It Takes Time to Grow a Social Media Garden

by Mark Smiciklas |

A well established notion about social media is that it takes time. No arguement there, but I think organizations misunderstand the type of time investment required to build tangible business value.

Many companies still view social media as a series of linear, tactical exercises. Step 1, get on Twitter. Step 2, tweet. Step 3, cash cheques. To use a gardening analogy, they plant a seed, wait and expect to bear the fruit.

The root structure of a successful social media initiative can be pretty complex – it’s not solely constructed in the time it takes to set up your social networks and follow a series of predetermined best practices. There are nuances to growing your business using social media that can be difficult to map out or quantify. Things like learning to BE social, understanding your audiences, having micro-inetractions, building relationships, integrating online with offline, etc. all require an investment in time and energy.

To illustrate, I’d like to share a personal example of the abridged social media timeline that led to a new client for my own consulting practice (names are fictional). You’ll see that it took some time and was not very linear :)

  • Spring 2009 – Make a commitment to use Twitter to share information and build online connections (30-50 tweets per week).
  • Summer 2009 – Find out about a digital marketing industry event via my twitter network.
  • Summer 2009 – Attend event. Meet Bill, one of the people I’ve been following. I mention my interest in teaching and he suggests I follow and connect with Andrew.
  • Fall 2009 – After following Andrew, reach out to get advice on building social media courses.
  • Winter 2009 – Meet Andrew for a coffee, get invited to guest host a webinar.
  • Spring 2010 – Work with Andrew on the webinar.
  • Summer 2010 – Hear about another event on Twitter. Meet client for the first time F2F and connect on Twitter.
  • Fall 2010 – Meet with Andrew to discuss the idea of developing a social media strategy workshop.
  • Spring 2011 – Market workshop to social media community (including client) using Twitter and other digital channels.
  • Spring 2011 – Deliver workshop. Client attends.
  • Summer 2011 – Contract opportunity becomes available with the client, my name gets put forward based on the workshop experience.
  • Summer 2011 – Hired by client.

As you can see, the process from making the commitment to Twitter to building the business value (in the form of a new client) took over two years and did not follow a particularly straightforward path. Without investing the time and energy to make new connections and pursue opportunities, the scenario wouldn’t have unfolded as it did.

Do you think many organizations, big or small, really understand the type of time investment required for social media? Is it difficult for leaders to embrace the complexity of social media and see the return on time invested? What do your social media timelines look like? The comments are yours.


About the Author

Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is also the managing editor at Solopreneur.ca and is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.