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Friday, February 4, 2011

Why are entrepreneurs so worried about social media?

This post is by Robert Jones, communications consultant and contributing editor to SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs dread social media. That’s the takeaway from a recent poll of 258 SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs readers, which found that entrepreneurs would choose to outsource social media before any other single business function. Check out the results:

If you had an unlimited budget, which function of your business would you most like to outsource?

  • Social media — 28.57%

  • Other — 25.11%

  • Public relations — 19.91%

  • Sales — 16.45%

  • Customer service — 9.96%

When did social media become such a chore — and why? I asked four experts to take a look at the poll and offer their feedback. Here’s what they had to say:

  • “It’s not considered important enough to engage [entrepreneurs’] attention at this point. And I don’t believe there are sufficient success stories with social media for that to change soon. It’s interesting to speculate whether social media will remain vibrant long enough for it to be of great importance to the vast majority of small businesses. So many large corporations and sophisticated marketers are moving into the space so rapidly that it seems possible that it will become pervasively commercialized much more quickly than the Web at large.” — JournalistMark Henricks (@bizmyths), who blogs on small-business myths at The Debunker.

  • “There’s still a lot of confusion among small-business owners, especially those who run offline businesses. … I think part of the problem is that entrepreneurs are under the impression that they need to use every social media tool out there to be effective. They’re on Twitter, they’re on Facebook, they’re blogging, and they’re trying to integrate all of these mediums together in a strategic way. That’s actually counter-intuitive — small businesses should outline their goals and then pick the platforms that will help achieve them.” — Erin Bury (@erinbury), the community manager of

  • “I think entrepreneurs need help in figuring out how to get some [return on investment] back on what they do. It’s best to start with the medium most of your customers are using, but it takes time, effort and some amount of money to figure that out. I wonder if part of the problem is … the small-business press and the social media ‘experts.’ We keep telling them all the things they have to do, without really telling them where to find the resources, including time. … [O]utsourcing social media mostly takes the social out of it. You can outsource the blogging, and some of the more mechanical aspects of social media. But I think transparency is key.” — Rieva Lesonsky (@rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily

  • “Maybe a lot of entrepreneurs look at social media as something vaguely frightening, like a skill they don’t have, something that wasn’t taught in school, something seemingly oblivious to gray hair and experience. Facebook started on college campuses just a few years ago, so some of the more experienced social media people are barely out of college. And Twitter’s what, 3 years old? Maybe 4? I’d suppose we could give the hesitant ones credit for knowing what they don’t know, except that nobody else knows; it’s all been a matter of just jumping into the fray.” — Tim Berry(@timberry), the founder of Palo Alto Software, blogs at Planning Startup Stories.

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