I keep running into people who insist that every business, every business owner, every manager, every job seeker and everybody else should be developing his or her web presence. You should have a blog. You have to be on Facebook. You have to be on Twitter. You know what I mean.

Yes, I agree that reputation is important, and that the online world provides a wonderful opportunity to share and validate expertise and build a reputation. I’ve known some and read about many businesses that do very well in online reputation and social media. What worries me, though, are the half truths and lies that so often come with the advice. So, with that in mind, here’s my reality check:

  1. I worry about people underestimating the time and effort it takes to do it well. It’s not a part-time or occasional kind of an activity. You dedicate time to it, or it doesn’t work. And few people really out there running a small business have that kind of time left over.
  2. As you start planning, start with a good estimate of resources. And if you have no idea, I’d start by saying that the absolute minimum time budget for managing a small company’s social media face is half time.
  3. I think that if you’re going to do it today or in the near future, you should try to lever off of existing opportunities, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, rather than build something new. I’m sure there are still some opportunities for new community sites. There always are. But develop your presence around existing sites first. It’s a lot easier, and a lot more likely to succeed. It takes critical mass to make a social site, aka community, work.

And here’s a final thought: Do you think that online reputation, alias social media, is one of those things you have to either do well or not at all? Don’t throw your reputation into dabbling in social media.¬†And do you think that thought applies to business and professionals, as a business thought, and not to your personal online self, alias (ugh) personal branding? I’m just asking; I don’t know.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.