It occurred to me this morning, as I rubbed sleep out of my eyes and blearily scrolled through the notifications on my phone, that I spend a lot of time on Facebook.
It’s more force of habit than a conscious choice, really. My phone lights up with a soft ding and I find myself reaching for it immediately in the knee-jerk sort of way a person’s head will whip around when they hear their name called. Facebook notification bubbles pop up in the corner of my browser and I click them absentmindedly before I’ve really registered what they’re notifying me about.
I spend at least 8 hours a day in front of my computer for work and I’m at the mercy of Facebook’s attention barrage the entire time. As anyone who’s spent time on social media knows, you’re rarely finished once you’ve checked your notifications—no, that’s when you refresh your feed and scroll through post after post, comment after comment, until you suddenly surface like a stunned diver and realize half an hour’s gone by.
Often, it’s the last thing I look at before bed and the first thing I check when I wake up.
Thus, the nagging question circling my brain as I shuffled through my morning routine: Is it all really a gigantic waste of time?
How much Facebook is too much?
Curiosity is a tenacious little tyrant and I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus until I’d satisfied mine, so I turned to Google.
Calculating exactly how many minutes I spend on Facebook from day to day (a number that fluctuates based on my schedule, workload, social commitments, and mood) would be nearly impossible, so my best estimate lay somewhere in the mass of studies and articles online. The most recent study I stumbled across was from 2016 and concluded that, on average, people spend about 50 minutes per day on Facebook.
If I’m being honest, I’d guess that I spend even more time on Facebook than that (look Ma, I’m above average!).
To be fair, a lot of that time is spent talking about websites, design, and marketing. But all of that’s done in a conversational sort of way—one that doesn’t involve posting from my business page, running ads, or actually trying to “sell” anything.
To really justify the time I’ve spent on Facebook, I needed to figure out if it’s been bettering my business or holding me back.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty.
It was time to run the numbers.
I pulled up all of the invoices I’d sent during the past year and separated them into two categories: clients I had “met” through Facebook and everyone else. I then calculated the revenue I’d earned exclusively from clients that came to me through Facebook.
The results? I haven’t wasted any time at all—not one second.
It’s actually a bit mind-boggling. According to my calculations, about 45% of my total revenue this year has come from connections I’ve made through social media.
Keep in mind that:
- I’ve spent $0 on Facebook ads.
- I’ve not offered my products or services through Marketplace.
- I post very sporadically on my business page (like, not even once a week).
- I’ve never met these clients in real life.
And yet, despite all of those things, I’ve somehow managed to turn friendly conversations and bouts of mutual marketing geekery into a massive chunk of my company’s revenue.
This, my friends, was an enormous revelation. The question was no longer “Am I wasting my time?” (the numbers speak for themselves), but “How did I accomplish this? And how can I keep these results coming?”
Facebook groups (AKA the golden goose)
So how did I transform “wasted” time into nearly half of my yearly profits? In a nutshell, I had a ton of conversations with a bunch of people I didn’t know.
It really all started with Facebook groups.
If you haven’t been introduced to these potential goldmines yet, you should definitely look into them. Facebook groups are online communities that range in membership size from just-a-couple-friends to Tokyo-subway-at-rush-hour (mercifully minus the white-gloved attendants and the shoving). They can be closed or open to the public and span an infinite array of topics, including industry- and region-specific ones.
Not only are these groups fantastic sources of new information, they’re also powerful networking platforms that offer you the chance to interact with people around the globe who have the same interests as you.
For me, those interests have led me to groups that focus on website design and marketing.
I was initially looking for answers to some of my business questions, maybe a little bit of practical advice. What I ended up finding were communities of amazing folks from literally all over the world who were happy to lend a hand, talk shop, and offer their support in any way they can. Before long, I was on the other end of the conversation, helping newcomers out as best I could whenever they were struggling with an issue.
It took some time to learn names, recognize faces, and start building any sort of rapport but once that began, it had a snowball effect. I’ve met some incredible people in these groups who have taught me all kinds of things—sometimes about website design and sometimes just about life.
And those relationships that I've built have led to some really cool opportunities:
This year, I was a guest three times on an industry podcast (all the way in the UK!).
I was hired to help a popular web designer develop pages and lead magnets for his courses. As in, someone who literally teaches people how to do these things hired ME to do it for them!
I connected with a YouTuber who has over 60k followers. He now recommends me to his audience, which brings in several leads a week to my business.
I got chatting with a dozen different people, each of whom is an expert in their respective niche, and they are now collaborating with me to write content for my site.
I’ve scheduled paid consultations to help people all around the globe with design and development—something that I owe entirely to my online connections.
I have been listed as a reference in a popular industry blog.
And 45% of my total sales ain’t half bad either.
Best of all, this was all within the last 7 months!
YOU too can do this!
Nothing I did was the result of some superpower or special skill set. I did something that anyone can start doing right now: I simply tried to be as helpful as possible to each and every person I crossed digital paths with.
If I could help out, offer advice, chime in, lend a hand, point someone in the right direction, make an introduction, give a shoutout, comment on a blog post, share a podcast, compliment someone, or use social media in any way to do something positive—I did it.
Most importantly, I never, ever tried to sell anyone anything (not even once!). I turned those connections into cash because I was so helpful that people wanted to hire me. People were happy to recommend me. People asked if I would collaborate with them.
I’m completely blown away by how it happened, but the lesson I’ve learned is that almost anyone can do this. Obviously, it’s much easier if your business doesn’t require close proximity to clients. But even if it does, you can still increase your online presence and help bring in more leads through social media.
A few tips to get you started...
Tip Number 1
Find some relevant Facebook groups—some within your industry and some that host your target audience—and dive in head first. Ask questions, answer questions, share quality content, give advice, and no matter what, always try to be helpful.
Tip Number 2
Make your Facebook page public, and share information not only about your business but also about your life. People like to buy from other people, not faceless brands. I’ve let a ton of people I don’t know into my personal life. Obviously, I’m not sharing intimate details on Facebook (a bad idea no matter how private your account is), but these strangers-turned-friends have celebrated birthdays with me, helped me when I’m struggling, and been supportive whenever I need a boost.
Tip Number 3
Ask others for advice. People love when someone notices that they have a skill. When can identify what someone is good at, ask them about it! They will probably be more than happy to tell you about it, which is a great way to build the foundations of a relationship.
Tip Number 4
Know that making personal connections online is a long game. Just like in real life, you’re not going to form relationships overnight. You’re going to find some trolls. You’re going to have to learn how to find the people that you mesh with. And they’re not going to immediately open their wallet when you do.
Tip Number 5
Don’t be a salesman. No one likes being sold to and that’s no way to make friends. You don’t have to do work for free, but you can be helpful and kind without charging someone. Point them in the right direction or offer them advice based on your experience. If you give them something valuable, they’ll want to come back to you for more—and they will be willing to pay for it because you’ve positioned yourself as an expert.