I know I’m going to catch grief for this. And I’m probably going to get banned from my local “tweetup.”

In fact, I can already hear your objections:

“Did you know Facebook is the second-largest site in the world.”

“Twitter is growing by millions of tweets per quarter.”

“But the Marketing professor at the junior college had such a wonderful workshop on social media last week.”

And I can already see some hate mail pouring in through the comments.

Please stop and take a deep breath. And go read the headline again. I’m not saying that social media is killing your business, but if you’re spending too much time on it, it could be.

Here are three reasons why you should be careful of investing too much time in social media, and a few solutions to help you make better use of your time there:

1) It takes time away from your business

I’ve seen small businesses and Internet entrepreneurs spend hours mastering the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and social bookmarking, with little increase in revenue to show for it.

While having a presence on all of these sites is great, it’s not going to help you get the new customers you need to aggressively grow your business. Don’t forget the networking aspect of social networking. Make sure that if you have these presences, that you’re using them to your advantage. But don’t spend hours upon hours gathering information, reviewing others’ posts, and getting lost in funny cat videos. Talk to people. Solve problems. Make connections.

To make your presence effective, it’s got to be meaningful, but brief. Post your updates and get on with the rest of your day, which should include finding new programs to promote, exploring new opportunities, and creating great content for your sites.

2) Facebook is distraction, not action

Facebook is a huge distraction. In late 2010, it passed Google in the average time a user spent on the site for the first time ever.

This is not a surprise, given that Facebook is designed to keep users on the site as long as possible, and Google is designed to help users quickly get to the information or productivity tool they need. While it may be a great idea to try to speak to a captive audience, is someone who is interested in your business going to be in an action-oriented mindset when they’re trolling through a stream of updates and photos and funny cat videos.

If your business is brief distraction, Facebook will work. If your business is helping people make decisions about how and where to gamble, you might face more of a challenge.

3) Twitter’s stats are full of noise

I’m a big fan of micro-blogging and the short, impatient, clever bursts that come from it. But I’m not a fan of spam, and twitter is full of it. Over the past year, I’ve found that my various Twitter accounts are getting more and more spam. While most of this comes from auto-following people who follow me, I think there is a statistic that says it all.

Pear Analytics, a San Antonio market research firm, analyzed 2,000 tweets over a two-week period in August 2009 and separated them into six categories. Of those six categories, 40 percent of tweets were “pointless babble,” six percent were self-promotion, and four percent were spam.

If noise, self-promotion and spam comprise 50 percent of Twitter content, it’s not long before users will become frustrated and start tuning Twitter out. In fact, some anecdotal reports suggest that more than half of all Twitter accounts have been dormant for more than six months.

If you have a following on Twitter and your users are engaged, use it to your advantage. But don’t spend hours posting content, assuming your great content will naturally break through the clutter. You’ll need more strategy than that.

Stay focused on results

I’m not saying that Facebook and Twitter should be ignored. They can, and should, be great sources of traffic. But I’m saying that your Marketing professor, and the hundred thousand social media gurus out there are well-intentioned, but misguided.

When you’re marketing a business, it’s not the messenger or the channel, it’s the message. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, focus on creating great content, getting it posted all over the web and in the hands of potential fans, friends, advocates and customers.

Look at your engagement with social media the same way you look at a piece of paper when writing a letter (if you’ve done that in the past few years). Focus on the quality of what you’re going to say, then get the word out through every channel you can.

Don’t spend hours on Facebook and Twitter. Just load up your content and get to work creating more great content.

Let the gurus master the channels. It’s your job to take control of your message.

Do it and you’ll get results.

What are your thoughts and experience with social media? Are you having success? Please leave your comments below!


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