The answer depends on many factors- and your preference is only one of them.
Websites used to be the foundation of an online presence- social media was like frosting on the cake. Over time, it's risen in popularity and functionality to a point where some businesses don't even need a website- in the same way that mobile has squashed the idea that a 'real' business requires brick and mortar.
Ideally, there's a strategy behind your efforts- one that's congruent with other all marketing collateral. Determining if and how actively social you want to be is an opportunity to reaching customers where they are. The bottom line is figuring out what works for your business.
It takes time to be 'social'
The number of platforms to choose from is daunting. The popular standards used in your personal life may not be appropriate. Plus, they can rise, fall or disappear mysteriously- sort of like a flash mob.
It's seductively simply to get started. The real work is in generating content. This is a costly process, especially for small businesses that lack resources to delegate this task to a single department or employee.
One size fits all solutions- don't
Experts recommend choosing fewer platforms you can cover well. This gives you a wide enough bandwidth to be meaningful but narrow enough to track results and measure the value of your investment.
Facebook is increasingly a 'must' for most businesses. But its mainstream acceptance seems to have spurred some market segments on to new platforms. Once the basic platforms are covered, sector or generational niches are worth a closer look.
Social media may be essential but posting doesn't guarantee profits. Think about your 'costs' you two ways:
Social media can help you reach highly specific markets. We're producing a fashion show of couture modest women's wear in Redmond. It includes designers from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Our campaign strategy is two-prong: platforms used by Arabic-speaking, global thinking, young adults and direct contact with their mothers. (Learn more at www.malikahfestival.com).
Don't overlook face time and word-of-mouth
Karyn Greenstreet, (www.passionforbusiness.com), surveys small business owners on the efficacy of B2B content marketing and lead generation. She found that, while social media, (other than blogs) was the top technique used, it didn't make the top 10 most effective ones, (i.e. money in the bank).
You may 'live social', but some businesses thrive without it. These outliers usually share one or more of these characteristics:
Businesses that thrive without being 'social'
I recently met a sculptor at the farmer's market who makes lovely iron gates. "What's your website?", I asked, smart phone in hand.
"Don't have one, don't need one", he responded, handing me a card with a phone number and no email address. This business exists through face time, texting and voice.
I know a few owners like him. Word-of-mouth drives their success. Instead of spending hours hunched over a computer or phone, they're in front of customers.
My favorite example is a booming business that sews expensive, hipster blue jeans on site. They have a minimal website, erratic hours and discourage women from placing orders, (too curvy?). When asked if they wanted to join a local chamber the owner said, "Oh, please don't list us- we're too busy already".
What's the right mix for your business? As with most communication challenges, the answer is, "it depends".