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Social Networking: Is It Making You Money?

I used to have an accountant who was fond of asking the following question: Is it making you money?

That question had a way of stopping me in my tracks. It forced me to think about what I was doing with my time. And what I needed to be doing.

I’m reminded of Helga the Accountant’s question whenever I read or hear the latest buzz about social networking. I can’t help thinking that all the time spent on Facebooking, Twittering, Linking In, etc., might be better spent on other things that might actually lead to sales.

There is much in social networking that reminds me of some stores I’ve been to. You know, the ones where the sales people are so busy talking to each other that they forget to acknowledge the shoppers. Which causes the shoppers to leave without buying anything.

You can well imagine the effects that shopper walkouts can have on the store’s sales revenue. And the job security of the sales people.

Now, I’ve been writing business turnaround articles for buiznus since last year. One of the things that I realized early in the turnaround process is that I had to stop chit-chatting with my peers in the networking crowd. This chit-chat certainly was enjoyable, and I hated to give it up. But, alas, it wasn’t doing my business any good.

Reason: My peers were not – nor were they every going to be – my clients. And, since many of them were in the same business I was, they weren’t about to send any referrals my way.

Instead, I had to start chatting up the sales leads, and seeing who qualified as prospects for further cultivation. Most of the leads turned me down, either by not responding to my calls or e-mails, or by saying the dreaded “n-o” word. Matter of fact, most of the leads still turn me down. But I’m still here. (It’s true – that which does not kill you does make you stronger.)

My freelancing business is well on the way to recovery, but I can’t say that it’s there yet. Which means that I need to keep making those cold and warm calls and e-mails. It also means that I can’t get distracted by seemingly interesting, but not very productive, things like social networking.

This is not to say that social networking can’t make other people money. It may be bringing you a torrent of new clients and additional work from existing clients. More power to you if it’s working.

But if you feel like you’re spending a lot of time on the social networking circuit, but your sales are still stuck in the same doldrums that they were six months ago, then it’s time to try something new.

Let’s go back to that store example for a minute. If you’re a graphic designer specializing in, say, design for bicycle shops, then it’s time to break away from your computer and go out and meet some shop owners. You might be invited to leave as soon as you’ve walked through the shop’s front door, but that’s a chance you’ll have to take. You might also find yourself with a website redesign gig or two.

Or, if you have a hankering to do grant-writing for non-profit organizations, get on the phone and call some of them. You might not get any further than the Great Wall of Voice Mail, and that’s a common occurrence. But you might also get through to someone who’s really struggling with the largest grant application her organization’s ever done, and there you are to save the day.

Whatever you do, remember Helga the Accountant’s question: Is it making you money? If it is, keep going. If not, try something else.



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