In two recent discussions with a small business owner and a PR firm about many of the things I've recently covered in this column, a big concern that came up was time.
"How much time will it take me to create a good social media presence?" Great question. The answer is, of course,"it depends."

When I spoke to Mark LePage last year in Building Success by Blogging he mentioned that he spends 10-12 hours a week on bloggin, separate from his standard marketing efforts.

If one goes by the old adage that an entrepreneur should spend about 20% of her time marketing, Mark might be spending more time when you factor in blogging and standard marketing (or working 80 hours a week).

Sometimes, though, the social media efforts really require some focus and organization. Use tools such as Google Reader to organize RSS feeds from websites you care about, so you don't have to check each site separately. Create Bookmarks in your browser to remind you to check important sites (like your competitors, industry trade association sites, The Startup Toolkit, etc.).

Social Media Consultant Chris Brogan notes how much work he does in "How Many Chores Does It All Add". Chris' thoughts are great, but more focused on the high-end social media user. However, the things in his comments below the post can also give you great ideas.

If you're using Twitter, consider tools that help manage your incoming messages, such as TweetDeck, CoTweet, PeopleBrowsr, or just look at the @Replies tab on your home page more than your regular page to see if people are talking about you or your company. Don't forget to search twitter for mentions of your company or industry as well.
(Disclosure: in the past I have done some consulting for CoTweet, but am not currently doing so.)
If you have a blog, make sure new comments are set to come to you in email, so you can respond to them. Make a time, in the morning or afternoon, to check your social presences, such as a facebook fan page, myspace page, or whatever you're using. Check it then don't watch it all day. It is true that Social Media can take a lot of time, and we'd all probably be looking at pictures of our friends on the beach than doing the hard work of running our businesses. But if you make specific appointment times and use those times to check in, respond to questions, and post new content for your customers and fans, you'll be able to manage the time and be more effective.

What methods are you using? Share them in the comments below.