Social Media is a Waste of Time. Or is it?

Social media’s here, and it’s here to stay. Whatever platform you use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or any of the others – social media is playing an increasingly influential part in our lives.

But does it work for business? Does social media really generate worthwhile business leads and create customers?


It’s no surprise that a lot of people are sceptical. After all, look at the headline graph in this article in Entrepreneur. Facebook and Twitter come way below organic search and e-mail for customer acquisition.

But if you read on, you’ll find that most people are using social media in the wrong way. Too many marketers – in both big and small businesses – are using it in the same way they once used an ad in the paper.

The optician: Pop in and see our new luxury Paris fashion frames from Maison Chloe

The hotel: Everyone deserves a little bit of luxury. Treat yourself!

The insurance broker: How badly will your business be hit by a cyber-attack?

Whatever platform you’re on, you have to engage with it. It’s now approaching the status of a well-worn cliché, but social media is a conversation – it’s not a megaphone.

Social media has one huge advantage over traditional forms of marketing. It’s free. It doesn’t cost you anything to tweet, to post on Facebook, or to write a blog.

Unless you value your time of course. That’s why it’s crucial to use social media properly.

In addition to time there’s another charge that’s often laid against social media: you can’t measure the ROI. And I can understand that – the accounts department wants to measure the return on investment, not the return on intuition. But let me quote from the most knowledgeable person I know on the subject:

People tend to look for simple solutions when they’re measuring the ROI – or trying to measure the ROI. But it’s much more complex. First of all, you’re very often investing time, not money. Secondly you need to look at the return on social media in two ways – analytically and anecdotally. You’re going to gain customers or clients – but you’re also going to gain reputation and authority. You can measure the first one analytically: the second though, is much more anecdotal.

Looking at it from the point of view of this blog, that’s exactly right. Has the blog brought new clients? Yes. Has it boosted my reputation? Yes. And somewhere in the middle are those new clients for whom the blog was part of the marketing effort. To paraphrase the old saying. I know the blogs works: I just don’t know how much.

But I know you’re an analytical lot: let’s turn to something that can be measured – and ask a very relevant question. If you’re going to use social media, which platform (or platforms) should you use? There is some seriously useful research here: The Key Demographics of Social Networking Platforms from the Pew Research Center.

I’d recommend reading the article – it won’t take long. But if you don’t have time, here are some snippets. 71% of ‘online adults’ in the US (that’s 58% of all adults) use Facebook – and as you might expect, the average age of a FB user is steadily increasing. 23% of online adults use Twitter: 26% use Instagram – and 28% of them use Pinterest.

The highest earners are on LinkedIn: no surprise there. But there’s also a bias towards higher incomes on Pinterest, a platform that is very popular with women. If your business lends itself to pictures and images – and women are your key customers or decision-makers – then the data suggests you should be using Pinterest.

For all of us running a business, it comes down to time in the end. But I watch Dan and Rory’s increasing use of social media and know that the next generation of consumers will use little else. There are an ever increasing number of social media platforms – and you can’t be on all of them. But you do need to be on some of them – and you need to be talking to your audience, not shouting at them.


  1. Thomas Grutzeck · June 5, 2015

    Excellent article – and absolutely true!

  2. simonjhudson · June 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Simon's space and commented:
    I’m a social media user in both my personal and professional life, not a full blown evangelist (I reserve that for other activities), but a keen user of SM as a tool. This blog from the ever insightful Mr Reid helps explain why you should too.

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