Twitter logo is displayed at the entrance of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.
Twitter logo is displayed at the entrance of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Calif. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: Social networking, social networking, social networking. That's all you ever hear anymore. And in our context: what it can do for business and you. Yeah, sure, I tweet and sometimes I blog, and maybe a couple more people listen because of it. But there are days where I wonder what the point is.

Handily, there's a conference in Los Angeles this week called BlogWorld. We sent Marketplace's Adriene Hill to explore what the costs and actual benefits of social media really are.


Adriene Hill: This is the story of two very different companies, trying to figure out their social media strategies. One is about to launch new vodka called U4RIK.

Jon Burk: It's a premium vodka, it's grape-based. So it comes from wine grapes. It's not like your traditional vodka that comes from starch.

That's the company's marketing consultant, Jon Burk. The other company sells something perhaps less sexy, and more necessary than high-end vodka: contact lenses.

Courtney McMillion: In the United States there are four major players that dominate 98 percent of the market. We are part of the 2 percent other.

That's Courtney McMillion, a V.P. at the contact company Polyvue.

McMillion: We have a neglected Facebook page and that's about it.

McMillon is here to figure out what kind of social media strategy her office of four people can pull off. Burk, from the Vodka company, is looking to develop a social media strategy that'll have people ordering U4RIK right along with Grey Goose and Belvedere. They're both looking for an easy and fast way to reach those Bazillions of people on blogs and Facebook and Twitter.

So it's off to conference land: a world of projected presentations, scripted jokes, stale coffee -- and sometimes real nuggets of information.

Jason Falls is the CEO of Social Media Explorer. He says you've got to think of social media like a cocktail party.

Jason Falls: You don't walk in with your megaphone blasting your marketing message, you know. Buy my stuff.

Because then, no one would like you. They will unfriend you. They will unfollow you. Instead...

Falls: You listen to the conversation and find the ones that makes sense to you and introduce yourself and network and grow relationships over time.

Friends don't come easy. If you're a company, the value of social media is about getting people to trust you or think you're cool and -- when those people need something -- to think of buying it from you because they trust you or think you're cool. That, it turns out, can take a lot of time. And even though a lot of the tools of social media like Facebook and Twitter and Blogger are free...

Jay Baer: Social media is by no means free, it is not inexpensive.

Jay Baer runs a social media consultancy firm.

Baer: It's just different expensive. You are trading advertising dollars or production dollars, for labor dollars. It is extraordinarily time-intensive to do this well.

Ew. So not cheap, not easy, not fast. At the end of the day, I check in to see how McMillion and Burk are faring.

McMillion: It is pretty overwhelming.

But also intriguing. McMillion thinks her office might be able to create a blog that brings new eyeballs to her company website. Burk, also has a head full of ideas.

But here's the thing:

Burk: At the core of it, it's not really different from traditional marketing. It's really making sure that you listen to your customer, that you know your customer, that you do your research, that you make your message real and authentic and you try to make that connection.

And really just be that super-likeable guy or gal at the cocktail party.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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Follow Adriene Hill at @adrienehill