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What's Your Online Networking ROI?

social-networking-roi.jpgAre you Tweeting, LinkedIn, Digging, or Del.icio.us? Seems like every day I see a new article explaining how to use social media to build my business. But when I talk to business owners about social-media marketing, it seems like more of a timewaster for most than a useful business tool.

I think many owners are doing lots of online marketing not because it's effective, but because it's so much easier than picking up the phone or putting yourself out there in the flesh. Or because it's cheaper than direct mail. Or because they hope somewhere down the road, it's going to pay off.

I've been as guilty of it as anybody. I've spent probably a few hours each week marketing my freelance writing company on LinkedIn and a few other social-media outlets. I also hit the online job boards for freelance writers. They're so easy to click through, and fun to browse!

But recently, I analyzed this marketing activity. I found that in nine months of online marketing, I landed one small writing job that paid $500.

In the same timeframe, I went to two evening networking events sponsored by MediaBistro for freelance writers and editors, lasting a couple hours each. At the first one, I found an ongoing articles client that has paid me about $2,000 so far.

At the second one, I met an editor who oversees online content for a major corporation. Chatting him up, I discovered he knew two previous editors of mine - who have since called him to sing my praises. If this connection pays off, it could easily become a copywriting account worth $10,000-$20,000 a year or more.

So there you have my results from more than 100 hours of online marketing, compared with perhaps seven hours of real-world marketing if I count commuting time. See if you can guess which one I'm planning to do more of in the back half of this year.

Have you analyzed the effectiveness of your social-media marketing? If it's not productive, take a hard look at how much time you're spending online. Then get up from your desk, go out and meet some live humans. Worked for me.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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