There Are No More Free Lunches in Social Media

Originally posted on Social Media Observer on September 20th, 2010:

It’s Monday.

Yesterday, I took my cousin (@drsidchiro of on as a client, in order to develop a Social Media marketing program that will help educate and market Chiropractic and Scoliosis treatments. As with a number of previous clients that have had a limited amount of exposure to Social Media, it involved quite a bit of explanation.

We had met the week previous, where I described a basic strategy to him that would leverage a blog with twitter for conversational engagement and Facebook to educate and develop a fan base. It’s rudimentary at this level and as with all strategies, required me to conduct a few focus groups and develop something that will actually allow him to develop brand traction online.

I’d tried to explain Social Media marketing and it’s value the year prior – but it seemed a bit like chatting and sharing pictures more than an actual marketing method to him. As with all new concepts, I knew it might take him time to understand its value.

Fast forward numerous case studies and projects and here we are today.

If you’re not familiar with me from my work or my involvement in Social Media, let me introduce myself. My name is Oz Sultan. I’m a Management consultant who specializes in Marketing and Social Media. I’ve 17 years experience in selling products and developing brands. I’ve helped a number of major clients, including FYE, JPMorganChase, the Economist, Kinect for Xbox, as well as, mid-tier companies, non-profits and individuals. I’ve lectured on social and educated corporate individuals from the board room to the call center. I’ll also be teaching an MBA class in Social Media at NYIT starting next January.

I had taken a colleague with me, who was coming on board at his practice as a new patient. She started with x-rays, while I proceeded to interview a small group of teenage Scoliosis patients and their parents. In order to develop a plan, I had to understand how patients found him and how satisfied they were with the treatments. So I held a focus group with patients we had selected the week before.

I was introduced as “the facebook guy”, which I let slide, as if you work with Social Media – I’m sure you’ve had as much trouble explaining the realities of new media marketing too.

The focus group began with a 17 year old patient and her mother. What was interesting to discover was that she had found out about the treatments on twitter and had a number of discussions before suggesting that she try it to her mother. What was interesting was how involved she was in her own therapy, as well as how much Social Media played a part in her selection of the treatment.

Another younger patient’s father discussed the severity of his child’s curvature (Scoliosis throws a curve to both backs and lives) and noted that he had used “traditional media” to find the treatment that my cousin offers. When asked further, he noted that by “traditional media” , he meant the web.

My interviews took about an hour and when I finished, I joined my colleague in the massage chairs, to wait for my own adjustment (Yes, I’m not just a consultant, I’m a patient too!).

When I asked my cousin if he’d be starting treatment for her today, he cited that he’d have to take an hour or two to evaluate the x-rays, her medical history and develop a work up.

I finished my treatment and walked to the front of the office to catch up with my cousin and discuss next steps. He quickly asked me what I’d done with his twitter account in the last week (I’ve had a number of clients that think increasing twitter followers is much like an email marketing campaign).

I explained to him that much like the treatment regiment that he’d have to develop for my colleague, I’d have to perform some further research on the market, twitter conversations chiropractic best practices before presenting a plan of action. While his plan would be significantly smaller than what I’ve done for clients with corporate budgets, it would be equally as thorough. I also noted that calling me “the Facebook guy” is about as insulting as calling him nothing more than a “back cracker”. I cited that we’re both professionals, just in very different disciplines.

Almost instantaneously, his eyes lit up. He understood. It wasn’t simply fiddling with twitter and Facebook. It was actually data backed marketing. It also helped our subsequent conversation, where we discussed both cost expectations and patience (brand new Social Media campaigns typically take 3 – 6 months to achieve a measured degree of success).

I explained that it wouldn’t be a free lunch.

A decade ago, I remember clients that would tell me that they had a nephew or friend that could develop their website. They typically came back after a few months, a failed e-commerce effort or a brand embarrassment. We’d fix their issues with limited comment, and when they received the bill they understood our value.

That was the beginning of the end of free lunches in web development.

For professionals working with Social Media, the market has wrestled with where to place us for the past several years. We are Marketers, but we cross a number of disciplines that can involve:

Consulting (Strategy, Metrics, Conversation Modeling)
The Web (SEO, SEM, Affiliate Marketing)
Social Media (Microblogging, Blogging, Social Platforms)
Mobile (M Commerce, Mobile applications)
Digital PR (Blog Placements, Sponsored Posts | Tweets, Influencer Endorsements)
Location Based Services (Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown)
Localized Services (Yelp, Google Local, Citysearch)
CRM (both Social Media and Enterprise)
CSR (Call center augmentation, Microblogging, Web Applications)
Self Service CSR (Getsatisfaction, et al)

I could go on, but the purpose of this post isn’t to present a comprehensive list of Social Media tools. It’s to make a point.

As Social Media moves beyond it’s equivalent of the party years of the dot com era, we’ll find more business cases and reasons for business to adopt it. As this happens, companies need to understand, self-ordained Social Media gurus aside, that we provide a valuable service. A service that companies will not be able to avoid, as Social Media tools evolve and it’s use becomes more prevalent.

We have already seen major consulting companies adopt it, and one may want to ask Deloitte or Sapient or Booz Allen what their average strategy consulting engagement for Social Media costs. From my experience, it’s most likely well over $10,000, if not $20,000. Not to exaggerate, but I know from experience that’s what we charged at several consulting companies, to Tier 1 (Fortune 1000) clients, where I was previously employed.

Granted, not every individual shop commands these sorts of rates, however I simply ask any prospective client to pose this question to themselves: “If you’re a doctor, businessperson, actor, athlete or client of any sort. Why would you ask for a free lunch, in a situation where you wouldn’t offer one yourself?”

Original Post:

  1. I just came across your blog about and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here.
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      • fullerslaw
      • January 1st, 2011

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