Lee Odden

Losing Time on Social Media

social mediaSocial media is everyone’s shiny object in the digital marketing world. Personally, professionally and otherwise, millions of people worldwide are switching from other information and entertainment channels (or multitasking) for social destinations online and on the mobile web.

I know there are a good number of early adopters that read Online Marketing Blog and since you’re probably prone to trying the latest apps and tools, there are undoubtedly certain types of social media sites that have really turned out to be a time suck.

That assumption leads us to our 60th Reader Poll! (pick up to 3)

Which types of social media sites are your biggest time wasters?

  • Social Networks (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn) (34%, 43 Votes)
  • Microcontent (Twitter) (30%, 38 Votes)
  • Video (YouTube, Vimeo) (13%, 16 Votes)
  • Blogs (12%, 15 Votes)
  • Geolocation (Foursquare, Gowalla) (5%, 7 Votes)
  • Forums (4%, 5 Votes)
  • Images (Flickr, Picassa) (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Other - Add to comments (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 74

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No, I didn’t include online games of any kind in this poll because, while they can absolutely be social, I consider them to be inherently time wasting. Whereas the sites/tools listed in the poll above have at least the remotest possibility of helping people become more productive.

If your top time waster isn’t listed, please share in the comments. I’d also like know your preferences on topics for future Reader Polls. If your suggestion is picked, we’ll give you credit and a nice juicy link when the poll is run.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar David Wells says

    Lee great idea for a poll! I'd be interested in seeing the end results.

    I am thinking foursquare and video sites will win out, based off the time put in vs the value return the sites. =)

    • Good point David – I picked Twitter and Foursquare but not that you mention it, I waste more time than I'd like to admit on YouTube. It's that damn iPhone's fault 🙂

  2. I vote for forums

  3. Avatar David Wells says

    Lee great idea for a poll! I'd be interested in seeing the end results.

    I am thinking foursquare and video sites will win out, based off the time put in vs the value return the sites. =)

  4. Voted. Great poll, Lee. I ♥ social but it's easy for it to become a bottomless pit of wasted time. Looking forward to a following up post on the topic.

    • Smart thinking Megan. That's exactly what I plan on doing: a poll and post about the most productive types of social media sites!

  5. Avatar friscowebsitedesign says

    In excess, these may certainly be time-wasters for the users themselves, but these are ripe markets for businesses and service professionals to get marketing and sales leads. Just look at the rapid growth of sites with graphic “Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, etc…” links, not to mention the “fan pages” when you get to their social media accounts.

  6. Avatar Antti Aapakari says

    So true! I love Facebook and couldn’t imagine life without it anymore-it’s been incredibly useful to my business and personal lives, but it is very easy to spend hours there!

  7. I’m amazed by how many people regard Social Networks as a waste of time! That’s really suprised me!

    • It surprised me too Ben – You'd think Twitter and YouTube would be rated higher. Maybe there's more useful engagement going on that we realize.

  8. Avatar Melissa Paulik says

    I don’t see any of these as inherenetly time wasters. It depends on what works for your market. facebook, for me, would be a complete waster of time. However, I can accept that it works brilliantly for others. For me as a freelance marketer in the B2B software industry, LinkedIn is my best tool. I’m sure many people in other industries find LI a complete waste of time.

    The biggest waste of time would be to think that social media is the ultimate marketing tool and drop your more traditional, and more predictable, marketing campaigns. As always, it’s the right mix.

    • My response to a lot of commentary about what's useful or not with the social web always come down to knowing audiences, goals and measurement. It's marketing 101. I agree that types of social media sites are not necessarily inherent time wasters. It's what people do with them that makes a difference between activity and productivity.

  9. Really nice poll Lee. I also feel that slowly and gradually it is becoming a time waster. Social networking portals are by far the most time consuming no doubt but I believe forums are nice places to go and participate. You learn a lot from the conversations.

    • I suppose like anything unchecked, trying to spread thin on many different social sites results in time waste. It's hard to be all things to all that's social 🙂

  10. Avatar Codrut Turcanu says

    I don’t really consider any of these time wasters, for as long as you’re using them for winning long-term business. Regarding games… if you’re playing for money [firms pay you to test their stuff…], then I guess it’s not wasted time anymore… 🙂

  11. Avatar estuartie says

    I sure waste a lot of time on Social Media stuff – but as the VP of Google said they´re going to spending a lot of resources on utilizing the way that Social neighborhoods disseminate information and it will be crucial to their Search results – ignore them at your peril!

  12. I def have days where I spend more time on Twitter and FB then I should, but in the end I'm making connections and it is benefiting my blog and business.

    • I think in the end, if you KNOW you're getting value, then there's not an issue with waste. It's when you don't have any idea, that productive time slips away.

      • Lee I agree. If your blog/website is getting traffic from social media and you can see results be it small or not, then the time spent with SM is worth it, sicne their are many benefits to SM that can not really be measured.

  13. Avatar nuMantis says

    To be honest, I spend very little time at all on the social networks. I manage them all using ping.fm. Very easy, just one button posts to ALL the social networks at once. So easy. Just setup each client with their own account, add all the social networks you want and you're off. It's no time waster. The only ones I see to be useless are sites like foursquare and gowalla. Our business leverages quite a bit of traffic and business through the social networks. Although I do spend about 20 minutes per day on social networks and posting news and streams to them I tend to find my time trolling through blogs, forums, directories and the such. Much better use of my time and would not call it a waste at all.

  14. Currently for our company we are using the first four means of Social Media tools. We don't employ Geolocation and the use of Forums. Though I think Forums is a great tool to use to interact with your consumers. The only thing is you need to employ someone who will manage the forum to ensure that there are no spammers. At the moment, we spend approximately 20 minutes on Facebook, Twitter and up to an hr for our blogging site. Interested to see what the outcome is.

  15. Social Media can be a time waster, but it depends on how you utilize it. If you're spending your time making connections, commenting, entering into conversations and adding value then the end result is more likely not a waste of time. If your'e spending your time looking for gossip or the next time and money waster tool to push your business, more than likely that time could have been used more effectively.

  16. Avatar lisavalentine says

    If your company is threatening to block social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc., have your IT folks read this helpful whitepaper on the subject, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”


    It shouldn't have to be an “all or nothing” proposition.

  17. Avatar Maguire09 says

    I have certainly found this to be true, but I have seen the flip side as well. I have branched out from my usual Facebook plunges and begun spending time reading blogs. It is better than staring at friends' updates that don't change, and it has also stirred up some creative planning and strategizing of career goals.

    Social media is only a waste of time if the user is waiting for something to happen and being proactive.

    There is a wonderful interview series of a few social media experts that you would probably enjoy.

    • Good point Joseph, being proactive is important. Interesting mix of social media interviews you've linked to. Except for Shel, they're all new people to me – good to make new connections.

  18. Avatar akosfintor says

    I think we only waste time on social media sites if are not having fun interacting.
    Good post!

  19. Social Book Marking sites have wide range of information. We can learn new things . so, i dont think its a wastage of time. It depends on the person and his way of browsing the site .


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  22. It depends on how addicted you get. Facebook is a huge time suck for lots of people I know. It seems like they have to read every single Status Update and if someone posts something new, they will post a comment within 2 minutes.