Are you a CEO, entrepreneur or business owner who still doesn’t see the benefit of social media? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Besides, social media isn’t the right communication strategy for every business, just like a hammer isn’t the right tool for every job.

Every CEO is wired to focus on return on his investment of time, effort and money. And the faster that investment pays off, the more likely he or she is to take the time to learn it. Social media is a gardening or farming project. It requires daily discipline and investment in building relationships that may not pay off for years, if ever and most of the payback is indirect.

While many social media experts and marketers are quick to chastise business owners for not participating (and I was among the first) I’m going to salute them. And instead of wielding criticism, I’m going to outline some alternatives that just might address social media hating CEO’s concerns.

Uncontrolled Bad Press.

A CEOs biggest fear is being caught off guard by an uncontrolled complaint gone wild. The first thing they think about is the poor CEO of Comcast the day that YouTube video hit. Paul Gillin the author of The New Influencers said it best when he wrote Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.?

Alternative: Create Your Own Community.

While many companies have customer lists, I’m willing to bet that most of them are gathering dust. Sales has their list of customers, marketing has their list and accounting has theirs. There is no master list and there is no one person responsible for taking care of the most valuable asset any company has — the one that actually pays YOU.

Create a customer advisory panel from all those customer lists that you have. Take the time to profile them and then start conversations with them. Customer advisory panels are lists that you own. Customers sign up to be part of your panel in exchange for incentives and rewards. If you’re in an industrial market, your customers might sign up to be in your panel for the sheer impact that they would have on your product development and customer service initiatives.

Managing a customer panel is a lot easier than you might think. You need an online survey software that has a panel management system. I use Survey Analytics and their MicroPanel Platform. I find this platform easy to use with enough technical power to customize with your own HTML, but also good looking enough to just use one of their templates.

Social Media doesn’t have enough ROI for the effort.

This is a common critique of most social media channels and I can absolutely see why. It’s not hard to get the impression that there are lots of people pushing information out and very few people having a conversation that actually leads to business. Sorting out the good stuff from the vapid comments can be a challenge and feel like a time waster.

Alternative: Crowdsource.

You might know this as a “Wisdom of the Crowds” concept. The idea is that more brains are better than a few. Crowdsourcing applications like Get Satisfaction or IdeaScale make is really easy to create a space where your customers and prospects can share their ideas around your product or service. Users register and contribute their ideas, other users can vote ideas up or down as well as brainstorm and add to existing ideas.

I don’t care about what you’re doing…

Twitter’s focus on getting people to answer the question about what they are doing has created a perception that nothing valuable is really shared during those conversations. Even the ground-breaking eye-witness reports of political revolutions hasn’t really inspired many CEOs to start tweeting. The benefit of Twitter’s immediacy is often lost on the unstructured bits of information and opinion that are prevalent. There just isn’t enough immediate, relevant gratification for most business owners.

Alternative: Run mobile research surveys.

If you’re a CEO that wants all the benefits of social media without the distraction of conversations that are unrelated to growing your business and improving your customers’ experience, then you really ought to consider running mobile surveys.

Mobile research is a relatively new technology. Online surveys delivered on a mobile device has been available for a while, but research specifically designed to engage your customer in a quick, fun and useful way is now possible by using a new tool called SurveySwipe. SurveySwipe allows you to select an audience from our community based on the demographics you’re looking for, or upload your own list and ask them a short series of questions. You can get an answer in less than two hours. Not only that, but the community can also take pictures of the products and services they are interacting with and show you how they are using them.

Get Social Media to Work for YOU

Social media can seem like a time suck. Especially when you think about how much time it takes to build a community and foster those relationships. There’s nothing wrong with that — unless you’re trying to make a business decision and you feel like you’re making it in a vacuum.

I’ve shown you three alternatives that use the social media technology and infrastructure to help you make better, faster decisions and still engage your customer and build profitable relationships. Give them a try.