When dealing with small businesses and pitching them on a strategic Social Media presence, I find that the business owners and managers are usually on board until they start thinking about the time that it will take. If they could punch in, spend five minutes first thing in the morning on social, punch out and then move on to other tasks, then they’d be OK with it. But regular, ongoing engagement? That’s where I lose them.

But I don’t have time for Social Media!

This discussion arose last week on Shonali’s blog, in a post written by Shakirah Dawud called The Business Lie About Free DIY. In the comments a few of us talked about businesses that are quick to reach for the “But I don’t have the time” argument, almost as quickly as they reach for “But I can’t afford it”. And to be honest, the two are very closely related, both mentally, and in reality. After all, time is money.

So you say you don’t have time to create and manage a strong social media presence? Let’s see if we can think through this together:

Do you have the proper mindset?

Social media is both a tool set and a mindset. A lot comes down to how you view Social Media. Is it just one more thing to add to your schedule? Is Social Media that “thing” that’s on your list or on the back burner? Chances are, unless you become more proactive, it will always remain on the back burner. I hate to make sweeping generalizations, but there seems to be a certain demographic of small business owner for whom Social Media is a bit more daunting. These tend to be older males. And not surprisingly these are the people who are the last ones to jump into many social platforms as users, particularly Facebook. I think a fear/unfamiliarity with technology drives much of this mindset. Getting the proper mindset is the most important thing you need before even considering jumping in to Social Media.

Beyond that, what if you still don’t think you have time?

1. Make time – If you truly believe that Social Media can be important to your business, whether it’s for marketing or customer service, or any other task, then you will make the time. This isn’t just true of Social Media, but of anything that you think is important enough and will work for you. In the same way you budget your money, you need to budget your time.  Are there any things you are doing that you can eliminate from your schedule in order to free up time?

2. Make an assessment of how you are using your time – Why don’t you have time? Do you have time to answer the phone to deal with customers? Do you have time to meet with them face to face in your office or place of business? Do you have time to read email? Or to look over the ads your agency is creating for you? Don’t just think about SM as marketing. It can be one more very effective channel for engaging your customers.

3. Understand that Social Media can actually save you time (and money) – If done properly, the time you spend on Social Media can actually save you time and/or money. Providing great customer service online might mean fewer phone calls to your office. Which takes more time? Providing great content online as part of a solid inbound marketing campaign might mean you can spend less time or money on other marketing efforts that are perhaps less effective.

4. Multitask – By nature, much of Social Media is something that is done over the course of time. It’s generally not the sort of thing you can just sit down and do in one small block of time. You probably have a lot of other tasks like that. Find ways to multitask and take care of multiple things at the same time. Breaking it up throughout the course of a day and multitasking makes the entire process much more manageable.

5. Share the task – You don’t have to go it alone. In many cases you might have employees that can help you out with different tasks. You might even have employees for whom the task might not seem so daunting. Enlist an employee or two who actually enjoy using Social Media.

6. Don’t think of it as work – As a small business operator, I’m assuming that you really enjoy what you do. It’s more than just a job. Focus on the social aspect of Social Media and let yourself have fun. The small business owners I know who do a great job with their Social Media seem to really enjoy doing it. It’s not a chore for them.

7. Pick and choose – Jumping into Social Media isn’t a matter of doing everything. Do some research and find out where your customers are hanging out online. Which platforms will perform best for you? Start with one and see how it goes, and then maybe add other platforms down the line.

What ways have you found of making sure that you have the time to create and maintain a healthy Social Media presence? How do you counter the objections of those who don’t think that they have the time?