Well, then. Social media sure has been taken its lumps in the blogosphere lately. If you thought the warmer weather would help people well out, well, it hasn’t. Everyone has an opinion on using social media for business and most of them aren’t good. Most recently we saw Peter Shankman carried through the streets when he rallied why he’d never hire a social media expert. Not long after, executive coach and BNET writer Steve Tobak championed his belief that social media offers small consulting businesses the lowest bang-for-their-buck for their marketing investment.

Wait, I thought, really? Have we all really been investing in social because it’s shiny and not because it allows us to do what we do better?

To find out, I decided to look at a small consulting business that I’m intimately familiar with and see what they’ve earned through social media.

The SEO consulting company I looked at is one that was formed in 2009, right as this social media thing was really taking off. The name of the company is called Outspoken Media. You may have heard of them.

Through social media, Outspoken Media has earned:

Increased Traffic

When Outspoken Media launched in 2009, we relied on social media to drive users to our site, knowing that it would take time for us to build our authority in the eyes of the all-powerful Google. Since launch, Twitter, StumbleUpon and Facebook have remained among the top five traffic sources to our site. Even further, users that visit the site via Twitter exhibit a lower bounce rate and have nearly the highest average time spent on site. A recent site blog survey also found that 23 percent of respondents discover new Outspoken Media content through Twitter and another five percent find them via Facebook (which is interesting considering we largely ignore Facebook). Without social media, we’d be void of any of that traffic or interaction.

Increased Search Rankings

As a small consulting biz, tapping into social signals to build organic rankings is going to help you see results faster than you would without them. Both Google and Bing have incorporated social signals into their organic search results. That means who you’re connected with, how people are interacting with your content and the number of times your link is tweeted inside someone’s network matters. It matters not only in terms of social success, but for increasing your Google rankings and getting you listed in other social search engines. For us, we’ve definitely seen a correlation between social media success and success in organic rankings. That’s not a coincidence, that’s the future.

New Partnerships

While we receive more leads than we tackle through our contact form, our best clients (the clients we mesh the most with) often come not from our contact form, but through referrals from our industry contacts. More times than not these contacts are people we’ve met through social media. They’re people we talk to every day on Twitter, people who know the blog, people who we’ve started the conversation with online. In some cases we’ve met them once in person for a beer, but sometimes even that hasn’t happened. They’re online relationships that grew to new partnerships. New partnerships lead to collaboration lead to referrals lead to money.

Lower Marketing Costs

Blogging and being involved in social media as a consulting business allows you to gain authority, word of mouth and awareness by means other than more costly traditional advertising. Social media is not free, as your time has a monetary value, but in my opinion the ROI on forming relationships through social media is always going to be much higher than trying to market to people who really have no interest in who you are. In fact, according to a Chadick Martin Bailey study of more than 1500 consumers, 51 percent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers are MORE likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of. Your social media participation gives you something those traditional ads seldom do – a built-in promotional army that you can turn to whenever you need them.

Hard, Cold Leads

Every week we receive new leads from people who say they discovered Outspoken Media via Twitter. They follow @lisabarone, @rhea, @OutspokenMedia or one our team members and based on that interaction and/or the information we shared, they want to learn more about how we can help them. We’ve established trust in their eyes by talking to them or showing our stuff and they’re ready to take it to the next level. What do we get from social media? We get clients. And given that last year social media was named the top emerging channel for lead generation, I have a feeling we’re not alone.

Backing During Hard Times

No, I’m not telling you that your small business needs to get involved in social media for the hugs, but sometimes it helps. One thing small businesses have always had in common is that it was easy to feel disconnected and fragmented. It was easy to sit in your basement working 14 hour days and think that no one else was facing the same problems you were. It was easy to wrack your brain trying to find a tool that someone else has already found and could quickly vouch for. Social media has changed that. And it may seem like a fluffy, frivolous thing, but I assure you it’s not. Outspoken Media has been made a stronger company over the past six months thanks to the support of a social community we’re proud to be part of.

In his article, Mr. Tobak suggests that a small consulting business is better off using old school networking and schmoozing for business development. And I’m not knocking that. But if it’s the schmoozing and networking that’s going to allow you to grow your business, then I’d argue that social media lets SMBs work faster by opening the doors to the people it is you want to meet. Because once you’re on their radar, the conversation you can have with them changes. Until then, you waste a lot of time looking for the door.

You need to decide for yourself whether or not social media is right for your company. Could Outspoken Media have achieved the same results using more traditional means? Maybe. But probably not as fast.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


11 thoughts on “How Social Media Delivers Increased Consulting Revenue


  • Alec Perkins on said:

    Mini case-study of our company:
    1. Heard about a tech conference on Twitter
    2. Met some cool people through Twitter while at said event (yes, we were tweeting at each other while in the same room)
    3. Learned about a monthly tech meetup from one of those cool people
    4. Started going to meetup, maintaining connections using Twitter
    5. Referred and got referred business to and from people met
    6. Profit

    We’ve also connected with other companies on Twitter, generating new business — too much, in fact. Plus, by engaging with some of the ‘rockstars’ in our industry through Twitter, we’ve been able to grow our technical capabilities, which greatly increases our value and potential market. Yeah, we have snazzy business cards that we’ll hand out, but they just say our names and Twitter handles. For a small (three person) company not in a location known for what we do, Twitter is the most efficient way for us to make and maintain these connections. It’s also just a great way for us to connect by being ourselves, without the friction of that awkward first meet that us nerds dread.

    It helps that we’re in a Web-centric industry, and we’re all tech-savvy. The way we tweet also helps (going back to that post about voice). There is a company Twitter account, but it’s limited to product status announcements and the like. I suppose we should use it more, but we’re too busy tweeting as ourselves. The company is really just us three anyway, so the majority of professional connection and engagement is through us as individuals. Because of this, the kind of people we end up connecting with are just like us in that they want to deal with a real person, someone they could have a beer with or who will at least recommend a good beer to try. (Honestly, beer discussion may outweigh professional topics.)


  • Michael Dorausch on said:

    Lisa, I think there’s a big difference in what Peter Shankman refers to in his post, and what OSM does. He uses the term “Social Media Expert” in the same way many of us use the term “Social Media Guru” (also mentioned in his post). At least that’s how I see it.


  • Courtney Seiter on said:

    Such a great argument for TRUE community and trust building, not just falling for shiny things and lip service!

    If social media were represented by more reasoned, well-documented pieces like this and fewer gurus and rock stars, we probably would have this argument a lot less often.


  • Gordon Currie on said:

    This post is timely and certainly makes a number of good points. Lisa, I think you do an awesome job and I love your writing style. Through social media (twitter) I rand across your business. I read the entries and follow all links. In fact your blog is in my top 10 that I monitor. I work in Web design and marketing and have clients all over North America (I live in northern British Columbia ). SO when I speak to my clients or need assistance with some marketing for my clients…guess who I am going to call on? OutSpoken Media.

    I understand and acknowledge that many people question the ROI on social media. But we know the old ways work less and less and we know that more clients are starting to consider social media. But, I think in some parts, we are still in the “transition” period.

    In 1984, I started to access the Internet (calling long distance to California). There was no WWW then. And I remember everyone claiming the internet was a fad. So here we are now with Social Media hearing the same thing from business. I made the right decision to stick with the Internet and it took off. I am willing to bet my ***** that social media will do the same.

    Keep up the great work and great writing. You are leading and should not be ignored.

    Gordon


  • Stephen Eugene Adams on said:

    I think a lot of your success comes from the fact that you are helping people understand social media and how it helps a business. As people try and figure social media out, they go to your sites and outlets. I think that businesses in areas not associated with social media are the ones that are struggling to validate the effectiveness of the whole social media arena. Personally, I have filed social media to the side with the concept that it might help some companies but not all.


  • Toby on said:

    Like the post and its really interesting how your business has developed through social media definately some lessons to be learned here – thanks


  • Andrew on said:

    We have run a seperate marketing agency for the last two years and social media hit home about 3 months ago…WHY THE DELAY… We simply did not invest enough of our time. Traditional outbound marketing methods work. However since we formally adapted the processes we have seen significant increases in web traffic. Also our lead to sale conversion rate went up to 28% from 10%. It works…Social media is delivering a greater ROI than any other marketing technique


  • DJ ARIF on said:

    In social media twitter has given up a great service, Twitter is changing the way that many people connect and communicate online and should be an indispensable part of your overall marketing plan for your blogs and websites. Twitter is free to join and you can get set up with an account in a matter of just a few minutes.


  • Mark Wheatley on said:

    I found this post through the social media tool within the software I use to provide inbound marketing services for my clients. Having a content strategy is a very important part of your social media strategy, the right tools.

    There is no point in having lots of follows that are not relevant, like all marketing its about targeting the right people with the right message.

    Great blog post and comments by the way.


  • Roger on said:

    The speculation of whether social media is critical to success at any level is no longer even an issue for the well educated crowd that gets it. Relying on search engines exclusively for traffic is not an option, since their rankings are now being heavily based on social media activity. Those Tweets are turning into dollars literally. Your blog post summarizes this.


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