What’s the definition of “good at social media?” Does it mean lots of likes, lots of comments, lots of shares, lots of positive reinforcement and dopamine hits? Does it mean checking your phone every three minutes, posting status updates and uploading new pics daily, sometimes two, three, four times a day? Does just the thought of this kind of high-maintenance routine make you cringe?

What about from a professional standpoint? What makes a professional Instagrammer different than an ad agency with a social media focus?

I manage a few social media accounts for small businesses, and while I’m personally bad at social media (and I don’t want to be good), here’s what I’ve learned about making your small business’ social media efforts worth all that time and effort.

the ratio of effort to reward

Social media platforms make it a cinch to set up accounts – and that’s intentional. Ease of adoption is great, but it means that most people leap into the stream without considering their audience or even their own content. Instead of opening every social media account you can and struggling to maintain them effectively, start by considering your customer base.

  • Where can they be found online? Where is it worth your time trying to establish some kind of connection?
  • How much effort is reasonable for the kind of reward you’re after? Do you need to post every day? Do you have the images and content you need to present yourself in a manner that’s on-brand – and can you keep doing it for the foreseeable future?

Manta released this depressing study a few years ago that said nearly 50 percent of businesses surveyed had committed to dramatically increasing their time on social media. Another 55 percent actively used their social platforms for both lead generation and customer engagement. For all of this effort and focus, more than 60% of these businesses reported no return on investment.


I’m not saying that a defined and thoughtful digital presence is a bad move. At the very least, you have all of those social media backlinks to your site. And they do have an impact on your rankings, even if it’s slight. It takes very little effort to make sure you have all signs pointing to your website on various social media channels, so use them.

The real effort comes in the maintenance element. Lots of small businesses start strong and then taper off. Striking the right balance between effort and reward is the goal, and that can be difficult if you aren’t routinely taking a good look at your site’s traffic sources. 

Decide upfront how much time and effort you’re willing to invest and whether you see the value in putting yourself out there to engage with your target market. You have no control over the reaction to that – good, bad or otherwise. All you can do is put your best foot forward, which brings us to…

quality over quantity

The emphasis for any shared content – blog post, tweet, Instagram post, whatever – should always, always be on value. If it’s not useful or interesting to your target market, don’t post it. Beyond that, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Set up a social media calendar, and then stick to it. But remember that content is king, and your shared content should never, ever be throwaway fluff.

These days, it’s interesting to observe the backlash that’s building against social media. For now, I’ll continue maintaining my two professional accounts purely for the backlinks. On a personal note though, I’d bail on all of these platforms in a heartbeat if I wasn’t tied down with so many administrative accounts.