This week’s #smmeasure Twitter chat, held by Marketwire, the company behind Sysomos, focused on dispelling common myths about social media. The first myth raised for discussion was “SM is free, everyone should do it!” Besides the notion that you shouldn’t get involved in social media just for the sake of it (tactics come second to strategy, not the other way around), it’s the amount of time your staff will come to spend working with social media that takes a bite out of the “free” notion.

I likened this notion to a “hidden tax,” especially for instances where social media is taken on as an additional task versus changing existing roles or hiring new talent (the latter of which has a more defined, upfront cost).

Regardless of exactly how your organization gets involved in social media, hours will be spent. Listening, learning, reading, engaging, responding, and measuring all take time, and we all know time is money. Consider this: if your analyst Suzy Creamcheese makes $50,000/year and is now spends 15% of her time focused on social media efforts for your company, those efforts are now costing you $7500/year. Twitter’s not so “free” anymore, is it?

That said, you can help reduce the “hidden tax” of social media by thinking about efficiencies. Will entering this space give your business more visibility to potential customers and increase the loyalty of your existing buyers? Could the knowledge you gain by monitoring give you the ability to respond to industry conditions and customer needs, saving money over the long run? Can you avoid a meltdown and negative press by responding to complaints or controversies as they happen, sparing your company and your stockholders the agony of lost revenue?

Social media certainly isn’t a silver bullet in and of itself, but set up and managed effectively, you can turn those “costly” personnel hours “lost” to social media into gains for your business.

Shout-outs: The #smmeasure chat happens on Twitter every Thursday at noon Eastern time. Follow @smmeasure or @marketwire to tune in; Marketwire also has a Facebook page where they post questions ahead of time. Also, I recommend reading “The Now Revolution” by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, which is filled with excellent advice and counsel on ways to make your business more nimble and effective in the era of real-time communication.