Q: Is Online Social Networking Worth My Time?

A: Sure, in the same way that email is worth your time. Online social networks are, like offline social networks, a way to stay in touch with family, friends, and acquaintances. If you use social networks — online or offline — for that purpose, they will be worth your time in the same way watching the Super Bowl with your college friends or having lunch with your rich aunt are worth your time.

But don’t shove your marketing down your social networks’ throats.

The internet’s most-popular business model is to get a lot of people together and sell things to them. Facebook, by the way, is enormous. I heard that if you added up all the people who have liked a cat picture posted by Mr. Sulu, they would be the largest country in the world, or something. So, a lot of people, right? Let’s sell them advertising.

Or, if you are a lawyer, let’s not pay for advertising and use our personal brand to sell directly to our Facebook friends, instead.

Let’s just think about that for a second, shall we?

I’m no marketing expert, but it seems to me that not all audiences want to buy all things at all time and places. In other words, just because someone is checking out their friend’s latest ridiculous baby pictures on Facebook and thinking up new ways to damn Anne Geddes to hell for inspiring so many amateur photographers, that doesn’t mean they want to see your blog post about common traffic stop myths. Or your ad for unemployment appeals. That sort of thing reminds me of political canvassers asking me to sign a petition when I am pushing my daughter on a swing at the park. Wrong place, wrong time.

Let’s say, for example, that your Facebook friends are mostly people you know in real life. Are you likely to walk up to them and start explaining why they should hire you to defend them from criminal charges, out of the blue? Silly, right? So why would you do exactly that, on Facebook?

If you are going to spend time on a social network, do it just like normal people do it. Post pictures of your drunk relatives, update your status when you get pissed off about dumb things, and send happy birthday messages to your friends. Save the marketing for the appropriate time and place. Or spend $20 on ads or sponsored posts and see how they go.

(photo: Young businesswoman with ideas from Shutterstock)

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