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What's Your Online Networking ROI?

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
social-networking-roi.jpgAre you Tweeting, LinkedIn, Digging, or Del.icio.us? Seems like every day I see anew article explaining how to use social media to build my business. But when Italk to business owners about social-media marketing, it seems like more of atimewaster for most than a useful business tool.

I think many owners are doing lots of online marketing not because it'seffective, but because it's so much easier than picking up the phone or putting yourself out there inthe 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 weekmarketing my freelance writing company on LinkedIn and a few other social-mediaoutlets. I also hit the online job boards for freelance writers. They're so easy toclick through, and fun to browse!

But recently, I analyzed this marketing activity. I found that in nine months ofonline 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 anongoing 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 knewtwo previous editors of mine - who have since called him to sing my praises. Ifthis 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 commutingtime. See if you can guess which one I'm planning to do more of in the backhalf 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, goout and meet some live humans. Worked for me.

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