion, and depending on how attention-grabbing the headline or story, it may cause you to pause and click, like, or comment. Where it differs is in how quickly you can get a sense of what is happening with your network. In just a couple minutes, you can absorb relevant updates from a wide variety of media. Status updates, pictures, links, and videos can all inform you of important life events happening in your network. Job changes, job anniversaries, marriages, babies, and birthdays are just a few of the things you can learn from the type of content people share on social media.
When you’re checking your social media networks for business purposes, you’ll want to focus on activity from your clients and prospects and ignore everything else. Undoubtedly, your social media networks will consist of personal and business contacts, so using features like lists or groups can help separate the two. Consider non relevant posts the same as spam e-mail and skip past them. Because you can check any social network on your mobile device, you can check your feeds while waiting in line for coffee, riding up an elevator, or in those few minutes before your next appointment.
We have established it doesn’t require a lot of time to check your social media feeds, so then comes the titular question, how often should you check your accounts? For the average person, a few times a day should be more than sufficient. However, it can be less or more depending on how large your network is. If you have a small network, the frequency of new posts will be a lot less than if you have a large number of connections. A good test is to see how long you can scroll through your feed before you see a post you have already seen. If it takes you longer than a couple minutes to reach it, you’ll want to increase the number of times you check your accounts throughout the day.
If you are new to social media, getting used to checking your feeds is just a habit you can develop over time. The value to you is the opportunity to know your clients and what is important to them, stay connected and grow those relationships, and identify opportunities to share your expertise. If you can spend a quarter of your day checking e-mail, spending 10 minutes on social media is an efficient and effective way to complement your relationship-building strategies.