Social Media Is Free, But Comes with a Price

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by Jason Stambaugh, who is a husband, father, founder of Wevival, and blogger. You can connect with him on his blog or follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

“The best thing about social media is that it’s free!” I heard this the other day, and cringed. While it’s true that we don’t need a credit card or PayPal account to use Facebook or Twitter, there is still a cost to social media. We pay daily with our time.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hogie

On an average day, I spend more than an hour engaging on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Throw in a Tweetchat, a newsletter, a YouTube video, and four blog posts each week, and I spend twenty hours a week, using social media to build my platform.

That’s a part-time job! Multiply seventy to eighty hours per month by any hourly rate, and we’re talking serious money.

It’s no surprise, then, that as business leaders we demand to see a return on our investment. For most of us, the benefits we see from our time spent creating great content, building community, and engaging with others is considered “intangible.”

In other words, there isn’t always a direct link between our time spent using social media and direct sales of our products and services.

I live in this tension and often wrestle with the quantity of time and intellectual capital I invest in my online platform. But then an interaction happens through social media that reminds me of these often overlooked benefits of social media engagement:

  1. Accountability. With every tweet, post, and status update I put more and more skin in the game.

    Every day that I choose to create great content, engage with others, and build my online community,I’m becoming more invested in my passions, dreams, and projects. It’s a daily reminder of where I’m going and why I wake up everyday and take my seat in front of the keyboard.

    Furthermore, the community I’m building and am connected to holds me accountable to my mission and goals. When my projects hit a dead end or I lose my way, I remember that a community of my friends, peers, and colleagues are watching.

  2. Thought Leadership. Regardless of our business or industry, it is our responsibility and obligation to stay up-to-date on trends, events and news. Social media makes this really easy.

    Through social networks I’m able to track with the leading voices in marketing, social media, web technology and church leadership.

    This not only helps me to meaningfully contribute to the conversation in my industry and areas of passion, it helps me run a better and more prosperous business. I’m enriched and challenged everyday with new ideas, information, and strategies.

  3. Help. Whether it’s troubleshooting my latest parenting crisis or figuring out new and innovative ways to use Pinterest, the community I’ve built through social media is there and willing to help.

    It’s hard to place a value on getting my child to sleep through the night, or finding new ways to serve my customers and solve my latest web development challenge.

  4.  Real-Life Connections.Through Twitter, I’ve been introduced to awesome people in my industry. Some of these relationships have made their way from virtual to real life connections.About once a week I’ll have a phone conversation, Skype chat, or meet with someone I’ve connected with on Twitter.

    Short of bumping into them at a conference or cornering them after a presentation, I never would have met or had the chance to form a personal relationship with many of these people.

  5. Opportunity. There is often a lot of guesswork involved in marketing new or existing products and services. Through social media, I’m able to track with industry leaders and see what they are doing to meet the needs of their customers.

    With little effort, I can see what is working and what isn’t. I’m also able to identify new opportunities to serve my customers and come up with product offerings that are sure to scratch a serious itch in the market place.

These five overlooked benefits keep me writing, tweeting, and connecting. Social media has a price, but I’ve found time and time again that it is, indeed, worth it.

Question: What “intangible” benefits have you seen from engaging in social media? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://twitter.com/Marisol_DAndrea Marisol D’Andrea

    self-expression!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.freestone Mike Freestone

    It is wise to discern the return on Social Media investment.  Especially if you are a business or brand builder the effort given can not be for naught.  I know I can get sucked in for hours unless I am methodical on what I am trying to accomplish or promote…all while remaining engaging and not coming off as a salesman…it is a fine line indeed.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    I have experienced that engaging in social media responsibly has brought me immense benefit with less effort. Today, I am able to stay on top on my profession, thanks to the information and knowledge I gather from the platform of social media. Things have been never so easy before.

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  • Ronn

    I am only now starting to understand the value of social media, it is the new wild west if you are not careful and it can make you if you are.

  • Jessica Zirbes

    Jason, thank you for your post. You helped me see that the time I spend engaging with others on social media platforms is a good investment.

    Another benefit: I’ve been able to add value to a lot more people!

    Cheers

  • http://relevantbrokenness.com/ Marni Arnold

    I completely agree with this insight on this topic. It indeed does cost us time, and we need to be diligent with how we spend it. Being a Stay-at-home, homeschooling, online college student mother, it’s imperative I manage my time between socializing online, giving my son the attention he needs for his education and playtime with mommy, keeping my home in order, keeping food flowing through the home so my family is fed, writing (blogging and book) and keeping up with my studies to the point I at least pass my classes (haha!). It’s not an easy balance, but I am learning how to do this more and more.

  • George Stuartvail

    Great purposeful thinking going on here - but I have a question.
    I’m considering taking over, or begining, the “Branding” of my wife and her business. No, not with a hot poker but through a few appropriate SM sites, wherein I would be the blog poster or writer. This is mainly due to the fact that she is much too busy and may not have the passion and interest in writing to maintain presence/content. I fully intent on reading Michael Hyatts new book to learn about I’m concerned about the investment in time and attention required, quite gun shy actually. I’m amazed, frankly, at her level of commitment to her ministry, which has to do with transformations into healthier lifestyles (physical, mental, spiritual) and recovery from poor choices and lifelong habits – but can I convey that passion properly?

    Ever seen a duet blog post? (sounds corny now that I’ve said it – a little too “Donny and Marie”)

    Also, Jason, why do you call yourself a “former fat kid”? Maybe you could help us with one of our newest projects RE childhood obesity?

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  • http://twitter.com/LeadingGodsGen Michelle Eichner

    One other benefit is influence. I make an effort to consciously point people to God through social media. I’ve also been able to deepen existing relationships through blogging, and the blogging has led to some mentoring opportunities I’d already felt led to do. In both cases the girls came to me, which was an answer to prayer. However, I can’t forget the biggest platform I have is my 3 boys right now. :-) I need to model for them how to use social media well so they’ll be ready to use it for God’s glory.

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  • Gayle

    What benefits have we gained through social media? Simple- a stronger presence within our market, more visits to our website, more enquiries and a few more sales. Social media is brilliant way to engage with and get to know your customers better that’s why we practice what we preach. 

  • DEEP3R

    I have learned that my time has become more valuable than ever. I emphasize with my clients that time is needs to be taken into account with social media. Spending too much or not having enough can cost you.