This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”


  1. Excellent writing and comment again. I particularly like this bit “In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.” If only more people understood this basic principle!
    .-= Amelia Vargo´s last blog ..The Usefulness Of Informative Content On Twitter For Search Engine Optimisation. =-.

  2. It has been a dream of mine for months to be Tom Volkar when I grow up. And you know he has a great singing voice?

    I’ve made $100.00 in Adsense in the past 10 months. My check could well be in the mail! That will buy one nice pair of running shoes, whoo-hoo.

    My next business step may well be to find a drill for the hole I’m going to bust through my wall of Social Media short-comings, which seem to be many. I’ve heard again blogging may be dead, but I really do not agree, do you? Please blogging, do not be dead, I’m just starting to have fun and feel successful with you.
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Post-Vacation Contemplation =-.

  3. Kathy,

    I liked this post and thought you did a great job of using your example to make your point. It is much easier to connect when you have two things that are similar. A blog does allow people to become comfortable with someone offering a specific service or skill.

    Also, I don’t know why I’ve never read these words before, but I especially liked the following words you wrote in the box:

    “When it comes to building a blog – you can build it the hard way – by making your own mistakes – or you can learn from other people’s experience. When you let other people make the mistakes – that’s the definition of “WISDOM”.”

    Maybe, it’s my time to read them and actually get it:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Hullabaloo Muse =-.

  4. I agree that social media is a great way for business owners to get real feedback. I wonder if it can replace traditional market research campaigns.
    .-= Vered – Blogger for Hire´s last blog ..Stop Showing Me Your Post Baby Body =-.

  5. Creating a social media outreach is not easy. It’s about caring, consistency, and improving every day. I’ve been in the game for 3 years and I feel I’m just getting a handle on things.
    .-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s last blog ..What Do You Think of These Videos? =-.

  6. Hey Kathy,

    You threw a little curve ball here. I thought for sure that your “solution guy” was going to be some sort of social media expert. This is a good way of reminding us of the value of relationships and networking – both on and off social networking.
    .-= Valerie´s last blog ..Plus Size or Full Figured – Glamour Magazine Stirs Debate on What is "Normal" =-.

  7. Amelia – I keep banging the drum of “a blog is nothing more than a communication tool” here A LOT! It’s not magic – it’s not even “mystical”…. in many ways, it’s just glorified version of pen and paper. How you USE the pen and paper- well – that’s where the “magic” comes in.

    Jannie – I didn’t know Tom is a singer as well! (What a Renaissance man he is!)
    Blogging is NOT dead – nor dying…any more than the pen and paper are dead or dying, The last time I was at Walmart -they were still selling pens, pencils and pads of paper.

    Sara – Thanks!

    Vered- I really see market research as just ONE of the many benefits of social media for business. Yet another reason why “blogs for lead generation – period” gets under my skin.

    Karl – WELCOME and thanks for your 2 cents. I can’t tell you how often I warn clients that this is not a “set it and forget it overnight sensation”. Thanks for sharing!

    Valerie – People want social media to be a “connect the dots” kind os thing. They want it to be linear – but as you can see above – social media tools are NOT the process. The process has been going on since the beginning of time almost… we’re just using different communication tools here. Admittedly, the difference is night and day – it’s the difference between sitting down and hand writing a letter to 1000 people – or sitting down at a computer and writing a blog post. Both accomplish the same goal – only one is MUCH more efficient. However, when those who are “practicing” social media forget about the people who are receiving the letter – well, that’s when it falls flat!