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Behind the Hype: Which Social Media Networks and Strategies are Wasting Your Time?

For online marketers--and for most people in general--time is money. Spending time on tools, platforms and strategies that are time-consuming with little to no pay-off is just like spending money without seeing any ROI.

Sure, we all get excited about shiny new software and fun new social sites that promise to be the "wave" of the future and make our work more efficient, but let’s take a step back and really examine some of these tools instead of glorifying them for their "newness" or "coolness."

Media Consultant Paul Conley cites Ning-based sites and LinkedIn Groups as two of the biggest wastes of online time for social media marketers.

"Don’t get me wrong - I love LinkedIn," said Conley, "but the groups have degenerated into absurd, time-wasting, endless series of posts by marketers. The whole idea of the groups was for peers to be able to share thoughts...the groups have become absolutely useless."

Conley noted one example - a group for publishers - that contains tons of marketers trying to sell to publishers, yet no actual publishers.


Jessica Rohloff, founder of NET2NO and Community Manager at Yelp, says that at this point, the only practical use for LinkedIn for her is as a living resume.

"I don’t really keep an updated version of my actual resume but I do keep my LinkedIn profile updated, at least, I update it when something changes. It’s great for putting your professional profile out there and for demonstrating your expertise, but it’s a pretty static site and I very rarely log in," said Rohloff.

Foursquare, Rohloff also believes, is particularly ineffective for businesses, despite the check-in perks and incentives.

"The feedback I’ve gotten leads me to believe that it’s not particularly effective for small businesses in terms of getting people in their door nor is it particularly compelling for users," clarified Rohloff. "I’ve never heard someone say ‘Oh, I found out about this business on Foursquare,’ or ‘Oh, I’m the mayor of this business, and I got something for free.’"

Rohloff believes that there was the potential for Foursquare to be the conduit to connect customers with physical locations, but they didn’t quite hit the mark.

Pauline Willeford, Management Consultant at EMH Strategy,has recently taken on managing social media for her growing firm and says she is learning as she goes.

"I recognized that there was a need for us to be using these tools, but it wasn’t something others in the company felt was a priority," confirmed Willeford.

That is, until Willeford’s interactive Twitter presence for the New Orleans Startup Fund, the firm’s biggest client, started turning up new applicants.

Willeford’s tweets are a mix of relevant entrepreneurial and investor blogs, tips and interactions with followers.

"My biggest challenge so far has been managing my time, though. Sure - it’s a great idea to be active and responsive online, but this was never supposed to be part of my job and it gets really time consuming," explained Willeford.

Even with tools that are useful, and even with the basics, such as email, a lot of time is lost.

"We spend (waste) so, so much time reading, writing, responding to and worrying about email," said Rohloff. "There’s definitely a better way to do this. Twitter is a big step in the right direction."

Along those lines is theThree Sentences Campaign; a very simple site that identifies a problem: "E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it." And a solution: "Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead." is a personal policy that all email responses, regardless of recipient or subject, will be three sentences or less.

Conley says that some of the most ineffective strategies he’s seen include auto-tweeting from a site or blog and using social media solely as a way to pull someone to another platform.

"People and brands like that don’t even attempt to interact with other users," said Conley. "They just put links to their home page on Twitter or Facebook and hope that people come to visit."

Conley explains that success in social media isn’t about the platform, it’s about the quality of content. Every platform has its own rules, problems and norms, but the trick is to understand the demands of the platform and then create high-quality content that fits it.

"I know that can be hard to do, but there’s no choice," said Conley. "If social media is a part of your business (and it’s rapidly becoming part of all of our businesses), then you have to get good at it. It’s not enough to be on social media, you have to be good at it."