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Social Media: Business Tool or Waste of Time?

Social Media is B.S.* for Many Local Businesses

*B.S = Bad Strategy

In the past month, I’ve attended three webinars, read 14 articles, and attended an early morning in-person seminar all on the subject of Social Media as a business tool.

After all this, in all my experience, I’m afraid that the Social Media Emperor has no clothes!  That’s because I’ve seen no reason to believe that it will actually be worth the effort that it takes to do this stuff properly.

You would expect me to be an evangelist of this work. I’ve not only worked in this field since 1992, I’ve built several social networks (with my team).  But no, I’m not an evangelist, I’m a skeptic.   Having seen the bubble of Internet vapor burst in early 2001, I feel strongly this may be happening again, only this time, the losers could be struggling small businesses who invest their time and energy unwisely.

What a small business needs from its efforts, be they online or off, is ROI. If you have 12 hours in a day to run your business, you probably do not have time to setup Facebook fan pages, write blog articles, tweet on Twitter, and still sell. manufacture, ship, and keep the books as most small businesses do.  So before you tell me to go Yelp, or contribute to the public works Wiki, or check my comments and trackbacks, you’d better be prepared to tell me what it will be worth to me in additional sales and more importantly: profit!

Putting My Money Where My Blog Is

Frankly, I’d love to be shown a true ROI analysis which demonstrates in a meaningful way what benefits blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, or Yelping have brought to you or a client that you work for.  I am seriously interested enough in this information, that I am willing to put an open offer out here for a cash and services package worth at least $500.  If you can show me a real analysis of ROI (time + expenses) for using these tools versus how it has directly impacted your revenue, I’ll give you:

  • A year of “green” web hosting (worth about $150)
  • Web site Search Engine Optimization (worth about $250)
  • $100 in cash

This offer is good through the end of 2009, open to anyone with serious intent to help me learn something about these tools. I remain the sole arbiter of whether you’ve succeeded, but it will be worth it to me to be shown the light, if there is any.

In the meantime, while the jury’s out, I’m helping my clients to cover these many Social Media bases with the least possible amount of time and effort expended. I do it with a process that allows them to simply send a text email to a specific address and then this system will:

  1. Post the message to your web site’s blog
  2. Post it to all of your social media presences (facebook, linked-in, GOTML, etc)
  3. Post the subject line as a tweet on Twitter (linking back to your site)
  4. Send a beautifully formatted graphic html email to your prospect list
  5. Offer you response data to measure interest in the message
  6. Give you a foot rub and a pat on the head (just kidding)

If you are interested in having me wrangle the media for you as noted above, or if you want to submit an ROI analysis, please email me:  And I promise to publicly recant my skepticism when I’m properly educated.

13 Responses to “Social Media: Business Tool or Waste of Time?”

  1. We used twitter and facebook to manage the online bit of the Honorary Mayor race for Goose, the Hotel Dog that was a candidate for this Groveland fundraiser. Goose successfully raised the most money and now has the moniker of Mayor of Groveland. Since we only won by 60 votes and received far more than that through the paypal link on our online presence, I think it worked quite well. Having the Mayor be a dog, and a dog named Goose at that is going to be a priceless marketing position to have for the Hotel for the following year. I am playing with campaigns now, something like: Sleep with the mayor…Crazy, but we will get it just right.

    It works, but one must be ever so vigilent and patient.

  2. Janeen says:

    Well, you certainly have proposed an interesting challenge…let the games begin! This is brilliant on so many levels..that’s why you are the master.

  3. boblogadmin says:

    Thanks Janeen. So far, I’m having fun with it. The main thing that is I’m serious about wanting the information. I’ve posted this in places where they keep track of network user data and specifically sent it to top level management at Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Yelp, and Leverage Software (network developers). I look forward to sharing widely what I learn.

  4. boblogadmin says:

    You guys are pretty clever. It’s so great to see a rescue animal make it big in politics! As far as my offer goes, if you can show me an analysis of the time you put into this and a documented increase in business over a similar period last year, you get the prize. Otherwise, please keep me posted and I’ll do likewise on real data that comes in.

  5. Bob: You now have me set up where my blog posts automatically to my Facebook and Gold of the Motherlode. Is it possible to also automatically post to my linkedin account? How many can you link to for me?

    Also, I am interested in your arranging it so that I don’t have to log into all my social networks accounts to check daily. You said something about bringing them all into one spot to check?


  6. boblogadmin says:

    Linda, no limit to the number of places we can place your blog’s RSS feed. So far, all of your social media pages have the built-in ability for me to set that up. And when we find one that doesn’t, I have a widget that we place there to do the job. Next question, re: having a central place to check all your blog activity…this is a matter of setting up an account with an RSS reader (like Google Reader). You simply subscribe to your various RSS feeds, including the comments, and it will all appear on a page that you design for your own needs. Let me know if you’d like me to walk your through this process.

  7. Dimensions says:

    It’s hard to take social media solicitations with much serious consideration when you see what spam fests most of them devolve into…

  8. boblogadmin says:

    I’m with you on that one. What this world needs is more permission-based interaction. Social Networks (and most web services) coerce you to accept the spam, just to get in there. But of course, I understand that this is the only way THEY can hope to make a living with their dicey business models.

  9. Greg Falken says:

    Not definitive but an interesting data point: A new study finds that consumers who engage with brands on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube show significantly higher propensity to search for and then click on those brands’ search ads.

  10. Laura says:

    Here is the link you are missing. Social media (usually) doesn’t directly result in money – the monetization of a site does. More often, social media is used to drive traffic to a site that has been monetized and is meant to convert visitors into a revenue source.

  11. boblogadmin says:

    So far Greg, you’re the closest to getting the prize, not that you’d need it. But I appreciate this input, it’s a good article and I’m going to delve into the study it references if I can get my hands on it.

  12. boblogadmin says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not hoping to find how someone made money on Twitter (although Twitter would love it if that were the case), I’m interested in understanding how the time and effort (which costs money and other scarce resources) returns a tangible result that can be quantified, and ultimately translated into revenue. Let’s face it, this is why most of the businesses who engage in these practices go to the trouble. Most sophisticated businesses know how much it costs per visitor they get to their site, and how much that visitor is worth as a customer, and it is that metric they compare to get the ROI.

  13. Ken Jones says:

    I don’t have data on ROI, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any ROI. I believe a major benefit of social media is the opportunity to create community around and about your business. Most business owners I have talked with don’t have any contact with their customers outside of the moment of sale. We can do better. Social media allows me to talk with and get ideas from my customers (in my case, viewers of my TV show). It also facilitates referrals to new customers – a “viral” activity that allows new people to learn about, and become fans of my show, that would not have otherwise. I have received invitations to speak to business organizations from strangers who became “fans” on facebook. And social media allows me to make periodic announcements that, in the past, had to be done through time-consuming and expensive bulk mailing via snail mail. I think most businesses can benefit from properly considered and prudently managed social media efforts. (Love your new News Bulletin, Bob!)