How to Make Money Off Social Media

Social media sites and technologies like Twitter and Digg are something that the tech savvy take completely for granted.  We just automatically assume that if you are on the Internet, you are using social media. This isn’t really the case. There are some very important people that are not yet aware of social media and what it can do – your clients.

Social media is definitely a source of new income for you as you have the opportunity to go back and update your old clients to current technologies.  The foundation-laying for social media came in 1999 when Rick Levine and others wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto.  This manifesto lays out simple rules for online markets and social media.

Cluetrain Manifesto - see for more.

Cluetrain Manifesto - see for more.


Interaction and Your Clients

Gone are the days where an e-mail newsletter and an occasional site update were enough to assuage the information junkie consumer.  Now people want up to the minute interaction, with live help on websites and Twitter updates from the CEO whenever they can get them.  While you know the power of interactive marketing, the guys in the boardroom may not yet “get it“.  It is up to you to make them get it.

The best argument that you can make for social media is that it is replacing traditional SEO practices.  Gone are the days when a link from a highly pageranked site got you some street cred with Google – although that still doesn’t hurt – now it is all about how many Diggs your content gets.  The key argument is that traditional SEO work is now not enough – it needs to be supplemented with social media.

There is a bit of a fear surrounding social media for companies that like to “stay on message”, or in other words not give the public a forum to air complaints about its products or services.  Your argument here is that by giving the customers that forum, your business is extending an open hand in friendship to its clients.  This hand will rarely get slapped away unless you are dealing with a really irate client base, in which case you probably won’t have a business for much longer anyway.

There is more to be said for allowing your business to be interacted with online than there is to be said for the time lost.  In the end, employees will be communicating with customers so it isn’t really time lost.  We spend too much time in business on hunting new prospects and not enough farming our current customers.  If we aren’t careful, another business will be happy to come along and pick up that slack.


How to Start Marketing Social Media

If your past clients do not yet have a social media strategy, it is time to present them with one.  If you don’t already have an e-mail newsletter set up to go out to all of your clients, go set that up.  We’ll wait.  Don’t forget to add a “join my newsletter” page or link to your site as well.  Send out an e-mail newsletter talking about how you would like to update their sites with access to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other social media technologies and sites.  Determine what is within your scope and develop a social media package that you give past clients a discount on.  Make sure it is a clear and decisive package that is priced reasonably enough to be accessible.  We’ve developed one here below that you can price out at whatever you think is reasonable.

Once you have created it, include it on your website as a new product.  Simply having it available will give you an “edge” over other web design companies.  Web designers aren’t the only tech-savvy people on earth and those who already use Twitter and Digg are more likely to call your company than another if you have these technologies showcased on your site.  Not only does it give you a new item to sell, it gives you a bit of variation – you’ll probably look forward to your social media projects quite a bit when you start getting them.


Suggested Social Media Package

Core Package – Must-Haves

  • Make key content of website “Bookmarkable” on social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon.  Price per page.
  • Remember that E-mail newsletter thing?  Make sure they have it too.
  • Create Facebook Group and Facebook Page for your business
  • Set your business up on Twitter
  • Add a WordPress blog to your site
  • Training for your staff on updating Facebook, Twitter, and your blog

Add-Ons – Nice-to-Haves

  • Set up your site to display live Twitter feeds
  • Create a social media press release template for the public relations department.
  • Create a YouTube page with introductory videos
  • Add Live Help component to site
  • Find online communities for employees to join and prepare a report with your suggestions.

The various features above can add up, so you want to package your Social Media kit like a Chinese Food menu – allow deletions and substitutions.  Just make sure that you have adequately priced out each component so that you do not leave yourself holding the bag on hours worked.  There are also a few key items you can’t leave out, which is why we have separated out the core package from the add-ons.  All of the components in there are necessary unless your client is just adamantly against it – in which case all you can do is present them with this article and move on if they still don’t want it.

How to Not Set Up a Social Media Package.

How to Not Set Up a Social Media Package.

You should also make it clear that your package is to initially implement a technology, not to maintain it.  While this may create a good income stream for you, social media maintenance isn’t like site maintenance – it is very time consuming and best left up to the company that wants to use it.  You have nothing to offer someone who is asking you for a quote on dog grooming – only the dog grooming company that hires you can answer that kind of question.  Make sure that your client knows that you are there for them if implementation falls down, but that they have the responsibility of updating things like Twitter and their blog.


Social Bookmarking Site-Ready

Your clients will ask what a social bookmarking site is.  The best way to explain it to someone who doesn’t know is to ask them if they know how to Favorite or Bookmark a site in their browser.  Most will say yes.  Digg and other social bookmarking sites simply serve as a website that acts as a more organized Favorites list, allowing you to tag an article for reading later, or a useful resource to come back to later.

A good argument could be made for going back and making every single page of website content on your client’s site “Diggable”.  However, this would be somewhat time consuming.  Best to make a few key pages “Diggable”, such as a company’s environmental policies, key product pages and press releases.  Basically anything that you consider “Diggable” material should be “Diggable” to the public.

Don’t forget to make the page accessible to more than just Digg.  There is a fine balance to walk here – you don’t want to saturate the web visitor with choices of too many social media outlets.  You can use a script called “Bookmarkify” that allows to choose which social media outlet icons show up below the content and which can be expanded on from a menu item.

It allows access to all social bookmarking sites but allows you to show just a few on your page.  It is available for PHP and as most of you already know, you simply need to give the page that you are putting it on a “.php” extension in order to insert the script.


Setting Up a Blog

While it isn’t instant gratification for the consumer, a blog and weekly updates to that blog keep customers coming back to your site.  That and they can be marketed on directories that are reserved exclusively for blogs, including Technorati and Blogarama.  Having a Technorati authority is quickly becoming just as important as a Google pagerank and you simply cannot have it without a blog.  After minimal staff training, company staff should be able to update the blog using WordPress or a similar blogging platform.  Do yourself a giant favor and don’t use Joomla – it’s a huge headache and not user-friendly enough for your clients to use.  Play around with both if you like but really, just save yourself the time and go with WordPress for client sites.

The blog shouldn’t be all about company specials and company products.  It should cover related industry news and topics that you know are important to your demographic.  A company selling investments for seniors may post activities for seniors, a daily crossword or sudoku puzzle, and profiles of healthy and active seniors.  If you are offering good, hard information, you can plug your product about once a week.  Try to keep it to news and updates about your products or your company rather than straight out promotions unless you are cross-promoting with a company wide campaign.


Social Media Press Releases

There’s a new press release in town.  A social media press release gets your message out to traditional outlets and social media with the simple click of a button.  It incorporates RSS feeds, social bookmarking sites, and many other features.  I could go on about it for a while but it is best just to direct you to a template for it where it is fully explained.


Creating a YouTube Page

If your client has television commercials or video of any kind, you’ll want to set up a YouTube page for them.  For a basic page, this takes the form of a simple YouTube account in the name of the company.  They can then customize their profile page with their own videos and gain subscribers.

Links to the YouTube profile should be included in their site and blog.  Much like a Twitter page, you can customize the YouTube profile with background art and your own color scheme.  Machinima did a particularly nice job with this.

If the company is willing, they can even bust out things like old training videos that you can have converted from VHS to digital.  The quality won’t be awesome but the vintage value may be something that the customers enjoy.  Anything that attracts customers to the company and doesn’t go too far off the wall is good.  Be careful when you are quoting out that you include pricing for converting VHS tapes to digital.  If you don’t have sufficient expertise in this area, find a freelancer to partner with on video.


Live Help

Live Help should only really be implemented if the company makes a clear commitment of personnel to it.  There are often monthly charges for Live Help services and these can add up if there is no instantly recognizable return on investment for the company.

Due to the charges, you may want to gear any suggestions of Live Help services towards the sales section of your client’s site rather than customer service.  Despite this suggestion, customers looking for service will still use the Live Help portion of the site, so the company should be prepared for that.

Live Help is also only really good if your client is actively selling something online.  Sometimes a little hand holding is all a customer needs to gain the confidence to purchase from a particular company.  Live Help is particularly useful if your customer has customizable packages that they sell such as software packages or subscriptions with different components.

If this describes your client, hook them up with any one of the Live Help services out there.  Simply do a search on Live Help and pick the one that you and your customer like best.  You can also ask your customer to pick out the one that they prefer, which may make more sense since they will be buying the monthly subscription.  Once they have selected their service, they can have you implement it on their site for them.  Some Live Help services even include free site implementation, so your services may not even be required.  Your client will appreciate the suggestion when their conversions increase.


What Else Can I Do?

Obviously the package put together above is meant as a start, not as a finish.  If you have a company that sells youth-oriented items, such as sports gear, you may want a MySpace profile as well.  You’ll notice the line about finding other directories and sites that your customer should be on.  This may involve adding them to directories or commenting on blogs with a link to their site.  It can be argued that this fits more into search engine marketing territory and should be charged out by the hour as ongoing work.

Overall, it is easy to see where social media can become a huge profit center for web designers.  With it you will move your customers to the next level and prove that you can give them added value that nobody else can.  Except other people who have read this article!

Are you using social media as a means to boost your business?  Please share your experiences with our community!

  • Rajeev Edmonds

    The business of social media consultancy is growing at rapid pace. Large number of companies are still unaware of its potential and there are immense possibilities in capturing this market. Excellent article.

  • Huli Tixuan

    The first ones who earned money from social media were creative spamers who automatically registered thousands of profiles to invite random friends to see some content for a student loan or some sort of free stuff that was actually a gratis gift combined with a contract.

  • Fahim Ameree

    Great article! Very informative and many bright ideas. Actually, after reading, I’m thinking of creating a profile on FaceBook in order for customers to see reviews.

    Thanks again!

  • insic

    Yes, the thing you have mentioned here is right. some are really into this kind of internet marketing.

  • Adam

    This is a really well put together article. I’m going to socially bookmrk the heck out of it.


  • Maestro

    First…I love this website. It has great articles. I have put this on my daily bookmarks.

    I only have one request…Can you add a print stylesheet?

    I find these great articles on your site and then when I go to print…I only get a small portion of the whole.

    Thank you for your consideration,

  • gil

    great post, thanks! For businesses, I would only add Linkedin as a must have and audio podcasts as another nice to have.

  • Walter

    Print stylesheet added as requested – thanks for the feedback!

  • Tom Hinson

    Excellent article. Really like the idea of creating packages, will make it an easier sell. Thanks.

  • http://www.podcastforfreelancers. Paul the Knight

    Brilliant article. Im going to go make a youtube page right now!

  • Leslie Tripathy

    good points

  • Pingback: #9 Une liste de liens délicieuse - Startup'z()

  • mindxstudio

    Happy to learn those… I am starting to work…

  • Kids Wall Art

    Selling additional add-on services is one of the best ways to increase your profit margin when selling websites to clients. There is also a lot of added value, SEO and customer service wise when you incorporate social media. Most client have probably heard of all of these networks like “twitter” on TV, but you are showing them how to apply new technology to their own business.

  • Jennifer

    I like a lot of what you shared – I am a bit confused by this statement:

    The best argument that you can make for social media is that it is replacing traditional SEO practices. Gone are the days when a link from a highly pageranked site got you some street cred with Google – although that still doesn’t hurt – now it is all about how many Diggs your content gets. The key argument is that traditional SEO work is now not enough – it needs to be supplemented with social media.

    I am not sure a company can not have an SEO strategy, they still need to be found on search engines when their consumers are searching for their products. And yes, Twitter is a growing rage, but many consumers are not using it – how can you convince me foregoing SEO for Social Medial is the right thing for my client?

  • Michael Murdock

    SEO being replaced by Social Media?? Not any time soon. SM compliments SEO in a number of ways. If you’re smart and you integrate live feeds into your sites then you have the constant flow of new content, the problem is that unless that site is being submitted the search engines have no way to know its there. The process is not automatic by any stretch. There is some work that has to be done and it has to be repeated as well. It has to be scheduled. It’s not a wash rinse finished sort of thing. There’s still that drying cycle.

    SEO is more of the shampoo, rinse, repeat, but the repeat portion comes after a little bit of time. So does the reshampoo and the repeated submisssions. IF those are not done then the site can lose position and it might do that at an inopportune time so you have to be cautious about that.

    Good article to read. Thanks.

    Michael “DocMurdock” Murdock
    follow me on twitter. @docmurdock

  • Ryan Brown

    Currently I have a website and Joomla IS very time-consuming – so nice to hear after countless hypnotic reading sessions trying to learn it… I don’t think I could ever train someone to use it … and am almost stuck in thought of how to successfully set-up a website at absolute minimum cost…. My company Logo was done by a friend – ‘Contagious Media’
    But I also run an electrical service company and would like to combine my existing customers and past clients with a client base that IS tech-savvy to promote green technologies (and their larger pricetags…)
    It seems the people that want more efficient technologies usually don’t have the large capital needed to fund even the smaller projects, or simply aren’t on my Friends list…. yet ;) for those who are ‘in the know’ : would be pleased to meet you.
    Great Article

  • Jace

    This is a very good article and it is true that a lot of big businesses do not understand the power of social media.

    I am social media developer myself and would be interested in how you would approach or pitch to a large company on why they should use a social media developer? I have succeeded with local businesses but landing a large corporate account is a different story.

    I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts?

  • Rachel Wu

    thanks for sharing ,really learn a lot
    Before reading the artical, I use twitter only for fun.Now I’ll try to use this media for extending my network.great artical!

  • Harvey Internet Marketing

    Your breakdown into a core and optional elements is helpful. I know pricing is a tricky point, but perhaps you could provide what you think are reasonable ranges. After all, we often have to give the client an idea of the cost long before we know the details of the work.

  • Kelsey

    Great ideas about different approaches to internet and social media marketing.

  • Chotrul Web Design

    There are some scenarios where Social media Marketing is definitely the right way to go, rather than more old school SEO, as it were. For example a client may already rank at the top of the rankings and they may not have any other key phrases with with there is any sort of volume at all for their business.

    If they are in the sort of business where people really want to share photos and videos of there product or services, then get people and these media to work for you via YouTube, Flickr, Facebook et al. And try to get them up in universal search results, ie google video and google images on the main results page.