“If you’re strapped for time and money and can only do one thing on social media, what should that be?” This was the question posed at one of our recent Social Strategy Boot Camp events. Many marketers — especially small businesses — struggle with this very question as they start down the social media path.

This route is an increasingly popular one. In their study The Social Habit, Edison Research reports that over half of Americans have a profile on at least one social network, while Social Media Examiner’s most recent industry study showed that 83% of marketers indicate that social media is a vital part of their business. However, this same study also tells us that effective social media marketing takes a lot of resources to execute — especially time.

If your brand can only do one thing when it comes to social media, what should that be? My answer, the marketer’s equivalent of the Jack Palance “one thing” moment from the movie City Slickers, might surprise you.

The One Thing

That’s because the one thing isn’t one particular social network. It’s social content. Or rather, an online hub for your social content. If you can only do one thing with social media, my advice is focus on building a blog as your brand’s content hub.

Social media and digital marketing comes down to three Cs — content, conversations, and community. Think of these as concentric circles with content at the center. Your content is your brand’s core online. This is then shared across social channels like Facebook and Twitter sparking conversations and ultimately building a strong community around your brand.

As such, you have to focus on your core first.

Oxygen Masks & Vegetables

I recommend this approach for a couple reasons. First, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks aren’t platforms you own. The conversations and community you build on those sites are done at the pleasure of those companies.

And while they’re not likely to pull the rug out from under us by closing the networks down, focusing your attention off-site too early robs you of other benefits that building a blog can help you earn. For example, consistent blog content helps search engines like Google find your site online. This is a long-term benefit to your brand that you can’t achieve by sharing photos on Facebook.

Creating blog content around industry terms helps your business become associated with those keywords in searches. This is also my go-to answer when someone asks, “If we have a Facebook page why do we need a website?” Starting with your blog is like the emergency instructions on an airplane — put your own oxygen mask on first. You need to take care of your brand before you can reach out further.

You also need to eat your vegetables. Coming up with a solid blogging strategy is much more challenging and labor intensive than updating a social outpost. However, it’s more important to have this sturdy foundation in place to reap sustainable benefits for your brand’s online health.

The Campfire

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t focus on those channels when the time is right. In the end, developing a blog at the heart of your digital strategy helps create a strong campfire that you can gather your community around.

Photo via Flickr user mrkumm