How Much Time Does Social Media Marketing Really Take?

How Much Time Does Social Media Marketing Really Take?

Julia Claire Campbell Nonprofits, Social Media, Strategy 62 Comments

How Much Time Does Social Media Marketing Really Take?

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the nonprofit sector.

It seems that all too often, uninformed nonprofit Boards and well-meaning but not-tech-savvy Executive Directors simply tack on the words “social media” to the development or marketing person’s job description.

This usually happens after a heated Board meeting where it is decided that their nonprofit should be “doing social media.”  Then, an already over-extended individual is suddenly charged with getting 1000 Facebook fans, 5000 Twitter followers and 10000 new email signups, practically overnight.

This person might already be a volunteer, or may be part-time, struggling to finish all the other tasks required of them – writing grants, communicating with donors, organizing events and coordinating volunteers (just to name a few).

Social media is free. It only takes 5 minutes per day. After all, it’s just playing around on Facebook and tweeting. Right?


This thinking is moving the sector backwards!

Nonprofits were early adopters of social media – they should be bucking this trend of adding the work of social media onto an already packed job description.

(Not to mention that the work of marketing the organization should also not be the responsibility of one person, but I’ll get into that in my next post.)

Always remember how time is actually spent “doing social media.”

Here are just 12 of the most important ways:

1)     Strategy and planning. Who is our audience? What resonates with them? Where are they? What are they liking, sharing, tweeting, commenting on?

2)     Learning. No one is born a social media expert. There is a huge learning curve in using these channels effectively. Budget in some time to read blog posts, take webinars and attend conferences.

3)     Researching posts. What kinds of posts have been getting the most engagement lately? What else can we post that is similar but not the same? What are other people saying online?

4)     Formatting. Is this link working? Is all information correct? Do the photos have attribution? Have we posted something like this before? Is this a post that needs to be scheduled? Does it have the proper tags and hashtags?

5)     Listen. It is important to listen and observe conversations already happening before chiming in.

6)     Creating content. Crafting content specifically designed for your audience that will delight, entertain and resonate is so much easier said than done. My mantra – remember where they are and what they want to hear, not where you want them to be and what you want to say.

7)     Responding. After something is posted/tweeted/pinned, you need to make sure to respond to questions and comments.

8)     Acknowledgement. Post and tweet thank yous and acknowledgments of people who shared your content.

9)     Measurement. This step is all too often overlooked. Are your posts helping you accomplish your goals?

10)  Reporting on your progress to your supervisors. Preparing reports and attending meetings or conference calls to discuss progress towards social media goals.

11)  Continuous improvement. Always be working on improving your message and seeing how you can be better. What is working and what is falling flat? Learn and adapt.

12)  Explore. Becoming familiar with the changing landscape. Facebook is constantly changing. New social media channels arise every week. Don’t get caught up in shiny new object syndrome – but don’t ignore the latest trends either. Thoughtfully and strategically evaluate if the new platforms might help your nonprofit accomplish its goals.

Any steps that I am missing that you feel are crucial to social media management?

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

Comments 62

  1. fanfoundry

    Nice post, Julia. Thanks.

    It’s equally helpful to note approximately how much time each week might be devoted to each of the functions you outlined.

    Having done Social Media Management for a number of clients in recent years, I have arrived at a set of expectations I share with clients to keep everyone realistic.

    Here is a tentative weekly schedule (approx. hrs in (parentheses) ): :
    Analysis (2)
    Blogging (8)
    Campaign management (3)
    Community building (3)
    Curating assets (2)
    Engaging with audiences (4)
    Listening (2)
    Research (2)
    Strategy (2)
    Updating (4)
    Training (3)
    Crisis response (2)
    As you can see, the total hours add up to nearly 40.

    Add the notion that a Social Media Manager role requires a unique admixture of Brand Journalism, Analytics/reporting, Virtual Public Speaking (dialogue), and Creative Artist (for graphics, brand treatment etc.), and you have a not insignificant challenge.

    The good news: done this way, ROI is easy to prove, and I have the numbers to prove it. Not to mention being re-upped by most of my clients.



    1. Post
      Julia Claire Campbell

      This is fantastic Ed. You have found luck with convincing people to pay for this? I find that it’s a struggle – people 99% of the time think they can do it all themselves or tack it on to an already full job description. This is great though, thanks for sharing!

    2. Ari Herzog

      Ed, why do you separate analysis, listening, and strategy? Are they not all variants of the same theme?

  2. Reginald

    Hey Julia,

    Thanks for writing this. You nailed it big time! Now, let me see. I like the part about responding.

    The only way to grow your audience is when you create engagement. At times, simple retweet or share is a great way to start one.

    And all you got to say is “Thank you and intro yourself”.

    Well written!


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