Is Social Media Killing Your Business?

juggleI know today’s short post might come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog, but even though I promote the heck out of social media use for small business, I see a dangerous side as well.

Some small business folks equate busy with business. The problem with social media usage is it can keep you really, really busy, without producing a dime of business.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a post for all those social media is a load of crap folks, this is a post for all those folks that are hiding behind the monitor tweeting away when they really should be out shaking hands, making sales presentations, and attending networking events.

It’s all too easy to get sucked into building a big blog readership or twitter following and then wonder why your phone isn’t ringing.

Social media for the small business is a catalyst, a tool, a way to create awareness and deeper engagement – it’s not a way to take orders.

At some point you’ve got to take orders. If you can’t convince someone face to face of the value of your proposition, don’t expect to do it in 140 characters or less.

Stop using social media as an excuse to be busy and get out there and sell something.

There, I feel much better now.

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  • Wendy Kenney

    Social media seems to be the buzz word these days. In my opinion, the best use for social media is to monitor the environment: Find out what people are saying about your brand, find out what people want and need now and then take action. Just like faith without deeds is dead, so is social media without action. Just do something!

  • Anna Barcelos

    Hallelujah! If social media isn't generating leads, increasing awareness and helping build valuable relationships, then let's not log in and do some good old fashioned sales calls. Can't wait to get on the road myself in 2010. Miss that.

  • gruvenreuven

    So True!!! I had a Realtor who was so “socially Meida connected” that she failed to produce any results. She was too busy tweeting, facebooking and going to her REBAR camps that she couldn't even bother to get feedback & followup with ffolks that saw my house. Switched Realtors, and sold my house in a matter of weeks!!

  • gruvenreuven

    So True!!! I had a Realtor who was so “socially Meida connected” that she failed to produce any results. She was too busy tweeting, facebooking and going to her REBAR camps that she couldn't even bother to get feedback & followup with ffolks that saw my house. Switched Realtors, and sold my house in a matter of weeks!!

  • Margo Rose

    My sentiments exactly, which I shared in my recent post “Quit Bitching about The Economy and Do Something About It!” You sum up what I said. My post was geared for job seekers (of which I am one). Yet, your wisdom hold true for us all. This really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.


  • beley

    Thank you! It seems like every “expert” and “guru” around (I put those in quotes because I'm referring to the self-proclaimed ones that hardly are) is trying to convince people to dive into social media head first. Unfortunately, social media doesn't pay the bills (and I honestly don't think it ever will compared with other marketing avenues).

    People are touting case studies like Ford and Dell. Dell made $6.5 million using social media according to one report. Great! Considering their last year's annual report (check Yahoo! or Google Finance) showed their revenues at $61 BILLION, that's not too impressive.

    Congratulations Dell, Twitter added 0.01% to your bottom line (note, not 1% 0.01%).

    I'm not saying social media isn't valuable, or that small businesses shouldn't use social media. But come on folks, let's keep it real. There are so many ways to sell your services — online advertising, email marketing, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, etc. And that's just online marketing strategies… there are lots of ways to get the word out about your business using offline means.

    It's never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket… and that's especially true with social media.

  • J.b. Glossinger

    Great article! Got it to our team, there is nothing better then face to face and networking. Really hit a home run here. :)

  • ellebell

    Social Media is only one of many tools in the marketing tool box. Because the media it has become blown out of proportion in terms of what it can do for a business. Unfortunately what is not mentioned is that with any relationship it takes time and patience to get the right mix.

  • UrbaneWay

    John, Excellent advice with your post,
    At the end of the day, If your Social Media Marketing isn't Selling More Stuff to More People, then it is just a Hobby.

  • Mark Evans


    Excellent post. It never ceases to amaze me how much business I do and generate when meeting with people. Social media is a good way to build your brand but it's not the best deal-closer.


  • Donna Maria Coles Johnson

    Forget “social” media. For small businesses, it's about media. It's about producing quality content, branded media, that is used to spread your ideas. The fact that media is produced today in a way that allows people to connect socially around it is a bonus. But whether it's social or not, it's all about the media. If you are not producing your own branded media, nothing else matters.

  • MariSmith

    Omgosh, John!! Thank you for writing this post! Amen.

    Funny, at a tweetup earlier this year, a gal came up to me and asked, “…um, how did you get to be Mari Smith?” Really cracked me up. What she meant is how had I created my success – and I have done exactly what you talk about in this post: mixing *face to face* marketing, speaking and networking with online social networking.

    I've been saying for awhile that no amount of sophisticated technology will *ever* take the place of online social networking – it just can't. Sure video is the next best thing to meeting in person. But you cannot look a person in the eye, feel their energy, sense their style and vice versa.

    At the end of the day, it's all about results. And, as Gary Vee says in his inimitable style, “you can't pay the bills with Twitter followers!”

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  • Heather

    Social media is an added way market, not the ONLY way. I can't be the only way. As great as social media, it can't replace face to face marketing. Great post!

  • andyvickery

    Busy fools is a term that comes to mind. The same applies to owners of small businesses who wallow in admin that could be done out of business hours leaving time to create and close paying orders during the day. An easy trap to fall into though, which is why time management is important.

  • ducttape

    Seems I said something in this post many were thinking – 2010 is the year of Fusion!

  • The Franchise King

    John, You should feel better now.

    I'm sometimes guilty as charged….

  • ducttape

    No, I don't know that I would go that far – pushing that branded media out and creating awareness for quality content is one of the best uses for social media tools – it's the working in tandem that's needed

  • ducttape

    Absolutely right Mark – it's also a great way to stay in contact once the deal's closed.

  • John Harper

    Thanks for all the good advice and content in 2009. Looking forward to 2010.

    You mean we're supposed to sell!!!??? I thought if I just tweeted and blogged the bank account would fill up. Was I misled?

  • wiredsavvy

    I agree, social media is a front. In order to actually make money with your business, you will need to have more than a savvy web presence.

  • York A Taenzer

    Totally agree! Happy new year to everyone! Heading out to make face to face calls and my focus for new year. I'll check back once in a while. 😉

  • Ryan Hanley

    I think this topic is very relative to what you are selling… Services such as Insurance ( have to be sold in person… For Insurance professionals spending too much time on the Internet can definitely be an issue. For Online retail spending all day on the Internet might just be the answer…

    BTW, John I credit you with turning me on to OPENFORUM… I Love OpenForum… So much great content. Have a Huge 2010.

    Ryan H.

  • The Small BizNest

    Amen! Someone had to say it!

  • bkjrecruiter

    Great point…. Sales make the world go round… I agree with you 100% 2.0 is very seductive unless you harness your time, and ROI…

    Best, Brian-

  • Jennifer

    Good point, you can easily waste a lot of time by getting too immersed in social media.

  • Brent Pohlman

    Excellent Post – I feel the same way. See post below! 2010 will be the difference maker for a lot of companies. Thanks for the thought-provoking posts and the Twitter Guide and Social Media Course that you provided in 2009. I really learned a lot from the Twitter Guide and I really appreciated the way you updated it in 2009. Have a Great New Year!

  • Deborah Richmond

    I always talk to my clients about creating a limit for the time you spend on social media. Yes, you need to be on consistently, but you don't have to spend your entire morning on social media. You have an entire business to keep running. Thankfully, it doesn't take hours of social media a day to keep up your online marketing strategies.

  • nealschaffer

    Thank you for putting social media into perspective. As you can say, you can easily waste a LOT of time on it. I tell my clients that they need to take a step back, strategize where they should be spending how much of their time, create boundaries, implement, monitor, analyze, and repeat every 3 months. At the end of the day, as you always say, social media is a tool, and it should be utilized as businesses for that reason, nothing more and nothing less.

  • Stephanie Slade

    I love this post. I am learning to manage my online time better but last year I joined facebook, twitter, wordpress, digg, vimeo, stubleupon, reddit, jamaicanspace, enchanted forest, ipeace, beliefnet, and Toronto Pictures…all social networks. I was already on Linked In and Myspace and Youtube. I joined a few other ones like sonic bids and red bubble a while ago. I originally joined because I posted some video reports for an online news group that recommended I join the social networks to spread the reports. I did. Now I don't have time to check all my emails and all my friends comments and look up on their walls or see their 'back offices”. I have managed to break my gaming habit and only remember vaguely the hours I spent on Black Cauldren, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I see many of my friends are busy with their online farming and want me to adopt lonely cows, etc. I find out more about my children from checking on Facebook than telephone calls. I'm ready for a retro revolution. Remember the days when your local banker took care of you and a cashiers check was the same as cash before electronic publishing was so seemless? I love the internet and computers and the whole communication revolution. Time management is the issue and sometimes it is best to reach out by snail mail and telephone.

  • Stephen Eugene Adams

    This is the very conversation a colleague and I were having yesterday. Someone has to have a face-to-face with the customer for the order to be won. Doing all of this stuff to get on the first page won't make the sell, it only helps to get above the noise.

  • Christine Sawyer

    You don't hear the opinion conveyed in this article often, but I have been thinking the same for quite some time. I can see how social media could use a huge amount of time which is not spent improving products, contacting and servicing customers… It is hugely important to be highly self-critical and analyse well why we do what we do. On the other hand, I am sure that DuctTape Marketing itself is spending a lot of time blogging etc, and has seen the benefits of doing it. I also know of a startup in the music arena ( very busy on social media which has seen amazing opportunities coming its way which it could not have gotten any other way…

  • marcusschaller

    A couple of ways to look at this…
    Has social online media instantly negated traditional marketing and prospecting methods like some would like to have us believe? No.

    Are we at the very, very early stages of a shift in how people make buying decisions and find products/services? Possibly.

    Do we need to spend half the day posting tweets and updating our Facebook status? Probably not.

    I don't…but I see plenty of others who apparently do.

    Social media belongs in any strong online marketing mix. Just don't stop making those calls in the meantime.

  • Concerned

    This is a great article though I think it is akin to saying “Don't think helping the homeless on Christmas eve will bring you more business.” or “Don't think helping coach the kid's soccer team will mean cash in the bank.” Being social and getting more business are two completely different animals that shouldn't be in the same sentence. Being social and sharing what you're passionate about is the thrill. Period. Does it bring its own rewards? Maybe. If you're really good it might make you an expert in your field. It might make you a resource for your industry. It might give you personal recognition. And maybe even more business. That's the kicker though. Too often I think businesses are using social media and looking for an immediate, (and much too premature) instant return. Fans and twitter followers are not necessarily customers. Just like friends and family in real life are not necessarily customers. They can be, of course, if you're trustworthy, dependable and true. Those are three words that take a lot of time and energy. One more thing. If you ever ask “Now how can we turn this into more business?” you are already down the wrong track.

  • Michael Locke

    I was actually thinking the same thing a few weeks back. Although we all love social media and understand it's value, a single small business owner should not let tweeting, facebooking, blogging overshadow what you really should be doing, producing a valuable product/service.

  • David Lanning


    Yes, even in social media.

    There's no denying that social media marketing holds enormous potential for business as one tool in the chest. But, what social media has right now is the sexy “newness” and novelty that other marketing channels don't. It also holds an intrigue because of the unlimited potential associated with it.

    This post drives home the fact that all marketing efforts need to be part of a plan. A plan with objectives and clear goals.

    Yes, spend xx hours per week experimenting with implementing a social media component into your social media marketing mix. Because, it could… just maybe, lead to something big.

  • tracyannegeorge

    Yes! I really agree with your blog. Social Media is a catalyst to enhance the growth of your business. Here, I would like to share few details about another tool which help you to reduce your expenditure.

    Billing Boss is an online tool that helps you with all your billing requirements. There is no need of downloading and installing as this is not a software. It’s a free online tool which helps you to create unlimited invoices and you could send it to unlimited customers quickly. It helps you to maintain a transparent transaction records.

  • Shawn

    I'll have to agree with Ryan Hanley. I think the type of business you're in makes all the difference. For home business people starting an e-commerce Website or running an eBay auction business or other online business, face to face contact is pretty irrelevant. But for someone who is selling insurance or a service in a very localized area it may be a mistake to spend all day on Twitter.

  • jfrutkin

    You couldn't have said it any better. It takes an incredible amount of time to develop a strong social network through sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. If your networks are not generating sales, why not put your efforts into something more fruitful.

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  • Chris Jordan

    As another insurance agent, I'll throw my $.02 into the conversation and disagree that insurance cannot be sold online. Esurance has done it since 1999, and every single major carrier out there has some type of direct response center, armed with agents, in headsets, taking calls and selling policies over the phone… agents that consumers will never meet. Since Esurance hit the scene, nearly every carrier has a “Quote, Buy, Print” service online.

    Now, local independent agents? That's a slightly different story. Traditionally, yes, business is done face to face, at chamber meetings, etc. But social media (I hate that term by the way) speeds all that up. And it is free outside of time. To me, “social media” IS the Internet, and always has been. It's just one big communication tool. In 2009, we just decided to give it a fancy name.

    Oh, and while on the topic of the insurance industry, let's not forget the online lead generators that are making a pretty penny leveraging only the Internet.

    I've expanded my reach online tremendously, AND sold policies in the process using I admit that I've spent massive amounts of time behind my monitor, and while my ROI isn't where I want it to be, YET, I guarantee that it will be based on my last two production months alone.

    I'm a stay at home dad so my situation does not allow me to do a lot of traditional things. And my budget sure doesn't allow for it. So for now, I'm trading in the tried and true way of selling insurance to prove that insurance is something that can be sold while sitting behind a monitor. That's not to say that I don't ever get out to market and meet people, because I do. But it sure is nice to show up places and have people know you already…

    Now to the author's original point, can you be busy without being in business? Absolutely. But it's all about a thought out plan. Compare using SM to going into an office where there are no computers… I would argue that there is as much “busy” time at the water cooler as there is “busy” time playing Mafia Wars on Facebook.

    I think we're all reading way too much into this whole “social media” thing. Our production in business comes down to how we spend our time, online or offline. It is a matter of discipline and time management.

  • Chris Jordan

    But sometimes you have to build your brand before you can close the deal.

  • Chris Jordan

    I think this is the best response I've seen and really sums it all up.

  • ducttape

    Chris – thanks for adding your very valid point of view – I don't think I wrote this trying to say you can't build a business this or that certain types of businesses didn't call for this – I applaud what you're doing, but also know that if I was selling insurance I would combine online and offline and easily create a killer book of business.

    If you add in many of things I've written here in the past you'll see that the online to leverage offline is a big theme for me as is the use of social media as a local business building tool.

    This post was really meant to address the folks that were doing neither – using social media effectively or building a business.

  • saar siklai

    I do not think this is such a serious problem. one may spend too much time inon social media at first When he discovers the possibilities and the opportunity in it,but in the Long-term he will find the balance and learn how to do it right .(Especially if it does not lead to practical results).

    Why pay the price of learning the hard way? Because social media is something that at the end of the day you have to do yourself if you want to do it properly.

    Notwithstanding, of course that consulting with experts Before entering social media For Business & Marketing Reasons will be more Effective and a wise thing to do.

  • tracyannegeorge

    Good post! I really love to read your blog.. I like your way of writing.. its so precise and impressive!! I must agree that social media is a catalyst to grow the small business.. Here, I am gonna share another wonderful medium to reach your target customers and increase the sales. Its a website which could help you to have a good web presence..

    Sage Spark helps you to gain an exposure on the web among your competitors. It makes you to be visible to your target audience through its business directory, forum community etc. It offers wonderful solution for your IT, banking, marketing and accounting requirements. It is affiliated to the largest accounting software providers SAGE. They offer free invoicing tool as well.

  • tracyannegeorge

    Good Post!! I love to read your articles! This is very precise and impressive! I agree with your point. Social media is a catalyst for the small business!! Here is another catalyst I am gonna share with you to lead a successful SMB. Its a wonderful medium to reach your target audience.,.

    Sage Spark helps you to gain an exposure on the web among your competitors. It makes you to be visible to your target audience through its business directory, forum community etc. It offers wonderful solution for your IT, banking, marketing and accounting requirements. It is affiliated to the largest accounting software providers SAGE. They offer free invoicing tool as well.

  • Carrie Wilkerson

    Excellent post! I agree- it's part of a mix. We'd never suggest 'just business cards' or 'just chamber events' and so why would we ever say 'just social media?' – Nonsense

    ALSO – I've long believed that social media is not for new business owners…but as part of a strategy after your biz is up and running…as a way for you to connect with decision makers, influencers and like another poster said 'monitor the marketplace' — however…if you START with social media as a new biz owner – YIKES!! (I think that is a recipe for overwhelm, disaster and time-suck)

    I DO believe it can be an asset no matter WHAT the biz model (online or offline) – however, I think you can still have an excellent, profitable biz without excessive time in social media.

    As someone who 'seems' to be on social media ALL the time…I will admit that I focus on FaceBook & Twitter (primarily Twitter) and i pop in and out…I've very disciplined w/my time spent and strategic w/my relationship-building.

    Be careful.
    Be strategic.
    and most of all…remember – NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL SOMEONE SELLS SOMETHING…so if that happens in person with you, on the phone, through the mail or online – make 2010 about MORE profitability for you…not more 'busy-work'

    (I feel better to…thanks 😉

    Carrie Wilkerson
    The Barefoot Executive

  • Patrick Allmond

    If you want a good way to test this out install RescueTime like I did and watch your SM use over the day/week/month/year. Good insights.

  • ducttape

    As someone that consults with thousands of small business owners a year, I have to tell you that this post was inspired by me witnessing yet another small business go under because they thought they could do it all online with no base of support to back it. No, it's not every business, but I needed to get this out there a bit out of real life frustration.

  • ducttape

    Hey Carrie – thanks for adding an authorative nod to this conversation. What I love about what's happened with this post is that what started out as a warning of sorts to small biz folks turned into an affirmation for lots of folks that are doing it right and then people like you who are very visible in social media circles have come along and supported this idea as well. I think it's a great sign that small biz is ready to get serious about applying social media strategically to every aspect of business and not look to it as some sort of silver bullet.

  • Jason Docheff

    Problem some of my clients have is that some feel that if they disconnect from facebook or twitter for even a small portion of the day, they risk missing that *big opportunity* that will come knocking, any minute now! Admittedly, I understand the sentiment, and have trouble sometimes myself with the discipline of 'pulling away'! Good article, and thanks!

    Jason A. Docheff
    Career, Resume, School Admissions Consulting

  • Mark


    Sounds like more negativity from a traditional marketer. Come on, are you kidding. Instead of bashing social media you should be talking about the advantages. Marketers that don't “get” social media will be out of business.


  • ducttape

    whoa Mark, you must not be a regular reader of this blog – I may be quite possibly the world's leading advocate of social media for small business – Google terms like Facebook or Twitter for business and you'll find guides, webinars, and blog posts written by me going back to 2003 or so.

    This is not a post bashing social media at all – this is a post bashing the way I see too many small businesses using it or misusing it, that's all. It may not have come off that way to you taken out of the larger context, but you won't find a bigger fan of social media for small business than me.

  • Sydney

    I completely understand what you are speaking of on this matter. It is easy to get caught up in working online and trying to find avenues to help gain more clients and business and you are right, it does keep a person very busy.

    There is nothing like face-to-face contact with people or even contacting them by telephone. I am a firm believer in making regular contacts with prospective clients because a lot of times customers appreciate having that personal connection with small business owners. It can make them feel closer to the person which in turn creates good feelings and more of a chance to work more with the business owner.

  • Sachin

    I do not totally agree with your statements. Social media is not about following orders or so. Social media is a choice. It depends on how the person uses it.

  • BrianneMarie

    This is a great post and timely! I was in a meeting with a client yesterday and we were discussing adding social networking to his overall marketing strategy. He is an traditional sales person who strongly believes in the power of the face to face relationship which is why he is successful however it is also we were having a hard time generating “buy in” on the value of social networking.

    Then I realized, he was looking at social networking as a replacement to traditional networking when really it acts as a value add to traditional business practices and I love how this post explains exactly that.

    It is called a marketing mix for a reason and the integration of internet marketing and traditional relationship building is essential to any business.

  • davidcarroll

    I really liked this post. Small business owners are so busy running their business that they must really be focused and have some good content to connect with their market and their customers. you have given some great advice to remember what pays the bills and venture out into social media very cautiously.