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:
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.
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.