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We should be spending MORE time at social media? No way!



I got miffed the other day at someone I love. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, and agreed to meet up in Oakland to catch up. No sooner had we kissed cheeks than she whipped out her iPhone and began fumbling with it.

I had thought that we’d chat for a while. “How are you? What’s new”–and do the real social thing, which is human interaction and communication. Instead, within 30 seconds of greeting each other, the lady was totally absorbed in trying to download a photo to her Facebook page.

Well, I took some umbrage at that. But what can you do? Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong. Yesterday, I was having lunch with two young friends, both in their twenties, a prime demographic for living the online life. I laid out my case: People spend too much time gazing into blue screens, and not enough time in the real world, perceiving the things around them, making eye contact, talking to actual people instead of digital ones.

I was surprised that my two young friends agreed with me.

A few weeks ago, a man on a bus in San Francisco shot another man in the back, in what police called a random shooting. The victim died. This would be just another shocking case of senseless violence, except for this telltale fact: Although the shooter had raised and lowered his gun “several…times,” pointing it down the aisle of a crowded bus, no one on the packed bus reacted, or even saw it. Instead, “Their eyes, focused on smartphones and tablets, don’t lift until the gunman fires a bullet…”. 

Their eyes could block out the reality around them, but their ears couldn’t. The San Francisco Chronicle, in reporting this troubling incident, headlined the article “Absorbed device users oblivious to danger.”

With all this fresh in my head, when I sat down at the computer yesterday morning, I found an online article through LinkedIn Today. The title, “Why Small Business Isn’t Winning on Social,” grabbed my attention, as a good headline should. I clicked on the link.

The article made some good, if hardly newsworthy, points: that lots of mom-and-pop businesses aren’t trying social media because they believe they can’t afford the time or the money. The author made the additional point that “many” social media consultants “can be dishonest about the realities of what they can do for their client,” which is something I’ve been saying about the social media consulting complex for years. (“Give me your money. I promise ROI!”) I thought it was pretty cool for the writer, who was obviously a proponent of social media, to admit that the field is riddled with fraud.

But my jaw dropped when, at the end of the article, the author came out and said the main problem with small businesses is that they don’t spend enough time at social media. He estimated it takes “a solid 9-10 hours a day of work”!!! I had to reread that. Didn’t he mean 9-10 hours a week? No, a day.

Can you imagine spending 9-10 hours a day doing social media?  It’s impossible for me to wrap my head around that. How would it even be possible, with everything else that people do, such as working, commuting, eating, raising kids, walking the dog, reading a book, keeping up with the news, maintaining actual relationships with friends, working out at the gym, and, oh yes, sleeping?

The author has an answer for that: “You can always sleep a few hours less every week.” This, in a nation where “insufficient sleep is [already] a public health epidemic,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.

When I got to the end of the article, still gob-smacked and incredulous, I realized who had written it, and why. “You can find out more,” the author concluded, “at”

  1. Maybe 9-10 hours a day was meant to be divided among several people? But telling people to sleep less is stupid, even if he thought he was being funny.

  2. Loved this, Steve. You’re a wonderful writer. I’d love an article from you sometime in my magazine. I always thought you were one of the smartest people I know.

  3. GrapesRGreat says:

    In the first chapter of one of his self help books, he says outright that you are going to have to be willing to barely sleep at all to be successful as an entrepreneur.

  4. doug wilder says:

    I recall a couple points from his keynote at the first wine bloggers conference in 2008. One was something to the point that “90 percent of you should go home now”, and the other was that you are doing something wrong if your blog isn’t generating $100K. The impression was that you needed to work your tail off to be taken seriously. He was right about that!

  5. I got where I am through hard work. I believe in hard work. But “9-10 hours a day for social media”? No way.

  6. Steve, I think you’re mis-reading that statement. I think (I could be wrong and maybe Gary will chime in) that sentence means putting in 1-2 hours of extra work specific to social media. If small businesses don’t have the time to do SM work during “regular” work hours, putting in more hours can allow a business to add SM into the “extended” work day.

    And no where in that advertisement, I mean “article,” was fraud mentioned. The dishonesty you allude to has to do with consultants not explicitly explaining the long-term objectives of Social Media.

  7. Kyle, Gary wrote: “Doing social right means putting in a solid 9-10 hours a day of work.” I suppose you can read that in different ways: To me, it sounds like 9-10 hours of “social,” as opposed to, say, paperwork, phone calls, meetings, Internet research other than social, business lunches, and so on. As for “dishonesty,” Gary’s quote is “Many of those [social media consulting] entities can be dishonest…”. I don’t understand what your definition of “fraud” is, but a synonym is certainly “dishonest.”

  8. I agree that what he wrote sounds like 9-10 hrs of SM, but I don’t think that is what he meant. Again, I could be wrong. I hope I’m not, because if I am, that is absurd.

    “can be dishonest about the realities of what they can do for their client… They don’t say “Listen, this is a three year play” because the client is operating in a world where they’re saying “If we don’t see results in 90 days, we’re out.”

    I don’t read that to mean they are telling wineries that SM consultants are intentionally and/or criminally deceiving wineries. I think “not entirely forthcoming” in place of “dishonest” would be a better a better phrase to get across his point, but that in that “article” Gary did NOT “admit that the field is riddled with fraud.” If that is your take, then state that.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I sincerely mean that.

  9. Seems to me that some very smart people are talking past each other. The Vaynerchuk model was not easy replicated by other in the wine world, and my guess is that one would have to have a big support system, as he did with a family business, to be able to spend the kind of time he did in getting it launched and making money with it.

    I keep looking for lots of other good examples and I don’t see any. Doug Wilder says you have to work hard to be successful. But, Doug, do you really endorse 9-10 hours of social media per day for your newsletter or for the fine retail establishment you used to run in San Francisco?

    Kyle suggests that Vaynerchuk must mean 9-10 hours per week. I am not so sure about that. The Vaynerchuk model was a deep immersion model. And even then, it depended first on his support system and secondly on his personality, not just his willingness to work.

    On the whole, I guess I am with Steve on this. We do not see many examples of social media changing the world. Not that it does not happen, mind, but it is clear that a few exceptions do not prove the rule. They prove Steve’s thesis about the value of social media.

    And if fifty wineries now pop out of the woodwork to prove me wrong, please remember that there are close to 10,000 of them on the West Coast.

  10. Great points as usual from the great Charlie Olken.

  11. Charlie,
    I only jump in since you are someone I really respect. Many wineries are having success at social media and conversion to sales. Are there many wham bam wizards like Gary Vaynerchuk that can move the needle with a single tweet? No. But there is a mountain of wineries using the tools to better connect to their customers, gain more mind share, and in many cases, convert sales.

    For Steve – As it relates to time spent . . . if your phone was ringing 9 straight hours a day wouldn’t you pay for someone to answer it? Social media is just another communication channel and, just like the phone, is a place where wineries customers are calling and deserve to be answered. That being said, does it require 9-10 hours? Only if the “call volume” requires that level of commitment. Here’s where I go into MATH. Out of 4700 wine brands that use our software only 25% receive at least one single organic mention per day. Of that volume over 80% have less than 20 mentions per day. It is similar on thier “owned media” channels ( Using that, a winery does not need to spend more 15 -30 minutes a day answering customers that have “called in.” If they are creating content (the most time intensive part of social media), they can devote another 30-60 minutes a day. That being said, if they want to do more customer relations, they can devote more time and get more loyalty, brand awareness, and sales. In essence, there is ALWAYS ROI IN TALKING TO YOUR CUSTOMERS.

  12. Steve,

    I manage social media accounts for a living and, while I absolutely see value in the resulting relationships built with consumers, media and trade (similar to the relationships you build via your blog), I agree with you 100%. Technology in this day and age has gotten out of hand. We are so absorbed by our devices that we forget to live real vs. virtual lives. How many times I have heard someone say (sadly, at times myself), “How did I ever live before my iPhone?” Well, obviously I lived and, moreover, it was probably a better, more balanced life.

    As a new parent, this has become even more apparent to me. Though my son is not even two years old he already does everything in his power to get his little hands on my iPhone or iPad. He, as all children do, mimics his parents. There is no better reminder for me to limit the use of these devices during the day and instead get him outside to play and experience the world.

    Technology and social media are here to stay. What I think our challenge is as a culture is learning how to balance living a real, present life with what has become an online addiction. You have probably heard of the Technology Shabbat movement, in which people commit to going technology free one day a week from sunrise to sundown. There was also a good article in Sunset Magazine about a year ago – – in which families shared what they are doing to strike a healthy balance. The more I hear of these movements, the more hope I have that we as a society recognize this problem and seek to address it.

    I see this as one of the great challenges of our generation and thank you for bringing attention to it with your post.


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