Twitter and Social Media: Pointless babble or pot of gold?


If you’ve spent any time on Twitter, it will probably not shock you to learn that about 40% of tweets are “pointless babble,” according to Pear Analytics. In fact, in their recent study, they rated only 8.7% as having “pass-along value” – the gold standard for true viral marketing.

“I feel like eating Cheetos with my grilled cheese & turkey sandwich, but I have none :(“

– Random Twitterer

This presents a huge challenge to the modern marketer. We all see social media and the real-time web as a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. But with these new media awash in so much “pointless babble,” finding success with social media marketing is akin to trying to find that rainbow against a psychedelic sky of endlessly flashing colors.

So before our next free web clinic – Social Media Marketing in 4 Steps: A methodology to move from sporadic to strategic use based on research with 2,317 marketers – on which MarketingSherpa Research Director Sergio Balegno will share actionable insights from research on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging, we thought we’d post this simple (and simply blunt) question to marketers:

How do you use social media to make money?

From the obvious (“cultivate relationships”) to the iconoclastic (“you don’t”), marketers had many interesting takes on this question (what else would you expect from a group that has to think out of the box for a living?). Here are our favorite tips, techniques and insights:

Win real fans
I have a brand called Mocks (socks for mobile phones) which I started to heavily promote on Facebook last year. Basically, over three months I gained 12000 fans and doubled online sales.

I use social media as a way to increase brand awareness and engage customers so that they become fans in the “old” sense of the word. This then means that they buy more and tell their friends.

– Lara Solomon, CEO of Mocks

New way of thinking for a direct response pro
We have really embraced social media in the past year to raise our profile in our own industry (medical marketing). Until recently, because we come from direct response backgrounds, we focused all of our marketing efforts solely on targeted prospects, with little regard for the larger industry.

Our strategy has been to leverage the publication-quality content we were already producing for magazines and our newsletter base. Therefore, we are getting a lot of bang for little additional effort, leading to more and better client inquiries.

Long-term relationships over short-term profits
Social networking isn’t always about an instantaneous transformation into dollars. It is about a long-term continuous relationship with the customer. You stay on their mind even when they aren’t actively seeking your product.

– Timothy Bonnar, Marketing Coordinator at King’s Transfer Van Lines

Virtual Tupperware party
RainbowDirect selling on a social network is difficult. The best way to sell is to replicate the offline world to a certain extent by signing up online agents. The same people who would host a cosmetics party or a Tupperware party are natural networkers who will have large social networks on all of the primary platforms.

The possibility exists to build a platform that they can invite their friends to at specific times and, in effect, host online sales parties. Obvious inducements include discounts on branded goods and free prizes, but the key may be to create a uniform space for the agents that they can build into a profile for themselves.

Even without a platform, they could simply become discount agents for their friends. Somebody who all their friends know can get good deals on specific products or services.

For the agent, it is not abusing their relationships on the social network platforms. For the most part, their friends already know them as somebody who hosts sales parties and they will either be ignored or valued but are unlikely to be criticized for the entrepreneurial efforts among their friends.

– Stephen Cudd, Digital Strategy Consultant

A straightforward sale
E-commerce websites (especially B2C) are the ones who can reap maximum benefits out of social media. The best examples are Dell and Zappos. Dell has reportedly made $3.5 million in 2009 from Twitter promotions.

These retailers post updates about various product offers in Twitter, Facebook and other social media. And they also give additional promotions to followers. Timely promotions to a well-targeted market segment will spur an increase in conversion rates and hence an increase in revenue.

One emerging trend is Facebook and Twitter commerce. Retailers are trying to build applications around Facebook and Twitter to port their entire commerce platform.

Arvind Muthukrishnan, Manager of Business Development at UST Global

Find out what customers want
By gaining a relationship or connecting with your customers and getting feedback, you can take the ideas they offer and put them into practice. For small businesses this is easier because most changes will be simple and not too costly. Larger business might need to run suggestions through a spreadsheet to find the most popular ideas before taking action.

Also, by doing this you pull in your customers and let them know they are being heard and that you’re really looking to make them happy. A great example of this type of mentality is Domino’s. They listened and then took action.

– Grant Gaither, President/Creative Director of Owen Graffix

Track lead generation
When it comes to quantifying social media and social networking efforts into an actual dollar value, the best way I’ve discovered is to use a simple tracking system. This consists of a spreadsheet and/or entry into my CRM that shows: lead to customer and what channel they came through, whether this be blog, social network (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), or referral.

Mark Mathson, Director of Keenpath

Present real value
Social media must be presented as a value proposition. It’s got nothing to do with befriending people and tweeting, but everything to do with brand value and lead generation.

– Matt Chandler, Internet Marketing Consultant at WSI

Lead generation
If you are currently advertising for customers, you can now “advertise” for FREE by posting a sample, giveaway, or contest on Twitter and linking to your website. Ask for pertinent details that are important to qualifying your potential customers…and drive them to your site.

Linda Frakes, Chief Connectivity Protagonist at What the Heck is Social Media?

Social media is about awareness, not revenue
We use it to drive business and increase our profile, nothing more. But do we make money from it? No, we make the money from the services that we provide to our clients. Our social media strategy could be the best in the world but if we cannot deliver then it is pointless. So yes, it drives traffic, increases awareness, and generates leads, but it does not make money.

Patrick Murphy, Director at

As we confront this brave new world, let’s remember that there is nothing particularly new about it…

Personally, social media has been around forever. We have always had teenage hangouts, chambers of commerce, the restaurant breakfast/coffee club, the local newspaper and specialized magazines. The difference today is that our social media has more two-way interaction, is worldwide, and can be instant.

– Georgenne Eggleston, custom market researcher

Social media is not a novel concept, we’ve just thrown a bunch of technology into the mix. And there are great benefits – speed, cost, and reach among them. But don’t get so caught up in the technology that you overlook what is really transpiring – a conversation.

Because, in the end, people don’t buy from social media platforms (or websites or email messages or even companies) – people buy from people.

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  1. Mark Mathson says

    Thank you for including me in this article! Great insight from the other marketers included. Your upcoming web clinic looks interesting. I will check it out.

  2. Chris W. says

    I’m a Web writer. I use social media for finding/building client relationships, and to research customer desires for my projects. Being independent, the one-to-one helps me out a lot in terms of weeding out people unlikely to be good clients.

    Signed up for the web clinic here too!

  3. tweet says

    Great article!
    Social media is a great way to spread the word without any cost. But the only way to be effective is to target the sites properly instead of posting a link at any random social media space.

    With so much of media exposure around, its increasingly difficult to get noticed. As a marketing professional, I find it really interesting to read about new and innovative marketing strategies that are being implemented.

    I regularly login to idea database, such as, just to check out various innovative strategies on marketing. Such a delight to read about ideas from a wide spectrum of people. Definitely worth a look!

  4. Gene Gerwin says

    When writing sales letters or telemarketing scripts, I draw on the conversations taking place in social media to help me uncover/understand the customer language for different markets or products.

    I also help marketing consultants sell their social media training programs to small businesses.

    While neither of these count as a way that I “use” social media to make money, I can still attribute income to it (indirectly).

  5. Jeff Molander says

    I disagree with the entire premise, Daniel. What happens in Twitter is NOT a challenge for marketers at all — unless we presume that marketers need to be automatically, hyper-concerned with Twitter. Which, of course, they are but which I’m suggesting is a far larger problem that leads to marketers becoming ‘tools of the tools’ themselves. Tactics before strategy — this is what we have today.

    Marketers should slow down and ask WHY — not if or when.

  6. Daniel Burstein says

    You make a good point, Jeff. And in a recent web clinic, we specifically taught that you should develop a social media methodology and strategy before diving into any social media platform. As part of that social media methodology, you must have a firm understanding of how social media is currently impacting your business and industry, what your objectives are, and how they map to social media actions. Only then can you decide which devices to use.

    I say “when” and not “if” because it is the extremely rare modern marketer that will not see some incremental benefit to using social media. In fact, if you can think of a type of marketer that should not be using social media at all, please let me know.

    Which brings us to my “a huge challenge to the modern marketer” comment. As you can see, I was using Twitter as an example for the challenge facing marketers in all social media. With so much “noise” (not to mention, so much doubt around ROI), how should the modern marketer approach social media? Especially considering that, as with anything else, you constantly have to stay ahead/keep up with/not fall too far behind the competition, simply doing nothing until social media shakes out and matures is not an option.

    I believe we have some good answers to the above question in our social media marketing web clinic. Which, I agree Jeff, includes answering the simple question of “Why?” However, I would hesitate to advise any marketer to “slow down” while asking that question.

  7. Luke Owen says

    I like how you presented some real life examples here. However, I’m a little confused by Patrick Murphy from SiliconCloud’s response. If they use it to generate leads, and those leads turn into sales, how are they not using social media to generate revenue? Are they saying that they have yet to convert any of these leads over to clients? Maybe I just need to know more about their service but it would seem logical to me that if you can develop new dialogs with a potential customer through social media, and that person eventually becomes a customer who buys your services, it would appear that social media helped generate revenue for you.

  8. Anne says

    I have yet to be brave enough to Twitter. I’m surprised that only 40% was found to be useless babble. Much of what I have seen shows the inability to use the English language without using valuable characters on swear words! No, I’m not really a snob, I just don’t see how I could cultivate an audience when I seem to speak a different language!

  9. patrick murphy says

    To clarify my statement and in response to Luke’s question. Luke’s point above is very valid. Social Media for use does generate leads but it is our business and the value that we add that converts those leads into revenue. Every business has to generate new business and for us social media is very good at introducing us and our services to potential clients. But we do not measure the ROI on social media as it is something that we would do regardless. I have the view that if you enter into social media as a pure lead generation tool then you are starting out on the wrong foot. According to a recent survey by eConsultancy the majority of companies are using social media for brand awareness and introducing new content, so maybe we are not alone. Hope this makes sense.

  10. Michael says

    Twitter can be a real time suck for any company if there is not a plan in place.

  11. In the medical social media space only blogs seem to make real headway, unless of course it’s a big hospital brand with tons of marketers and social media gurus working 24/7 on the latest twitter, facebook, and countless other social sharing tools. Time is a real factor.

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