That’s a hard question to answer, especially in a 24/7 online world where new social media platforms seem to pop up every day. That’s why it’s critical to plan your communications with an eye toward what’s practical.

I talked to a lot of marketing experts, and when I asked them how much time someone should spend, this rule of thumb seemed to resonate:

This is, of course, a rough estimate, and your mileage may vary, but it’s an interesting idea to consider. For example, it would mean:

  • Two hours per week to maintain a presence on Facebook, which would include a couple of posts and prompt responses to questions and comments.
  • Two hours per week to send out a monthly email newsletter. You probably don’t send your newsletter each week, so a better guide might be eight hours per month.
  • Eight hours per month to cultivate sources and pitch articles for an earned media strategy.

Note that these are minimums. Basically, you’re trying not to look silly. If you have significant goals tied to social media, you’re not likely to meet them investing so little time. Your only strategy is loss prevention—you’re preventing a mass exodus from your social media site or email list. To pull off a fundraising campaign, you’ll need additional time to define your story, how it goes out on each channel, and to create materials.

So, if you want to be on email, Facebook and Twitter, that’s a minimum of 6 hours every week before you actually try to market anything. That’s not someone’s spare time. That’s 20% of their job.