Dilemma for the network communicator

I’ve spent the last year studying the phenomenon known as social media – or as I now like to call it – networked communications. I’ve always networked in work and life – and this was a great fit for me. I took the skills I had, am honing the ones I’m learning – and have figured out a couple of ways to make them useful to me.

I’ve learned twitter, Facebook, blogging, linkedin, google docs (all things google really), slideshare, flickr, and use them all in my business. (By the way, there are no social media experts. The medium changes way too fast for that.) There is a lot more out there – and I’ve chosen to get better at just a few of them.
I operate several businesses under the umbrella Debworks. One of those is working with small businesses to determine if they need an online marketing plan, what that plan can be, implementing it and teaching someone how to take it from there.
I also work with team mates and lateral team mates on setting up accounts for Melaleuca. I volunteer at various organizations in my community. I belong to the Chamber of Commerce. I travel for family and for business. I take care of my elderly parents. I’m busy.
Because I network so much, I am starting to have a problem.
People want me to teach them how to use some of these social media tools. For free. I hem and haw about the answer to that. I am in the process of setting up some things so my associates and their friends can utilize some of my teachings in a better way. But it’s not going to be free. And the tools I and my team are creating are not ready yet.
It was a lovely process (is a lovely process really) for me to learn how to do these things. It’s even fun teaching others. But imagine this — I could spend 4-5 hours EACH day helping someone. That’s 4-5 hours away from my business.
It’s not that I don’t want to be there – to help and answer questions. It is that I need to work my business FIRST.
I’ve blogged about how to twitter and blog (see the labels on the right?). I suggest people review that first. Then let’s talk some. That way you will have a more focused idea of what you want to know.
Then I’m going to take a page out of Keith Burtis‘ manual. I’m going to work for one hour a week with someone who asks for my help, and really wants to work with me. I think Fridays are a good day to do that. I was one of the fortunate ones in that Keith worked with me. He was HUGE in my twitter success.
It’s just hard to figure out where to draw the line between being helpful …. and as my friend Jenn says … in being a sucker.

Anyone got some brilliant ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Lively discussion has ensued and I just got this youtube post from Seth Godin – who really is often the last word for me. I see the synchronicity of my day here.


  1. Susan Murphy on June 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I think that 1 hour a week policy is brilliant!

    I have often had similar requests and though it's tough to say no, you're right – business comes first. If I'm giving away for free something that I get paid to do, that DOES make me a sucker. There's one exception though – community work.

    I am on the Board of Directors for a local video production co-op. I give a few hours a month to this organization, because I believe in what they do and how they encourage local artists. I give lots away for free – advice on how to make their online presence better, how to use social media tools and video to gain membership, donations, and eyeballs.

    I also volunteer with and the United Way. I give plenty for free to these groups too, again, because I believe in the causes.

    It comes down to balance. Never give anything away for ACTUAL free. Always get something in return, whether it's free tickets to an event, a logo/link on the site, or just the good feeling that you know you are contributing to the greater good.

  2. Deb Brown on June 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    You are so right! I also volunteer at the Historical Society and am setting up a web presence for them.
    My best friend and I often trade things – she's with Watkins and Young Living Oils and takes great care of me.
    I'm excited to work the 1 hour a week concept on Fridays – I think that will be the way to go. We will then see how serious some of these requests are!
    Thanks Suze for stopping by.

  3. Keith Burtis on June 29, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Deb, the blog looks great! Thanks for the mention in the article, but I hope you don't mind a long comment.

    I agree with your fundamentals, and disagree with the post all at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚

    I worry about the take-away on this post.

    When 'I' look at it I see, "Deb is having a tough time scaling social media activities and needs to focus on her income producing activities" This is a very noble message and one I agree with 100%!! Social media does not scale for anyone individual.

    When someone else who does not know you looks at this post they might see, "Deb wants to continue using social media and her new found expertise but if I want to come to her for advice she is going to have to charge me for it." This is the message that I think gets people in trouble.

    The reason message number two gets people in trouble is because it breaks my first law of social media. "Never Approach People With an Agenda" Think of your blog as a discussion between you and your network. If they are to get the impression that you must charge them for your time I believe in my humble opinion that you will miss out on the more valued side of social media.

    You talked about my 1 hour per week that I spend connecting with new people. I'd like to share with your readers my approach to this:

    1. I never approach any of my new contacts with an agenda.

    2. I always give of my passion, knowledge and time.

    3. There hasn't been a single week in the last year where I haven't done this for at least three hours out of my week. Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone.
    (What else do I have of value right??? Just gave away the farm???)

    The Selfish Part:
    1. Talking to people is how I learn. Hearing their trials and tribulations identifies problems that they are having. I don't market a solution to those problems to that individual, but rather stash that in a database. (Companies have the same problems as individuals) I offer my advice t my network for free.

    2. Out of every five people I chat with I am offered some kind of consulting work, session, speaking gig, or otherwise. These are all income producing. Impress an influential person with your understanding of a topic and they will refer you because you are not directly trying to monetize them and reach in their wallet. (Must be sincere about this)

    3. I just get so much damn satisfaction out of helping those in my network. (Seth Godin calls it his tribe) I am passionate about helping and hearing the "Click" when someone –Gets it–

    So in a nutshell, social media to me is not a place to directly "Convert" your contacts, but rather a place to share your story and knowledge of a topic. Done correctly, this will create MUCH bigger returns on time than trying to charge Joe Blow for an hour of "How to use Twitter"

    The goal for me is to connect as closely with people as possible. Twitter is a 'wave hello in passing' & the phone, skype, or in person is a place to create real relationships.

    I'm sorry if this is short and doesn't fully explain. If you ever want a guest post I'd be happy to do one.

    Sending you huge amounts of luck!

  4. Deb Brown on June 29, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I love it when you speak in a language that I can hear!
    I really do have trouble telling people 'no' and a quick question ends up taking an hour. Still, I do so want to help my tribe too! I do get a big lump in my throat when I think about not answering questions from someone who needs help.

    I think you are on to something here. I do know that part of the equation for me must be a better way to manage my time.

    I'm going to answer your response in a post for tomorrow! I'm excited to see what everyone elses take is on this subject as well.

    As always Keith YOU ROCK!

  5. Keith Burtis on June 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Think of every good relationship as a seed planted. Not every seed will produce a revenue stream, but every seed will produce fruits. You have planted many seeds. It just might be time to tend the garden and water the plants ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seeds are relationships.

    Social Media communication tools are the watering bucket.

    Twitter and Facebook are massive piles of seeds.

    Tend to the seeds you've planted. Don't forget to feed and water daily ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Becky McCray on June 30, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Keith has some terrific advice there!

    I picked up some good advice from Liz Strauss on this same topic, and blogged it in Draw the line between free and paid.

    We all still face this challenge, no matter what level we're on, so it's worth developing a strong skill set to work with it.