The number one issue that I hear from people who are just getting started in social media is that it takes too much time. This issue has been even more prevalent lately it seems, as more and more people start to figure out how to incorporate social media into their business. We’re all getting the strategy part down – we’ve set our goals and objectives, and built a solid plan that takes into account resources, timelines, costs, and yes, person-hours. It’s the person-hours where people tend to get stuck. “It’s going to take me how many hours per day/week/month to build an online presence? I’m working too many hours a week as it is!”, is the most common response to the hours debate.

I’m not going to lie. Rolling out that social media strategy IS going to take time. If you’ve done a good job on the strategy, you probably have an idea of how MUCH time it’s going to take, too. But you can’t throw in the towel just because you don’t think you can find extra hours in the week. You need to find a way.

How Badly Do You Want It?

No, seriously. How badly do you want this? You’ve read all the books, subscribed to all the blogs. You’ve seen how the experts do things. You’ve taken the time to come up with a strategy. But how much do you really want to rock the Twitter? How badly do you really want to make your Facebook page or your blog an interactive and fun place for your customers to hang out and learn things, and hopefully buy what you’re selling? My guess is, you want to make your social media strategy successful. But you have to really want this success, before you’ll realize that it’s going to take lots of time and lots of effort to make it happen. Overnight successes are few and far between. Odds are, you won’t be one. But if you want this badly enough, you’ll be willing to put in the hours it really takes to be successful online. If you aren’t sure how badly you want it, go back and revisit the goals you wrote in your social media strategy as much as you need to get it cemented in your brain.

You’ve Got to Find It.

It sounds cliché, but it’s 100% the truth. If you really want to make a go of this social media thing, you’ve got to find the time. There are no shortcuts to this stuff. I started out playing around with social media in 2007. I am entirely self taught, through watching smart people, reading tons of books and blogs, but mostly, by putting what I’ve learned into practice and gaining experience as I went.

I just hit my 50,000th tweet on Twitter last week. I’ve written over a thousand blog posts for various different blogs, including this one. Some people look at those numbers and judge, “Wow, she must have an awful lot of time on her hands”. Yes, I do have time on my hands, despite working many, many hours a week at 3 different jobs, and spending quality time with my family and friends. I’ve got the time, because it’s time I made. As someone who works in the media and communications field, learning and exploring social media is a priority. I’ve put the time in for the past 4 years solid, and I don’t consider any second of it a waste. I’ve met so many new people and created new, significant business opportunities for our company because of the time and energy I’ve put into this space. And I’m committed to continuing to find the time to create, share, and grow here.

Some of you may remember a time before voicemail and email. I know I do. When I got my first phone with voicemail at work, I thought to myself, “How am I ever going to find the time to check messages and return calls?”. When I got my first email account at work, I thought, “I definitely don’t have time to read and respond to emails every single day.” Now, we couldn’t live without email and voicemail. It’s become integrated into our lives – a habit. You have to treat social media the same way. Sure, it’s new, and it takes up your time. But like returning calls and responding or writing emails, when managed properly, it can serve to propel your business forward in some very positive ways.

So find a way to make the time.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day.

Many people get overwhelmed by social media. There are so many tools, and so much conflicting information about what you should and shouldn’t do, that you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders wondering what to do next. You get stuck because you’re trying to do all of it, and eventually succeeding at nothing.

Just pick one thing to start with. Maybe you’re curious about Twitter, so pick that. Sign up for an account, post a picture and profile and a few tweets (not just links to your own stuff, but maybe a bit about your day, a link to an interesting article, etc.). Then go do some searches around things that interest you. Search for people in your city or town. Follow them (following someone on Twitter is like a handshake – don’t be shy to say hi!). Join the conversation. Try it for a week or two (and forget about Facebook and blogging and everything else for now). Spend some time every day on Twitter (schedule it in your calendar if you have to). Before you know it, it will start to become like email – just something you check in with a couple of times a day. It will become routine.

Once you’ve got the hang of Twitter (trust me, it won’t take you long), then give Facebook a whirl for a couple of weeks. By then, you’ll be starting to get really immersed in your community of interest, and I bet you you’ll start to have ideas swimming around in your head. Oh wait – ideas? Like, for blog posts? You got it.

Don’t try to chew the whole steak at once. Cut off a little piece, and savour that for a while. You’ll find the whole meal more enjoyable, I promise.

I’d love to hear your stories about how you got up and running in social media. What were your fears? What did you learn? How do you make the time to be involved in social media? Please share your stories in the comments!

photo credit: Giuliagas on Flickr