One of the questions we regularly hear from small business owners is how much time do they need to spend on social media marketing to make it effective. The time needed varies by industry and the number of employees assisting with your social media presence. We typically recommend business owners spend 30–60 minutes, daily, to make connections, update content and create a consistent, visible presence.

In a recent Small Business Social Media Study*, we discovered most business owners involved with social media are committing that kind of time. Almost identical to a year ago, 63% of respondents indicated they use social media for more than 30 minutes a day. Clearly, small business owners are investing time and effort into their social media presence. This bodes well for a sustained and successful social media strategy.

The second question is whether or not the time investment is paying off. As we look at the responses from our survey, there is a clear correlation between the time invested and the amount of sales generated. Companies investing less than 30 minutes a day are most likely to respond that social media is responsible for less than 5% of their total sales. In contrast, business owners who are spending one or two hours are seeing a greater portion of their sales connected to their social media activity.

As we look at some of the comments, there is still concern about the need to control the amount of time spent on social media.

What do business owners say about the time they spend on social media?

• Be cautious about spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter and Facebook. They can be time eaters.

• You don’t have to spend a lot of time to reach this audience.

• Don’t get caught up in the hype. Social Media isn’t some magical savior for your business. It’s only free if your time is worth nothing, and personally, that is my most expensive asset.

• If you are going to use social media, limit yourself to specific times during the day, and intentionally stay away from it for the rest of the day. Social media can be a great tool, but it can also be a serious time stealer.

*The 2011 Small Business Social Media Survey was conducted May 1 – July 1, 2011. We collected data from 243 owners of companies with 1-50 employees.