A formula for social media business success

Starbucks.  Dell.  Mark Schaefer.

Yes, I am now up there with the mega-brand big dogs, at least momentarily, in an article in Forbes recently. Not only that, but I was acknowledged as a Twitter marketing authority in the same breath as Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang, two national marketing luminaries.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I make up about 75% of what I say and fabricate the other 25%.  You’re thinking that now too, aren’t you?  No, it’s true. I’m really in there.

How did this happen??  Through social media, of course.  And it’s a great case study on the Social Media Formula for Business Benefit:

Connection + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefit

Let’s see how this worked in the real world.


It started about nine months ago when I attended a free webinar featuring Nathan Egan, a former Linked-In exec who had just started a company call Freesource. I thought he was an exceptionally bright guy and decided to comply with his public request to “link” with him. I also looked him up on Twitter and he became one of the first people I followed.


Through his posts, I grew to appreciate Nathan’s vision and he became a regular reader of my blog. He was so interested in one particular article that he called and talked to me for over an hour, deepening the respect and connection between us.


Our friendship has grown and now we routinely support each other. We discuss new ideas and bounce around solutions to business challenges. Nathan recently asked for my help on a new app his company was developing (which I will also be featuring on a future blog article). He has tweeted out my blog posts, helping to grow my readership. That’s what social media is all about!


When Nathan was interviewed by Forbes, he was asked if there was anybody he could recommend who had done an exceptionally good job nurturing business relationships through social media. And he thought of me.

So now I had an opportunity to extend content and helpfulness to a reporter at Forbes. Over a lengthy phone call, I brought him up to speed on my experiences, my client’s social media successes, and ideas about the future of social media. And now we’re friends, too.

As Nathan’s business has expanded, he turned to me to take over some of the company’s marketing functions he no longer has time to handle.  Our social media connection has turned into a fantastic opportunity for both of us.

That’s how social media works for business: C + MC + AH = Business Benefits. Look at ANY B2B or B2C success story and these three elements were in place — none can be missing. Over the next three days, we’re going to look at this STEP BY STEP and come up with some new, actionable ideas that you can use to realize your own business benefits from social media.

But here’s the best part. YOU AND I ARE CONNECTED, TOO! Who knows what will happen NEXT?

If this article made you think, please consider leaving comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

Other articles in this series … each one builds on this theme:

Part 2: Building meaningful business connections

Part 3: The biggest obstacle to social media business succcess

Part 4: Authentic Helpfulness: The economy of giving

All posts

  • Jason Anderson

    Connectivity really is where it's at in social media. Like you said…we ARE connected somehow just for me reading this blog post.

    In order for me to even find this post…I was connected to you through Twitter. Now, when I post to THIS blog. I'm also connected to YOUR readers (possibly) because if the connection I have with you.

    Simply amazing how far we have come in communicating and meeting new contacts for friendship and business.


  • Nitin Gupta


    Social media is all about connectivity and authenticity. As I recall reading somewhere, it is not about the tools you have but the relationships you build. The earliest social media tools were the phone and snail mail.
    And C + MC + AH is one of the easiest explanations of building a relationship.

    Btw, I have linked to your blog (from mine) and read it regularly.


  • Kimmo Linkama

    Your formula is really the only way to make SM work. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your article series.

    The main problem for me as a B2B service provider is to find the "water cooler" where my prospects congregate — in other words, be found by them. I'm having my doubts whether Twitter is the most efficient place.

    Then again, I feel I haven't yet been able to effectivise my searches well enough. One thing has become clear, though: for example the hashtag #b2b results in hundreds of meaningless spam posts and profiles.

    Like Nitin above, I have also linked to your blog from mine. Hope it's OK with you.

  • B2B-directory

    Bizxchange provides a platform that will serve it?s members in three distinct ways:

    * Access to host of suppliers for buyers seeking to source products or services. Likewise allows suppliers promote their business products to prospective clients and thereby increase sales.
    * Knowledge empowerment ?highly relevant and crucial information concerning their business, industry and economy.
    * Business utilities like recruitment, consulting, CRM, website creation & hosting, calculators etc.
    * Networking and community building so as to foster business relations.

    For more detail on B2B Directory log on to http://www.bizxchange.in

  • Ethan

    I just found this blog recently. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series! Do you think these same ideas can be applied to social media for musicians?



    Sorry I'm behind in following my comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to write!

    @Jason – And we have already connected on potential busienss cooperation, too!

    @Nitin – your blog is awesome. I like your scholarly style. One way we could cooperate is potential guest blogging. I have done that with other bloggers to provide exposure.


    @Kimmo – B2B is a tough one, no doubt. You are taking the right approach by trying to find where they congregate and agree that there is a VERY low take-up on Twitter by B2B professionals, especially in Europe.

    I recently attended a party with a large cross-section of B2B mid-to-upper level execs. They asked a lot of questions about Twitter but NONE were active. I think that is typical.

    You might try online professional journals. If you give me a specific industry or demographic you're looking for, I will try to help you brainstorm ideas.


    @Ethan — Will this work for musicians? This is MADE for musicians. My son leads a band called Royal Bangs. They're doing very well and have a tour manager and publicist now. This team is expending a lot of effort creating a viral buzz — with the emphasis on authenticity because they want to keep the music "real"

    Connections – from shows, website, MySpace and Facebook fans

    Meaningful content – music, SM posts

    Authentic helpfulness — tour information, free appearances, autograph sessions, greet fans after every show

    Business benefits – show attendance, album sales, customer loyalty

  • kelly

    I'm having the same problem Kimmo Linkama mentioned in finding where my prospects are located. I have just joined the social networking phenomenon. I've started building my connections on LinkedIn, but I'm not really sure where to go once I have the connections. I've never written a blog and have only recently started reading them. I have recently changed industries from marketing for a commercial real estate firm to marketing for a third party warehousing company, so I feel like I'm starting from scratch. I just want to be sure that I'm utilizing the social media in the best way to grow our business. I'm looking forward to reading your blog regularly – I really enjoyed what you had to say.


    Finding leads for B2B is a special challenge. I will be addressing this in part tomorrow but will write about the subject specifically next week, based on your request. I'll do what I can to help!

  • Steve Buser

    This is my first time to your blog, but I like what I read. I think your formula is spot on and adds real value to the growing understand of how business can get and add value in the use of social media.


    Welcome Steve. I think you'll find there are some really awesome people who read and comment on my blog. I am a feedback junkie so never hesitate to throw me ideaa on how to improve and make this a better experience.

  • Lil Miss

    Great post! This is very relevant to what I need to develop at work right now, so hurry up and get those other posts out there dude. Your blog is basically my personal consultant ya know!!!

  • steve_dodd

    Mark, as always, great insights. I find this one particularly interesting since you are building quite a following (me included) all through Social Media engagement. It obviously works. And, as you said,

    Connection + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefit

    This is the key to it all.

  • Brett Kopf

    Very helpful Mark, the equation makes it easier to comprehend. I have personally seen huge benefits in using social media to create relationships in Business, especially B2B.

    I find many small companies and organizations I speak with are very curious about social media and once I explain it's value they're really excited! Though, the typical response I get is, I don't have time to do it, why can't you just do it for me? It's tough to explain that social media is about creating real, meaningful relationships. I could tweet 25% off on Tuesday for them, but I doubt it would ever see great success.

    I am looking forward to the thoughts of you and your readers, I'm guessing I am not the only one with this experience?



    Steve, always nice to here from you!

    Brett, this has been my experience too. Management has to commit, and that does take time. I'm not interested in being a ghost tweeter!

  • Jim LeBlanc

    I think this Formula is what I have been looking for all along. It's like you have taken ALL of these articles and ideas and put it into once concise package that truly makes sense. It's very elegant and easy to explain.

    btw hilarious photo. I like the way you make fun of yourself, even if you DO make up 75% and fabricate 25% of it! HA!

  • Tarun Gulati

    Hi Mark…I liked the last bit of Value equation "Authentic Helpfulness"….guess this is what most people overlook.
    Excellent piece of work, keep them coming. I would essentially want to look at your recommendations/experience for B2B selling. If you could write on some of your used cases, this would be easy to relate….

    Best Regards,


    Thanks, Tarum. Based on the feedback here, I will definitely focus on some B2B cases and ideas in the coming weeks.

    Regarding authentic helpfulness, there's no checklist for that! : ) Either you're authentic and helpful or you're not! And yes, that is a stumbling block for many people.

  • Cliff Langston

    Mark – great article, the simplicity of your formula gives it tremendous impact. This is my first time to your blog but I'll be back! Especially for the B2B discussion – just starting to incorporate social media into lead generation for my clients, would love to collaborate.
    Best regards,
    Cliff Langston

  • Terese Acou

    Just plain Awesome!

  • @B2BOnlineMktg

    Given how wrapped up we can all get in the apparent complexity of a new marketing channel like social media, its great to see a post like this which uncovers a simple, fundamental truth: the power of social media is the ability to do at a distance what people have been doing in person or through less efficient communication channels forever.

    To me, this post isn't about a new formula for social media business success per se, its THE formula for establishing the trusted connections between people which are necessary for any lasting cooperation to take place, including business.

    Thanks, Mark, for reminding us that social media isn't as different as we often think it is and the key to social media business success is to use the technology to do what we're already doing in other aspects of our business and personal lives – connect with others in a meaningful, helpful way.

  • Nitin Gupta


    Thanks for the encouraging words about my blog. Btw, I did take the liberty to send you an email directly on your gmail id so that we can collaborate together.



  • Where is this Hermann Motel where Mark Schaefer is appearing? Since there's NO VACANCY, can you suggest a nearby hotel where I might stay so that I don't have too far to drive for said event? By the way- when is Mark Schaefer appearing and how much are tickets? If I bring 4 twitter friends, would you consider "comping" my ticket?
    Please post details of your appreance so I can get it on my calendar and tweet it out to all my friends!


    Thank you for all of your kind comments and encouragement.

    I felt I took a bit of a risk with this post and I'm glad it made sense to you!

    For those who don't know recognize commenter B2BOnlineMktg, this is Ben Hanna, VP of business.com and a true online marketing pioneer of eBay and other companies. Ben, I'm honored that you took the time to lend your experience and intellect to the discussion of our community. Thank you!


    Based on comments here, Twitter DM's and emails you've sent, there is a resounding call for more on B2B and social media. I'll do my best to address this in coming weeks. I am a feedback junkie, so THANK YOU for that!

  • Jayme Soulati

    My first time finding you via Twitter, Mark. You've got solidly impressive content I'm eager to review. Thanks for the insights, truly. –@Soulati


    So very, very kind of you, Jayme. I'm so happy you are part of the blog community!

  • wendytarr

    Great post Mark – and some really interesting insights provided in the commments it's attracted.

    I couldn't agree more – that social media is a tool that enables & facilitates personal communication. Too often people get hung up on the technology and lose sight of the fact that people value personal connections built on open & honest dialogue, that build trust and mutually beneficial relationships. If you're objective on these sites is to provide useful information and to help people, you will be more likely to develop a personal connection that will deliver business benefits. — @wendytarr

  • jesus

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




    Thank you, Sara. I'm glad you're reading the blog and I look forward to your comments in the future!

  • Jack

    I came to your blog just when I was surfing on this topic. I am happy that I found your blog and information I wanted.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great info! For months we blogged away, believing that all you needed was authentically helpful info to make the thing work. We just recently started to get the point that blogging really is a social activity. Just the content isn't enough. You really do have to get out and meet people, engage people.

    So I've followed your advice to the letter and retweeted this very cool post. Great strategy btw ..tell people to retweet three times a day. Gotta try that on my blog. 🙂

    Any other specific advice you can give us at http://www.thewritersforhire.com/blog is greatly appreciated.


    Thanks, Wintress. I checked out your blog and you do have some GREAT stuff out there. I am following your blog and will make a point to contribute to the conversation there. Thanks!

  • Wintress

    I've never seen that "select account" thing b4 is that a plug in?

  • Wintress

    Wow that was a fast reply Mark! Thanks!


    I'm not sure what you mean by select account. This is just standard blogger technology. The only plug-in I run is the app that suggests other articles at the bottom of each story. Give me more information about your question and I will try to help.

  • Wintress

    Hi Mark:

    On our WordPress blog, it doesn't show the "comment as:" field after the "post a comment" box. And it doesn't make you fill out the little box with the letters to make you prove you're a real user. I'd love to get ours to do something similar.

    Also, on our blog it allows you (forces you I think) to put a URL before your comment, above the comment field. It really encourages spammers, I think — but it seems to be the WordPress default and I can't seem to turn it off.

    We're running the next-to-latest version of WordPress, so maybe I just need to upgrade?


    Hmmmm … actually I am changing to WordPress. Long story. Making some changes to my blog and website in the next few weeks. Hope it works!

  • Wintress

    Well let me know if you find a solution to it in WordPress ([email protected]) — I'm sure there is a plug-in somewhere. I just need to keep looking!

    Thanks for your responses — and your great blog. I'll definitely keep reading!

  • Wintress

    By the way, found at least a partial answer this question. When you change to WordPress, if you don't want your comment form to ask for people's URL when they comment, follow the directions here: http://internetprofituniversity.com/blog/how-to-delete-website-url-field-from-wordpress-comments-form/comment-page-1/#comment-47.

    Super easy, and it works.

  • Mark,

    I became a “believer” in social media about 3 months ago. Results are just now starting to trickle in. For what it’s worth, C + MC + AH really does = Business Benefit.


  • You nailed this one!

    Many, many years ago, one of my mentors – the fabulous Zig Ziglar – taught me “You can get whatever you want in life, IF you help enough others get what they want.” He reminded us that this needed to be a life philosophy, not merely a tactic.

    Applying that life philosophy to social media, as you did in your formula and as you seem to have done in practice, is sure to bring good things to you.

    Here is hoping that, in 2010, more of the users of social media, for business or pleasure, will come to understand the power of your approach.

  • Diane

    I sooo agree with you! Our success is dependent upon our relationships. Having said that…I always feel a bit awkward on my FB page. I don’t want to be all about “hawking my wares” – yet it is fun to talk about what I’ve got to sell…I love my products….and I want my fans and to love them and want them too!! Do you have some insights on SM marketing when it comes to products rather than personal services?

  • Mark

    I’m glad you re-discovered this post, Diane. I think it is one of the most important onse I have written. I think this formula applies with no matter what you are “selling” … at least I think it does. Whether services, or B2c or B2B i think it is about building relationships and that is what this formual is all about. Thanks for your comment!

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