Social Media: What's the pay off for business?

Greg Cooper
LinkedIn Coach and Consultant | Front of Mind Coaching
13th June 2014

Facebook was launched in 2003, LinkedIn in 2004, Twitter in 2006. All three have now gone public creating big pay offs for the founders and investors. In this article I want to demonstrate, through examples, the real returns that social media is now bringing to businesses, big and small, when used creatively. 

Early expectations unfulfilled

When social media came to town there was much celebration. Returns from traditional marketing methods such as advertising, direct marketing and latterly email were in steep decline. Social media offered the possibility of achieving massive reach for minimal cost. Indeed a few campaigns (e.g. Evian) did and still do achieve stratospheric results. However for most businesses the results were more elusive and frankly disappointing.

Unfortunately as with most new technology there is an initial period of overinflated expectations, followed by disillusionment until eventually there is a more realistic appreciation of what can be achieved. Technology consultancy Gartner has a name for this – they call it the “Hype Cycle” as is illustrated below.


Enlightenment dawns

Using Gartner’s model I believe we now have a more enlightened and realistic approach to social media, and arguably are approaching the “plateau of productivity”.  If this is true then we should be seeing and hearing more and more examples of where social media is being used successfully by many different types of businesses.

Examples from the plateau of productivity

I don’t know about you but whereas once it was hard to find examples of sales from social media I am now hearing new examples every week. I would like therefore to share these five examples of businesses, local and international, which are using social media to produce real, bottom line returns.

1. Small Business Re-Launch

Angela’s business is based in Derby. For ten years she ran it as a white labelled service.  In January 2013 she took the decision to re-launch the business and supply direct to the end user. To build the initial momentum she decided to use LinkedIn and set herself a target of making 400 new connections on LinkedIn in 4 weeks.

Initial research identified 2236 profiles of managing directors within 50 mile radius that fitted her prospect profile. About half of these were already 1st or 2nd degree connections or shared a group with Angela. The next step was to reach out and connect with these individuals, at the same time commenting on their posts and contributing posts that would be useful and relevant to these prospects.


The 400th connection was achieved on Wednesday of week 4. Seven companies approached Angela about work opportunities of which five had immediate requirements. These enquiries generated enough work for the rest of the year. Read more here

2. New Car Launch

When Ford launched the new model Fiesta in the America it was decided to do this exclusively through social media.  In order to do this Ford needed to recruit social ambassadors for their brand, young people who were considered to be influential amongst their peers.  After some research Ford selected 100 individuals to take part in their Fiesta Movement campaign. In return for being given a free Ford Fiesta the influencers agreed to carry out a number of tasks or “missions” that Ford had devised and to record and share their adventures on social media.


The resultant social exposure generated 7 million views on YouTube, 100,000 information requests and 10,000 pre-launch orders!

This campaign is on-going.

3. Car Park Makeover Firm Uses Targeted Updates to Win New Contracts

Wayne was national sales manager for a Bristol based maintenance and refurbishment firm which specialised in car park refurbishment. He devised a simple and highly effective way to use LinkedIn updates to generate enquiries and sales:

  • Identify purchasing decision makers in target accounts. Sometimes this would be done on LinkedIn other times by a quick phone call which also afforded an email address.
  • Prospects were invited to connect.
  • Updates were posted on LinkedIn which were tailored to the prospect audience.
  • A follow up call was made to prospects 48 hours later. 


6 projects won from Waitrose, AXA, Asda, and NEC group, total value

£3.8 with several million pounds worth of future opportunities also identified.

4. Twitter Accounts for Business Success

In 2007 Elaine started an accountancy business from home aimed at entry-level micro businesses – a notoriously difficult sector to target profitably.

Today this is an award winning nationwide business with 28 franchises.

Sales and marketing efforts have been based entirely around Twitter and the business’s blog. Elaine does all of the tweets herself, some days spending just a few minutes on Twitter, other days more. To date she has posted 50,000+ tweets and has over 4,000 followers.  


The Twitter activity combined with the business’s blog generates 120-190 new clients every month which are shared between the original business and the franchises. Elaine also emphasises the value of the peer networks she has established with tax experts and media contacts. She is a regular contributor to BBC’s Money Box programme.

5. A Focused Approach on LinkedIn Revives a Dead Account

Sander was a senior sales person for a major US Telco. There were major problems in one of the company’s key accounts. Relationships had broken down and sales had completely dried up. Sander approached the marketing team to suggest a different approach which employed social media – a combination of Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging.

After identifying 10 products which were relevant to this customer, the team created content about those products tailored the customer. The next step was to starting following the tweets from key people in the customer, to listen to what the customer was saying, and beginning to share relevant content. At the same time Sander reached out and connected with decision makers and influencers in the organisation on LinkedIn, including joining the company’s employee group (he just asked to join).

Customers began to ask questions and engage with the tweets and blog. They commented on the approach being refreshing and valued the expertise that was being shared. The growing engagement began to generate invitations to bid on new projects.


  • A new and more positive atmosphere is created in the account.
  • The perception of the supplier shifts from sales organisation to trusted adviser
  • Many new connections are created within the account
  • Better insight into the customer’s needs means sales proposals are more accurate
  • Over 18 month period this approach generated a staggering $50m of orders from a previously dead account


Social media has come of age. It’s no longer a matter of faith. As these examples demonstrate businesses of all types and sizes are generating tangible results on a regular basis. What’s more there was little or no conventional marketing spend and surprisingly little manpower involved.

Perhaps at last we are peering over the over the edge of the “plateau of productivity”, the view (and ROI) is impressive.

Please share your success stories with me at or in the comments below.


About the author

Greg is a Growth Accelerator coach, LinkedIn specialist and social media speaker. He runs regular public workshops as well as bespoke courses. For more details visit or call Greg on 07917 36022.


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