Recently, I ranted about how blogging and tweeting are often incompatible with generating qualified leads or closed sales (“To Tweet or to Sell”). But if you run a business, how do you know if your tweeting and blogging are making you money? Or simply enabling the endless chattering among masses who have no need of your services or product, nor means of paying you for anything?
When thinking about how social media can lead to profitable growth to write this article, I first had to convince myself it can. Frankly, I’m torn. So let me cover 3 ways social media can lead to profitable growth – and 3 ways I’m not so sure.
Here are three ways social media can create profitable growth:
- If you can monetize your audience. Guy Kawasaki has parlayed his virtual fame and followers into numerous business ventures including his www.alltop.com.
- If your niche will pay you to lead them in a community. You can up-sell access to you and your knowledge. Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad” community is an incredible example of creating and leveraging such a niche.
- If you can use social media to tease your traditional product, service or content. The Wall Street Journal online does a great job of teasing its articles and blog postings while making readers pay to read full articles.
Here are three ways social media can’t create profitable growth:
- If you can’t turn voyeurs into participants. It is very hard to cost-justify most blogs. Beyond your core of loyalists, and despite hiring “retweeters” to push your postings, most of your prospects have little time to read let alone respond to your posts. Many of the tools and tricks of social media are designed to promote blogs but few tools exist to convert readers into qualified prospects for your products or services. Where someone stands often depends on where they sit. Make sure the zealot pitching social media believes in your need to create profitable growth in your business.
- If you can’t entice your buyers to engage in social networking. While I can’t find a study to prove this, the tone of most bloggers and tweeters is not that of a buyer with time, need, authority and money. I often get the feeling that most of the commentary is coming from those with agendas other than making a purchasing decision. If there could be a way of measuring how your online audience earns their living, this would be quite illuminating.
- If you can’t convert conversations into qualified sales leads. Time is valuable and all prospects aren’t created equal. Helping interested parties to know, like and trust you must lead to closed business. Make sure you know how much free content is enough -- and when it serves no business purpose. The big players in your competitive space may have the fortitude to build up their audiences but you may be better off blogging on their sites than trying to establish your own space.
Warren Buffett is famous for saying, “I don’t invest in anything I don’t understand.” If you are a business owner struggling to find and close qualified leads, demand a connection between your investment in social media and your returns in profitable growth.
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Andy Birol is also a noted small business coach, consultant and speaker who has been interviewed on CNN, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Entrepreneur, and Fortune Small Business. You can follow him on twitter @AndyBirol.