You know when the title of a webinar includes the words Time Suck, the discussion will be lively in the rapid-fire exchange of ideas and information. So it was with the April 21, 2022, CommuniTEA zoom session sponsored by Meeting Planners International (MPI) Small Business Owners (SBO).

The socially engaging casual chat this month on “Is Social Media A Big Time Suck or a Great Business Tool?”, run this month by two new SBO members Leanne Calderwood and Tara Thomas, was split into two breakouts. Each breakout session split into rooms, each  containing a limited number of guests to encourage a more intimate conversation on the topic before reconvening to discuss what was shared. The beauty of each monthly MPI SBO CommuniTEA topic is that no one person has all the answers, but with so many types of businesses represented, someone else may have the solution to your question or have knowledge of a resource that proves valuable.

The premise for this month’s discussion was that social media enables us to interact with customers and share information in real-time. The anticipated outcome is that we can touch base with current customers, connect to new ones, and promote and sell our products and services in a friendly atmosphere. As all the attendees on the session are small business owners, what they have discovered about creating and producing one’s own social media strategy can be enlightening.

What became evident throughout the hour-long conversation is that while many platforms were named and discussed, the number one platform used by everyone for professional connections is LinkedIn.

In response to the first breakout topic, “Is social media a beneficial component of your business?”, one woman noted that when she worked for a large corporation, her use of LinkedIn was passive. “Now that I own my own business, I see 1000% more benefit.” She leapt to the challenge to become more educated, taking webinars and courses. “I thought I knew a lot before, but I learned a lot more about other platforms and their individual styles of use and benefit. You must be on all of them.” She found it personally worthwhile to connect to panelists from LinkedIn events and has found those connections invaluable.

How did others think social media an important component of their business?

Some people think LinkedIn is the best tool when searching for a job. Another said it gives her credibility to be recognized among peers. Another said social media has “kept the lights on.” Though LinkedIn was mentioned frequently, another woman said FaceBook has some active groups in which she stays engaged.

No matter which platforms one is on, the consensus is that you must consistently post, comment often on others’ posts, and if you’re adept at creating video or photo content, post and repost it to sites more conducive to that medium, such as Instagram and Pinterest.  While some thought Pinterest had become an outmoded collection of recipes and styles, top Canadian social media expert Leanne Calderwood said it has become a repository of tricks, tips, and trends.“ They’re fast reads, like the top 10 of this or that. They grab attention and create engagement, so I make it a point to consistently post on that site.” She further added, “Pinterest is a search engine. It isn’t a social media site.”

During the second breakout session, “Successful social channels,” a wide variety of platforms were assessed.

Marketing business owner and SBO member Claire Caldwell, who trains sales staff said she’s looking at Buffer and Sprout Social to see if they can boost her to another level of success. She explained that the two apps assist with planning. “There is a calendar with important holidays (like Earth Day or St. Patrick’s Day) noted. It reminds me to write a post (even something short) around that occasion instead of having to come up with a topic.”

Some of the meeting planners on the call came hoping to hear about social media groups that might be of immediate, direct value. For instance, one is looking for meeting planners to serve on a panel for her National Speakers Association of Northern California (NSA NC) meeting. “My NSA NC chapter would like to hear what planners are looking for in a speaker and how they find them.”

FaceBook meeting planning groups were recommended: The Eventpreneur Club, National Meeting Planners Group, and SPIN.

The downside to social media is what prompted the title for this CommuniTEA program: A Big Time Suck or a Great Business Tool? Those of us who are without social media savvy experts on staff have limited time and know too well how easy it is to read a story here, make a comment there, post a note elsewhere and before you realize, hours have passed. That’s exactly what occurred with one of the attendees who formerly worked as Administrator for a charity’s LinkedIn site. “It literally was a time suck. It finally just became too much, and I had to quit all social media.” She now gingerly posts and visits sites but keeps her time availability in check.

What tips, questions, or comments do you have about social media sites that you’d like to share? Post your shareable comments.

Register now for the next Small Business, Big Talk session on May 19 at noon ET. The topic is Sales.

Register now for the next CommuniTEA session on June 16 at noon ET. The topic is Procrastination!

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of International Live Events Association and Meeting Professionals International and is now serving on the 2021-2022 MPI Global Advisory Board for Small Business Owners. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.