Is it worth the time it takes to learn how to use social media?

Nov 1, 2009 | Social Media

A lot of people choose not to explore social media as they don’t have the time. In effect they want to know if they will be able to identify a ROI for the time spent learning about and engaging with other people through online social media?

In the same way as you might ask the question – Is it worthwhile trying to learn a foreign language?

The analogy isn’t perfect – they never are. But I think it’s fair to suggest that you wouldn’t expect a good ROI if you spent time learning Chinese but never went to China, engaged with other Chinese speakers or read any Chinese books/magazines.

If you were to ask – Is it worth me learning to speak Chinese for business purposes the answer would probably be ‘NO’ – unless you anticipated that your customers, suppliers, or business would have some involvement with China and Chinese speakers in the future.

If you were uncertain as to how much business there might be in or with China in the future you would be unable to predict the ROI for the time it might take you to study, practice and learn Chinese. BUT, after a little investigation you would be right to weigh up the time, effort and money involved and to consider whether there might be better ways to invest it. Maybe there’s another language you would be better off learning first or instead?

And in the future, when you look back at the time, effort and money expended on learning Chinese you would be able to determine if it had been worthwhile. You might also be able to identify the value of orders and the profits that you can attribute to having learned Chinese.

I doubt that there are many people who take a crash course in Chinese but spend little time learning how to pronounce Chinese words, make a hash of writing Chinese characters and don’t attempt to learn anything about Chinese culture or the differences in the way that the Chinese address each other and approach business. Such people would be unlikely to ever achieve any ROI or benefit from their half-hearted attempt to learn Chinese. And if we’d known how they were going to approach it we could have predicted that outcome.   It’s the same with social media. Indeed I’ve heard it said that some people approach social media as clumsily as some people visiting a foreign country.  It’s like a Brit who visits China and tries to converse in French.

Anticipating the usual drivers for accountants I wrote a piece last year on Blogging myths for accountants. And then another explaining why I thought that ‘Twitter is not for accountants‘. I’ve since shared a range of tips and advice for those who want to experiment with twitter.  If you are inclined to experiment with blogging, to find out more about twitter or any other social media, online networking or business forums I would suggest that you bear in mind the analogy above.

The issue you then need to resolve is that if you want the investment of your time to be worthwhile, you will need to consider how you will ‘use’ the media.  However, until you learn more about social media you won’t be able to assess how you will ‘use’ it.  Catch-22?

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