Is Social Media Marketing a Waste of Time?

I don’t know why everyone keeps complaining about being broke- all you have to do is get involved in social media marketing. Cameron Hughes explains how to make piles of money as a social media consultant in this brilliant and inspiring “TED” talk.

Unfortunately, many businesses just haven’t seen the light when it comes to social media. In fact, some businesses and websites are moving away from certain social media platforms altogether. For example, Jeff Gibbard explained why Social Media Today decided to stop wasting time on Facebook. Then there was the rather well-publicized example of GM pulling their advertising dollars from Facebook in 2012.

It’s little wonder that companies are pulling away from social media considering that it’s not the easiest thing to make a profit there. In fact, back in 2012, an IBM study noted that social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube contributed almost zilch (OK, it was actually 0.34%) to Black Friday sales. Twitter accounted for 0% of Black Friday sales revenue.

What’s the problem?

For businesses or bloggers trying to do social media marketing via Facebook, the difficulty lies in the fact that Facebook Page updates reach only a small percentage of their intended audience. Increasing reach requires obtaining either lots of Likes and Shares on the part of the audience members or purchasing promoted posts.

Naturally, most Facebook Page owners balk at paying money to promote to an audience that they helped build in the first place. However, in defense of Facebook and other platforms, no one said that marketing was free. In fact, it could be argued that the whole problem started when every small business and its brother jumped on the social media bandwagon because it was the “hip” thing to do, or because social media was erroneously believed to equal free marketing/advertising.

Drives to get 1 million Likes or 10,000 tweets work well…and then fizzle as businesses or bloggers wonder what to do with all these new followers. Ironically, unfollows often occur when the same entities now post or tweet a promotion to their “fans”. Meanwhile, those followers that stay do little to boost product sales or business revenues. So, what’s the point of it all?

A goal without a plan is just a “Like”

Before you start asking everyone to Like you for a free Squishee(tm) or post more cute photos of your cat, ask yourself, what goals are you trying to achieve with social media marketing? There can be quite a number of goals, including the following:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website traffic
  • Product sales
  • Customer information
  • Upsells/cross-sells
  • Product reviews/testimonials
  • Customer engagement
  • Influencers

Let’s say you pick two or three of the above goals, which is really the most that you can hope to accomplish in a single campaign. Will driving Likes/Shares/retweets/comments accomplish your goals? If yes, that’s great! But if not, then you need to step back and look at how exactly you’ll accomplish what you wish to see, as well as how you’ll measure your progress.

Harvest while you can

As wonderful as social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are, they do not belong to you. In fact, you are actually a digital sharecropper. And just like any sharecropper, your fortunes are intimately tied to the whims of your landlord. Should your landlord choose to close the social media platform tomorrow, the online audience you worked so hard to build is gone.

This is why, given every opportunity, you need to “harvest” your audience members by finding out their contact information and other particulars and getting them onto your own platform (i.e., your website). Typically, this goal is accomplished through email subscription signups or opt-in forms. Once you have such information at hand, you can move towards fulfilling your other goals like increasing sales or obtaining customer testimonials.

Get everyone involved

Social media can be a big driver of conversions if used correctly as a kind of portal to your more permanent fixtures, including your sales pages and website. For example, if people are complaining about the never-ending cold weather on Twitter, you might create a special code or coupon that enables them to purchase hot cocoa at 20% off on your website.

There’s also no reason why your subscribers can’t be part of the sales conversation or even help decide the outcome of your campaigns. For example, having your customers provide feedback on something you’re working on, such as your website update or a new affiliate product, makes them feel more involved (and invested) with you. Such engaged consumers are more likely to travel to your website and convert.

Leverage your efforts

You can multiply your social media efforts at increasing brand awareness and/or customer engagement by tapping top influencers who already know and understand your products or brand. In most cases, these influencers will consist of top commentors or other bloggers that have large followings. Influencers can also consist of those individuals who are able to build up excitement around the product or promotion.

Twitter parties, Facebook giveaways, Pinterest postathons, etc. all exist to raise awareness and even create a little hype around a particular product. Use these tools judiciously to get customers to go back to your website and complete some action there- or better yet, sign up for your newsletter.

Social media…a waste of time?

With social media, it’s not so much how much work you put into it but rather, how much forethought. If you have no set goals in mind and no idea of how to measure your efforts, yeah, you won’t see much result from all your Likes or tweets or Pins.

But if you set out with the intention of driving more traffic to your website or growing your email list by some percentage, then social media can help you accomplish that. Like any other marketing tool, social media just needs to be used properly to achieve your intended results.

Now go and Like this post. Or Google Plus it. Or tweet it.

Make Money Online by Reviewing Websites and Mobile Apps

You can make money online many different ways if you like to surf the Web. One of these ways includes usability testing, or reviewing websites and mobile apps.

What exactly is usability testing?

In a nutshell, usability testing is the user-based reviewing of websites, videos, advertisements, static images, interfaces, prototypes and mobile apps. Users such as yourself open up a website or app and are asked to register online, go shopping for a product or service, conduct a search, compare/contrast a site with that of a competitor, answer questions about site use/feel, etc.

Basically, it’s the equivalent of your web designer buddy standing behind you while you peruse his newly designed website or app and tell him what you think of his creation.

Of course, because you’re working from home and the marketers or web developers aren’t coming to your house or apartment, your actions and facial responses are recorded by a microphone and often by a webcam. Some usability testing sites have you download special software that tracks your keystrokes and where you go online (only during the usability testing process, of course).

Generally speaking, most usability tests pay $10 per accepted test. You might receive several tests within a single week, so you could earn hundreds of dollars per month if you really keep tabs on the usability testing site(s) and register with more than one. Even better, some usability testing sites offer longer and better paying tests and even a chance to join online forums; from what I’ve heard, some of those online forums pay up to $150.

Here are four usability testing sites that you may wish to sign up for:


You apply to this site by sending in a mock review (with video) of an example website. Once you are accepted, the site sends you usability tests about twice per week based on your demographics. If you successfully complete the usability tests and they are accepted by TryMyUI, you are paid $10 via Paypal. In general, these tests take about 10-15 minutes to complete, so at least in theory, you could be earning $40/hour. Or, just about enough money to go out for a pizza at the end of the week.

What’s great about TryMyUI is that this company does not require that you use a webcam, just a microphone. There also is no software to download and store on your computer. What’s not so great about TryMyUI is that you need to submit a rather lengthy application (compared with other usability testing sites) prior to getting accepted.


This site requires you to download its software and use it while reviewing a mock website as part of your application. Once you are approved, you can earn $10 for each successfully completed website or app review. You will need a microphone as well as a reasonably fast computer to perform user tests; a good example of what exactly you’ll be doing is provided on this Userfeel example video.

Currently, the issue with Userfeel is that the site is booked and so is accepting no new testers. A few weeks back, this site was open to new testers. I’d recommend checking back every other week or so to find out if a vacancy exists.


This usability testing site does not require its applicants to submit an application; you simply register on the site and wait for your invitation (which for me, happened in the space of five seconds). Once you log in, you can view any open tests that you qualify for as well as your completed tests (and their respective status). Userlytics requires that you be equipped with a webcam and microphone as well as a decent operating system (Windows 7/XP/Vista or MacOS Leopard 10.6 or newer) before you can participate in its tests.

Userlytics usability tests are timed and required to be finished in the space of 10 minutes. Once you finish the test and answer a few follow-up questions from the client, you are prompted to submit your report. Userlytics pays $10 per accepted test and payments are sent via Paypal.

What’s great about Userlytics is that you can quickly sign up to the site by simply providing your name and email. Userlytics also works with some major corporations and brand names that you’ll probably recognize. But just remember that, because you’ll be on webcam during the test, working from home au naturel may not be advisable.


This site has you download its screen-capturing software and perform a five minute website review as part of your application process. If all goes well, you’re accepted and can now perform website and mobile site reviews for $10 and $15, respectively. Payment is made via Paypal. Just like with the other mentioned usability testing sites, you will need a microphone for your computer.

While this site has received some good employee reviews (as noted on Glassdoor) and may even be expanding, it does appear that independent contractors are complaining about the lack of steady work. If UserTesting gains more clients and space in 2014, that story might change.

Don’t quit your (work-at-home) day job…

Keep in mind that most usability testing gigs are emailed out on a first-come-first-get basis. So, if you’re not checking your email throughout the course of the day, you might lose out on usability tests that apply to your demographic. Overall, usability testing is not something that will make you rich, but it will enable you to save up for a nice vacation or that mega-screen TV you’ve been craving. Or, in my case, more sashimi dinners.

Transamerica, WFG, Primerica: What Do These Businesses Have in Common?

If you’re looking to become your own boss and earn as much as $60K in your first year, then I have the perfect business opportunity for you.

This opportunity involves no door-to-door or high-pressure sales tactics or cold calls. You can also keep your current job, earning up to $5K per month for part-time work that you do in your spare time.

Have I piqued your interest yet- or your skepticism?

Welcome to the convoluted world of MLM financial services

Welcome to the world of multi-level marketing (MLM) financial services, as operated by groups like the Transamerica Financial Group Division, World Financial Group (owned by AEGON) and Primerica. Some of these groups are spin-offs of their business “parents” (e.g., Transamerica) and thus carry their prestigious names; however, their business models are completely different.

To begin with, the financial advisors, or agents, in these groups do not earn a salary. Instead, the agents affiliated with these groups operate their own individual businesses and sell products such as insurance policies, mutual funds, credit monitoring, retirement and college savings plans, etc. They also recruit and train other financial advisors- or in MLM parlance, “grow their downline.”

Growing a downline is a critical part of the MLM business model because it is via new distributors, or recruits, that agents make a good portion of their income. The commissions that are made by distributors are “kicked” up to their recruiters, who in turn kick up a portion to their own recruiters. Thus, those agents sitting at the very top of this, dare I say, pyramid earn the most money via their downlines. Meanwhile, most distributors make just a small commission and do a majority of the client-chasing.

Are Trasamerica, WFG and Primerica a scam?

Many skeptics define all MLM business models to be pyramid schemes and therefore a scam. And most MLM-based operations do ignite the ire of the law, as noted by the example of the business A.L. Williams (which inevitably became Primerica). However, although the MLM business model does raise legal suspicions, it is not technically a scam or illegal.

Having said that, there are numerous examples where false promises are made to would-be distributors that MLM financial services is a job or can guarantee someone a given income per month or year. Here is an example of what one would-be Primerica distributor was told during her in-person “job interview”. Keep in mind that this person is a research scientist by training, not a manager or someone with a business degree. She was contacted by Primerica because her resume was posted online.

I am continuing to the third stage of interviewing with PRIMERICA. They are looking for an experienced trainer/teacher who is willing to teach middle class people how to manage their finances. If it is true that I can earn $60,000/year as a beginner, I will take it. They are also looking for office managers. They earn $300,000/year.

Promising a steady, yearly income for what is in essence a commission-only sales position is misleading at best, and outright lying at worst. However, many more such accounts exist from other job-seekers:

I was contacted by this company Tuesday 6/8/2010 by a Mr. Scott Eaton who said he saw my resume on Yahoo hot jobs. He said he wanted me to come in for an interview for a Supervisor position available and that there would be no sales involved. I have an appointment scheduled at their Brea office this Friday 6/11/2010.

As an “associate” I [was told I] would not be seeking out clientele, but rather they would be referred to me…leading me to believe that the job consists of me kicking back in an office where clients come to me for financial advice because they are “referred” while making a fat commission to the tune of $5,000 and up per month on a part-time basis.

They find your information from your resume posted online. Then they will call you for the interview and will tell the lie that they have [a] position available in whatever trade/profession you are looking [for]. Once you setup the interview…you receive a call and…will be talking to one of their financial advisers or his peer.

“We don’t need no education”

Given that many recruits don’t have the needed expertise and/or work experience to be financial advisors, do they at least receive training? Why yes- according to this published comment on Yelp, agents can get an entire two weeks of training, which should qualify them for managing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars:

I have absolutely zero background in finance. How am I supposed to help people make very important financial decisions and guide their financial futures with zero experience? They justify this by complying with laws and making you acquire what is called a “life license” that basically takes 2 weeks to get.

Personally, if I were a client, I would want a financial advisor that had more expertise and years of experience to understand the complexities and changes of the financial world and guide me in the right direction rather than some novice with no prior financial background and no education and very little training handling my money!

Several pro-Transamerica, WFG and Primerica agents have argued that, as a business owner, it is up to the individual financial advisor to take courses (often offered at a discount through the MLM business) and get up-to-speed on financial topics before taking on clients. However, there is no requirement set for such training, and all the costs of the training are fronted by the financial advisor.

The vapid inexperience of a majority of such “financial advisors” leads to major calamities, such as an Arizona court case that resulted in a $2 million judgement against World Marketing Alliance (now WFG). Likewise, Primerica ran afoul of the SEC for failing to supervise its agents, some of who “sold unregistered securities in a Ponzi scheme, [after which] all of the monies raised from investors was lost.”

In other words, if you’re a client with an MLM-based financial advisor, be very wary of what’s happening with your money.

I will be happy to take invest your money

Would you trust me to look at your bank accounts and invest your money for you? Why not? Could it be because I have zilch in terms of business education, no finance degree to my name, and my only trading experience comes from managing my own piddly stock portfolio? Yeah, I thought so too. And that’s why I’m not vying to become your financial advisor.

Now, as to why the above mentioned MLM businesses assume that other non-business folks can be turned into financial advisors that clients will entrust with their money is beyond me. However, if you do take this route, know that about 85% of such financial advisors do eventually close up shop because of failure to generate a commission.

Are you looking to generate extra income?

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