According to a recent Nielsen study we are on average spending about 23% of our time on social media or social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networking seems to be the new way in which businesses are finding that they are losing time and effort.

A few years ago the bane of many businesses was considered email, with sending, receiving, sorting, filtering and replying to various emails taking a very great deal of time. Today the study reveals that we’re now only actually spending about 8.3 per cent of our time on email, which demonstrates a stark contrast with social media.

Email may seem a time consuming task, but with social networking now absorbing almost three times as much time as is being spent sorting out email, it’s a fairly major problem. Despite mentioning in previous posts how fantastic and important social media is for businesses, like anything, it can be a problem.

If you don’t make social networking work for you, you’ll end up working for it. Just like being with friends, if you end up putting in all the effort and getting little in return then you start to give up and feel it’s all a little worthless.

Is this likely to happen with social networking? Are we likely to find business turning against it because of the sheer amount of time it seems to be taking them to achieve, in some cases, relatively little in return?

The same arguments were put forward a few years ago when SEO first began to rear its head in mainstream business, with many businesses complaining that SEO was simply taking up too much time, and not generating enough in the way of results.

Yet the two problems people seemed to overlook was that SEO needs to be tackled in a tactical and methodical way, and that SEO is never a completed task you can walk away from.

Organic SEO is a little like gardening – it’s organic, and often referred to as such, but you don’t head out to the garden, plant a few seeds and then start jumping up and down in frustration twenty minutes later because you still can’t see them growing. Social networking is taking up such a huge amount of time in some cases not because it needs to, but because many businesses seem to think that it’s the latest quick fix solution to SEO.

Publish the odd blog post, update your Facebook page and Tweet a few times each day and customers will come running to your business.

Except they won’t. Unless social networking and the use of social media is implemented as part of a much wider and more structured Search Engine Optimisation strategy it’s unlikely to achieve very much at all, and certainly won’t prove worthwhile.

Social media is not a solution – it’s a tool. A spanner on its own achieves nothing. Fiddle with it for half an hour, and it will still not achieve anything. But use it in conjunction with other tools and materials and there’s almost no end of ways in which it can make a real difference, and contribute towards real development and production.

By integrating social media in the right way, in conjunction with other aspects of SEO it is definitely a tactic that produced results. But if you’re spending 23% of your time on social media, that leaves very little time to tackle the other aspects of SEO that will require attention in order for the social media to really start working.

If in doubt, speak to an SEO specialist and help them make better use of your time, and get more results than trying to make your garden grow with a spanner.